Wednesday, April 30, 2014

**Review** Tomoson's (for bloggers & businesses)

***This is a rushed post, so forgive any errors!*** matches up bloggers with providers who have a product/service they would like reviewed. Here's the viewpoint of one of those providers (since I can only speak from the position of a blogger/reviewer).

I've been signed up with Tomoson for a while, but only recently began using the site. After a few days, I've already been accepted for one invitation to review a product (and you will see that review here asap!) and the process was pretty smooth.

The products I see listed for possible review are diverse. There's a great selection - good enough that I just rejoined the dreaded Facebook so that I can apply to review more of them. See, that's how it works: the more socially connected you are, the more eligible you are for applying to review products. Makes sense. The product providers want to get your feedback out to as many people as possible and, since Facebook is so freaking popular ~insert eye-roll here~ a lot of providers make it a pre-requisite for the blogger to have a certain number of Facebook "friends".

I get it.

Thank goodness I have bunches of folks that I enjoy on Twitter and G+. I don't want to recruit Facebook "friends" just for selfish purposes. I'm hoping that those Tweeters and Plussers willl migrate over to my  ~groan~ Facebook account. That way, I'm truly only dealing with folks I like.

Back to Tomoson:

It's easy to sign up and set up your profile. There's a system for verifying your social network influence (no fibbing allowed! ), and the rest is just waiting to find a product you'd feel good about trying for review.

Like I mentioned before, I am signed up for one product review and can't wait. I really wished I had started using Tomoson earlier. If I had, I might not have just 19 Facebook friends! LOL. Seriously though, I have to restrict my Facebook account because of issues with a stalker ex and his folks.

For anyone already doing product reviews (or anyone with a blog who wants to get into that), I can recommend giving a try. In the meantime, if you are already one of my social network buddies, get over to Facebook and Add me as a "friend" because those are the only folks I want on my "timeline."

I am here (for Tomoson), and here for... I dunno, but it's a page for my blog. I think


Not As They Seem

Sometimes in life, things really are not as they seem. You can spend your whole life fooled by your own perspective, perceptions and expectations of people. You imagine what's not there because you see only what you want to see. I damn near had a psychotic break when I recently realized this about people in my own life.

This morning, when I got an email with this photo (of a woman body-painted) to look like a bird, I thought that it captured my personal realization.

It's a bird, it's a... Nope. It's a woman.
The email added these "clues" that sharpen the picture for us: Her left leg pointing down like a tail,  her right knee is drawn up,  her right arm is braced on the stump, her other arm is folded over her head. THE LONGER YOU LOOK--YOU'LL SEE HER VERY CLEARLY.  SHE'S SITTING ON THE WOOD STUMP.

Illusions. Life.


Monday, April 28, 2014

**FILM ALERT** "The Loving Story"

I watched a film recently that caused me to stop and count my blessings about a lot of things.

This might sound familiar: "The Loving Story" is about two people who had to battle the state of Virginia for the right to live together...

...After they were married....

...In 1958 (not 1858, but 1958).

Oh - and because he was white and she was not.

I won't go into all the details of the documentary (there is a website you can check out), but I will say that I needed the reminder of how hard a lot of people had to fight for freedoms the rest of us now take for granted. That we do take some things for granted is sort of a good thing. The bad thing is when we forget why we can now take those things for granted.

I am always bothered when people aren't serious about educating themselves, or voting, or travelling, or working hard. Whenever I think of people who are not being allowed to live fully and healthfully and with all the advantages that most of us take for granted, I get so mad. But, sometimes, I am reminded of my own ignorant waste of blessings - like marriage and freedom.

The story of Richard and Mildred Loving sent me into a little bit of an emotional tailspin. Not just because it used this couple's marriage to showcase real commitment and courage, but also because Richard and Mildred were such a perfect example of what a marriage contract is.

My sister and I agreed that, it's often too easy to "play" with the idea of marriage - and work and education and finances and family. That's the curse having a life that's easier than our forefathers did. When you come by things the hard way, you hold them a little more dear.

I didn't know that, when I married my first husband in the early 80's, that our union would have been illegal in Alabama. Why did I not know that? Knowing how stubborn I am, I would probably have stayed married just for G.P.

Isn't it funny how we need to be reminded of our history in order to appreciate our present?


Waiting to Review Dr. Scholl's...

Sometime in May, I'll be getting the chance to review a product that I need, need need.

The folks over at BzzAgent don't know how glad I am to be picked for their Dr. Scholl's Custom Fit Orthotic Inserts campaign. I have been griping for the past year about my feet. When I gained the prednisone weight, my arches dropped and I started having a lot of discomfort when walking. Even after dropping the pounds (yay!), my feet didn't forgive me.

When I heard from BzzAgent about this campaign, I just about broke my neck getting to Walmart to the "footmapping" kiosk. The computerized kiosk is set up to check my arch type, pressure points and, of course, foot size. It didn't take that long and I had some fun watching the on-screen sensor images. (I'm such a child.)

I plan to use the inserts in my boots and sneakers. Not these Athletic Works sneakers:

Bottom came right off! On both shoes...

Can't even find a website for the brand. I should've looked before buying.
No, no. Those sneakers are going to a research lab for ticked-off consumers. I spent about 22 bucks on those off-brand things at Walmart and, while that's not a lot of money, I expected them to last more than 6 months. I bought them especially for the gym and only ever used them for my 3-days-a-week treadmill walks. (Maybe I shouldn't have washed them?) You know Walmart won't take them back without the receipt, right? From now on, I'll get my shoes from somewhere else. And never again will I buy the Athletic Works brand.

Anyway, I'll be back here in about a month to tell you about the Orthotic inserts. If you've already heard about them, you know they can be pricey, so here's a link to a coupon.


Active Ignorance

  • When you know just enough about something to be entertained by it without knowing how if might really affect you.
  • Knowing that a person or thing is not good for you and keeping that person or thing in your life.
  • Calling someone else bossy or preachy just so you don't have to think about what they are saying.
  • Chasing the easiest and least important things in life because you're too stubborn, vain, lazy or weak-minded to discover something better.
  • Believing in one side of a "coin" while never realizing there is a flip-side.
  • Following other people just as ignorant and never giving that any serious thought.
  • Thinking yourself so strong or smart or savvy that you never learn anything.
  • Believing in your own invincibility.
  • When you'd rather live in the shadows of a lie because the light of truth hurts your eyes.
  • Living as if you will live forever.
  • Living as if you are already dead.
  • Never wanting to live up to anything that requires anything more of you than you want to give.
  • When you're tough enough to "go hard" at everything but are too weak to stand up for anything.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Ignorance and Distraction

Does it ever occur to anyone else that we live in a society that works very hard at distracting us from anything important?

For the first time in a long time I found myself flipping through TV channels for hours. I myself don't own a TV set. I watch a few shows via Netflix and Hulu; I get my news and other information from certain online sites and podcasts. Yesterday, the weather was cool and gloomy while I did some emergency babysitting. The kid entertains himself with some of the three millions toys he has. I entertained myself with Satellite TV. It would have been horrible except for the observations I made.

When I ranted the other day about the different food shows, I didn't mention that I rarely watch them anymore. These days, the only televisions shows that I'm ashamed to admit watching are from Bravo's "Real Housewives" franchise. (I can't even believe I admitted that in print.)

Most of the very popular shows on television are made to numb our brains to any important social issues. Unless grown women acting like "tweens" is an important social issue.  We even like to be entertained while we catch up on news, which is why I we love Jon Stewart and Fox News. And why does it seem that there are so many people emulating the behavior of out-of-control celebrities? When's the last time you saw a kid voicing their goals to be the next Jon Stewart or Rachel Maddow? Being smart doesn't get as much attention as being drugged out or good at twerking.

When I was in my late twenties, my father gave me the book "Cultural Literacy" by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. My father was big on education and he believed that learning was a lifelong pursuit. I was young and very distracted by all things pretty, shiny, new and fun. I figured I'd made it out of high school and into a good job. My father figured I was a little bit ignorant in my complacency. He was right. Let me tell you something: ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is dangerous.

Not many years before he died, my father and I had one of our long and interesting talks. One of the things he told me then was that he wished ignorance was more embarrassing than it was. He said that when he was younger, it was an honor to receive as much education and knowledge as one could. He had to join the military to get his education. Outside the formal classrooms, he was always curious about the Why, How and What of almost everything.

I remember that my father was very strict about my siblings and I spent our free time. We rarely watched television because the TV set was hardly ever turned on. My parents watched the news and the late shows. I know that I watched shows like "The Brady Bunch" and I have memories of shows like "H.R. Pufnstuf". If I close my eyes now and try to remember the living rooms of our homes, I can't picture a TV set being powered on. I can promise you that the living room was the only place for TV sets we owned.

Since I've been "grown", there are lots of times when I've vaguely wondered about life without all the televisions, computers and cell phones in family homes. Apparently, I get amnesia about the years previous to the last twenty. If I gave myself just a good ten minutes to think about it, I could tell you about that life.

Not too many years ago, people had to really go out of their way to find an "escape" or distraction from important things. Now, we have to work hard just to escape all the distractions.

If I had real guts, I'd give myself some challenges throughout my life:

  • Go for a week using my cellphone only for calls - no games; no messaging or emailing; no pretending to check my phone just to avoid making eye contact with other human beings.
  • Going computer-free for a few days. Of course, I'd have to buy printed newspapers and books. I don't even want to think about this challenge if I have to be honest and classify my cellphone a "computer", which it is...
  • No TV of any kind for a month. "No TV" would mean no Netflix or Hulu or whatever.
  • To name and identify every major member of the current presidential administration. 
  • Study up enough to be conversationally comfortable on the subjects of law, medicine and literature of the last 15 years. Watching "Matlock", "House", "Grey's Anatomy" wouldn't be allowed as study materials. (Did I just reference "Matlock"? ~head-slap~)
  • For one year, actually write (and mail via the Postal Service) all birthday, anniversary, and other cards that I usually just get online and send via email. 
  • To learn as much about my neighborhood and neighbors as I know about people who live halfway around the world from me.
You see what I mean? We keep so busy just keeping up with the latest thing to "manage" our lives that we've lost control of managing our lives without those things. We have so much useless (though entertaining) garbage thrown at us that our brains have no room for important or useful information.

I don't know about everyone else, but I think I need a brain detox. I need to clean out some of this crap that clutters my mind so that I can regain some of my cultural literacy. Too many of us have a PhD in Kardashian while we couldn't pass a high school test on the timeline of any U.S. military action of the last decade.

Ignorance and distraction. We went looking for escape and ended up getting lost.

By the way, if you are interested, you can test yourself. (Don't ask me about my scores. I'm not telling!)


Friday, April 25, 2014

**UPDATE** Arm & Hammer Truly Radiant

My first post about My Smiley360 kit for Arm & Hammer's Truly Radiant toothpaste (and the spinbrush) was a happy one and I'd promised to do an update. (Make sure to check bottom of this post before purchasing the product. You'll be glad you did.)

Good stuff
Well, I have to say that after just over a week of using this toothpaste, I really like it. I like it lots.

I'm still impressed by how non-messy the toothpaste it. Some people like lots of foam and lather from their toothpastes, but I only like all that in my shampoos. The Truly Radiant has a sort of concentrated feel to it when I'm brushing.

I noticed the whitening effect after the first use and, since it was a bit dramatic, I'm not bothered that there hasn't been more whitening since. This is just the end of the first week though.

Not just brighter, but so much smoother
What I do notice more of a difference in is this: my teeth feel "smoother" for longer periods between brushing. I actually realized this when, a couple of days ago, I missed my bedtime brushing because I was kept unexpectedly away from home overnight. I didn't eat a lot of food that day, but I went through at least four big cups of coffee with lots of cream and brown sugar. When I got home the next morning and started to brush my teeth, I noticed that there didn't seem to be as much residue from the previous day.

I'm not making a habit of missing my regular brushing, but I was happy not to feel a lot of filminess on my teeth. (My breath? That was whole other story we will not be discussing!) Because of my overall results, I don't have a hard time believing all that Truly Radiant claims to do (with data they have on file):
  • Whitens, strengthens and repairs tooth enamel
  • Unique formula combines pure Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, Active Calcium, Fluoride and Peroxide
  • Clinically proven to beautify teeth
  • Restores glass and luster
  • Removes better than the leading whitening toothpaste (when used as directed for 5 days)
(the effects that I have observed for myself after my first week are in bold)

Using the Truly Radiant with and without the matching spinbrush, I'm pleased enough after 5 days to switch from pastes I've been using. Actually, this is the first time I've decided to stick with one toothpaste. Usually, I buy one of whichever brand is on sale when I shop (think Crest, Crest Whitening, Biotene and Aquafresh). In the past, I have preferred Biotene - which I really like - and Crest, and I have tried Rembrandt. Rembrandt (about $7+ locally) doesn't really have anything on Truly Radiant (about $4).

Last of all, but pretty importantly:

You can find money-back guarantees for the Truly Radiant toothpaste and for the spinbrush. Nice.


DISCLOSURE: I received my Arm & Hammer Truly Radiant to try for free (along with a spinbrush) via Smiley360.

Love Food, Not the Shows

I love food, so I should love shows about food. And I do.

"Unwrapped" is probably my favorite because not only do I get to find out just how some of my favorite snacks are made, I get to find out about things I've never had a chance to try. "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" is fun because Guy Fieri seems to have so much real fun visiting the different eateries. He's cute with his family.

What I can't stand are show like "Man vs Food", "Bizarre Food",  and "Dinner Impossible". Let me break this down:

Watching "Man vs Food" makes me feel a little ill. When that dude puts down that much food in one sitting is just a glorification of gluttony. I have caught sight of this show more times than I'm proud to admit. I usually last until I find out what monster-sized meal he's going to try gnawing his way through, but when he starts sweating and dribbling on his napkin, well, I'm just done.

"Bizarre Food' is interesting. I'm always fascinated by foods from different cultures. I grew up in a culture where every part of the pig, ox and cow is not only eaten, but craved by a lot of folks. The thing that irritates me about Zimmerman is that I can never gauge how well his taste relates to that of most westerners. He will eat the anus of an alien and remark about the smokiness and layers of flavor. Rarely does he go ahead and just say how gross most of us would find a dish. I mean, come on, man: tell us that something is just delicious to you and the people who grew up acquiring a taste for it.

I admire the guy who does "Dinner Impossible" because he seems to do a lot of charitable events. It's his over-the-top manner that turns me off. He has figured out his TV persona and he works it like a boss. Very annoying. He's probably a super nice guy, but I can only take about five minutes of the "realism" that is him.

I'm not ashamed to say that I used to dig me some Paula Deen. I'd never use her recipes because of all the pounds of butter and other fatty stuff she uses, but I liked that motherly attitude she had. It wasn't her use of derogatory terms for ethnics (specifically, the "n-word"), but when I heard that she had a super-foul mouth. This was probably two years before she weathered the accusations a former employee made about her (and her son, Bubba). I just lost my liking for her when I realized she wasn't anything like my own mother or any other mother I could truly admire.

Now, don't misunderstand my irritation with these shows. I have nothing against eating flavorful and seasoned food. My peeve is when some shows seem to encourage people to over eat or just slam down any and every kind of food. I can't get a handle on what media wants more: to have everyone thin and beautiful with great cholesterol numbers or folks who glut until they can't breathe.

I do like it when food shows try to help teach ways for saving time or money in the kitchen. There just aren't enough shows like that. I used to like "30-Minute Meals", but...

Rachel Ray is just a little too damn perky for me. She's probably belongs in the club of the perfectly nice (right along with the "Dinner Impossible" guy), but, boy, I can only take so much of her hyper-happiness. She is really a cute lady though, isn't she?

My sister likes Bobby Flay and his "Throwdown" series. Not me. He comes off as the kind of person I avoid on a prejudice. I prejudge him as arrogant and grating. My sister agrees, but she finds his ways cute. He does too. You can tell.

Love, love, love the "Two Fat Ladies". I don't find many of their finished dishes to look very appetizing, but they are so much fun to watch. They seems so down to earth and real. They do no posing for the cameras - unless they are pretending to be women who don't pose. Fun stuff.

I really like Ina Garten on "The Barefoot Contessa" for the same reasons I like "Two Fat Ladies". She's so elegant without being frou-frou. I like how naturally loving she and her husband treat each other. I also like that she looks like someone who actually eats what she cooks (and that she cooks it without pounds of butter). She just seems like a person who'd have you in her home for dinner even if you don't live in her zip code.

In the We Never Agree category is "Good Eats". My sister doesn't like it. At all. I love it. I like learning not just about a certain dish but also how and why it's best prepared a certain way. Not that I often use what I learn. I have watched shows on fixing meat in a dutch oven right after I tossed my tin-foil wrapped steak into an oven that I forgot to even turn on.


I have food on the brain tonight. My girlfriend called and gave me a recipe for steaming my vegetables in broths and stocks instead of plain water. I can't wait until she mails me her son's recipe for vegetarian collard greens. (When you stop giggling about what I just said, think about all the fatback, smoked hocks and necks most people season their greens with. I'm not that bad, but I'm looking for more flavor without going broke buying smoked turkey wings.)


(I tried linking to videos of the mentioned shows. Sure hope I didn't pick ones that contradict any of my complaints!)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

**LINKS** For Writers, Net Users & the Curious

I found most of these sites via StumbleUpon. Enjoy.

I'll start with a fun one: Fodey lets you generate a newspaper clipping, like this one:
You KNOW I'll be using this a LOT!
There are other things you can create. Check out the links in small print at the top of the Fodey page.

  1. From makeuseof (which is a pretty nifty site), some guides you might be able to make use of. I'm interested in the ones for audiophiles and building a PC. I'll point out for Apple-eaters that there are ones that Mac and iPhone users might really like to check out. (Notice that you can either view or download the articles.)
  2. Text Mechanic is something I'll use when I copy and paste text from emails. Clean things up. But there's more here to check out.
  3. This list of useful websites is from 2012, but I like that there is such a variety.
  4. A QR Code Generator. I just want to play around with  this one, but I know some of you will know how to use it from the get-go.
  5. Create a website? Hmm... Sounds interesting.
  6. If you want to convert various media types. For free. Without downloading any software.
  7. Another document management/converter site.
  8. I don't know why you'd want to but, if you do, you can find sounds at Find Sounds. ~shrug~
  9. This is called iTools, but it's for finding tools - for language, media, searching, etc. - Mac & i or otherwise.
  10. When I saw the words "talk tech," I knew this wasn't for me, but... The blog is "where sys admins meet and talk tech." Talk tech to me. Love that.
  11. I have no idea why you'd want to "barcode yourself" (because, as a Christian, the idea creeps me out), but that's what caught my eye on this site. There are many ways art-meets-tech kinds of things you can do.
  12. The Hemingway app helps clean up your writing. 
  13. Adjust Your Privacy helps you do just that. I guess.
  14. Internet Frog (cute) helps you optimize your PC and internet. I guess. 
  15. Votiro - use a cloud source to clean files before you... whatever you want to do with them. (Sounds good to me & I have no idea how to explain it!)
  16. Login2 helps you log in to sites without signing up for a log in on that site. (It didn't work with some sites, but it did with others. Worth a look.)
  17. Top Sites works well. For general searches.
  18. AppStorm has a list of alternatives to popular software. I found replacements for Powerpoint in Sliderocket; PhotoShop in Aviary; and some others. The original StumbleUpon article is from 2011 so I wasn't surprised that the link for Acrobat didn't work.
I will be back with more, but I think you'll be busy with these 18 for a while!


Monday, April 21, 2014

"Influence" Sites for Bloggers

(Okay, this is not just for bloggers, but for anyone on social networking sites.)

When I realized that some of my more popular posts here are the ones for reviewing products, I thought it might be a good idea to explore some of the sites made for that. Also, let's be real: I'd love not to have to spend so much money on products that I might be able to try out for free.

Anyway, I've been looking at some of the places online focused on product review. I've even signed up for some of them. Here's what I can tell you about my experience so far:
  1. Klout - while this is more of a site for measuring someone's "social influence," I joined because I think that it may help me get chosen to review products. PRO: gives me an idea of my personal online "klout." CONS: is a little intimidating for the first-time user; not very user-friendly right off the bat; is centered around popularity, which makes me feel both pleased and ashamed (it's like high school cliques meets social networking); I'm not sure yet how much clout my Klout score is having. Klout tells us to "be known for what we love," but it's really about be known for how many people know you. Not complaining yet. I'm going to work on learning how to better use the site first. By the way, this is me on Klout
  2. TapInfluence - is for "influencers" and "brands." I can't really tell you much about this one since, like with Klout, I think this one if mostly for folks with high numbers of social followers. [PROS: Interesting concept. CON: Not immediately user-friendly.]
  3. Izea  - similar to TapInfluence in some ways. You can sign up as either an advertiser or creator (influencer). As a creator, you bid on jobs as they are listed. I've bid on one opportunity and am still waiting for the outcome. Izea calls itself a "sponsorship marketplace." Best description is here.
  4. House Party/Chatterbox - Since I'm not interested in throwing house parties for products, I only interact with the Chatterbox part of this site. I think their are more House Party opps than there are for Chatterbox. I recently applied to be a "Chatterbox" (that's me!) for a product, but I am waiting to see if I am approved. This site seems like it's going to be a lot of fun. 
  5. SheSpeaks - this used to be one of my favorite WOM (word-of-mouth) sites... Then they started doing more stuff through Twitter parties instead of directly with individual members. I think they are still one of the best WOM sites, but I don't have a lot of time or patience for sitting in on Twitter parties. I can better promote a product by trying it and blogging (or Tweeting and G-Plus-ing) about it on my own schedule.
  6. BzzAgent - Along with #5, this was one of the first WOM sites I used. It's still a favorite, but there I haven't seen many opps (for myself) lately. They do have some great campaigns though.
  7. Sverve - I only mention this one because I have joined it. Thing is, I have no clue how to use it to any advantage. I'm going to have to take time soon to figure out how it works or if it's worth being involved with. If it weren't for a lovely person - Kim Lewis - endorsing me, I'd have no interaction there at all! LOL (By the way, thank you, Kim.)
There are many other sites like these that I attempted to try out that exclude me by my Alaska residence. Too bad. You'd think they would want to get the word out to the consumers up here.

I do enjoy participating with these types of WOM and influencer sites, but I offer a thought: you give up a lot of information when you join or fill out surveys. I know that privacy is a big issue these days. I think about the privacy issue myself, but for those of us who've spent so much time online, I think privacy is an illusion anyway.

I want to hear here (or on G+) about any other sites like the above.


Friday, April 18, 2014

***REVIEW*** Garnier Clean Nourishing Cleansing Oil

One word about this: Nice!

I like most Garnier products in general. They are always as good (or way better) than they high-priced items I see on the shelves at most retailers. When I got a chance to send away for a free sample of the Ganier Clean Nourishing Cleansing Oil, I jumped right on it. (I mean, "cleansing" and "oil" is an ideal combination for someone who babies their skin.

I only wish the sample was a bit bigger. I had enough in the package to do my face, but not quite enough for my neckline.

The oil goes on with a nice, silky feel. I loved massaging my skin with the product (and that probably helps a lot with the cleansing).

The best part of this is that, as claimed, there's no residue left after rinsing. One of the annoyances of most cleansers is that they often leave the skin feeling sticky/tacky or over-dry.

The ingredients highlighted ingredients include jojoba and macadamia oils, which made me consider if it would be easier to just buy and use those alone. That's still not a bad idea, but since there's a combination of other oils and ingredients in product, it's easier to use than putting together something of my own.

As for the claims advertised on the packet: deeply cleaned and hydrated skin after 1 use (True!); and 100% of women feeling smoother and softer skin after 1 week (Believable, and I can't wait to test for myself).

I don't often wear a full face of makeup, but eye makeup (mascara and eyeliner - especially the gel liners) is the "clingiest" kind. This oil was great for that.

I really can't say anything negative about this cleansing product. When I price it in the stores here in Alaska, I will update this post. Apparently, the price is reasonable at Walmart. Typically, I find Garnier products to be very reasonable (even up here in one of the Upper 2 states!).

Like I said, I sent away for the sample. If you want to send for one, try this contacting Garnier. Some people have gotten samples at Walmart locations.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

***REVIEW*** Arm & Hammer Truly Radiant Toothpaste

My Smiley 360* kit for Arm & Hammer's Truly Radiant arrived yesterday.

Since I got home late (and had already brushed my teeth), I started using the Arm & Hammer this morning. Of course, I will have to come back and update this review when I have used the toothpaste for at least a week. (Did I mention that my Smiley360 kit included a very nice Spinbrush from Arm & Hammer - batteries included? It did and I am loving it.)

In the mornings, I brush my teeth always for at least three or four minutes. This is because I am nervous about damage from the methotrexate and other meds I take for my sarcoidosis. Usually, I end up with lots and lots of foaming from the pastes I have used. It's a little bit messy. The first thing I noticed with the Truly Radiant is that the paste did not foam and run like others do. Because of the lack of foam, I was actually wondering just how clean my teeth were getting! The instructions on the Spinbrush were to use it for at least 2 minutes. Running short on time, I kept to the 2 minutes instead of my usualy three or four.



Not only did my teeth feel really clean, I found it easy to rinse my mouth with just a swish of water. As for the whitening effects: yes, I could already (after the one brushing) tell that my morning coffee stains were gone. My breath felt clean - no overpowering lingering of the mint-flavor from the paste - which I really like. (I hate any kind of lingering flavors in toothpastes!)

I can't wait to check back later this weekend with an update on this product.

Visit the Truly Radiant site here for more information and a coupon.


*DISCLOSURE: I received free a 4.3oz tube of Arm & Hammer's Truly Radiant Whitening & Enamel Strengthening toothpaste and Spinbrush as part of my Smiley360 membership. (If you join Smiley360 and use me as your referral, I will earn some smiles!)

Open Letter to Online Retailers

To whomever it does concern:

I think I am speaking on behalf of the many (potential) customers who live in the United States. We don't live in some place accessible only by dogsled or courier dolphins. We live in areas that receive mail via the U.S. Postal service on each and every delivery day. I'm talking about residents of Alaska and Hawaii.

I question why I (and others) must pay the most outrageous shipping and handling costs whenever we order things from your sites. What's your reason for this? Does it cost more for packaging that must endure the alien airspace over Alaska and Hawaii? Do the folks "handling" those products bound for our areas have to wear special clothes during the shipping and handling process?

If you think I am just complaining to complain, I promise you that I am not. For examples of what I face in shipping costs when ordering from your site (and others), I have examples.

Amazon's Standard shipping to L48 compared to same for Alaska & Hawaii:

Ex: $3.99 for L48
and $7.99 for U2

And good old just blows their whole "free shipping" lure when it comes to Alaska & Hawaii... (That may be a good thing, because, otherwise, I'd shop them out of business!)


Is it just me, or do they seem almost gleeful about it?

I've already had my rant about Miss Jessie's shipping charges. Miss Trudy is like Amy Winehouse on this: "I say no, no, no..."


I understand that we are not "connected" to the Lower 48 states. What I don't understand is why when I mail a letter to someone in those lower states, who are not connected to us, I pay the same amount of postage in the form of a stamp. Wonder why the Postal Service doesn't add another dollar or two to stamps sold to us?

Maybe I am being unfair. Perhaps it is more expensive for you guys to ship things to those of us living in the Upper 2. Perhaps, but I doubt that it's as expensive as what we must assume from your shipping charges.

I was taught by my parents not to complain about something unless I had at least an idea for a possible solution. Here is my proposal to you guys:

When shipping to Alaska - and let's use the bottle of face cream I once ordered from you - how about you calculate what the cheap little bubble-wrap mailer cost you. (I'm pretty sure you get a discount on those since you must order them in bulk. I can get about 25 of them at Costco - way up here in Alaska-land - for around  $28 - and that's without a business account.) After you figure in the cost of the mailer, maybe you could use a postage-meter to weight the package to come up with a price for postage. Go ahead an tack on a your 'handling' charge (the same as you charge for 'handling' mail to the Lower 48 folk), then mail the dang thing to me. I don't think that would come to the prices I have been expected to pay in this instance, or another. What rule says that you guys just have to use the most expensive shipping service? You can't find ways to be more accommodating to the people who really do want to buy your products?

I bet if I get my hands on your product without having to take out a small loan, my satisfaction (or lack of) will be based solely on that product. Who knows, I might even try out your other products. I might even tell my friends why they should try them out. Just imagine.

What if you don't want to alter your shipping methods to accomodate your potential customers in the other 2 states (722,718 in Alaska; 1.4 million in Hawaii), which I will call the "Upper 2"!

Hmm... I have another idea:

I don't know if you realize it or not, but we actually have stores here - Target and Walmart and Walgreen - just like in the L-48. We even have roads and houses with actual doors and windows. (I know, it's hard to take it all in, huh?)

I've seen (some of ) your products in these stores (I'm really talking to you, Miss Jessie's), so I think you have a relationship with them already. If you don't want to ship to individuals like me (who could generate a lot of word-of-mouth business for you), you might consider supplying your retail connections with samples and trial sizes.

Think of the possibilities. You could reach a whole other market of people by extending just a little bit of consideration to the 700,00 + people living in Alaska. Most of us have the same needs and shopping impulses of humans from 'round where you might live. We like eating and bathing and doing cool things to our hair - like putting puddings and creams in it. We love to eat, drink and be merry. I bet you we can out-merry the rest of the nation when we start celebrating the end of winter when we come out of hibernation.

I'm not the only person who wonders about the seeming unfairness of shipping and handling charges when it comes to customers with Alaskan address. There was talk a long while back on ebay here. Like those in that discussion and ones on (ugh!) Facebook, I just don't get why you guys don't use USPS over the other (higher-priced) shipping services.

These are just some of my thoughts. I know you don't care about me as a person, but I bet you a Sea Galley's certificate that you care about the money you could make off my fellow residents. I can almost hear the calculators working as I finish typing this.

#theupper2 of the U.S.

P.S.: While chatting today with another Alaskan, she informed me of what she was told regarding Walmart's not doing a ship-to-store service here: apparently the reason is that the store doesn't have a warehouse here. She was told by someone that one is being built and that it will service the entire region of Alaska. Hopefully, then we will be able to use Walmart online and request items there for store pick-up.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

**About Makeup** Another Cream B.B.(bites) the Dust

I was completely on board with the lady who wrote this article a couple years back about B.B. creams. Not too much has changed since she voiced her thoughts.

With all the progress (maybe) in cosmetic offerings, you'd think there'd be more diversity in there somewhere. For some reason, most major cosmetic manufacturers think that all women come in shades of Gwenyth Paltrow to Sandra Bullock and Queen Latifah to Beyonce. I'm so excited about Lupita Nyong'o coming up in the entertainment world, I could just pee myself. She's so much closer to my shade of "brown" than the other women I see in the makeup adverts. Because I am deeply brown - not 'beige', 'light' or even 'medium'. If I were a cup of java, there'd be a lot of sugar but very little cream.

Today, in between some badly arranged appointments, I had a couple hours to kill so I hit Walmart and Walgreens in search of some makeup. (My current makeup hasn't really been 'current' since Bush was president. I know, right?)

This is what I saw at Walmart:

nice range, not dark enough

(not a BB cream, but) foundations are getting better...

but... nope, still no match
I found L'oreal's BB cream in 'medium' and 'deep' but I didn't like the grainy texture while applying. And it still was not-deep enough. I ended up with an ashy, un-natural look. My sister did well with the 'deep' shade, even though she is several shades lighter than I am. Cool.

Big sis likes this, but in the "Deep"er tone
I gave up on finding a BB cream (or a CC), and I didn't think to look at the DD creams. Why bother, right? None of the creams by Olay, Neutrogena or Aveeno came even slightly close to a shade suitable for my skin. (By the way, I think my problem is that I don't need a BB (balm) so much as I need a really good, lightweight foundation.

What I ended up with is this:

LOVE it! 
And I have a winna! Maybelline Dream Nude Airfoam Foundation lives up to the "nude" and "air" in its name. (I was totally surprised at the poor reviews here, which is why I think you have to try things for yourself.)

I usually can't wear "Cocoa" shades, and that is not a consistent shade across the different cosmetic brands, but I like this foam. It goes on very, very light and smoothly. There aren't the streaks that I get with some liquid foundations. While, by itself, it leaves a little bit of a shine, I find that it pairs up just perfectly with this powder:

Maybelline, I might be in love with you!
That's the Maybelline The photo is not a good representation of the actual color, which is very deep and rich, with my reddish-brown (ocher) undertones. (Here is a better photo of the "Mocha" shade I got.) I haven't liked a makeup this much since I used to (occasionally) wear Flori Roberts foundation.

this is what the foam looks like**

seems like the color might be off a bit, but...

... blends in really well.
What I like most is that the makeup is not obvious and it doesn't make my skin feel coated.  I don't look like I have on foundation and powder. My sister said that my skin looked really natural and toned.

What I love about the powder is that I can, if I want, wear it alone. I don't really need the foundation, but it will help when I haven't had quite enough sleep. Even better, neither of the products is messy. Once applied, I didn't have to worry about transferring streaks of color from face to paperwork.

A funny thing about the foam: the first time you dispense from a new jar, the foam is going to be white. I didn't know this. I rubbed on white foam, expecting to see results, but all I got was a shiny look. I guess that initial foam is for the "practice" pumps the instructions talk about! (Yeah, I can be so silly.)

A bonus find (while cruising Walgreen), was this beautiful lipstick by Wet 'n Wild (for just under 3 bucks!):

Shade: "Cherry Bomb" (#918D)
It's such a gorgeous shade of brick red - which is so hard to find. I am returning the L'Oreal BB cream and getting another couple tubes of Cherry Bomb. You know how it is when you find that shade of lipstick you just love and all of a sudden you can never get it again. (I think that women of all skin tones can wear this. It may be a bit more dramatic looking against lighter complexions, but it's a nice day look with my dark skin.)

Anyway, I'm happy that I didn't have to spend more than $20 to get a foundation, powder and lipstick.


***UPDATE*** Miss Jessie's Products & Shipping

When I posted recently about wanting to order samples of Miss Jessie's products the other day, I mentioned the outrageous shipping costs of items to Alaska.

I contacted the company with the following email (sorry, but I can't enlarge it more):

Asking for alternative (reasonable) shipping methods...

Maybe I was asking too much. This is the response I received from the company:

Yep. If I'm asking for them to read the email.
They thought I was mooching for free stuff... smh

I guess customer emails are just scanned for key words before a response is sent out.

I did reply, but I don't expect a response, and I don't really care anymore. I'm not going to bother calling the number they provided. Why should I? They provided the email contact form and look what happened. I'm not going to work this hard to spend money.

This all lets me know that I don't want to buy products from a company with such impersonal responses to inquiries. Businesses have improved ways to market and make money, but they don't seem to put as much effort into customer service. I can recall when, (about 15 years ago) I contacted Dell Computers about concerns with a PC I'd ordered. I received a phone call from one of Michael Dell's personal assistants. In this case, I didn't expect anything but a response that indicates someone in customer service actually read my email. Why do they even bother to have a "Contact Us" button on their website?


Unless I find a way to get hold of Miss Jessie's without going broke, you won't be reading here about how "darned good" the products are!


Monday, April 14, 2014

"Bad" Looks Better on Some People

There are always so many negative images portrayed of certain classes of people. People don't hear as many tsk-tsk stories about people with made-for-media images - unless those images are made-for-sterotyping. This is why we, as a society, tend to trust the person wearing a suit or climbing out of a luxurious car while we will clutch our handbags or cross the street to avoid a raggedy-dressed person. It's why we trust and envy almost anyone with letters behind their name (or with the letters of their name on a building), while we try hard not to notice the parent paying for groceries with food stamps.

We are so conditioned by mainstream media that we no longer trust our own judgement about people we don't personally know.

If we learned to see and interpret impressions for ourselves, we might see reality about people and situations clearer than we do. There are good, bad and ugly characters in every economic, racial and social strata of our society, but we snap-judge almost everything. Don't believe me? Think about the following examples of unbalanced treatment of people in various situations.
  • Young man grows up in a stable home and goes on to graduate - loan-free - from two ivy league higher education institutes. After establishing a successful career in New York, he steals millions of dollars from people to fund his ego and his enviable lifestyle. (Marc Dreier.)** 
  • A single mother left her two very young kids in a car alone so that she could complete a job interview. I probably don't have to tell you the details because her story was splashed all over the news. (At least in this case, the media attention backfired - in the woman's favor. People have donated thousands of dollars to help her situation. You know that if she ever does another wrong thing in her life, we'll hear about it as soon as the media finds out.)
  • Person grows rich from a great idea that was cleverly marketed. After becoming wealthy, this person decides to hide more than $100 million to keep from paying taxes on the money. They get probation and community service. Why? Because, other than being a tax cheat, this person is basically a good person who can do more good out of jail than in. 
  • There are plenty of stories of people serving severely harsh prison time for other things. Probably because they just look like they ought to be in jail...
By the way, when it comes to crimes involving money, if you think that people "like us" won't ever have to worry about debts putting us in jail, you might want to think one more time. Some crimes are worse than other but, apparently, sentencing is often more about who is committing a crime. I guess it depends on how the courts see the people coming in for sentencing.

Understand that I'm not saying that all poor people get more harshly treated for crime than all rich people do. I'm talking here about how differently the rich and poor are treated in the media. If you think I'm wrong, ask yourselves what your own ideas are about people of different economic classes.

Think of how dangerous some of our prejudices are. 
  • Ted Bundy was able to get so close to his victims simply because he "looked" safe. 
  • Wealthy socialites are "heroin" chic, but poor junkies are "crack hoes" and "skanks".
  • Why does "corporate welfare" not sound as nasty as "welfare queen"?
  • Politicians getting freebies and perks are not "welfare queens", are they? I don't know, no one every talks enough about it to make a difference.
  • The same politicians who bitch about sick people wanting healthcare seemed to like their benefits just fine - before Obamacare. 
  • Some people seem to think that politicians get too many benefits for not enough service. Other people think the 'ticians only have it slightly better than "not bad".
  • When corporations avoid taxes, that's "smart". Right?
  • Banks get into trouble all the time. If Bank of America was a person, little old ladies would cross the street to avoid them at night. As consumers, we won't (most of us) eat at a diner with dirty silverware, but we'd deposit our money in a bank just because of they're great advertising campaigns.
Last of all, I can give you two examples when on the receiving end of media bias (or maybe it was just individual ignorance). In the first case, I called over the telephone about a job. After a great conversation, the employer told me to come in as soon as possible for a meeting. I just knew I had that job. When I showed up, the woman was shocked to find that I was black. (Didn't get the job, by the way.) In the second case happened when I was in my twenties. I was happily chatted with some random forty-ish lady somewhere (store or office, I can't remember where) until she made the comment that I was so "articulate for a young black woman". Not only am I articulate, but I also remembered my home-training about being respectful to older people, no matter how harmlessly ignorant they might be.

I'm not ranting here because I think I am any less biased than you against certain people. Trust me when I say that I will hold my purse a little tighter when I see some dangerous-looking person lurking in the vicinity. My problem is that we don't always identify all  the dangerous people.


** About Dweier: While awaiting sentencing for his crimes, he lived in his $10 apartment, eating to deal with his stress. His complaints about his living situation included the boredom and how irrelevant the news seemed to him now. Poor thing. Sitting around in his beautiful apartment, he seemed a little bummed that he (or his family) had to pay for the required armed guards and the he was not allowed access to a cell phone or computer. Some of the things he worried about prior to receiving a 20-year sentence: whether he would be able to view Mets games (vs Philly games); what type of work he would be expected to do in prison (because he doesn't want to be on his knees cleaning or working for eight hours in a kitchen); that he be sent to a low-security prison to do his time, preferably in a place convenient for family visits; that he would never see his dog again... Oh! I just felt my whole heart breaking for the poor guy. Not. (At least Madoff got serious time.)

Growing Up vs Growing Old

With another birthday coming up on me, it's time to take inventory. I have to clean out some old habits and actions to make room for the new and improved ones; I have relationships and friendships I need to check on - and some I need to "check off"; and, of course, I need to consider whether I am fully appreciating and using this life and the abilities God has given me.

Each year, I like to remind myself that I am growing up and not just growing old.

Growing up means maturing - in spirit, wisdom, thought, and actions.  Growing up takes a willingness to learn from mistakes and make appropriate changes. Lots of people live long enough to grow old.

As I get ready to take this "inventory" of my life, I'm looking at some of my habits and pleasures. I need to figure out which things are still a source of happiness for me and which one I keep only to "maintain." Let me explain what I mean by that:

While watching the documentary ("Unguarded") about Chris Herren, the former basketball player, I noticed something he said about his drug use. He'd once enjoyed using drugs and alcohol but, when the addiction took hold of his life, he only used to keep from being "dope sick."

"Dope sick." Wow.

How many of us are using things other than drugs to find our escape and pleasure? How much of those things are we letting take hold of us to the point where we keep up with them to fight off dope sickness?

Part of my self inventory is to figure out which pleasures in my life that I need to put the brakes on before I lose control.

A few years ago, I wasn't as mature as I am now. I had grown older, of course, but I wasn't maturing as much as I needed to be. When I went through my previous abusive relationship, then got sick, I was forced to grow up in a lot of ways. That's when I realized that some struggles are really warnings. God's blessings didn't get my attention as much as those struggles.

This year, I hope to look back on the past with more clarity. I'm praying for God to cleanse my heart of all the nonsense I have let in.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Miss Jessie's and the Cost of Being Ethnic

(*Make sure to read the bottom of this post before you leave)

On a quick run to Target's yesterday, I noticed that they carry a better variety of "ethnic" hair products than the Anchorage Walmart and Walgreens. At first, I was all "Oh, nice!" I haven't even seen most of these products at the local Sally's Beauty Supply store.

Walmart & Sally's also carries these
(check that per pint price)

I've tried Carol's Daughter hair balm before. It was okay, but had a strong smell. I'm sort of impressed by the reasonable-for-Alaska prices here:

I envy Carol's Daughter. Yes, I do.

Anchorage is finally catching up with the rest of the States in decent hair products for us nappy gals. I'm always amused to see how stuff is marketed. Mixed Chicks stuff is not only for "mixed" chicks. Anybody with a lot certain hair texture would like it, but my "mixed chick" niece finds it's too heavy for her hair. I'd love to see something marketed for "rowdy" hair, but that's just me.

What's with the gold level prices on this stuff???
And when I saw this,
I'd love to have both of these products

I broke into a big smile. Hah! I can buy Miss Jessie's hair products? In Anchorage???

I tot I taw a pwetty tag!
And what  is that little silver marking on the tube? I was thinking it was a type or rating or designation for a great product, but...  Wrong! It's a store security tag to prevent theft. I put on my glasses and realized why the product needs that tag...

$41 & $67 by the pint! Highest darned price, for real!
Is it just me, or does that  price seem a little bit high? The Canon printer I was complaining about in this post only cost 10 bucks more than this hair product. I have a very nice blender that I will be using for years that cost about 10 bucks more. With a warranty.

I almost threw that tube of Miss Jessie's back onto the shelf! I was afraid I'd be charged just for reading the label.

My hair was suddenly talking to me, like a devil on my shoulder  head, trying to get me to buy the Pillow Soft. Thing  is, I have read mostly (but not allgreat reviews about Miss Jessie's. Didn't hear about her finances, but I'm sure her family's now rich.* She wouldn't have to sell many of her products to make it onto a Forbes list, that's for sure. (Notice the price Amazon has for the Pillow Soft.)

I looked, but did not buy. The only way I could afford  some Miss Jessie's is if I want to suffer miss-meal cramps for the next several weeks. Guess what? I miss enough meals just trying to pay my bills. Plus, I noticed on the product description (and in the reviews) that the Pillow Soft "marries" fabric care technology into the hair care. That concerned me so I looked up a list of the ingredients. Maybe I will  just try out some trial sizes to be safe.

Or... Maybe not.

Again with the to-Alaska shipping costs!

That right there is not the fault of Miss Jessie's. That is just the way things usually are when trying to have anything shipped to Alaska. I'm going to contact Miss Jessie's to see if there is an alternate way to get my trial sizes. Maybe they can just stick the stuff in a regular mailer and calculate postage. Or - and this just occured to me - maybe they can supply Target and Sally's with samples for the Alaska customers? It's worth writing an email and making the request. I will get back to you folks with the outcome.


* I have to add here that I am not down on the folks behind Miss Jessie's. Some of my post is done out of silliness and humor. While the prices for Miss Jessies products are higher than I can afford, so are the prices on a lot of long-time corporate brands that never catered to minorities until recently. Revlon, L'Oreal (and a bunch of other companies) are suddenly on the "natural hair" ride, but I still can't find a decent shade of foundation to use on my "ethnic" skintone. I wish I could buy more  products marketed by the people behind the need, and I recognize the folks behind Miss Jessie's probably have to charge higher prices to see a profit. If I ever can, I will buy all my products from mom-and-pop ops. I applaud them for their courage in entering the game.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Signs of (an Alaska) Summer

There are about 10 ways we Alaskans can tell that summer is finally about to be here:

I can almost smell summer coming. (Hamburgers. Summer smells like hamburgers.)

  1. The fam uncovers the grill and hoses out the coolers.
  2. The 13 coats of dirt on your car start to bother you.
  3. Ladies start putting on their morning makeup in direct sunlight so they don't scare small babies later in the day.
  4. The "break-up" weather has created ponds of water so deep along the sidewalks that I start wishing I knew how to swim. Just in case.
  5. If the break-up "ponds" don't get you, the potholes hidden underneath will.
  6. If the potholes don't get you, the maniac drivers happy to see asphalt will.
  7. People rush the weather by coming outside too soon in shorts and flip-flops.
  8. It's fun to watch someone in flip-flops trying to step over the patches of un-melted snow.
  9. After having complained all winter about the darkness, you now grumble because the sun is up way before you have to be.
  10. You finally start working on losing those pounds you won't be able to continue hiding under your winter clothes.

Dark Things & Blind Hearts

I think I posted something about the Illuminati once in recent memory. It's not something I run around talking about a whole lot. When I saw this video the other day, though, I had to come and post it here.

Now, a lot of what you hear online is overblown conjecture. A lot of what you can hear and read online isn't usually backed up with anything other than someone's theories. This video caught my interest because, even though I obviously have some different religious belief's than the producers, I couldn't really dispute anything they were saying. That's all because they were careful to back up what they had to say. Often when they pointed out someone as being involved in this mess, they let that person show that - either through some interview, their lyrics, or photos and videos. (I thought of some people that they didn't even mention because I thought back to things I had noticed without knowing what I was looking at.)

Here's the thing: everyone can have one of two opinions about this. Some people will believe this happens and some people will write it off as nonsense. Because I believe in God and the Bible, I believe that there are people and forces at work in opposition to God and the Bible. So there.

None of this matters to anyone who has made up their minds in whichever direction they choose. It matters to people who haven't made a choice - or didn't even realize there was a choice to be made. Ignorance is not really bliss when it can hurt you.

Finally, I know that a lot of people who do believe that such dark things exist often want to hate those caught up in the darkness. I think that those people need our prayers. I think that one who is living with hope of an eternal existence in the light should not wish for anyone to be left out.

Today, we all get so distracted by our earthly problems that we forget to worry about our eternal souls. That's such a human mistake to make, and we all need to pray for each other to avoid it.

That's all I'm going to say on the subject for now.


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The Plot is the Thing

The hardest thing about writing (I think) is plotting the story. Ideas come so fast and easy, most writers have trouble keeping track of them. Characters create themselves in our minds all the time. It's the whole pulling a story together - beginning, middle, and end - that creates most writers' problems. Or maybe it's just me...

When writing a story, I find the best way to keep from going crazy is to plot the whole thing out. Of course, I have a hard time doing that. My mind wants to just start telling this wonderful story without taking the time to give it some sort of structure. I'm trying to get better about doing outlines.

Here is a nice list of ways to "plot, plan and prep" a story. I like the "Reverse Outline" plan best because if I am forced to write the end of my story, I'm forced to take my eyes away from the beginning - which is what usually comes into my head first. Also, I've found that it's easier to not only start with the ending, but to then just work my way backward through to the start.  (I am thinking of trying the "Dialogue Only" method for another story.)

It helps to understand the different plot types. I never thought about this before, but it does help to know the difference between plot and structure.

If you like using software to plot your story, there's this one with a free trial. This blog lists some suggestions for other software.

Some writers like using worksheets. I like some types of worksheets, while others are not helpful to me personally. I do (sort of) like story-mapping, and some folks prefer mind-mapping. (Maybe I'm just biased to the other helpful stuff this blog lists.) There are more charts and guides throughout this page.

Another resource for helps in plotting is Tumblr. If you go in and do a search on #plot, #plots, and #plotting, you'll get more than you could wish for.

Of course, writing is the key. You have to eventually get away from the plotting, mapping and charting in order to just write. Right? Right.

If anyone has more suggestions for plotting helps (or software), share the info.


P.S.: Big thanks to all the bloggers and other folks who support writers by supplying these charts and links to software.