Thursday, January 31, 2019

**REVIEW** Walmart Winter Beauty Box 2019 (Hydration Heroes)

My best friend and I decided a long time ago that the best pick-me-up for a crappy day is to get an unexpected goodie in the mail. For her, it's pricey clothing and cookware. For me, it's one of my 5-or 10-dollar subscription boxes. I am down to only 3: the formerly $7 but now $5 Target box that I get every now and then; the $5 Walmart beauty box that comes on a quarterly schedule; and the $10 Ipsy bag that I just started back up with for next month. My favorite is the Walmart beauty box.** There's always at least one really useful goodie to discover.

These are the ghosts of boxes past:

This was a Walmart Summer Box
Walmart Spring 2018

A Target Summer 2018 box

A 2018 Ipsy bag

This is the current Walmart Winter Beauty Box for 2019.

I sharpened the photo
so you could see more details

The theme - Hydration Heroes - is perfect for this particular winter weather. It has been warm (and dry), cool (and dry), and below zero (and dry). Ugh. So out of all the items in this box, I will start with my favorite of the bunch:

Curel HydraTherapy Wet Skin Moisturizer

12 oz is $10.94
and also comes in an "itch defense" formula
for the same price
The first thing I tried was this moisturizer and I wasn't expecting to love it. I've tried other out-of-the-shower lotions before (Jergens brand, I think it was) and wasn't too wowed with the lasting effects. This one lasts. Also, I have been using it in between without water and I think I like it more that way, tell the truth. This is something that I would buy.

SooAE Black Charcoal Bubble Sheet Mask

$2.50 per mask as shown in the pic.
I am not a huge fan of facial masks because I don't really have "problem" skin and masks are kind of bothersome. For one thing, they can be messy. Also, not reusable.

When I tested this mask, I was only able to leave it on for about 2 minutes (of the 10 suggested) because it made my face itch in a couple of spots. I have a common sense approach to facial care: if something irritates my skin in the least, it comes off. Immediately. 

Looking like someone's nightmare. For real.
It didn't help that I could scare small children and pets with that thing. Not a good look...

While this was on my face, I could def tell it was doing something. First of all, there was an effervescent bubbling going on and, second, that itching started. I have a feeling that this might be best for people with oily skin but even then I would do a spot test before going full face with it.

PRO: The bubbles work and you can feel them working. For oily skin, that might have been wonderful. After being on for a very short time, once I rinsed, I could tell that my skin had been cleansed.

CONS: Too too messy for me.

That's the mask folded in there.
Had to unstick it to apply to face.

The mask was difficult to unfold because it was all glopped together in one big soapy/sudsy mess. Once on my face, the mask kept sliding around - even when I lay back and tried to stay still  - and I was worried about getting the solution in my eyes. My skin was cleaner feeling even after the very short time I had the mask on, but it was too drying and that leaving it on any longer was only going to damage my mostly normal skin.

NOTE: After the test, I read more on the mask's product page and realized I should not be using it ever. This one that I tested is for "acne and blemishes". This one is for solving dryness and is the one I should have used...

Neutrogena Collagen Kiss Collagen Infused Lip Mask

$2.47 (single); $4.95 (2-pk); $7.41 (3-pk)
If I don't rave over facial masks, you can guess how I feel about lip masks. It just seems a little silly to me. I actually have another one of these lying around in a makeup drawer from another subscription box. However, just for this blog post, I went ahead and gave the Neutrogena one a try.

You can see the list of ingredients
(That plastic outer seal is what's helping me save this for another use. Going to seal in vac bag and give it another go tomorrow.)

When you remove it from the plastic, there is a bit of oily residue visible.

I felt like an absolute idiot even in the privacy of my apartment. The dang mask kept sliding off my mouth and I looked like the Joker's girlfriend. (I might dry one out and use it for Halloween makeup this year.)

I don't know why they make these masks so large. Even someone with the fullest lips would leave a lot of this going to waste.

I mean, really, kiss me, baby, kiss me real good.

Enough for 5 sets of lips...


However... I have to say that, once I got the thing to stay put, the cooling sensation was extremely soothing and felt very hydrating. I would have gladly gone for another 5 minutes or so but I made it almost exactly10 minutes before my phone rang.

PRO: Felt amazing while on my mouth. Has an oddly relaxing sensation. The after effects were also good. It was as if my lips had been massaged with a high-quality moisturizer and a sheen of the ingredients remained for quite a while.

CON: A bit messy and the mask is way too large.

Like I said, I've vac-sealed the used mask and might try using it again while relaxing tonight. I enjoyed this and will now be using the other mask that I got in a box some time back. I won't buy any for now because I'm sure to get more in future boxes.

This is the KNC lip mask from, I think, an Ipsy or Birchbox:

(By the way, I tried the face and lip masks separately but I kept giggling when I thought of them together:)

my attempt at humor

Olay Daily Facial Hydrating Cleansing Cloths

$7.46/30 cloths
I used to love the Olay Regenerist serum but never use any of the other products. This wash cloth is pretty much the same as others. I was not disappointed, but I wasn't wowed. I don't generally use soaps on my face and I don't enjoy the feeling. I prefer cleansing with oils. This cloth is a nice idea for when traveling and wanting to freshen up the face. I'll pass this and stick with my oils.

Garnier SkinActive 3-in-1 Face Moisturizer with Rose Water ($9.96/ 6.75-oz jar)

Garnier Fructis Damage Repairing Treat Papaya 1 Minute Hair Mask ($2.97/ 3.4-oz jar)

I've tried both of these before and liked them enough to purchase each. I still have some because a little goes a long way with such dense creams. Here are my thoughts on the face cream. The hair mask is something I only use about once every 6 to 8 weeks. It lives up to the "repairing" hype and I probably should be using it more often during these colder, drier days.

This was a decent box. When you consider that you're only paying $5 for the postage, it's a cheap way to try new products. The one gripe I have with the Walmart boxes is that there are often repeat products. I've gotten the exact same Garnier products before and this time I didn't get any coupons. However, I did get notice of some other Neutrogena products I'd like to try (and I've never been  Neutrogena fan because they don't pay much attention to brown skin):

(I do want to try the Smooch Lip Oil!)

And... I got this nifty little bag.

Okay, the bag was ruined by the Walmart logo, but at least there was a bag. That's a little Ipsy-ish of Walmart, ain't it?

I am happy with the haul. Next one is not until the Spring 2019 box and I can't wait to see what's in store.


 ** There is also a Walmart (grooming) box for men.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

**REVIEW** J.R. Watkins Room Freshener (Lemon)

My mother loved using J.R. Watkins extracts in her baking. It's excellent stuff and I can still remember the smell from when she used the vanilla in her cakes. Not to mention when we used it for the TPV Perfume mentioned in a 2006 post.

A few years ago, I found some JRW lemon-scented hand lotion by accident and I had a memory storm or mama-memory so had to have it. The lotion smelled divine and worked well on my dry skin. It can pricey in boutique style stores but is crazy affordable at Walmart. Of course.

When I started searching for something to replace my once beloved but no-longer-quality Scentsational Iced Lemon Sugar Cookies wax melts, I kept running across JRW room sprays. Of course, I can't find a match for the Scentsationals but I found the Lemon scent. And I remembered how good the hand lotion smelled.

So, I got (at what I think is a great price)a 6-pack of 4-oz sprays for around $10.50. The bottles all came without damage.

I love that the bottles have a continuous spray feature, but the scent is the most important thing, right? . And...

I have to say I was not overwhelmed.

The fragrance itself is amazing - very fresh and sparkling like effervescent lemon. I sprayed some to kill some cooking odors and it worked. I sprayed the stale air in the bathroom and it worked. I sprayed some to kill that faint bad-breath-y kind of morning bedroom air and it worked.

Notice I keep saying "it worked". So what's the problem?

Well, the scent does not last. At all. I can smell the fragrance just brightening up the air for all of 5 minutes or so.

The only way to get any lasting scent in the home with this is to spray it onto something (I spritz the sheers I have up to the living room windows) but you aren't supposed to do that.

I just can't decide how I feel about this. I mean, I can get 27 ounces of Odoban for under 3 bucks. Odoban kills just about any kind of funky/stale/stinky household odors. I bet that stuff could get rid of locker room stank. However, I love the smell of lemons and vanilla - preferably mixed - and I just wish the JRW scent lasted.

So I am not sure if I will ever buy more of this. I will definetly keep looking for something - a candle or spray - that replaces my Scentsationals Iced Lemon Sugar Cookies...


P.S.: The spray comes in other scent choices. Also, I noticed some reviewers mention that these can not be returned so... be careful before ordering that you get the correct scent.

I have to add that I don't know why there are 2 JRW sites. This one looks to be the one with all the original stuff my mother used. This one looks to be the more "modern" carrying just the personal care products. Of course, you can find almost all the products from both sites on Amazon and/or Walmart.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

**RANT** Life and Identity

It's been a while since I have done a rant post, but...

Recently, there's been a lot of discussion about the various pols gearing up to run to head the country. Kamala Harris is one person that gets a lot of love and hate from citizens who vote. I honestly don't know much more about her than what I saw during the Kavanaugh hearings. I would have to educate myself before I could voice a fair opinion. But let's talk about the underlying conversation. Let's talk about the whole idea of "identity politics". That's something I can chime in on. I've been wanting to chime in for a while but had to wait until I was having a day when I could think clearly and on point. Here goes.

I abhor "identity" anything: politics, religion, society, etc. We as human beings don't seem to be able to do anything in moderation. We turn enjoyment of everything into addiction or crime. We start out wanting to "identify" with each other to form connections and before you know it, we are forming dangerous religious cults, political hate groups, and crime syndicates. We have worried so much about grouping together - identifying - with one another that we are starting to not think as individuals.

(Before I get this rant properly started, let me admit that I have gone back and forth on some subjects of race and nationality. I'm human and I sometimes have "waffled". That is because I am always maturing in my opinions.  I've talked about race/nationality and things of my blackness here, here, here, and here, and probably in a couple more posts. This post though is going to be one I won't mind having thrown in my face in the future. So, let's go on.)

During a conversation with a family member a few months back, I explained why I wish we could all get over using race to identify each other. In my opinion, when we identify by race (or nationality), we automatically fall back on stereotypes. Ideally, we will learn to identify by cultures and I will speak more on that later.  If we start identifying each other based on other things, we can be more intelligent about socializing.
Related image

Now, about the "identifying as cultures" thing. I know that there are different cultures within cultures. As a black American, I know that I have lived or experienced being  so many different kinds of black that I can hardly keep up: black Texan, black Southerner, black Yankee, black G.I. brat, black Alaskan, black Iowan, black woman to a black man, black wife to a white man, black wife to a white Englishman, and a  black divorcee. I can self-identify all over again as all those things as just a woman. Therefore, I can largely identify with other women who have been Texan, Southern, Yankee, etc. We would have things to talk about and relate to. And the race issue matters, of course, but it wouldn't be what brought us into a dialogue.

My best friend is a woman who is 20 years my senior. We only met because we worked together and happened upon a friendship due to some random happenings. Left to our own devices, we might never have been anything more than nod-and-smile co-workers. I am so thankful this woman is in my life. Imagine how many more people are out there I could have been connected with. 

There are plenty of people who check the same boxes I do for gender, race, religion, and nationality with whom I might have nothing else in common. Out of about 10 billion people on the planet, there have got to be hundreds of thousands I can seriously relate to based on other things. Hobbies, phobias, quirks, humor, skills, goals, hopes - if I met someone right now, these are the things I want to talk with them about. These are the things that will connect us. 

Anyway, I am losing some of my coherence so I will wind down but I hope you got the gist of my point. Stereotypes divide us and are just a lazy way to look at the world and justify some of our own behaviors. Stereotypes only "have some truth" because of statistics: out of 10 billion people, you can find an argument for any stereotype. 

I really hope we can all learn to approach each other (or not) in a more sensible way. After all, Ted Bundy and other dangerous people have used stereotypes to their advantage.


Sunday, January 20, 2019

**REVIEW** Maui Moisture Curl Quench + Coconut Oil Curl Milk

I've been wearing my hair in a protective style for the past month or so and plan to continue throughout winter. This is to combat breakage because my hair is dryer in winter so I don't want to handle it too much. Since I am doing this, I'm not using my usual curl creams. I don't want to waste those since... not showing off the curls. Instead, I am trying out a leave-in product to use along with my trusty StaSofFro that I love so much. This is the leave-in:

That's the Maui Moisture Curl Quench + Coconut Oil Curl Milk I got because, A: it's cheap (under 7 bucks*), and B: I've read a lot of great reviews about it.

Right off, I was pleased that there is only a very faint scent to this. I thought there was going to be a fragrance of coconut screaming up my nostrils. No. There is just a mild whiff of the scent.

Now, this might sound strange, but I often check moisturizing hair products on my skin first. I will rub in a bit of the product on the web between my thumb and forefinger. After washing and drying, that is some of the dryest skin on my body. I figure it's a great place to test the moisturizing properties of a product. This one passed that test. Also, it didn't leave the skin greasy and when I added a little water to the spot, there wasn't a white or waxy residue.

By the way, the cream itself is of a medium-thick texture - sort of like good skin lotion.

The ultimate test though is on the hair. Since it wasn't time for me to do a full wash, I only rinsed my tresses before applying the MM Curl Quench. Let me tell you something I was warned about: a little really does go a long way. That's great because it means I will get a lot of use from this affordable 8-ounce bottle. I know now that I need to carefully separate my hair so I can apply this to small sections at a time.

By the way, here is the full list of ingredients** (given by one of the sellers on the product page):
I'm not altogether sure about some of the ingredients, but...

This stuff is nice. Really nice. Once I got the hang of applying it in small amounts, I could tell that it was going to be perfect for use with a protective style.

Other than applying it in very small sections, I also made sure to keep my hair slightly damp during the process. I used my spray bottle set to a really fine mist. After applying the leave-in to a section, I would spritz with water, then smooth my fingers back over the swatch of hair.

I had to wait for my hair to dry (I am doing flat twists in thin rows from front to back) to see if it retained any of the conditioning moisture. My hair wasn't bone dry like it usually is after a rinse. Still, I needed to put a little bit more of the MM Quench on my palms and dab it over my twists. Just for good measure, I sprayed on (like I always do anyway) some of the StaSofFro. After about 20 minutes, I checked and loved the results. My hair felt moisturized without being greasy and the ends of the twists (where I can really tell) where in good shape.

Usually, I leave my hair in twists all week, then take it down to apply StaSofFro and some other moisture before re-twisting. I take it down for washing or co-washing about every 2 1/2 to 3 weeks, depending on how well I feel. Now that I have this leave-in, I plan to only take my hair down when it's time for a wash.

By the way, for the other naturalistas wondering about "protective" styling, I find the this is one that works well for home, work, church, or anywhere. I tend to wear my beanie scarf/hat to dress up the look. Best of all, if you do need to take down the twists for some reason, you are going to have the most beautiful zig-zag curls.

Anyway, to sum things up, yes, I do like this leave-in. I think that I will always thin it out with some filtered water though. That's to "stretch" the use and to make the application more even.

I will do an update on the product as I get more time using it. Hopefully, I have found a keeper...


 * When I went back to get the link for this, I realized that it was only available from certain sellers and the price has gone up to as much - some are priced at over $15! I got mine from Services, Inc when I ordered and paid $6.74 with Prime (free) shipping.

** The links in the ingredient list are to Making Cosmetics (where available) because that site gives more laymen-friendly descriptions and information. I can't say that the MM leave-in used the same formulations but you now have an idea of what each ingredient is generally used for in products.  I have ordered from them before and the reason is because of their information-based set-up. EWG is another good site for checking on cosmetic ingredients.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

**REVIEW** Cosco 2-Step Steel Folding Step Stool with Resin Steps

A ladder might not seem like a big necessity to a lot of people, but this one has been a lifesaver for me. And I'm a little scared of ladders if they are more than 5 feet high.

My place is very small and so storage is at a premium. We tenants do each have a little cubby in a room off the hallway in which to store some things, but it's a locked door system and best used for things you don't need often. I personally keep spare decorative items and suitcases in mine.

I needed to be able to use all the space in my kitchen, bath, and bedroom. In the kitchen, there is a lot of room overhead the cabinets and fridge. That I can't reach. Same for the bathroom. The bedroom has a wonderful closet with a built-in rack but the top shelf is too high for me to keep anything I might need more than once every blue moon. Until now. Now, I have this cool and cheap (super cheap) little stool and I for a little surprise because of a mishap between Walmart and FedEx. More on that later.

When I first ordered this I was thrilled because of the $18.97 price tag. (I had almost opted for this one. Glad I kept looking because I didn't want to spend that much money.)

I was only a little worried that I would end up sending it back for quality issues because... well, that price. It seemed almost too good to be true. On the other hand, I was having to borrow a neighbor's scary-tall ladder every time I wanted to store something up high. Once, I had a panic attack while I was up on that ladder and was fear-frozen at the top, trying not to cry. It took me about half an hour before I could slowly ease my way back down off that thing. Never again.

I waited a week after I ordered before I started to wonder where the heck the stool was. Walmart is not as fast as Amazon for shipping, but they don't slouch. Usually. Finally, I tracked the item and saw that it was stuck in  Mahtomedi, Minnesota. I never even heard of the place but my stop stool had been sitting there for about 3 days. I googled and found that it was less than 3 hours away. And that's where the stool stayed for another 3 days. I contacted Walmart and FedEx. Walmart said they would send out another step stool asap and FedEx said they would "investigate".

The replacement ladder arrived in around 4 days and I was SO glad to see that is wasn't a bad item (I almost said "crap" item, but with "stool"...).

It's very sturdy and I love how it folds up to almost nothing so I can store it in the closet without taking up a lot of space. Right away, I started putting it to use. Now, all that empty and previously unreachable space in my kitchen is...

All that room overhead!

The very best thing - and I mean this seriously - about the step stool is that it's not so high that I have to worry about falling. Now, I can't use it on certain days when my balance is off, but I can use the heck out of it any other time. I do have to make sure I am close to a wall or appliance so I can hold myself steady, but this thing has made such a difference.

Okay, I have not finished hanging the rest of the drapes yet because I have to wait until my balance evens out, but you see what I mean. (By the way, I got those "drapes" aka loose fabric free from a giveaway table in the common room.)

I feel like I gained another half of kitchen space. I love being able to use that above-fridge space that some giant designed to frustrate average sized people.

Just when I was getting used to having the step stool around, a few days ago, FedEx showed up with... the missing one!

I emailed Walmart to let them know about the second one. Since I haven't heard back yet I suppose I get to keep the twin stool for free. Now I have one stored in the closet up front and the other in the bedroom. Perfect.

By the way, here are a couple more photos showing latch, the height, and front/back.

I''m telling you, for less than 19 bucks, you can't beat this ladder.


P.S.: By the way, the same stool is available via Amazon as a Prime item for the same price.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

**VAPING** Voopoo Caliber Vape Pen

DISCLAIMER: Nicotine is an addictive substance. Using E-cigarettes (vaping) is to be used by adults only. All forms of nicotine use is habit-forming and may be hazardous to one's health. This post is regarding my personal experiences and is not meant to encourage anyone to begin smoking.

It's been 7 hours and 13 days...♫

Actually, it's been 4 months, and 28 days.

August 15, 2018 was my quit smoking date.  That was when I kicked tobacco and started vaping. I won't get into any arguments with people who think vaping is as bad as smoking. I can just tell you that my body knows the difference and my body is feeling better than it did on cigarettes. Now, let's get to this vape pen I love so much.

This is my Voopoo Caliber.

I first got this in November 2018 when I found the Smok Veneno too large for using anywhere but at home. Don't get me wrong, I do love my Veneno, but it was even bulky for packing into my backpack for a trip to see the fam. But what I loved about it was the cloud output, the battery life and the way the flavor came through from the eliquid. I wanted all that stuff in a smaller, more portable device. Enter the Caliber.

Since this was a pen that I was going to have to buy for myself, I had to consider the pricing. It was $40 when I got around to buying it and I used the money from my "Stop Smoking" jar. That is the jar where I try to put money that I would be spending on tobacco if I still smoked. I try to use it for things like healthy food and other necessities, but I also use it for my vape supplies. Believe me, vaping is way cheaper than smoking. According to the quit smoke tracker I use, at about $5 per pack of cigarettes, I have saved around $750. I have no idea where that windfall is since I had only about $172 in the SS jar...

***By the way, I will soon be doing a post on my personal experience with the cost of vaping vs the cost of smoking***

Anyway, I got the Caliber and some juice called Watermelon Madness that I kind of regret because it's like vaping those jaw-clenching sour candies. I do not regret the Caliber though. I actually use it more than I use the Veneno and only switch over when I have to recharge the battery.

 Here are the ups and downs of the Caliber from my experience.

  • Easy to hold and grip. 
  • It's lightweight enough that I don't feel I'm going to drop it but hefty enough to feel sturdy.
  • Pretty. I got the Rainbow colored one. This is not a big deal since I don't vape around anyone but family. I do want to be courteous.
  • Battery lasts a long time with moderate to heavy use. It will last more than a couple of day with just occasional use (vaping for a few minutes every few hours).
  • Has an airflow adjustment.
  • Came with extra pieces (including a non-bubble glass tube - see below)
  • Flavor of juices comes through nicely.
  • Has not spit or leaked at all.
  • No wattage adjustment (which I never really use, so far, on Veneno)
  • No low-battery warning that I can see. It does have an LED light for on/off indication.
  • I didn't love the bubble tube it came with (see above)

Actually, I don't really hate anything about the Caliber. Whenever anyone asks me what my favorite vape device it, this is at the top. (I used to love the Juul but that thing is just too expensive to use!)

I got the Caliber from the Electric Tobacconist, which is where I go for anything I can't find on VapeWild. Both those places have terrific customer service and fast shipping, but VapeWild is more price-friendly, in my opinion. VapeWild also throws in lots of extras and goodies into each order and they have sampler packs if you're trying to find your flavor groove. Also, I have to mention that if you're looking to buy something, check with VapeWild first because... prices.


NOTE: I don't get reimbursements of any kind - monetary or in product - from any of the companies, items, or websites I featured in this post.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

**REVIEW** 32-oz Pogo Tritan Water Bottle

Finally! Finally, I have found a water bottle that I love. I have been buying certain types of water every now and then just so that I have those bottles to drink out of. That's not good because of the types of plastic they're made of. This is the last bottle I used for about a week:

Not good. Not good at all. I don't even like to water plants out of that bottle.

The thing is, I just like that type of drinking spout. I drink more water when I have that type of spout and I can't tell you why that is. The problem was I could never find a refillable bottle that was a good price and had a good drinking spout. I didn't want to pay more than ten dollars and I didn't want something just because it was a hot or popular brand item. I didn't think I was going to find anything I could afford. Until now. I saw this and knew that this was the one. I mean like Neo-the-one, the one.

That is the Pogo Tritan Water Bottle (with the soft straw spout). I got the Blue and there are 6 other colors.

Man, I LOVE this thing. It was extremely affordable ($8.29) and it has one of those "soft straw" spouts that sip just like the throw-away bottle I was using. As a bonus, it has fill markings along the side. It's perfect. Oh, and it even has this little "carry loop" thing that I didn't think I'd use but actually do.

handy "carry loop"
One thing I had to get used to with this Pogo is that I don't have to tilt it to drink from it. I didn't realize I was doing that until nothing came out when I tilted the half-empty bottle. It was a kind of "oh, snap" moment. (And, yes, I did feel a little stupid at first!)

The Pogo comes in different colors and there is also a choice of the type of drinking spout. I didn't want the "chug" type because I've had that sort before and it doesn't work as well for me.

The one advantage that the chug style has over the soft straw bottle is cleaning. The soft straw has to be taken apart a bit to get it fully cleaned every now and then.

Also, for both styles, the bottles are made for cold, non-carbonated beverages. They are not meant to be microwaved, frozen, or cleaned with abrasives. I can live with that.

Personally - and maybe this is weird - I just can't drink as much water any other way than out of the right container. I almost never meet my daily water goals because of this.

If you are looking for a great water bottle at a really good price, this one might be or you.


Wednesday, January 09, 2019

**REVIEW** Hamilton Beach Big Mouth Juice Extractor

With all the talk I did about not falling into the trap of New Year resolutions before I dive into this review, I have to explain that I'm not being a hypocrite. I had been planning on and saving up for this purchase for about 3 months now. By the way, this right here is what I'm talking about:

That's the Hamilton Beach Big Mouth Juice Extractor (model 67601A). It clocked in at $55 and was just smack dab on budget for me. I started saving back in the middle of September when I realized I was not eating as well as I could be. Also, I was buying my juices from Hyvee at crazy prices. It's not easy to find a good variety of healthy juices around here but it is fairly easy to find fresh fruits and vegetables, even in the dead of winter. Hurray for living in the Food Belt of the country. Anyway, let's talk about this HBBME.

When I started looking for the juicer, I wasn't stuck on getting a juicer. I thought about getting a good blender. I mean, I could see the benefit of doing juices or smoothies. What finally tipped it for getting a juicer is that I can do juices or smoothies with the HBBM. All I need to do is add back some of the pulp or use my stick blender to emulsify some fruit and veggies to add to the juice. (And I have to brag a little about the Ovente blender I got about 5 years ago from Walmart. That thing is a workhorse. I have used it almost every day since I got it and it has never given me trouble.)

Once I decided on a juicer, I had to find one that fit my "wants" and my budget. I wanted something with a decent motor and a large chute. It would be great if it wasn't too loud since I do live in an apartment. My budget meant that I would need to stay under a reasonable dollar amount if I wanted to actually make the purchase sometime in the next 6 months or so.

The HBBM fit all the wants but quite a few reviewers said that it was loud. I kept looking and kept coming back to the HBBM. Finally, I decided to take a chance because it was the only one I could finally afford that wasn't refurbished. I figured that as long as it didn't sound like a small aircraft taking off, I would be okay and just use it before too late in the evening.

So far, I am really happy with the juicer. It is nowhere near as loud as I expected from some of the reviews I read. I learned that if I put a padded placemat underneath while running it, the sound really isn't any louder than a large blender. As for everything else, I am super happy.

I hate raw celery. Easier to drink it than chew it.

I have been juicing celery, carrots, and beets with the HBBM. It works fast and it really juices well. When I empty the pulp after carrots, I notice that it's basically dry as sawdust. The celery pulp was a little wetter and I experimented with running the pulp back through the juicer. I got a little more juice but nothing significant enough to warrant the hassle. The first thing I tested it with was a little orange that was about as old as Methuselah and the HBBM got about a quarter cup of juice out of it. Oranges, however, are not my thing. I can always buy orange juice but beet juice is not something I can find around here so easily. Would the HBBM be able to handle that? The product page indicated that it could but I needed to know for sure.

When I grocery shopped, I only got a couple of stalks of beets. They aren't too expensive but they aren't something I would use outside of juicing. If the HBBM let me down, I didn't want to be stuck with messy, clothes-staining vegetables. Now I wish I had gotten a few more stalks. That juicer didn't even change gears when I threw in pieces of the beet.

Another thing I like about this juicer: it is really easy to clean. Okay, that mesh bowl is a little bit of a pain to clean but it helps that a brush came with the HBBM. I basically just soak that part in warm and soapy water while I'm rinsing the other pieces.

As far a the size of the juicer, it's not tiny but once you detach everything from the base, it's easy enough to store on top of a fridge or in a small-ish pantry. Mine is currently in the dishwasher so here is the diagram from the manual showing how the HBBM breaks down.

I have to say that, so far, I am more than happy with this juicer. It was at the bottom as far as prices for one with an 800-watt motor. I would not have been surprised if it had been a loser. Thank goodness it's not. If this last me more than a year, I will be more than happy.

Right now, I have some fresh celery and carrot juice to blend in with some of the apple juice I made the other day. I can also add in a little coconut milk and monk fruit sweetener if I want.

By the way, I am vac-sealing and freezing juices. I understand that this is the best way to keep them fresh for the longest period of time and I have to buy when things are on sale.