Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Blessed, Stressed, a Little Bit Depressed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She ALWAYS had a smile on her face

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

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

Peace
Free

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

**REVIEW** Ipsy February Glam Bag

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

The February box did not disappoint.



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



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



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

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



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






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

Peace
--Free

Friday, February 15, 2019

**UPDATE** My 6 Month Anniversary (and a resource for new vape folk)

UPDATE: I added a couple of more links to the bottom of post

It has been184 days since I had even one puff of one cigarette. That is either
  • 15,984,000 seconds
  • 266,400 minutes
  • 4440 hours
  • 185 days
  • 26 weeks and 3 days
  • 50.68% of a common year (365 days)
In other words, to paraphrase Prince, it's been  6 months, 1 day (including today).


That's a long time and a lot of unsmoked cigarettes.

Now that I am vaping, I try to tell others what a positive change it has been for me. I'm no expert, but I am learning things I wish I had known from the start. I almost gave up because of the run-ins I had with bad devices, awful juices, and fearmongers.

I thought it would be cool to share some of the things I've seen online (okay, mostly Pinterest). I'm hoping that it will encourage others who have wanted to move from tobacco to vaping. Afterward, I will talk more about my own "journey".

The main thing I wish I had known more about what vaping actually was. I did not know that back in 2014 or '15 that most people where I lived were vaping only weed. For the rest of us, there were small devices in smoke shops like the Blu or disposables similar to Blu. I might be wrong so here is a detailed timeline that I haven't read yet. By the way, the site of that guide is a nice spot for vapers!

I still get confused.
source: vaping360
Open in new window & enlarge

The other thing that threw me for a loop was all the slang and other terminology used in the #vapelife community. I found the best glossary. It's VISUAL so, yeah! I have to admit that I will be running right over and swimming through that glossary as soon as I finish this post.  Here are some more resources


That's a good start of places for info. The other thing I found frustrating was just finding places to shop for supplies. 
  • I started with Breazy but had a bad experience with shipping and customer service. That might have been a fluke, but it really turned me off. 
  • My next spot was Electric Tobacconist and I loved both the service and shipping. 
  • An Instagram buddy turned me on to VapeWild and it was love at first order.
What I have learned is that you need to find more than 1 (or even 5) sites because some are great for different things. E. Tobacconist is awesome for devices; Breazy had a good selection too, but, you know; and VapeWild is my place for all things juice. I have bookmarked a couple of places based on suggestions from social medial pals:
Once I found a couple of safe places to order from, I learned which types (or flavors) of juices I do and don't like. I love creamy, sweet, and fruity juices - those are often listed and "desserts" or "breakfast" juices. I dislike anything of tobacco, menthol, cinnamon, or strong mint. Yech! To each his own though.

For now, I am into affordable, basic juices that taste good. Apparently, like with any product, juices come in the "basic", "above basic", and "gourmet". I have been getting sample packs of 4 30ml juices for around $17 (and they always come with 3 or more freebies to try). I never finish all the juice, but share them with family so I budgeted for once every other month. I won't have to order now for at least 3 months, maybe?


Love my folks at VapeWild!!!


That's from about 3 orders from VapeWild and a couple of random orders when I was using only nic salt to refill my Juul. Now, I rarely use nic salt (or the Juul). I can't even remember where I got those nic salts from but I know they were cheap!


Can NOT remember where I got these!

If you ever get tired of buying your juice, you can always make your own. I'm not brave enough yet but if you are, here are some resources:

That just about covers some of the stuff I wish I had been told about vaping before I started. Now that I have started, I wanted to share my story.

I have only ever quit smoking for a sustained amount of time once in my life. I lasted just about 2 years using the nicotine patch before I tumbled off that wagon. The whole time I was on the wagon, I teetered like a drunk sailor. The cravings were insane and, despite what every other reformed smoker promised, those cravings never went away. Not ever. I am sure that the only reason I even lasted so long was that I was younger and could eat like a giant and not gain but 2 ounces. Fast forward 10 years and I lasted about 1 month before I was 20 pounds heavier and mean as hell. I mentioned to someone that drinking alcohol was a trigger for me and they mixed a margarita before I could blink.

Anyway, I did want so badly to quit smoking. I liked a lot about smoking except for the smell, the taste, and the hacking cough it produced. However, when I started making some huge life changes, I had to look at my tobacco habit.

The main reason for moving out of Alaska was to improve my health. The weather is (mostly) better, the stress levels are lower, and the people are calmer. Those are all external issues. I needed to deal with things more in my control: exercise, a better diet, more water, more positivity, and... quitting smoking. The problem was, I loved the hand-to-mouth action and I actually loved seeing the smoke curl away into the air.

Enter vaping.

Vaping should have been the perfect solution but it wasn't easy to get used to. I had hated the first devices I tried a few years back - mostly disposable e-cigs and horrible tasting pen cigs - and didn't see how it could be a substitution for cigarettes. One device I tried tasted so bad that I tried rubbing my tongue on a towel to get rid of it. I recently mentioned some of this when I reviewed a device.

Once I learned about different devices and juice brands, I was on my way.

I know that there is a lot of debate about whether or not vaping is harmful. Definitely, we must keep children away from vaping - the same as we need to keep them away from tobacco - but it's my opinion that it's the best alternative to smoking.

Anyway, I hope that some of this post was helpful.

Peace
--Free


American Vaping Association is an advocacy site for vaping

Not Blowing Smoke (site not secure) "champions, promotes & campaigns" for the vape community

Vaping Post is an online publication

Vaping Daily is a good resource for information, purchasing deals, and guides - including to online stores.


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

**VAPING** Review of Innokin Endura T20

Almost everyone in my circle of family and friends who smoked have made the switch to vaping. My SIL is the last one and she's struggling a bit. I can empathize because I think half the battle is finding the right device.

For those switching from cigarettes and wan ta decently priced device, I think this one by Innokin is good. Cheaper than Juul, Lord knows, and more versatile with the liquids.



So, yeah. This is the Innokin Endura T20. There are other variations of this model and I got a little confused when I was searching for video reviews. Just know when looking online at photos, the top pops off to reveal the drip tip. I thought that I was always looking at the wrong device because of the difference in the tops.

Anyway...

Here are some of my likes and dislikes after using this for about a week:

PROS

  • Price (on sale) was around $20 (and the packaging was nice enough to make a beautiful gift)
  • Has On/Off function (my Juul, Infinix, and Boulder don't)
  • Came with 2 extra drip tips
  • It's USB charging (unlike the Juul)
  • Is nice-looking with the shiny, elegant finish
  • Fills from the top and not a tiny side hole
  • Can easily view the liquid level
  • The draw is not too tight or loose and more cigarette like than the Infinix or Juul
  • You get more flavor than with most small devices
  • Is primarily a mouth-to-lung device but I am able to pull directly to lung if I want 
  • The throat hit is milder than I find with the Infinix
  • Priming the coil is easy (though unexplained in the manual)
  • The device is very comfortable to grip




CONS:

  • Didn't come with extra coil
  • Have to be careful not to overfill & it's easy to do so
  • Top fill is convenient but still slightly narrow 
  • The top is awkward to screw on and off for filling.
  • Have to empty tank to change the coil
  • The coil is a bit tricky to remove and replace
  • Device tips over easily because of the way the bottom is made

You have to unscrew the top to fill

To save you some hassle, I will explain priming the coil now. When filling the tank the first time, simply let the juice rest in the tank for 10 to 15 minutes. That basically primes the coil. This sounds simple but the instructions complicated things by advising to prime the coil without explaining how. I, probably like a lot of people, was removing the coil and looking for a way to prime it. I finally figured it out after watching a video of a new device being prepped.

Notice the drip tip has a removable protective cap

I'm no expert on vaping but I know what I went through when I started. I could never find a device that made vaping pleasant. The first thing I ever tried was a Blu and that was a horrible experience. The Juul is expensive to use because of the cost of the pods. Also, the nicotine in Juul pods is way too high for a lot of folks. 

By the way, I got the Endura via Electric Tobacconist. As I said, it was on sale and also came with a free 10ml juice from Boulder and I got to pick the flavor.

I like Electric Tobacconist for devices & VapeWild for juices

The Endura has a lot going for it. I really do think that a lot of smokers would like it better than some of the other more complicated and expensive devices. When I started vaping, I wanted something that wasn't harsh-tasting and I didn't want to be intimidated by the experience. I think that if my SIL had tried this device first, she would have had an easier transition away from cigarettes.

I only recently learned how much of a difference it makes to use the correct types of juices in each device. Someone gave me a crash course and it's changed my vaping life... Basically, this is my method:

     Max VG = lots of clouds
     65/35 = gives best of flavor and clouds
     50/50 = I can use in my smaller devices like the Endura, Infinix, and Boulder Rock
     Nic salts = higher nicotine & for pods devices

This made sense when I read over the Beginner's Guide so conveniently provided by the folks at VapeWild where I buy all my juice.
     
Finally, I want to mention that my device came with a security code for verifying that I had an authentic product. That was kind of cool.



Peace
--Free

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Pluspora & MeWe

I'm still in mourning for the soon-to-be-defunct Google Plus. In the meantime, I have been trying to find other online places to share the blog and connect with nice folks. So far, I have found Pluspora (nice place with a bit of a learning curve) and MeWe (I already have connected with a few fellow Plussers there).

My Tumblr account has been dormant so long that I forgot my username. Guess I need to reconnect, huh?

For all my new folks at Pluspora and MeWe, I wanted to put it out there where I can be connected with. I will update this as I get set up with other accounts.

Twitter
Pinterest
Tumblr
Pluspora
MeWe

I really hate Facebook and I'm not there much except to check out family photos. I might link it here later. Meantime...

Peace
--Free

Monday, February 11, 2019

**REVIEW** Skoy Eco-friendly Cleaning Cloth

A while back, I blogged about the re-usable "paper" (bamboo) towels I was using to cut back on waste and be more efficient with my household cleaning. I really like those and I use them now for cleaning messes instead of dishes and counters. That's because, after the first couple of launderings, they began to collect lint and threads. I'm sure they are clean because I bleach the heck out of them in the wash. Still, looking clean is as important and being clean, in my opinion. I don't want clean-but-dirty-looking cloths on display, especially in the kitchen. Yech!

I say all that to tell you about these:

4 cloths to a pack

Those are the Skoy brand Eco-friendly Cleaning Cloths. I've noticed that some Amazon reviewers refer to them as "Swedish cloths". Hm. However they came about, I am beginning to love them.

A pack of 4 cloths measuring 7 x 8 x 0.1 inches costs $5 on Amazon. Once I realized how much I like them, I checked Walmart, thinking that they would be even cheaper. Nope. This is the one time I can remember something costing so much more on Walmart than Amazon.




The price for the scrub pads are even more expensive via Walmart. Yikes.



A 2-pack of the scrubs is only $5.99 on Amazon

The next time I am in a Walmart store, I plan to check the prices on both items. In the meantime, I do plan to get more of the cloths and also a pack of the scrubs.

I have been using the Skoy cloths for just about 2 full weeks and they still look new. There is none of the fuzzing or lint-gathering that I have with the bamboo towels. Let me run down a list of how I have used the cloths and what I like so much about them:

  • They are very soft but also have a strength that allows me to clean gunk off dishes and counters. 
  • I use these on my "good" pots and the Instant Pot because, while there is a bit of scrub to them, they don't scratch the pans.
  • You can also use these to dry dishes. By squeezing out as much of the water as possible, I'm able to dry my pans to a nice shine.
  • I don't have to use a lot of chemicals to clean the counters. The cloths wipe away a lot of grime with just a bit of elbow grease. The same goes for cleaning windows and mirrors.You do have to add liquid so I used only water to clean the mirrors. I have another type of cloth for the dusting that I prefer (and will be posting a review soon!) because I don't want to use water/liquid on certain things that I clean.
  • I've been using these multiples times every day and I wash them out with Dawn and vinegar a couple times a day. To really clean them, about once every 3 or 4 days, I soak them overnight in a solution of water and peroxide. They are wearing very well.


Another use I came up with was to clean my face with these. As you know, I don't like using a lot of cleansers on my face; I prefer using a cotton baby wipe or just a soft cloth with either oil or plain water. When I was thinking about how soft the Skoy cloths are, I decided to test using it on the back of my hand. Using just water, I was able to wipe away some liquid foundation. The cloth didn't irritate my skin at all so... I test using it on my face. Same result: my skin was cleaned and not irritated in the least. So my new thing is to get some more of these to use on my face and in the shower. There is just the very slightest of exfoliation when using the cloths so I am gentle on my face and a little more aggressive on my torso.


The one thing I have learned to do is to lay them flat to dry. They dry back to a hard sponge texture so wadding them up looks tacky. Honestly, that right there is the ONLY less-than-positive thing I can say about these.

Best of all is that these are priced so well. I wish Amazon had subscription prices for them, but I will just have to remember to re-order every 3 months or so. Hopefully, the price doesn't shoot up all of a sudden!

Peace
--Free

P.S.: Now that Google Plus is no more, I would really appreciate readers sharing my posts wherever they can. My blog was based around Google and without it, I am losing a lot of readership. I will be setting up a better auto-notification for future posts. Thanks!


NOTE: I want to mention that I was NOT paid or compensated for this post. As with most of my personal reviews, I purchased the product or received it as a gift from a friend or family member. In the case that I am compensated in any way, I include a disclaimer with the post.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

**REVIEW** Harvil Foldable Magnetic Exercise Bike


This is the Harvil Foldable Magnetic Exercise Bike that I am reviewing
currently priced at $148.99
The full name of this bike is Harvil Foldable Magnetic Exercise Bike with 10-Level Adjustable Magnetic Resistance and Pulse Rate Sensors. Yeah.

I think this is an excellent bike for anyone wanting to get off the couch and get moving. Without, you know, actually going outside. Outside is cold right now, and windy. Outside does not have TV or a bathroom nearby. 

There are 3 reasons I liked this particular bike when I was trying to make a decision:

  1. A backrest
  2. A wide seat. and
  3. 2 positions - recumbent an upright.

Upright position

Recumbent position
That last reason might be enough for some people. For me, I had a hard time deciding which type of bike I would want. I thought that a recumbent bike would be more comfortable for longer use but that an upright would give a better all-over workout. This Harvil model solved the dilemma.

Another huge Plus is that this bike folds up and can be rolled into a corner. It doesn't roll as easily as I think it should, but it doesn't tear up the carpet, so, oh well. My place is almost too tiny for the small dining table I have, let alone a piece of exercise equipment taking up space.

Before I get into more detail about using the bike, let me give you some more info:
  • The bike (like all Harvil products) is "designed and engineered by creative people right here in the USA". It's a family business (I love that part).
  • Max user weight is listed as 330 pounds (about 150 kilos). Min user height 3 foot 10 inches (about 117cm). The bike itself is listed as being 44 pounds (about 20kg).
  • The Dazadi guarantee is awesome and reads as "Items ship to your door without defect or shipping damages or we will replace it. We repair and replace defective parts. If you still aren’t satisfied, you will get a full refund." You couldn't beat that with a Cuisinart.
  • By the way, reading through almost every review shows that, when there were problems mentioned (broken part, missing part, etc), the Dazadi responded offering an immediate remedy. When I personally wrote them to ask about the seat, they responded within hours. Like I said, awesome. 
stores away nicely


Now, let's get down to business. I am going to bullet point my experience from receiving the bike to using it the first few times.
  • The bike arrived package really, really well. It's heavy (shipping weight is listed as 46.8lbs). I happen to have an amazingly nice UPS man who delivered with a smile in sub-zero temps and carried the box all the way into my living room so I didn't have to. 
  • The body of the bike is pre-assembled, thank Jesus. For what my neighbor (yes, I recruited help) did have to assemble, there was no trying to identify the different nuts and bolts; those were all lightly attached to the appropriate part for us to match up to the bike and tighten.
  • I'm not going to make it sound like the assembly was a breeze. It didn't start out all roses. For one thing, the assembly manual was absolutely the WORST. We ended up using the YouTube video linked on the product page. The video instructions were perfect - once we figured out the way it was edited. If you use the video, you will first see a written and diagrammed instruction step. then you will see people performing that step. Basically, you will be hitting the Pause button a lot. Or you can set the video speed to Slow.
  • Once the bike was assembled, I couldn't wait to get on. Best thing is that the bike is super quiet. There is zero noise from pedaling and because the frame is sturdy, there was no rocking motions. For someone that lives on an upper floor, this would be important to keep peace with the neighbors.
  • Riding in the standing position is what I prefer, but the recumbent position seems like it would be more comfortable with someone who is taller. I have long legs, but I am only just over 5"5' and I felt as if I were stretching a bit to reach the pedals. (The seat is adjustable, but I was too lazy to mess with it and my neighbor had gone home by then.)
  • The backrest is nice to have but I found that it doesn't stay in the position that I want it to. I actually like the upper part to tilt in towards my spine so I rigged it by inserting a piece of cardboard. I have something ordered that I might be able to use as a pillow to give me better back support.
  • Now, let's talk about that seat. It's nice and wide - that's a Plus - but after sitting on it for more than 5 minutes, it's like a concrete saddle. Like I said, I have ordered a cushion and in the meantime, I am padding the seat with a small comforter. When I really want to get in some time riding, I will fold a hand towel into the inside of my pants to sit on. Don't judge me!
  • Being able to fold the bike and roll it out of the way - Plus Plus.
  • I don't count on the monitor readouts for the Calories Burned or Pulse because there is no way to input my weight. I do use the Time and Distance reads though. Trust me, I am never so thrilled as when I hit that 5-mile point.
  • The side handles are excellent for when I am not using the handlebars. I find that I prefer riding sitting up rather than leaning forward anyway. When I ride sitting up, I can include some upper body motion by either swaying my shoulders, swinging my arms, or even doing a little bit of chair dancing.

All in all, I have to say this is a really good piece of equipment. Another not as important feature is the color. I chose the peach shade and it really looks good with the rest of my decor. The 2 other shades are Teal and Black.

Peace
--Free

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Goodbye, Google Plus

We Plussers knew this was coming. I was still sad this morning when the final notice popped up on my Blogger account.

+ Button, Comments, Widgets... gone


For those of us who don't love Facebook, this is kind of devastating. Now I have to find another channel to promote and share my Blogger blog...