Sunday, July 31, 2016

**REVIEW** Black Radiance Ebony Powder

Hey, dark-skinned ladies! I have found another fantastic product that you might be interested in.

Black Radiance Pressed Powder Compact 

Black Radiance made me so mad when they discontinued my favorite shade of liquid foundation, but they just won back my love with this product.

I don't normally use powders as my only foundation because I never could find one that complimented my skin tone. With a powder, shade matching is crucial. The wrong shade can come off looking mask-like or caked on. Plus, a poor quality powder settles into even fine lines and creases. Yikes!

Just a quick mention here: This powder is for setting your liquid foundation, I suppose, but I am my own gal and I use it as a foundation. So there.

This powder does exactly what a good powder foundation is supposed to - evens out my skin tone and softens my look - and it does it perfectly. It doesn't cake up the least bit (even in humidity), and it blends so well with my skin tone that in the mirror I don't look so much made up" as I do lightly 'filtered'. It's that softening effect that you get when you are in the right lighting.

Okay. Why do I look so mean? Let's try that one again:

I know that's kind of a fake smile, but what do you expect when it's just me and my webcam? Nah, really I was smiling because I love the look I get with this foundation. Actually, when I use this powder, I get the same effect that other women do when they use only a little bit of blotting powder. You know what I mean - something to tame the shine and fine lines.

By the way, I dug out my Black Radiance Illusions Lip Gloss - shade #3229 - for my little photo shoot. Glad I did. Forgot how much I like it.

"Diva Desire" is the shade name. I think.
Whatever. Bet it's discontinued.

The powder is very light and doesn't feel as if it's smothering my skin. I also love that it doesn't "transfer" easily, messing up my hands and clothing.

You can't even see my jawline

This particular shade is (surprise, surprise) the same one that I loved in the now-discontinued liquid foundation I swore by. The price was reasonable, thank goodness and even more surprising, I found the product in my local Walmart. I'm not sure how long the store will carry the item since I found it as a mark down ($3) on an end cap in the cosmetics aisle. No worries though, because Amazon also carries it (though it costs around $10). Yay!

I was so happy to find this on markdown. Otherwise, I might not have tried it. (Yeah, I was still made about the discontinued foundation!)

The photo quality it not the best (sucky webcam), but you can at least tell that I don't look like I'm in clown-face. Matter of fact, I took one photo with only one side of my face made up (lipstick and all) so that you could see how subtle the effect is.

lipstick side is the made up side

The negative thing I have to say is not to do with the makeup. It's the applicator brush. Ugh! I hate those cheap little brushes for applying powder foundation. Instead, I'm using this brush that I got for free as part of a review:

Got this set free in exchange for a review

This style of applicator brush is amazing. Just perfect for applying powders although I wasn't crazy about it for applying liquid foundation...

Anyway, if any of you have seen this product and were wondering if it were any good, I can tell you that, if you find your shade, you should grab it. I'm glad I did!


Saturday, July 30, 2016

**FOLLOW UP** Honey as a Healing Agent

It's not often that I get to come back and give details of dramatic results about products I've reviewed. It's an awesome feeling.

Back in April, I was posting about the different types of honey. My main interest was in the great taste and the natural healing powers of the different varieties. I've been using honey for a long time - adding it to my beverages and cereals, and just taking a little bit by the spoonful when I'm not feeling well. Honey is a great throat soother and, because of the sarcoidosis, I tend to cough. Sometimes, I cough so much that I get hoarse, and all my life I've been prone to laryngitis. Honey has become a regular part of my natural medicine cabinet.

In the past several weeks, I've broken out with a rash. It started like a minor dry-skin problem but it was isolated to small sections on both ankles and in minute patches on my palms and fingers. My hands healed rapidly and the rash never even really developed past the minor stage. I suspected I was suffering from a lack of iodine and, since I have some J. Crowe's, I took a few drops every day. The dry spots on my hands healed up, but my ankles got worse. I stopped taking the iodine and contacted my doctor. It's possible that my meds (chemo and an infusion treatment) may be the cause, so I have an appointment coming up to check on that. In the meantime, I tried using a hydro-cortisone cream. Moisture is not my problem, though, and the cream wasn't helping much.

I know that doctors must hate patients who go all renegade with their own healthcare and, because I trust my specialist more than he will ever know, I usually don't do anything without checking with him first. That rash was driving my nuts though! It is dry and ugly and it was starting to itch. Of course, you know me...

I woke up last night because the rash was feeling itchy. I went straight to my natural medicine shelf. I still don't have any of the whole manuka honey, but I do have an antioxidant honey blend that has some manuka in it. ----->>>>>>>>>>

This is what the rash looked like yesterday (and this doesn't even show how scaly and dry it was!)

This is how I dressed it after applying a good dollop of honey with a Q tip:

This is what the rash looked like once I washed off the honey with a warm wet towel:

To be fair, the lighting and color from the camera seems better, but the difference really is this startling.  Best of all, the itch is gone. I am probably never going to be able to afford a decent amount of Manuka honey, but that might be all right. I'm hearing more and more about Scottish heather honey. Because the price is affordable ($17/12-oz jar), I've ordered some from Amazon using my saved up reward points. Another bonus: a high iron content in the heather honey.

For now, I'm just excited about how the honey blend I used has helped with this rash. I can't wait to tell my doctor. Well, I can kind of wait because I know he'll probably give me one of those looks!

You have to admit that this is pretty impressive. It proves to me what I've heard for years - from my mother and all those old ladies from my youth. Honey can be a natural healing agent.

Like I said, it's not often that I can come follow up with such dramatic results, but honey really, truly did do the trick for me. I still need to see what caused this, but I'm hoping that, until I see the doc, the honey continues soothing the itch and moisturizing the dry patches.

I'm not recommending that anyone substitute honey for medical care - I'm certainly not doing so. I just wanted to share my personal experience in this one instance. By the way, I did double check some references once more before I actually applied the honey to the rash on my foot. I found some sources that back up what my mama taught me about honey and healing:


Friday, July 29, 2016

**REVIEW** J.R. Watkins Daily Moisturizing Lotion

Don't you love it when you are having a rough day and something good and unexpected happens? That's why I'm in a better mood tonight than I was when I woke up this morning.

I won't go into why my day started out so crappy, but it got worse when I had to make an emergency run over to Walmart to get some clog buster for the bathroom. I am telling you, this week just started and it is trying to be a doozy.

Anyway, I get over to the store and have to search 3 shelves to find the correct product to clear the drain. So many choices! And I noticed a white bottle that looks out of place among all the Drano, Liquid Plumber, Mr. Plumr, etc., and decided to take a peek. It sure didn't belong on the cleaning aisle:

Man! Talk about flashing back to my younger years!

The last time I saw anything other than extract and some spices from the Watkins label was... well, never. I do remember one of my aunts or someone using a salve that might have been from Watkins but, mostly, I remember all the cakes and gravies that my mother and her friends made using a Watkins product. (I especially can recall the vanilla extract that I was taught to use with baby powder as a fragrance!)

Since some other shopper had obviously put this bottle of lotion down in the wrong part of the store, I had no idea how much it might cost. I put it aside in my basket, thinking that I would just do a price check later. I had some other items to pick up - you know how it is: since I was there - and was already thinking I was going to go over the daily budget.

Guess what good and unexpected thing happened next? When I was slipping my phone back into my purse, I found a twenty stuck in the side pocket. Found money! That almost never happens to me. First thing I did was get tickled and make some other shoppers give me the side eye. I was thinking about a joke a comedian told about Bill Gates: "For someone that rich to get excited about finding forgotten money in a coat pocket, they'd have to find something like four million dollars!" No doubt.

Well, found money or no, I should have tucked it back into the purse until another rainy day, but... There was that lotion.

Maybe it was nostalgia, but I just had to have that lotion. Of course, my sneaky behind was going to try to free the pump and sample it right then and there. You know, just in case I hated it or something. I couldn't be smooth enough about getting the pump turned open, so I just went ahead and bought the bottle. One thing about Walmart, they don't mind doing refunds. Trust me, I know.

Once I got the lotion open. I was so happy that I had splurged some of my found money. The smell alone took me right back to my mother's kitchen on the days she'd make one of her lemon meringue pies. I never even liked those pies that much, but the smell...!!! Heavenly. Come to think of it, that's probably why I like lemon-scented candles so much.

Of course, the thing with scents and fragrances in moisturizers is that they might be overwhelming or - even worse - they might irritate the skin. Lord knows, I don't need that. I already have a rash on my ankles that my doctor is going to be checking out at my next appointment.

I made sure to test this lotion on one arm first. The smell, lovely as it is, doesn't really linger as strongly as it applies. I'd say that it evens out to faint and almost vanilla-tinged odor after about five minutes. The lotion actually moisturizes like a heavier cream formula and left a subtle wax-softness that would make my touch feel pleasant to someone else.

The one thing that puzzles me is the label's statement about the lotion being "99% natural".

no parabens, phthalates, propylene glycol or dyes.

Looking at the label of ingredients, I can't really discern what isn't natural until I squint. I think it must be the acetate they are talking about. Or maybe one of the other ingredients mentioned near the end of the list?

What I do know is that this feels so good as an all-over moisturizer. You know that wonderful feeling you get after a shower when you jump into freshly laundered sheets? Well, that feeling ramps up a notch if you're all smoothed up and smelling good with this lotion.

Another nice thing about the lotion is that the moisture does last. I didn't pay much attention at first but, when I washed my hands about an hour or so after applying, I could feel the lotion coming off in the water. Later, I did try to pay attention to how long it lasted and I know that it lasted at least another three hours (maybe more), but then I had to wash my hands again. The lotion that I applied to the rest of my body was fine all day - meaning I wasn't dry that evening. I can tell by how dry my calves are. Usually, depending on the weather, I might have to re-apply some moisture (usually one of my oils) to my legs at least once or they will be a bit dry at bedtime. I think that's because my jeans rub against them.

Because this lotion brought back so many memories of J. R. Watkins products, I had to go take a peek at their website. I downloaded a catalog and for my niece's upcoming birthday, I'm going to get some of the extracts and laundry soap. That doesn't sound like an exciting birthday gift, but she also remembers my mother (her "Grammy") using Watkins stuff. I think she will be pleased with the gift basket.

When my niece gets to try some of the other products, I will be sure to come back and do a post on them.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

**MAKEUP** Rimmel Eyeliner & Bitzy Lip Colors

Don't think that I consider myself a diva or anything, but I wanted to share a little style tip. If you are of a medium, deep, or dark skin color, you probably use dark brown or black for your eyeliner. That's what I've always done. I always thought that going dark to match my eyelashes and brows was the way to go. And dark liner does look nice, but it doesn't pop as much against darker complexions unless it's worn heavy or dramatic. The same goes for lipsticks and glosses: get out of the nighttime colors and go for something with a bit of brightness and pop.

Lately, I've been mixing some of my cream liners - the lighter ones or sparkly ones with my blacks and browns - or I was using cream eyeshadow pencils. Then I found this eyeshadow shade by Scandal Eyes:

It's shade number 004 and is called Guilty Grey, and I love it. I found it at Walmart for around $4.

I had trouble fully capturing the visual effect with my laptop camera but, try to trust me and know that it's a nice (yet subtle) change-up from a basic eyeliner shade.

The main thing that I like about this shade is that it works to draw attention to my eyes the same way a dark liner does for someone with a paler complexion. I wish I had thought to do this long ago. When I was younger, I would occasionally wear eyeliner and I remember going through a phase of wearing blues and greens.

By the way, I think that a grayish or shimmer shade might look good with any skin color - just as black does with all shades. Going lighter is just a new thing for me. (I will warn you that, because this is an eyeshadow, you won't want to use it to line the inner part of your eye. I did that the first time and got some in my eye while wearing my contacts. Oh, mama! Danger, Will Robinson, danger!)

The other thing that I really like about wearing a grey/gray shade is that I get just a such a different look without having to overdo my makeup. When I first wore this shade in public, one lady actually commented on it. Of course, this is Alaska and strangers chat with each other all the time but, still. She just mentioned that she liked the way I had highlighted my eyes. As if I had done more than change my liner shade. (I've also stopped going so dark & red with lip colors and have been giving lighter shade and shimmers a try.)

This is one of the lighter lip colors I've been wearing:

I have to admit that I'm going to be looking for my next light eyeliner in the Bitzy brand. These little things are so cheap that I can try lots of different colors and shades for less than what some brands charge for a single full-size item.

These are two of the Bitzy "Lip Stacks", which are like tiny samplers of lip glosses. (Note that the other photo I just showed up above is what's considered a "full-size" gloss!)

If you've never tried the Stacks before, each of the 3 colors has their own sponge applicator.

The only downside to the Bitzy Lip Stack is that, once you find a color you just adore, you might not be able to find the shade in a full sized tube. That's what happened to me when I fell in love with the very bottom shade in the Irresistible stack. There's no identification of each shade. Even the clerk couldn't find it in the full size. That's how I ended up with the Beautiful shade. I like that one a lot, but I'd still like to find the other one. I think it must be either Candy or Nude.

The Lip Stacks are perfect not for just sampling shades, but also for having a variety to change up your look throughout the day. I keep both of mine in my purse and love being able to play mix-and-match.

Those Lip Stacks, by the way, are quite small. I have small hands and can hide one in my fist. Here are the Stacks along side the "full size" gloss.

Don't go looking for a Bitzy website. Until I was writing this post, I didn't realize that Bitzy is a Sally Beauty Supply brand. That's where I've always bought my Bitzys, but I never thought about where they came from until I was trying to find a link for Arcadia Beauty Labs - which is the imprint on the Bitzy product labels. Check out all the various Bitzy items available on the SBS website! Hot diggity. I might never buy another full sized product again! I'm going to have to talk to the manager at my local SBS to see if she can get more of these items into the store. (By the way, I think I caught a sale when I bought my gloss and stacks because all I paid was a dollar for each item.

All "grayed out" & Bitzy'd up!
(It looks good in person. Really.)

I never wore much makeup when I was younger. About ten years ago, I started experimenting with the basics, so I'm not a woman who goes all out with her makeup. At the most, I like a little lip gloss, maybe some watered down foundation or light powder, and mascara-or-eyeliner. I apply everything with a light hand. I'm older now and I think of makeup as either my "war paint" (to hide my insecurities) or as window-dressing (to accentuate a feature).

If you're wanting to try something a little different with your makeup, give a different eyeliner (or mascara) a shot. I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has other tips for jazzing it up with makeup.


**REVIEW** Art Naturals Fractionated Coconut Oil

This is probably the eighth FCO (fractionated coconut oil) that I've used. I think I have reviewed at least 3 or 4 of them in the past few years. I wanted to come and do a review on this one because I think it's going to be a new favorite.

You wouldn't think that there'd be much of a difference in FCO's, no matter the brand, but you'd be so wrong. I've liked almost every FCO I've tried, so if I had to pick one of those over another, it would come down to price. Since this one would rate well in the price criteria, I'll go over what else I do like so much about it.

First off, it's not rank, stale, or stinky. I hate to speak ill of local stores, but good quality and price are two main reasons I usually order certain products from Amazon. When I picked up a bottle of FCO from a small store in a local mall, I thought it would be okay. The oil was in a smaller bottle (I think it was 8 ounces), but wasn't too expensive. I had previously gotten some scented lotions and fragrance/warmer oils there and wasn't too underwhelmed. Plus, I was trying to buy local. I don't know if it was a batch problem or what, but that FCO was "off". It had a rank/dank odor. I returned it and the store explained that I must have just gotten a bad bottle. In addition to my refund, the clerk was nice enough to give me a sample bottle of fragrance oil.

Next time I bought some FCO locally, it was from a store I generally trust. The oil itself was pretty good as far as the moisturizing properties. The problem I had was that it was labeled as "pure" (or maybe it said "whole" I can't remember which) and there was a light coconut scent to it. As far as I now, pure FCO does not have a scent. That's one of the things I like about it. I don't want to use anything on my face if there is a scent involved.

Anyway, there were two reasons I applied to try this FCO from Art Naturals. One reason is I was out of FCO, period. LOL The second reason is that I'd been seeing other Art Natural products (tanning creams, Argan oil, face serums, etc.) on the brand review sites I use. I was curious about the brand, so...

My order for this FCO was placed via Amazon and the price was really decent. Like I said, the price is going to be a big part of the decision to purchase a quality oil. And, trust me, the  prices vary a lot. The 16-oz size is pretty standard, but just go and check out how many price ranges you can find. It's crazy. If you go over to Art Naturals, you'll notice the price for the FCO is dang good.  And, there are two extra reasons for shopping from the site (especially if you aren't an Amazon Prime member):

  1. Shipping. Standard is FREE & Expedited is only around $6.00 (I didn't even see any exclusions for Alaska or Hawaii!)
  2. You can sign up for their mailing list for a chance at free products in exchange for reviews. I think you have to stay tuned for when they are running a campaign but, still.
See the site's FAQs for info on all that. By the way, I noticed that they also have a magnesium oil. Interesting, huh?

I can tell you that I'm happy with the FCO from this brand. Like I said, I had run out since the last bottle that I bought (and liked) at a local health store. I used this one almost as soon as the FedEx guy handed me the box. 

In case you forgot or never knew all the ways FCO can be used:
  • Moisturize skin & hair. Depending on your skin type, you can try using this as an overnight face and body treatment. The good news (especially for you loving couples) is that FCO doesn't stain sheets and clothing. Moving along...
  • Remove your makeup (or just clean your face) with FCO. When the weather or my meds have my skin feeling extra dry, I will use the FCO with a damp face cloth so that some of the oil is left on my skin. Otherwise, I'll wipe the oil off with a cottony baby wipe. That cleans the oil completely off.
  • Hot oil treatment for skin and hair. For the skin treatment, I like to slather on the oil then sit on some towels in the bathroom with the shower steaming the room. (Just be careful that you don't slip-slide and bust your pride!)
  • The oil is great for shaving. I don't have to shave my legs, but I love putting FCO on my pits and leaving it while I shower, then shaving just before rinsing off.
  • For those of you who need scalp moisture, you can apply this to wide parts in your hair and then brush.(I use it a little heavier after I've got my hair twisted for the night.)
  • For people with a smoother (less kinky) texture of hair, a tiny bit of oil can tame or even prevent the "splits". FCO is a nice hair oil because it is so light (and remember - no staining).
  • I've heard that "brushing" the skin is a trend these days. I am thinking of trying that but, for now, I know that applying some FCO and exfoliating is nice. You can try using the oil with sugar, coffee grounds, baking soda, rice powder, or some other mild scrub. I used to use sugar, but now I use the finer-grained rice powder or baking soda. One day, I'll have to experiment with a fine-grained salt.
  • FCO makes a good cuticle oil, lip balm (try mixing it with an EO of your liking). Of course FCO is a wonderful carrier oil for using with EOs.
  • This last one is a personal goodie that I will dare share with the ladies, but guys might want to try it: Throughout those hot (or extra active) days, try cleaning your "private places" with some FCO and a baby wipe. You can grab some small, cheapie plastic bottles at Walmart to keep a portable supply of FCO on hand. This is a nice way to keep fresh on days when you feel self-conscious for whatever reason. I'm just sharing a tip.
If you think that using oils as a part of your hair and skin care routines is worth it, let me share a photo of my 55-year old self. And be sure to keep in mind that I haven't always taken as much care with the rest of my health as I have with my skin. I smoked cigarettes for most of my life, not always eaten well, and messed around and acquired a chronic immune disease. Still...

Born with good skin genes. Upkeep with oils and other moisturizers.

So, yes, there are so many ways to use a good FCO. The one use that I haven't ever thought too much about until I saw the Art Naturals label: "Medicinal". They don't mean for internal use but as a wound cleaner. I thought that was interesting and will have to look into it more.


DISCLOSURE: I received one or more of the products mentioned in the post free of charge in exchange for providing a fair & honest review.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

**REVIEW** Lavanila The Healthy Deodorant

I can't believe that I am just now getting around to blogging a review of this deodorant.

That is Lavanila, a natural and aluminum-free deodorant that I started using back in mid-May. As you know, I love vanilla anything so that is the scent I chose, but there are several types and fragrances to choose from. Before you do select a scent, check user reviews. I love the one I chose, but I did see some users/reviewers who did not like the grapefruit choice at all. I haven't tried that one so I can't chime in.

The reason I actually tried this deodorant is that I was getting tired of the crystal type I was using. With that one, I always had to dampen it before using. This one works just like any other cream stick deodorant. Just keep in mind that it is ONLY a deodorant, not an antiperspirant. But, boy, does it work overtime as a deodorant.

Although I wanted this particular one because I love vanilla scents, the fragrance with this isn't very strong. and that's just fine with me. I plan on trying some of the other natural deodorants so that I can do reviews, but I like this one so much that I will probably use it as my regular choice. Since it is natural, but works so well to control odor, I was interested in the ingredients:

  • aloe barbadensis leaf juice (aloe juice, water/aqua)
  • alpha-glucan oligosaccharide (sugar derived)
  • carrageenan (seaweed derived)
  • hydrastis canadensis (goldenseal) extract 
  • inulin (artichoke derived) 
  • loncera capifolium (honeysuckle) flower extract 
  • lycium barbarum fruit extract (goji berry) 
  • melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) flower/leaf/stem extract 
  • propandeiol (corn derived) 
  • saccaromyces ferment 
  • sodium stearate (coconut derived)
  • stearyl behenate (coconut derived)
  • usnea barbata (lichen) ext
Wow. I'm not familiar with most of those. I expected to see magnesium (in some form) on the list. I will have to compare those ingredients to the ones listed for other natural deodorants.

Here are the things I like most about the product:

  1. Goes on very, very smoothly (even better than "regular" stick deodorants).
  2. Does seem to condition.moisturize the skin (as product page states).
  3. Keeps the "funk" away - even on hot days, days at the gym, etc.
  4. I've personally had no skin problems from using it.
  5. Though mild, the scent is nice & not as acrid as those in store brands.
  6. Is lasting a long time. After 3 months daily use, I have at least another 3 months left.
Here are the things that I like least:
  1. Because of the moist texture (which is almost damp), I have to let it "set" for a moment after applying.
  2. Though I like that it conditions the skin, I'm not crazy about the initial damp feeling.
  3. I really wish it had some antiperspirant protection.
For those who care, apparently, this product is vegan (as are some of Lavnila's other items). As far as I can tell, Lavanila doesn't carry an antiperspirant. Dang it. I was surprised to find that this is the brand that produces the Lavanila scent I tried years ago (and loved, but forgot about). I just have to remember that the brand is Lavanila - not Lavanilla

The brand also makes body butters and sun protection products. I ordered from Amazon, but if you go to the Lavanila site, you can sign up for product discounts. Be sure to check out their "Our Story" page.

I'm happy that I found the product and, like I said, I'll probably always use it now. However, I will be doing reviews on similar items.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Updated **REVIEW** Livescribe 2GB Echo Smartpen (specifically reviewed for writers)

Please scroll to the bottom of this post for an update of the review.

I could have titled this post "Happy Birthday to My Broke A**", but... LOL

When I was studying this smartpen to decide if I wanted to buy it, I read lots of reviews. I didn't see any that were specific to people wanting to use it primarily as a tool for creative writing. Also, I wanted to come to the post as an older and only slightly tech-savvy person. So...


My Livescribe Echo 2GB smartpen arrived today and I wanted to do photos of the unboxing:

** A quick note on the only difference I've noticed between the Echo and the Livescribe 3 - apparently, the Echo is geared toward use with laptops and PCs and the Livescribe 3 is for use with phones and tablets. Notice that this is as far as I can tell! **

By the way, the contents on the side of the box lists 2 ink cartridges. It should list that there is 1 additional cartridge since most people would expect there to be 1 inside the new pen. (I spent a couple of minutes checking for a second cartridge in the plastic packaging.) Minor point, but this is a review.

Now I just have to get everything open and set up. I'm a little bit afraid! LOL

I had to charge the pen before I could do any of the setup. Duh. Apparently, it takes up to 2.5 hours for the pen to charge from empty but it only took about 40 minutes before mine was charged.

I chose the 2GB pen because it's cheapest. There are 8GB ones on Amazon, but there was an $80 price difference. I've heard that there are also 4GB versions. ~shrug~ The 2GB pen is supposed to over 200 hours of audio (depending on quality), or "thousands of pages" of notes. Keep in mind that is an or not and. I plan on doing more note-taking than recording.

The pen feels more comfortable in my grip than I expected. It looks fat, but I had no trouble adjusting to the feel of it. I had a chance to get used to using it when I did the steps to set up initial information - date, time, etc. The coolest part is how easy it is to use from the very start. (Or maybe I should say "so far".)

The "starter notebook" that comes with this pen is probably the size I will prefer to on-the-go notes. It's what I used to set up the basic information. It's also a good "starter" for new users getting used to the technology of the pen. Putting in the date and time; adjusting brightness and volume; then checking the status of the battery, storage, and software version were all as easy as tap/click and done.

Using the Navigation to scroll the Menu was easy enough, but I will need some practice before I go past the very basics. From the get-go, the Menu sounds interesting and has options for Applications, Shortcut Buttons and something called "Sound Stickers" (yeah, I'll have to investigate that one!)

This is what the pen display looks like (set to 75%).

This is the size of the Starter Notebook.

This is the size of the 3-hole 8.5 x 11 notebooks I ordered (in a 4-pack). Like I said, I think I'm going to favor the size of the Starter notebook. I set the Starter notebook on top so you could see the difference.

This is the inside of the college-ruled 1-subject notebook:

 The main thing I noticed about the first page in the larger notebook was the line for a subject or other kind of title.

There is a cheat card of smartpen controls tucked in the front pocket but it seems to specifically be for the Livescribe 3.  I can't tell if all the notebooks in the pack have this because I haven't opened the others.

When I opened this one, I was a little startled by the adhesive tag holding it closed. I almost just snipped it off before I realized it's coded for "archiving" the notebook. I only know the most basic of basics about the archiving issue. I just wish I'd noticed that tag right off. Until I figure it out, I've left the tag stuck to the back part of the notebook.

Now that I have the pen up and running, I am dealing with the Echo Desktop that I downloaded to my computer. At first glance, I feel completely confused.

There were so many parts of the Desktop app that confused me until I connected the pen to the computer. I was still a bit confused but, oh well, at least I got the pen registered.

I also have downloaded a 30-day trial version of MyScript. This is the application that will be important to us writers. While it's wonderful to have a digital backup of our work, the best part is being able to convert those handwritten notes to text. Text = easy editing.

To be honest, this is probably the one reason I've gone for broke and ordered this digital writing tool. When I am eating soup and crackers and being fascinated with the "body" and "aroma" of all the tap water I'll be drinking, I want to know it's worth it. What will make it so is when I can write the way I prefer - on paper, in ink - and not have to transcribe all my amazing ideas into a Word doc.

I'll tell you all right now that I've probably done my best writing only to throw it out. Why? Because I can never finish transferring my handwritten stuff to a text editor. The minute I am reading (or typing) an unfinished story, I start fiddling with it before it's time to fiddle with it. I start changing words and ideas and.... Yeah. Usually, I get so mad that I never get back to the original fire of the story. The fire that made me want to get it down on paper in the first place.

MyScript is supposed to take my scribblings and, well, this will explain better than I can. There's also a demo at the same link.

The ink quality is not the best. In my opinion, it's sticky and seems like it's going to have tendency to leak. Ick. I hear that the ink can be replaced if you are careful about choosing refills. Also, for anyone who wonders, the paper can also be printed - if you have the right kind of printer.

That's' pretty much all I have for now. The last thing I will say is that I didn't want the Livescribe 3,but I am disappointed that it has features the Echo doesn't. For instance, I can't "share" to the same places (think OneNote). Bottom line is that I am pleased so far. I will update this as I get more familiar with the pen.

One last thing: someone wrote the most excellent, detailed review on Amazon. There were so many tips in there, you have to check it out before you buy. I'm going back to look at what he said about gluing in a magnet that tends to slip out of place...??? I know, right?

Here's Wikipedia for anything that I missed.



Still loving the pen. I have been writing like mad. I wanted to update on the conversion results (using Echo Desktop and the MyScript software). This is a sample of what my handwritten notes look like when the pen uploads to Echo:

It's a very clear and sharp image and viewing size can be adjusted (though I did zoom out for this screenshot). What you are seeing is what most people - student's, for example - might be happy with. After all, if you are only wanting to review your notes from a lecture or meeting, then a capture of your handwriting is fine.

This is a shot of what the handwritten notes look like when first converted to text. At this point, the notes are still in the MyScript app and have not been exported to MS Word, email or as a picture file.

Nice, yes? Certainly. Until you do export this to a Word doc. Then this happens.

I should say that this is what happened for me. There could be an issue with my handwriting, spacing, or something else. I should also point out that there is a solution. It's a time-consuming solution though so I have been getting help directly from one of the nice people at MyScript. Let me stop here and say that the customer service makes up for almost anything else. I'm getting one-on-one help and I'm only using the trial software. So... I'm not even an actual customer. I'm more like a potential customer, yet I'm getting personal and courteous attention from a rep.

I will most definetly be back to update further. I will tell you that not everyone is having the issues with the text that I am having. Please do not hesitate to give MyScript a tryout. The customer service is excellent at so many levels.