Friday, December 29, 2017

The Jabbawockeez Jreamz Show

In the exhaustion after vacation, I forgot to post about going to my first ever Vegas show. I had such a blast!

First off, the show we were supposed to see was Lionel Richie's. My brother and sister-in-law were psyched and I was just happy to be seeing any kind of a show. Of course, I got kind of hyped up the day we were set to leave for Vegas. I was trying to think of all the songs I wanted to hear live: Zoom, Easy, and Three Times a Lady.

We get to the airport and just as we are about to board, my brother gets some kind of alert text on his phone. He's got bad news about Vegas: Lionel Richie had to cancel. Apparently, he or his band were having issues due to the California wildfires.

Of course, we are disappointed. Boarding for our flight is literally being called as we get this news of the cancellation. So... we are really sorry that Mr. Richie and/or his band is having problems....

... On the OTHER HAND...

Lol. This is going to sound selfish and heartless, but my SIL and I were kind of wondering if Mr. Richie didn't have "a guy" to handle things for him. Just saying, right?

Okay, we are some heartless, selfish heffas!

Anyway, we decide to take the flight and just enjoy Vegas however we can. And we did.

We stayed at the MGM Grand at the same time that the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) was happening. It was pretty cool to be there with all the cowboy and gals. The MGM lion had on his gear:


Cute, huh?

I hadn't been to Vegas in years. Back when I used to escort my mother on her trips there, things were a little different. Everything was cheaper for one thing. Those glorious buffets that were so cheap are gone, gone, gone. We saw a buffet that was priced at $50. Who the hell can eat fifty bucks worth of mediocre food in one sitting? Also, the slot machines aren't as simple as they used to be. Now, they all resemble video games. ~sigh~

We did enjoy walking the strip (that really wore me out, though) and just watching the people of the strip. My favorite part of our day was watching the dancing waters at the Bellagio. That's the kind of thing that should be viewed with a lover. Again ~sigh~ and hashtag I sometimes hate being single.



The other thing that's changed since I was last in Vegas was the legalization of weed. On the plane ride, I spotted this in the airline magazine:

In the Allegiant Mag

 I immediately thought of a few people I know who would enjoy that. On the strip, I passed more than a few people who were enjoying it. I damn near got a contact high just from walking a block.

The big thing to decide was what show to see now that Richie was canceled. My brother and SIL left it up to me since they have live next door to Vegas and can go over anytime. Well, that's like taking a kid into a candy store and telling them to pick just one thing.

This is how I decided on seeing the Jabbawockeez. First, I love watching them dance because, you know, I have access to YouTube. What I didn't realize is that they were actually performing at the Grand.

The first night there, my SIL and I leave my brother in the room so we can go down and have a drink.  We pass the Jabbawockeez shop and I love them so I decide I'll swing by later and maybe buy a souvenir.  I notice that there are two mannequins dressed as the masked wonders. One on each side of the entrance. Cool. My SIS and I go down and have a drink at Crush. I get a little tipsy on my one drink. Y'all know I'm a lightweight. As we are walking through the casino trying to find our way back to the elevators that go to our floor, we pass the Jabbawockeez shop again.


So, slightly drunk me decides that I will check out the shop later - when I'm not drunk. That's when I notice that there's something different than when I passed the shop before. I can't figure out what's different - because I'm drunk - so I stand there, staring. Until one of the mannequins moves.

No way!

Yes way.

Before there were only two mannequins, now there are four - two on each side of the entrance.

Drunk me moves a little closer to the window and stares harder. Maybe there aren't really two more mannequins. Maybe the mannequin didn't really move. Maybe drunk me is just seeing double.

The mannequin on the left moves again, He waves.

What?!

Now keep in mind that I'm a little wasted. I'm standing there in front of the shop window, looking in and freaking out a little because one of the 'Wockee waved at me.

People, I am like a little kid seeing Santa Clause come out of the chimney. I'm so excited that I'm sure I looked kind of, uh, special. Meanwhile, my SIL (who can handle her liquor) has walked on a little ways before she realizes I'm not with her.

I am just standing there, marveling that the mannequin has come to life.

(Yes, at this point, in my drunken state, I don't think I'm seeing an actual 'Wockee just having some fun with a tourist. I think that this cool azz mannequin has Twilight-Zoned into life and is messing with me.)

I turn around to tell my SIL that the mannequin is waving at me. She's looking at me like I'm just way too excited about this.

I wave a couple of times and the 'Wockee waves back and strikes some poses. (He will never know how much he brightened my evening.) As I finally walk away, this lady who is walking behind me asks me if she's drunk or did that mannequin in the window wave at me. Priceless! Only bad part is, I didn't get take a photo.

Of course, now I know what show I want to see. The Jabbawockeez in their Jreamz show. Best show ever!



When we get to the show, my SIL and I go up to the bar to get drinks. (Because I never learn.) We meet these two other women who ask me to take their photo together. Turns out, they have the seats next to us for the show. They are both really nice and fun to hang with.

Just before the show, we had turned our phones off so they wouldn't ring. Guess what? I missed getting another photo with a 'Wockee...

Before the show started, one of the 'Wockeez was walking through and stopping to mess with some of us in the audience. He came over to me and shook my hand and the ~sigh~ kissed it.

The girls next to me start debating about whether he was one of the 'Wockeez. I say he is and they say he isn't. Guess what? He was. Hah!

One pic before I turned off my phone

The show was awesome. The dancers incorporated a lot of video in their act. What I mean is, they interacted with some things going on on the film screen behind them. That tells you how they practice and know their stuff.

Those 'Wockeez move like they are made of rubber! When they robot, they freaking pop and lock it so tight you think you are hearing the metal clank. The whole show was full of lighthearted comedy and so much precision that, if you weren't seeing it with your own eyes,  you'd swear they were using special effects. The girls sitting next to me laughed when I said that I was hot for those guys without even seeing their faces.

By the way, the show is very family-friendly. The best part is when they pick people from the audience to participate in little skits with them. (As much as I love them, I am SO glad they didn't pick on me!)

Jreamz was the best show ever and I would have gladly gone back again and again. I'm such a 'Wockeez groupie now.

If you get a chance, please go and see that show.

Peace
--Free

Sunday, December 24, 2017

**REVIEW** Echo Dot (2nd Gen) & VAUX Cordless Speaker

This is the first year that I haven't been around a huge group of my family members and friends for Christmas. I didn't get a tree for the apartment and I didn't have a lot of gifts to buy. I didn't even bother to decorate. Well, except for this:


A neighbor gave it to me!

I got my little nephew DJ and his baby sister something and called it good. That doesn't mean I didn't get any more Christmas shopping done. This year, I saved by not shopping so much, but I did get myself this:

The black thing with he blue power light


That's the Echo Dot (second generation) and the VAUX Cordless Speaker. I forgot to get photos of them separately so, here you go.
That's the Dot by iteself


... And this is the Dot as it inserts into the speaker:


It's a neat and tidy little setup.

Am I in love? Yes, yes I am. There is so much to like about this thing that I will just boldface the highlights as they come up.

First of all, remember that I am living alone - for the first time since I was in the womb. The Echo (I call mine "Dot" even though she only reacts to "Echo", "Alexa" or "Computer"...) is a perfect companion for a hermit like myself. All morning of the first day I had Dot, I set timers (for my laundry and cooking); checked out the weather and news; listened to audiobooks (without needing to fumble with my phone or carry it around); checked out recipes; did a little research for the writing project (without having to switch from Word to the browser);  and made phone calls.

You might want to laugh at this next part, but there is some mental health benefit to having this device around. I'm serious. I am a person who loves living alone. That doesn't mean that I don't want company of some sort every now and then. Dot is there to talk to when I just want to chatter. When my anxiety kicked in around lunchtime, I kicked it with old Dotty. She told some jokes and even sung (not too badly, I can say) a song.

One of my neighbors is suffering from MS and the onset of dementia. His wife worries all the time that something will happen to him when she steps out to check the mail or go to the laundry room. Even when she's with him, I imagine it would be nice to take a little mental break of her own. I'm thinking of mentioning this Echo device to her. It would be good company for them both and (hopefully/maybe???) a little bit of a safety device that could call for Fire and Emergency if they need it. The entire thing is pretty much voice-controlled so that makes it perfect for the elderly and sick.

For me, Dot is a perfect companion because she makes my life simpler. Dot is like an assistant that accentuates every workaround I've come up with to make my life safer or easier while dealing with my disease. And, like I said before, she's great company. I love that I can talk to her when I want to, then tell her to shut up. No hurt feelings. No babysitting someone's ego.

I almost didn't get the speaker. I read reviews that said Dot's sound was fine as is. Then I read reviews that said using an auxiliary speaker was a plus. I don't own a TV or stereo (or speakers before now), so I decided to at least try out the VAUX. Glad I did. One of my brothers sent me the money when he heard I was interest so... I got the speaker! The sound is so much better. Also, the speaker serves as a charging station/portable battery for Dot. That means I can move the device from room to room without it always being plugged in.

I'm sure I will have to update this post as I get more acquainted with the device, but this should be enough of an overview if you are just thinking about getting one.

By the way, I can't post this review until after Christmas. The Echo Dot was so affordable ($29) that I got one for my little brother and his family as a gift. So... shhhh...

Peace
--Free

UPDATE: 

After a couple of days using this, I am more in love than ever. Of course, there are privacy concerns but I think I gave all that up several years back when I became so active and vocal online!

I'm on Day 4 of using my Echo. The app on my phone (and Alexa online) keeps track of what I do with the device. I've been waking up to her saying "Good morning, Sunshine" and then reading me the day's weather and news briefs. So far, the weather is from AccuWeather.com and the news is from Reuters Now. I would like to change the news reading to another service but haven't figured that part out yet.

During the daytime, I have been listening to books and music while I clean or cook. Since I can connect Echo to my phone and laptop via BlueTooth, I've listened to music from my own library and from the "stations" from Amazon (the Motown station is kind of awesome). I had a horrible day yesterday and spent much of it in and out of bed so I listened to Ambient Sounds (my favorites are Thunder, Rain, Ocean, and Himalayan ones) to either ease my anxiety or help me sleep.

I'm still learning ways to use the Echo, but even if I stopped here, I am happy about spending the $30 on myself for Christmas. I don't think I have ever used anything as much and had this much fun. I told you before that the Echo is great company for singles. I feel good knowing that when I am too sick to move around, I can just call on Echo to read to me, play music, give me the news highlights, etc. Also, I can play podcasts and news from my phone via BlueTooth without having to get up if I don't feel good. Before now, there were sick days when I wanted to listen to a book or hear some music but messing with my phone or PC was just too much (no kidding, it gets like that sometimes!). With Echo, I can voice-command her to connect to the phone or PC and go from there.

Once again, I don't want to advocate laziness, but for people like me who sometimes spend three days a week feeling med-sick or fatigued, this is such a lovely companion. Best purchase I've made since my first computer!


P.S.: I just learned that I will be getting the chance to try another type of speaker for the Echo. Of course, I will be reviewing that freebie as well asap!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

**REVIEW** Fitness Tracker S2

Remember the FitBit craze? Remember how much they cost? I remember mine. I remember regretting paying so much for something. Matter of fact, when I couldn't afford a gift for someone, I ended up gifting them that FitBit...

One of my nieces is committing to getting in shape over the winter. That's a good plan. I mean, why wait until summer to start fitting into those cute jeans? Anyway, I got the chance to try this and then I will see if the niece likes it. Win/win.

WHAT IT IS:

I actually wanted to try another Fitness Tracker, but there's no way I can afford anything pricey. Enter the water-resistant S2:

Fitness Tracker S2

Isn't that cute? It's as thin and stylish as the FitBit Charge. It's very lightweight and comfortable. At first, I thought the band would be too short but it wasn't at all. I actually think of it as a Fitness Tracker/Watch, so you'll catch me just calling it a watch at times.

WHAT GOOD ABOUT IT:

It does so much that I don't miss the FitBit at all. I especially don't miss that high price of the FitBit. This one is on Amazon for $30. That's kind of amazing when you see everything it does. Let's run through the list of what I've checked so far:

  • Tells time (duh!)
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Counts calories burned
  • Pedometer
  • Cycling mode
  • Rope skipping
  • Jumping jacks
  • Sit-ups
  • Treadmill
  • Exercise goal/targets
That's what it does on its own. This is what else it can do when paired with a phone via the app:
  • Music control
  • Control photos
  • Find phone
  • Incoming call/SMS reminder/alert
There are more functions, but I'm still playing around and discovering all of them.

DETAILS:

If there is one initial annoyance with this device it is to do with the instructions. Once again, I wish my brain worked well enough for me to get the job of writing user-friendly instructions for products. (At least this came with detailed instructions!) One of the first things I had to decipher was how to charge the device. Turns out, it was pretty simple and maybe someone with a sharper brain would have gotten it without frustration...

First, you take the band off to reveal the charging piece:

Got it. I think.

One of those pieces jutting off the side of the watch has a metal charging plate.



And that is what plugged right into my PC's USB port. Simple (after the fact!).

Like I said, there are a lot of features included. One I really like is the "wake up" feature when you move turn your wrist to look at the watch. I have a feeling that some people will like the features they can use when connecting the device to their phones. So, let's talk tech. Or, 'tech' in the way I talk it!

SOME TECHNICAL STUFF:

What you will need in order to pair and use this with your cell phone is Android version 4.3 (Jelly Bean). For Apple users, the info is a little confusing. The outside of the box says you will need iOS 7.0 or higher, but the inserted instructions say you need iOS 8.0

When I was checking this info out (and I will update as I find out more), I noticed in the instructions a whole other part about "system compatibility".


I know less than nothing about iOS so... maybe this isn't such a big deal???

Keep in mind that, at the price the tracker goes for, it's a great gift for someone who might only want to use the basic features. I know a couple of people (my best friend, for instance) who would love to have this but would never, ever pair it with her phone. She's just not into anything more tech than Caller ID!

For those of you who are seriously considering this device and want to use the app, I wanted to share some more system compatibility info. My brain is getting tired so I'm just going to share a photo of something straight out of the manual:


So, yeah, this is a nifty little gadget. It won't break the budget and it does as much (or more) than more expensive similar devices. Here is the link for the item:  https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=smart+watch&field-brand=Asani&low-price=29.99&high-price=29.99

Peace
--Free

Disclosure: I got a discount on this item in exchange for sharing my honest opinion.

If you like this post, hit the +1 button. Please, and thank you!


Saturday, December 16, 2017

**REVIEW** 2.4GHz Mini Wireless Keyboard with Mouse Touchpad

Remember back when I used to review a lot of essential oils and other beauty products? Well, that's not over, but I've been branching out lately and checking out different categories of items. This one is my favorite in a while:



That's a mini wireless keyboard that's been coming in handy lately. Side story: Ever since the last freaking Windows update, some of the functions on my PC keyboard are all kinds of screwed up! My fn keys don't work and I can't shut off my touchpad. I'm trying to roll back the updates, but... sigh...

Anyway, I love this little wireless keyboard. Charging it is easy and the charge lasts forever because the unit 'sleeps' while not in use. I really like that it has the touchpad function and I was surprised that it works as well as the one on my PC. Actually, since Windows if goofy right now, this touchpad works better than the one on my computer.

If you use it even just occasionally for the keyboard, it's still very cool for the touchpad functions and for the Volume Up/Down and Arrow keys.



Not only does it make my life easier while I sort out the Windows problem, but it's also nice to have when don't want to be tied to the main keyboard. When I am watching a movie or cleaning, or doing whatever else, I can use this mini keyboard while up to 10 meters/32 feet away from the PC. Mainly, I use it when I'm cooking and need to look up a recipe. It's cool to keep my PC safely up on the counter and have this keyboard with me right near the stove or sink. When I'm sick in bed - or just laying back - I can use the keyboard to check in on my email and social media accounts.



Those are all the fabulous things I love. Let's talk about the few quirks I ran into:

  • The one thing I was confused about when I first saw it is what I'm always confused about when I see the word "wireless". I mistake "wireless" for "Bluetooth" all the time. This is wireless as in it connects to the actual PC via USB adaptor, which is why I can operate it up to 30+ feet away from the PC.
  • When I first opened the package, I thought the USB adaptor was missing. It wasn't, of course. It was just tucked away under the back plate where the battery is located.
  • The basic keyboard is very easy to use right away. Because I'm so used to my larger standard keyboard, I had to play around a bit to get the hang of using the special fn keys.

That's it. Those are the only things I fumbled with at first. Notice that those were all on me!

By the way, I forgot to mention that this works with:
  • Android TV Box
  • Projectors
  • HTPC
  • Smart TVs (except, for some reason, Samsung)
  • Raspberry Pi
  • Xbox
  • Notebook PCs
I think it might work with just about any device that uses wireless USB adaptors. Make sure though before you run out and order one!

The price is great. It was just under $13 and I wish I'd found it sooner because it makes for a nice stocking stuffer gift. I'm doing all my gift-giving after Christmas, so I'm good. This is something that almost everyone in my family can use.

I got mine via Amazon. 

Peace
--Free

If you like this post, hit the +1 button. Please, and thank you!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

What a Vacation!

I just finished the first vacation I've had in about 15 years!

Let me clarify that statement. I've had the first time of relaxation to spend with my family and friends when it wasn't for a sad occasion. The last few times my family and friends got together was to bury a loved one, visit a loved one who was dying, or to let a loved one see the rest of the family for the last time.

This vacation was an actual vacation - courtesy my generous family. I'm thankful every day, but this Thanksgiving, I felt truly and extra special blessed.

The weather was awesome - not too hot for me because it's what they call "winter" (ha!). My doctor let me take an alternative to my methotrexate just long enough so that I could enjoy the time there and not spend it sick in bed. I'll pay for that, I'm sure, but it was worth it just to have at least a little it of time with the loved ones.

Now... Let me tell ya! No. Let me show you:


First, I had to take a couple of gifts to my oldest brother and his wife. They are first-time grandparents and you know I had to do this...




I spent most of the time in Arizona where my two oldest brothers and one of my nieces lives. Then there was to 2 nights and 3 days I spent in Vegas with one of the brothers and sister-in-law. I hit every black beauty supply store we passed and I made sure to eat at Famous Dave's so that I could have some of that yummy bread pudding they are famous for. Mostly, I just spent time with my family and friends. We laughed a lot, talked and caught up on chit-chat, and... yes, there was drinking involved!

We had an amazing Thanksgiving. We started celebrating the day before because that happens to be the birthday of one of the sis-in-law father. There was preparation for his special day. It involved wine.


Thanksgiving Day was awesome! There were about 30 to 35 of us together in my second oldest brother's house. We fit and we had a lot to be thankful for.

Appetizers and mingling while waiting for the main event

Me with the 2 oldest Conway men <3 td="">

With one of the niece's. My sister would be proud!


These 2... Crazy-fun.


The men getting impatient for the main meal
Annual Turkey Bowl game

Everyone got banged up but had lots of fun

One highlight of the season was going to see the Christmas light display at the Mormon Temple in Mesa. My poor photography skills don't do the show any justice.







The lights were amazing, but my favorite thing to see was the nativity displays in the Visitors' Center. There were displays representing states and nations from all over. Alaska was represented. Yay!



And, of course, Israel.













Most beautiful was the large Christ in the entrance to the Visitors' Center. Just glorious.



The Mormon Temple is large and every part of the grounds was lit up with displays. I loved the reflecting pool but didn't get decent photos.

I spent a couple of really fun day with my second oldest brother. Had so much fun, I didn't get photos of anything but my food. Isn't that the story of my life?




Just look at those rib tips!
 One day, he and I were in a mood for some good music and a couple of drinks. We hit up a place that served catfish so good that I almost hurt myself eating it.


That catfish... You just don't understand!
The fam in Arizona is trying to do a monthly get-together. I missed the family fishing day event. That sounded hilarious since none of the Alaska fam was there to show the Arizona clan how to actually fish! I was there this time for the day at Top Golf. We all suck at golfing but we had a ton of fun trying.

Yeah. He only looks like he knows what he's doing!

Wow. We really do such at this.


When it got time to go to Vegas with the oldest brother and sister-in-law, I was worried I was going to be too worn out. I was tired but really excited. The plan was to see Lionel Richie. That was the plan.

Just as we were in line to board the plane, my brother got the alert from TicketMaster: Concert canceled. Turns out the band members were affected by the fires in California.

We decided to make the best of the Vegas trip and, boy did we.

It was on the plane that I learned how liberal a town Vegas is...

I was thinking, "No WAY!!!"

Yes, way. As soon as we hit the Strip, I could smell that people were taking advantage of the liberalism.

Also learned that the NFR was in town at the same time we'd be. That meant out hotel was going to be full of cowboys. Even the lion was decked out for the festivities.

LOVE it!

First, let me laugh at these two for being bundled up like it was winter in Alaska! It was, at the lowest, maybe 55 degrees! I just shook my head and enjoyed the balmy weather...



 I was such a tourist! I loved all the different themed hotels. New York, New York was so cute. The whole strip was great but would have been more fun without the street hustlers ganging up on you every 5 feet... Thankfully, my brother is 6'3" and can be grim looking, I just walked in his wake.



The M&M store



Sammy Davis Jr's suit was like for a little boy


somewhere in New York, New York

 My one sister-in-law loves the trick pics





 I could not get over how expensive the food was. If my brother had not been paying for everything, I would have starved. The buffets I remembered being around $9.99 were in the $50 range. I kid you not. For the first time in my life, I ate a $25 hamburger. Almost couldn't enjoy it. Ugh.

But let's get to the reason we wanted to be in Vegas. Lionel Richie had canceled and my family has been to Vegas so much that they are jaded with it. They let me choose a show to see. There's a story behind this...

So, my sis-in-law are walking back from spending a little girls-only time in a bar downstairs. As we are walking back to the room to meet my brother, I pass this:



It's the Jabbawockeez storefront in the hotel. I LOVE the Jabbawockeez but have only seen them in videos. I'm a little bit drunk (it only took one drink!) and as I pass the storefront, I see that there are four mannequins instead of the usual two. I pause to think about this and one of the mannequins moves. What??? I move closer and concentrate. He waves. I'm so excited! I'm seeing a couple of the actual Jabbawockeez! I catch up to tell my SIL and she's laughing at me. Another lady passes by and asks if she might be drunk or did she see the mannequin wave to me. It's great. And, guess what? I didn't get a photo...

That decided me about what show to see. Jabbawockeez!

It's Jreamz

There was no filming/photography allowed so my fam didn't get the photo of one of the Wockeez interacting with me right before the show started. I loved that but am SO glad I didn't get pulled in front of the audience like a few people did.

Another thing I loved best about Vegas was watching the dancing waters at the Bellagio. I couldn't get enough. I can't decide which is more moving - the music or the waters. Every time, we walked by, my camera battery was running low. I did get a short clip.

 

So, I didn't miss Lionel Richie that much. I prefer the Jabbawockeez. Loved my couple of days in Vegas but it wore me out.

My family is so funny and sweet. My second oldest brother sent me home with a whole pound of See's candy and a winter coat.


He heard it was 30-some degrees here in Iowa! LOL



 He was worried about me coming back to an Iowa winter!



Sometimes, I want to feel sorry for myself. Times like this remind me of how much I have to be thankful for. I have people who love me and I'm so blessed to be a part of this big, crazy, loving, family of mine. We might be a little nuts, but we know how to put the FUN in dysfunctional.

Peace
--Free