All posts by Krista AQ Thompson

It’s Okay to be Takeya

Takeya Glass Bottle with Silicone Sleevetakeya


(5/5)

Pros: Reusable, dishwasher safe, glass, silicone sleeve


Cons: none for me, some might consider the lack of a straw or spout a problem.

I’m a water fanatic.  Never thought I’d say those words—for the 26-plus years I smoked, I hated water.  Tasted awful, like ashtrays smelled.  I needed my drinks strongly flavored and carbonated to scour out the taste of the cigarettes.  But since I quit nine years ago?

I’ve become something of a connoisseur of waters.  I used to think people who said they could tell the difference between one water and another were being pretentious.  Now I know they were being honest.  I found that I couldn’t stand tap water with ice cubes (ack!), and every reusable water bottle I’d ever owned (and I’d owned many) tasted like crap plastic or crap metal.  Either way, the flavor was awful to me.


My love of water led to something of an impasse between me and my teenage son.  See, he took all those lessons I gave on recycling, reusing, reducing, and threw them right back at me.  How could I justify bottled water?   How could I, even if I was recycling, justify sucking down 70 bottles of water every two weeks?

Kid was right.  And I knew he was right.  Yet, I really couldn’t stand the flavor of tap water in plastic or metal.  So, as a compromise, we picked up 20 Voss waters in glass bottles and began reusing the bottles.  Problem was, they were only 12.7 ounce bottles.

And then hubby found Takeya bottles at Costco.  Made in Japan, these are large (22 ounce/.65 liters) glass bottles, no silly, nasty tasting plastic straws or spouts, with a silicone sleeve to protect.  He snapped up four 2-packs and I’ve been happy ever since.  In fact, it’s been months  since we bought any bottled water.


And once again, we have peace at home.

Takeya water bottles are, above all, thick and sturdy.  They don’t have an “oops, don’t bump it against anything” feel to them.  They are, of course, heavier than plastic or most metal, and that’s okay with me.  I’m not looking to haul ten of them around at a time.  The necks are fairly wide, and smaller ice cubes can fit easily, if you’re so inclined.

The silicone sleeves, which are not meant to be removed, give protection with hard knocks.  I don’t know how it would do hitting pavement, but it keeps the glass intact when it tumbles from countertop to hardwood floor.  These sleeves come in a variety of colors—we have black, red, blue, green, and purple.  The sleeves have cut-outs on the side to make water level visible.  I like that.  While these bottles/sleeves do seem to keep water colder than plastic reusables, I wouldn’t say that the sleeve gives any long-term coldness.


The lids are a sturdy, hard black plastic that screw down airtight and leakproof.  No fancy flip-up spout or internal straw.  This is a bottle with a lid, nothing complicated.  That may make it unsuitable for folks doing a century ride who need to be able to take a drink without fiddling with a lid, but for the rest of us, this is great.   The top of the bottle also has a small handle/hook for snapping on with a carabiner or clasp and attaching to a backpack or belt.

Now, the company advertises these bottles as being made of “pure glass,” and I’m not sure what that means.  Might just be advertising, might be meaningful.

One of the best features, other than the “doesn’t make the water taste gross” part?  These puppies are dishwasher safe!  A few sites say “top rack safe,” but the packaging just reads “dishwasher safe.”  We’ve washed the bottles bottom rack (heat dry OFF) a number of times, and they come through just fine.  We often hand wash the lids, though they’ve come through in the top rack basket A-okay.  The silicone (again, don’t remove it) fares marvelously in the dishwasher, and the whole shebang is nice and clean.


And that’s about it.  I really am enjoying these bottles.  Easy to clean, no nasty taste, big enough to keep me happy, and not too pricy, really.  We got ours at Costco, and if you have a Costco membership, I definitely recommend you pick them up there–at 10 bucks a pair, they’re half the price you’ll find them elsewhere.  However, if you don’t have a Costco membership, they’re still a good deal on Amazon at 10-11 a pop.  I know 11 bucks or so a bottle seems really expensive, but, in just a few months, they’ve already paid for themselves, and I expect them to last a long time.  If you’re looking to reduce your footprint and save money in the long-term, I recommend Takeya glass bottles with the silicone sleeve.  Unreservedly.

Sterilite Feels Right

Sterilite 18 Gallon Tote with Lid

sterilite

(4.75/5)

Pros: Reusable, stackable, durable

Cons: lids can be damaged if stacked with too much weight

My family is in the throes of yet another move—that’s three moves in five years, and each one gets just a little more crippling to arthritis girl.  I say we’re still in the throes of this move because, while we are out of the old place and in the new, getting all your stuff to the new place is only half the battle.

You still have to UNpack it.

Of course, unpacking is a whole lot easier when you pack it right.  Of the 14 moves I’ve made as an adult, only the last three have been what I would call “smart” moves.  And what makes them smart?

We stopped using cardboard boxes.  I mean, sure, we have a few small boxes for things like candles and knick-knacks, but the bulk of our possessions now travel in Sterilite totes, aka Sterilite Storage Boxes.

Sterilite totes are nothing more than durable plastic tubs with snap-on lids.  At around seven bucks for the 18 gallon size, they’re affordable if, like us, you start stocking up early.  We were snapping up about five per pay period for a few months prior to our first “smart” move.  They come in a variety of colors—I recommend avoiding the darker colors because the marker used to label them (we use traditional Sharpies) doesn’t show well.

Normally, I’d give pros and cons, but there really aren’t any cons, so here’s a list of the pros:

  • Water resistant:  unless you actually submerge them, these bins will resist water, so if it’s raining on moving day?  No worries.
  • Durable: these totes do not crumble, tear, shred, soak through, or otherwise fall apart.  There’s no impending disintegration during a move.
  • Easy to carry: Sterilite totes have built-in handles which, unlike those in some boxes, won’t tear out or otherwise give.
  • Stackable: no unequal sizes or weird weakness, which makes filling a moving truck or storage area a breeze.
  • Washable: just hose ‘em down.  Fill them with sudsy water first, if they’re really filthy.
  • Nesting:  when you get where you’re going and unpack?  These bins nest neatly inside one another, making it easy to store them for next time.
  • Endlessly Reusable: unlike cardboard, these things hold up move after move, which makes them, in the long term, totally worth the investment.

Now, these totes can be used for a lot more than just moving, but that has been, for us, the main purpose.  We use them for storage now, too, and they make storing things and keeping track of where things are so much easier.  A bin or two can easily fit on a closet shelf or a pantry floor, and under the stairs is a great spot for stacking.  When I look back at all the past damage done to our cardboard-box-encased possessions by errant cats (if you can imagine photo albums and linens and your grandma’s hand-tatted shawl ruined by cat urine, you’ll have a taste of how we felt when having to throw away about half our stored possessions because a relative’s cats decided our storage area was a giant litter box), I nearly cry.  Had we only known then to keep our things in Sterilite totes instead of cardboard boxes.

Upon reflection, I have come up with one “con” I should share: these totes, while strong, will buckle slightly or deform at the lids if you stack really heavy (think rocks or all books) bins atop others.  They’ll still stack, and they’ll still do the job, but the lids will bend wonky and not be as water-resistant.

And that’s all—I can’t think of any reason to not recommend these totes to anyone looking to best utilize storage space, organize stored possessions, or move to a new home.  That they can also double as toy boxes is icing.  If you’re tired of disintegrating (or molding, if you live in a damp area) cardboard boxes making your moves hellish and your storage area a mess, definitely snap up some Sterilite totes and bring some blessed organization into your life!

Oh, and one last thing?   Sterilite totes are made in the USA.

Improving the Daily Grind

Cuisinart Supreme Grind Automatic Burr Mill

71Lwz+vR0HL._SL1500_

(4.75/5)

Pros: easy to use, affordable, automatic, multiple settings, nice to look at

Cons: noise level, but that’s par for the coffee grinder course

I am not a coffee person.  Not anymore.  The onset of a vicious arrhythmia back in the early 2000s ended my caffeine-drenched days.  In college?  I was a fiend; it’s scary how much coffee I consumed.  These days, I have an occasional mocha-frappa-choco-cappu-latte at Mayorga, but that’s the extent, and I pay for it in a big, scary way later.

My husband, on the other hand, is an afficianado.  A connoisseur, a cognoscente.  Or addict, you could say.

His old burr grinder, which we’ve had for years, finally began to croak in a most irritating fashion.  It stopped being able to grind without a finger on the button.  You know, instead of pushing the button and walking away to do other things as the beans whirled and danced, we were suddenly trapped, standing there with a finger stupidly poking that damnable button for the entire duration of the grind.  I know, First World problems, but when you’re grinding for both home and work, that’s a lengthy job.  His life became a ridiculous quest to find something—anything—to jam against the grinder to hold the button down.  So grinding was an on and off thing, punctuated by swearing as this wooden spoon or that measuring cup slid out of place and the grinder stopped.

Hubby finally grabbed the Cuisinart Supreme Grind Automatic Burr Mill after I threatened to throw out the old one.  He’d been eyeing the Cuisinart for a while, and threatening to leave him mortar-and-pestle-ing it was the push he needed.

Right off the bat, this new gadget is an entirely new beast.  Of the brushed steel and black variety that matches our and our slow cooker  (but not our , unfortunately), it’s a nice-looking appliance.  I know that’s not the main concern, but it’s nice that it looks so fancy on the counter.

The top-mounted hopper holds ½ pound of beans, which is twice the capacity of our old.  Don’t have to grind them all at once, thought—there’s a dial on the front that can be adjusted to grind from four to 32 cups.

Or so they say.  Understand, my husband sets it for four and uses that to make one cup of coffee.  I think “cups” is more a guideline than a hard and fast thing.

There is an 18 position grind selector, offering grinds from ultra-fine to coarse, depending upon your needs.  Different coffee makers work best with particular grinds.  Considering the number of French presses, drips, espresso machines, percolators, Moka pots, and vacuum pots we have in the house, a variety of different grinds is a good thing.

Because the Cuisinart Supreme Grind is fully automatic, you really can just walk away.  Just fill the hopper, select number of cups and desired grind, and push the button.  Then walk away.  When it’s ground the amount you asked for, it turns itself off.  We like that super-big bunches.

Now, as I mentioned, this is a burr grinder/mill.  We only use burr, because bladed mills tend to chop and crush beans, which creates an uneven blend with irregularly sized/shaped bits.  This can lead to unpredictable results, flavor and strength-wise.

This marvelous contraption is a breeze to clean—the hopper and grind chamber are both removable for easy care.  Unlike our old one, we don’t get nearly the static with this one, which makes clean-up that much easier.  In addition, there is a convenient cord storage feature (just a wrap-it-around recessed area), which is always nice.

Now, you might be wondering if it’s loud.  Yes.  It’s loud.  It’s a coffee mill, it can’t help it.  However, it’s no louder than the old one, and, in fact, is no louder than any grinder I’ve ever owned.  It’s probably best not to use at 3 am if you’re in an apartment with shared walls (or you have sleeping family members).   But you’re not likely to lose hearing.

And that’s about it.  If you’re in the market for a solid burr mill/grinder?  This one does the job nicely.  It’s not ultra-top of the line, but if, like us, you’re not looking to spend $150 on a coffee mill (but still want quality), the Cuisinart Supreme Grind is a fantastic choice.  We’ve had ours for nearly a year, and it’s still going strong.  It does come with an 18 month warranty, but I don’t think we’re going to have to avail ourselves.

Oh, and the old grinder?  We use it for things like Corn Flake crumbs and spices.  Does the trick just fine . . . if you don’t mind standing there with a finger pressed against the button.

Krista and the Argan-nots

Marc Anthony Oil of Morocco Argan Oil Shampoo

marc anthony

(2.5/5)

Pros: Not very expensive, cleans hair

Cons: scent, static, dry hair

I’m forever on the lookout for really good hair care products.  Things that don’t leave me dry, frizzy, greasy, or weighed down.  When I first discovered argan oil products, I was . . . eh.  My first try was Organix Argan Oil of Morocco.  The ?  Was perfectly acceptable, but didn’t win any awards.  The ?  Better.  Nice scent, not too heavy, not too waxy or greasy, and works great in the shower as a detangling conditioner.  Neither, of course, measured up to my , but, as the price has risen, it’s a bit out of my range these days.  Yes, I am sadder for it.  It’s beginning to look like maybe they’ve stopped making it, and that’s a tragedy, because it’s amazing stuff, as I said in my review HERE.

My latest argan shampoo purchase?  .

I admit, I bought it because it was cheap.  It was cheap, and, about halfway through that breathtakingly long sodiumdimethicocambatglycpolydivinylquaternium ingredients list was “Argania Spinosa Kernal Oil.”  That’s the stuff.  Noticeably lower on the ingredients list than I’d like, but budget meets desire and this is the result.  A side note:  this product does make a big deal out of being “sulfate-free.”

My first opening of the fli-top bottle was a major disappointment.  The Orlando Pita has an amazing scent, wonderfully nutty, sweet, and earthy.  This stuff?  Smells like cheap shampoo.  Sorry, no other way to put it.  It’s got a sharpness to it, a tang that reminds me of the old, before-they-started-loading-them-with-fake-fruit-scents Suave shampoos or some of the cheaper baby shampoos.

The feel and texture are average shampoo-like.  It lathers pretty enthusiastically, and it rinses thoroughly without residue, though my hair was left a little squeakier and grabbier than I like.  That usually means my hair will wind up a bit dry if I don’t condition.

Which was exactly what it meant this time, too.

My hair was left smelling weirdly tangy, and it was dryer than usual and more prone to static.  I didn’t notice any difference in how tangly my hair was—it tangles easily all the time, and that didn’t get worse or better with this shampoo.

Now, when I follow the shampoo with the Orlando Pita oil or the Organix argan conditioner, there’s a marked improvement.  Of course, there would be.  The smell improves, the static lessens, and the dryness is alleviated.  You may be saying to yourself “that’s true of any shampoo.”  Except it’s not.  Some shampoos leave my hair smelling good, feeling great, and not static-laden even without conditioner.  This isn’t one of them.

In all, for the price, this is a solidly average shampoo.  To be completely blunt, it’s no better than Organix, doesn’t smell as nice, and is more expensive.  If you’re looking for a great argan oil shampoo, pony up the bucks for the Orlando Pita if you have it.  If you don’t?  Organix, while a step down, is still pretty nice.  But this stuff?

It’s not awful, there’s just better to be had for less.

One little afterthought:  most of the argan hair care products come in packaging of gold and turquoise.  I’m not sure what that means, if anything, but it strikes me as odd.

A Big, Sloppy Kiss on the Face

Kiss My Face Pure Olive Oil Bar Soapkiss my face

(3.75/5)

Pros: doesn’t irritate sensitive skin, short ingredient list, cleans without drying

Cons: goes gooey when wet, 8 oz. bar is awfully big

I’m something of a soap junkie.  Since Hugo Naturals discontinued my beloved Cedarwood, Sage, and Basil soap (I’m still hanging onto that last bar for . . . a special occasion, I guess?), I’ve been on the prowl for a new favorite.  A few have come close (like herbal soap, which rocks as a bathroom sink and kitchen sink soap), but none have really hit that spot in my nose and my brain.

One of the soaps I’ve tried?

Kiss My Face Pure Olive Oil Bar Soap.  I grabbed it because it smelled nice enough and it’s huge.

Eight ounces of huge.  And we’ll get to that in a minute.

My first impression upon unwrapping this bar was disquiet.  It’s green.  Deeply green, almost an algae-at-the-curb shade.  With a little hint of avocado.  In all honestly, I thought it was ugly.  Of course, I’m not in it for the looks, so that wasn’t’ a big problem, but it was a bit off-putting at first.

The smell is pleasant enough, not strong, and not particularly noteworthy.  It’s just a light fragrance.

The size, however, is a problem if, like me, you plan on using it as your bath soap.  This bar is entirely too large to be of any real use unless you use a loofah , mitt, or washcloth with soap on it.  Fresh out of the packaging, it’s all angles and sharp edges, though that fades after a couple of washings.  Luckily, there are four ounce bars available if you find the eight is too much to handle.

How this soap works is what’s got me lost in the throes of love-hate.  See, it works great—it cleans nicely, it doesn’t dry out my skin, yet it does rinse clean.  Not that freaky-squeaky clean that the more mainstream soaps give, but not the still-coated sensation a lot of body washes leave you with.  It’s just clean, and I haven’t had any problems with my skin since beginning to use it a few months ago.  It doesn’t help with my psoriasis, but it also doesn’t aggravate it in any way, and it does leave the rest of me reasonably moisturized.

So that’s the love part.  And the hate?

It’s GOOEY!  When wet, it becomes slimy, and that slime comes away in your hand like long, ropey bits of spit.  Sorry, but that’s what it reminds me of.  In addition, it sticks to whatever surface it dries upon, and leaves a thick, green crust.  It’s not too difficult to clean once dry—just pry the bar out of the soap dish and scrub at the dried on goo.  But hassle or no, it’s worth mentioning.

Ingredients-wise, this one’s not got a lot to look at—it’s Saponified Olive Oil, Water, and Sodium Chloride.  There’s nothing else, and this product isn’t tested on animals and contains no artificial fragrance.

And that’s about all.  Will I buy this product again?  Probably, but I’ll almost certainly try a few other things between.   I’ve got my eye on a bar or two even as I type.

Solid? Yes. Miraculous? No.

Cuisinart CJE-1000$T2eC16J,!)!FIdqkuiSHBSHeP8B+i!~~_32-300x300-0-0

(4.5/5)

Pros: Easy to figure out, makes super-tasty juices, not too loud

Cons: Isn’t going to cure anything, no magic here, a bit fiddly to clean

My family has long been looking to eat better.  Healthier (more healthfully?).  Less meat, more fresh vegetables and whole grains, with a number of meals now completely meatless.  We’ve also upped the amount of “good” fish we eat.  Part of what has inspired us?

We’ve watched a lot of documentaries on nutrition, agribusiness, etc.  Yes, there’s a lot of “woo” out there, and you do have to beware the amazing claims.   If you’re not careful?

You wind up with a juicer.

Yes, we watched, “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead,” and hubby was inspired.  So I was I, but I was viewing it as a potential way to get veggies into a teenager who still makes gagging noises when faced with most vegetables, whereas hubby was fully taken with the idea of a 15 day juice “cleanse” diet.  I kept saying, “You do get that the whole ‘cleanse’ thing is a gigantic bunch of woo BS, right?”  He said he was fully aware.  After ten days (yes, he made it ten), he said that he actually had fallen for it just a little, and felt foolish for having done so.

That’s okay.  You were inspired.  Thank goodness we didn’t go for the $700 Breville, though.

A quick note—if you’re considering going the “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” route, know this:  my husband looked and felt horrid by day ten.  He was exhausted, spacy, and positively grey.  Seriously, he was pale and looked absolutely unwell.  Like a guy who’d been sucking down atrocious juice recipes for 10 days without any real food.  He followed the diet to the letter. Despite my protestations.

So, what juicer did we go for?  Cuisinart’s  CJE-1000.  Normally in the high-two-hundreds, it was marked down by more than 50%, which wouldn’t be a devastating blow, should we wind up not using it.   Since then, the price seems to have settled to around what we paid.

And are we using it?  Well, not so much.  Maybe two or three times a week.  And some concoctions we make (like the carrot/orange/parsley from the other night)?  Go down the disposal.  So does every kale disaster we try.   We’ve come to realize that this isn’t a “hide a slew of nasty veggies under the sweet guise of fresh fruit” magical whirligig.  No, it’s a JUICER, and it’s best used for things recognizable as juices.

It’s not that we don’t like this machine—the Cuisinart CJE-1000 is a solid juicer.  It makes juice.  Wonderful juice, in fact.  The feeding chute is plenty wide (three inches), and can accommodate most fruits and veggies without a lot of prep work.  The noise level is medium to high, but it’s no louder than other juicers I’ve heard (including the higher-end Brevilles), and certainly not as loud as a food processor grinding up cheese or a vacuum cleaner.  The whole process of feeding in harder fruits and veggies like pineapple or beets scares me—the housing may be die cast and stainless steel, but the chute and the “pusher” are plastic, and I fear breaking those parts. It’s not that they seem any more brittle than other, similar appliance parts, but rather that I’ve broken plastic kitchen bits before—I broke the handle on our Cuisinart food processor, and it’s left me wary.

The Cuisinart CJE-1000 boasts, as per the name, 1000 watts of power.  We’ve found this up to the task of juicing everything we’ve tried without trouble.  Pineapple, apples, kale, kiwi, carrots, cabbage, beets—this machine chomps through without any apparent distress.

Let’s talk about pulp.   When it comes to the subject of pulp and its dryness (something much discussed in juicing), I have nothing against which to compare.  I don’t know how dry the pulp from a seven hundred dollar masticating juicer might be, so I can’t say this compares favorably (it probably doesn’t).  What I can say?  After juicing, the pulp is dry enough that it’s not dripping.  If squeezed, a small amount of juice might come out, depending on what was juiced.  Some dedicated juicers recommend “rejuicing” pulp to get that last bit, and that seems a worthy idea.  We haven’t gone that route.  Yet.

Speaking of pulp, we began making vegetable stock from some of ours because we couldn’t bear just throwing it out.  Obviously, we add tomato and some herbs.  Another use for carrot pulp?  We made a crockpot full of homemade red sauce (in hopes of reducing the sodium dose when we have pasta). The sauce turned out too herb-y, too tangy, and just not quite right.  We added the carrot pulp, and it evened out the flavor (and texture, after stewing for a day).  Sweetened it without oversweetening, made the texture richer, and leveled out the herbs.  And the sodium?  Less than one QUARTER of store-bought sauce.

Anyway, back on topic here—the Cuisinart CJE-1000 is neither easy nor impossible to clean.  It’s about what you’d expect from a machine flinging juice and pulp all about its guts.  While, of course, the main body is not machine washable, the pulp container, juice pitcher, and all other (removable) bits can be put in the dishwasher.  However, if you have a whirligig water-sprayer above your top rack, much of the gear isn’t going to fit, so it’s a hand-washing job because bottom rack probably isn’t the place for these things.  Again, not a particularly difficult washing job, but it is a bit fiddly.

Speaking of washing,  the pulp basket and filter are probably the hardest things to clean, and I recommend getting on that cleaning IMMEDIATELY.  The pulp becomes strongly attached/stuck on/cemented quickly, and one day of not cleaning can bring about an immediate “furry mold” issue.  I’ve never in my life seen mold grow that fast on anything.  No, we’re not slobs, just a case of “I thought you did/you thought I did” on the clean-up front.

There are five speeds/strengths for juicing different things, with setting selection via a (blue) backlit dial on the front.  Nothing complicated here, and the included literature helps make clear which settings are best for which jobs.

One feature I feel deserves special mention?  The pulp basket, which comes with a fancy filter to reduce foaminess.  I’ve got friends who have different juicers, and they complain that the foam problem really IS a problem.  Not with the Cuisinart CJE-1000.  We get the tiniest bit of foam (very tiny—like a slight skiff on the top) with carrot and orange juice, but otherwise, we’ve seen none.  We like that.

We also like the drip-free spout.

Included with the juicer is a juice pitcher (pitcher being a strong word—it’s just a 1 quart container for serving or storing in the fridge).  This pitcher attaches under the spout, and has a flippy lid and a shallow pouring spout.  Also included is a cleaning brush and a nice little recipe booklet.  It’s not exhaustive, but it’s a good start, ideas-wise.

After using it for a little over a year, I can say this machine is exactly what we needed.  Nice enough to do a good job and be easy to use, affordable enough that we don’t feel too stupid for having forked over for it.  We’re NOT using it as often as “dedicated juicers” use their machines, and that’s because we don’t really do “woo.”  I’m a diabetic, and it’s not okay for me to downing a lot of juices—juicing removes much of the most important (especially for a diabetic) stuff fruit has to offer—the FIBER.  But juicing IS a nice way to make something hearty and tasty and refreshing.  But this machine isn’t getting used three times a day.  It’s getting used MAYBE three times a week.  And for that?

It is the IDEAL machine.  That said, my husband DID do ten days of exclusive juicing, during which the machine was used a minimum of three times a day, and it did just fine.  I’m not saying it can’t do the job (I believe it can), only that we don’t use it that way.  After over a year, I think I can confidently say it’s a durable machine.

If you’re looking to test the water in the world of juicing and don’t want to sink 500-700 dollars on a top-of-the-line masticating model, the Cuisinart CJE-1000  is a terrific choice that will do the job well enough that you don’t feel like you “settled” for something inferior.

Note: this review was originally crafted a year ago for a now-defunct site.  It has been edited, added to, and refashioned to reflect my additional experience with the machine.

 

Misto-Presto–it’s self-propelled Olive Oil!

Misto Gourmet Olive Oil Sprayermisto

 

(4.5/5)

Pros: Not expensive, easy to use, reusable, feels “healthier”

Cons: Sometimes does more of a diffuse stream rather than mist

My family?  We used to use a lot of “Pam” and “Crisco”-type cooking sprays.  Just a spray here or there to keep dinner from becoming one with our pans.  We liked that, at the same time, we were keeping calories to a minimum (hard to do when pouring oil from a bottle).  Problem was we weren’t happy with the propellants, throw-away cans, and mystery ingredients.  And then, one night, we found our Misto Olive Oil Sprayer while strolling through Wegmans.  That was a year ago, and we’ve been super-happy with it.

The Misto Gourmet Olive Oil Sprayer is just that—it’s a pressurized pump for making mist out of olive oil.  You half-fill it with olive oil (about three ounces), pump the lid a few times before each use to build pressure, then remove the lid and press the button.  Voila!  A fine mist of olive oil!  We liked our Misto so much we bought a second just for keeping garlic-flavored olive oil!

The spray bottle is an attractive stainless-style  brushed aluminum (it does also come in colors and patterns), and stands about seven inches tall.  It’s reusable (as I said, we’ve been using ours for a year now), and, while I can’t say exactly how many calories there are per spray, I’m confident it’s negligible,  considering how long three ounces lasts.

There’s no real clean-up here, other than keeping the exterior wiped off when necessary.  We have put hot water in between fillings and sprayed it through because it seemed like a good idea, but it’s not required.

The Misto sprayer is perfect for grilling, roasting, sautéing, brush-free basting, and non-stick cooking.  We like to use for non-stick, plus we’re fond of misting grilled veggies.  A special treat is using garlic-flavored olive oil on sliced Italian bread, then toasting with sprinkled parmesan and thin-sliced tomatoes!

The only problem?  Sometimes, if we don’t pump sufficiently, the spray comes out more direct, less misted.  This can also be a problem if the nozzle has become a little clogged.  That’s only happened a few times, and running hot water over the nozzle has taken care of the issue.  Otherwise?

Perfecto!  This is a terrific little contraption that paid for itself in just a couple of months (we used a lot of cooking spray).  It wasn’t pricey, and I feel better about using this versus traditional cooking sprays.  If you’re looking for a more wholesome-feeling way to keep your food from sticking and your veggies moist and pretty, Misto may be exactly what you’re looking for!

Oh, one last thing: the Misto bottle is made in Switzerland, the sprayer is made in the Netherlands, and assembly is in China.

Smart Temp Hot/Cold Pad: Took the Smarts Right Out of My Knee!

Smart Temp Portable Reusable Hot Cold Pad

023eb2f8f320bceaf87cd485b1c71a11

(4.5/5)

Pros: easy to use, effective, versatile, affordable

Cons: holds temp for less than an hour, takes three times that to refreeze, may be prone to leakage when heated.

I seem to be aging.  I’m not sure how it happened, as I made a promise to myself decades (!) ago that I wasn’t going to partake in that particular activity.  It just didn’t sound like much fun.

How right I was.

A few years ago, my joints started to go on me.  One at a time, sometimes for a few days, sometimes for a few months.  Ever have an arm that’s basically worthless for three months?  I have.  This time around?  It’s my right knee.  I’m not very kind to my knees, I have a habit of hunkering, squatting, and going  down on one knee, then pivoting to sit.  That one knee would be, of course, the one that began screaming in agony any time I bent it, shifted it, or really used it in any way.  Not a good thing when you live in a three-story townhouse without an elevator.

After a few days of increasing pain, I noticed a woobly bump of sorts on the front of my knee.  Ahhh.  Bursitis!  Also known as “water on the knee” or “handmaiden’s knee.”

I asked my husband to get me something—some Ben Gay or Icy Hot.  Anything to maybe help.  What he came home with was the Smart Temp Portable Reusable Hot Cold Pad.  Yeah, that’s a big name.

Can I just say my husband rocks?

This pad is really nothing more than a freezable/microwave-heatable gel pack of about six inches by ten inches.  It slips into a soft, washable cover that boasts a broad (about two inches) elasticized Velcro strap for holding it in place.  That easy?

That easy.

For heat (which I don’t use this for—I have a heating pad for that), the gel pack is placed in the microwave for three minutes (read the directions!).  For moist heat, do the same, then spritz the cover with water.  For cold, the gel pack is placed in the freezer for a few hours.  The pack remains weirdly flexible even when frozen, and molds to the body part being treated.  I keep the pack in the cover and freeze the whole thing because the gel pack can be a bit difficult to get into the cover when cold.

It really doesn’t take any more effort than that.  While the Velcro is meant to stick to the strap itself, fact is, it also sticks quite nicely to the cover, so if you need to use this on your back or some other wider part, you can.  The pack stays cold or hot for up to 60 minutes before requiring a refreeze or reheat.

Now, there are some safety issues here.  Not as many as with an electric device, but some are much the same:

  • You can burn yourself—check the temp by pressing against the inside of your wrist.  If it’s too hot, wait.
  • Never apply pack directly to skin; always keep inside the cover when using.
  • If you’re diabetic with sensation decrements, speak with your doctor and use extreme caution.
  • Don’t use if you suffer nerve damage or paralysis unless your doctor approves.
  • Don’t use this on infants/babies.  Or folks who are unable to express discomfort or remove the pad.
  • Don’t sit on this product or otherwise allow it to bear your weight—it’s a bag, it could rupture.
  • Do not use in conjunction with ointments or liniments of any kind.

Now, I don’t know what’s in this thing—gel-stuff.  I do know that some packages read “gel bag made in Canada,” while others (like mine) read “gel bag made in USA.”  There is a latex sensitivity warning, and that might give us a clue.  The literature states that the contents of the gel pack are “non-toxic when used as directed.”  Which seems an odd turn of phrase.

In all, I have zero complaints about this product.  It has been a near-miracle, and I could kiss my husband every day for picking it up.  Between this, the heating pad, and warm epsom soaks (plus some serious “how I treat my knee” modifications), I’m seeing marked improvement.  That said, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that some folks, particularly those who use this product for heat, complain of leakage/breakage after microwaving.  Clearly I haven’t had any such problem, but some folks do, and it’s something to bear in mind.

The Smart Temp Portable Reusable Hot Cold Pad comes with a one year warranty against defects in workmanship.  However, the shipping’s on you.

Not for Aquaphobes

 Waterpik Ultra Water Flosser

waterpik

(4.5/5)

Pros: Does an excellent job of cleaning between teeth and improving gum health

Cons: Involves shooting water in your mouth, then letting it run down your chin and all over everything.

I’ve been wanting a Waterpik for years.  My Dad has used a Waterpik for as long as I can remember.  Yeah, he’s about to lose his teeth, but he’s pushing EIGHTY, and has been a heavy smoker all his life.  As odd as it seems, that is a glowing recommendation.

I put off the purchase because—well, because there’s never money, and I was just using my pulsing shower head to do the same task while showering.  Problem is, that doesn’t reach the back teeth.  Not without near-drowning, anyway.

It wasn’t until my dentist performed a (likely unnecessary) root canal last November that I realized it was time.  You see, the procedure left me with a vicious pocket where food was gathering, and traditional flossing just wasn’t getting the job done.  Ever run your tongue along your gums and get the distinct taste of old garbage?

Nummy.

Now, there are a lot of imitation Waterpik-like products out there, all with pretty lousy reviews.  So I was determined to get a REAL Waterpik.  A Waterpik Ultra Water Flosser, in fact.

Why the Waterpik Ultra Water Flosser instead of some other Waterpik?

The features.

Like most Waterpiks, this one boasts 1400+ pulses per minute (the cleaning results from pulses of water jetting between the teeth), 10-90 PSI, and a highest flowrate of 400 mL/min.  Unlike most, there are TEN pressure settings, and a 650 mL/90+ second reservoir.  But the most attractive of the features?

The attachments.

This model comes with six tips, which makes it wildly versatile.

*Classic Jet Tip:  this is the tip I use most often.  It’s a “general use” tip, and is suitable for pretty much every need, including between teeth and along gum line.  The Waterpik Ultra Water Flosser comes with two of this tip.

*Orthodontic Tip:  at this point in my life, I don’t need this one—it’s for use around orthodontic appliances, and works much better than string floss for cleaning with braces.  It can be used for general cleaning, but it’s suited for Orthodontia.

*Plaque Seeker Tip: again, safe for general use, but meant for implants, crowns, and bridges.  It has a small, brush-y bit, good for reaching tough spots.

*Pik Pocket Tip: this one is NOT for general use—it’s a special tool for delivering therapeutic rinses below the gumline.  Capable of accessing 90% of a 6mm pocket.

*Toothbrush Tip: this tip is designed for simultaneous water flossing and brushing.  I know, sounds like the toothpaste would just blast away, but there’s a pause button on the flosser handle, allowing for brushing without water, and then water flossing when done.

*Tongue Cleaner: okay, I admit, I’ve never used this tip.  I just brush my tongue with toothpaste and a regular toothbrush.  I’ve just never been a tongue-scraper kind of girl.

Attachments aside, the above-mentioned pause feature was also very attractive.

Now, dentists LOVE this thing.  They push it relentlessly.  My dentist’s office has one in every exam room with the accompanying literature.  The hygienist nearly squealed with delight when I told her I’d gotten one.

And nearly cried when it turned out I’d been using it wrong.

Yeah, I’d been aiming the general use tip right up into that pocket and blasting away (at five, not something crazy like ten, which should be reserved for orthodontic appliances). Turns out you’re not supposed to do that.  Three cheers for reading the directions thoroughly.  Now I know.

Practically speaking, this unit’s pretty easy to use.  I fill the reservoir with warm water (you can use salt water, prescription rinses, or mouthwash, though you’ll want to rinse it out after those last two),  make sure it’s set to five or less (again, higher settings can actually harm your gums), and let it run for a few seconds to blast out last time’s stale water.

And then I soak my face.

Not my whole face, but my lips, chin, and whatever hair comes forward for a sip.  This is not a tool for the “must look dainty” crowd, that’s for sure.

Now, this isn’t a one-time purchase and then you’re home-free kind of thing.  The tips need to be replaced every 3-6 months depending upon the tip in question and the amount of use.  Which is why it comes with two general use tips.  A year’s worth.

There is a small bit of maintenance that goes into this Waterpik—periodic flushing with white vinegar to help with that staleness I mentioned, and there is the potential for mold if it’s left with water standing.  Some folks say running diluted bleach through (followed by TONS of clean water rinsing) takes care of that.  I’m hoping not to find out.

Replacement tips and replacement hoses/handles are readily available online, and aren’t too pricey.

In all, I’m super-happy with my Waterpik Ultra Water Flosser.  It’s not the sort of thing I’d take on the road with me (they do make portables), but I’m home most of the time, and I use it once a day.  I regular-floss between meals, and Waterpik before bed.  Is it solving my pocket issue?  I won’t know that until September, but I’m noticing a marked improvement in the nasty taste, plus my gums look fab.

And fab-looking gums is what it’s all about, right?

Argan Hair Care Collection by Orlando Pita

Orlando Pita Argan Hair Care Collection

31QR99Pjz0L

(5/5)

Pros: Wonderful scent, hair feels amazing

Cons: Sometimes unavailable at my usual outlet

My hair.

My hair is difficult.  It’s finicky.  The slightest provocation and it’s weighed down.  Heavy.  Limp.  Or, conversely, it’s dry, frizzy, full of static.

My hair can be weighed down, limp, AND full of static simultaneously.  Because it’s just that cool.

So I spend more time (and money) than I should trying to find products that leave my hair clean, soft, and not crazy-Einstein-looking.  It’s a surprisingly difficult task, because my hair adapts.  A shampoo or conditioner that might work great now will STOP working within a couple of weeks.

Usually.

Thus far (three months in), Orlando Pita’s Argan Gloss Haircare Collection is keeping my hair in line.  I admit, I’m surprised.

I came to this product in a roundabout way.  I had picked up a cheaper Organix version of the product and, while I liked the smell, I was neither impressed nor horrified by the results.  Average, with unimpressive ingredients.  But I kept eyeing the Orlando Pita version, wondering what something a bit pricier would do.

A lot, it turns out.

This collection includes shampoo and leave-in oil.

The shampoo is pretty standard-looking, in an average 13 ounce flip-top bottle.  Not the nasty pearlized stuff that screams cheap, but just shampoo.  It lathers well, but not excessively, and contains MOST of the usual suspects, though it is paraben and SLS-free.  Included about dead center in the list of unpronounceables are Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, and Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract.  The shampoo rinses well and leaves a nice scent on the hair (seems vaguely coconutty and more strongly almond/cherryish).  It leaves hair clean but not stripped-feeling.

The leave-in oil (aka Rejuvenating Hair Treatment Oil) comes in a smallish (3 ounce) screw top bottle.  I have to say, without reservation, that I have NEVER used a leave-in oil that worked this well.  Not a bit of greasiness (always a fear with oils) or weight, no tacky feeling or limpness.  This stuff is magical in my hair.  I use this on days I DON’T use the conditioner—I can’t imagine using both at the same time.  Ingredients-wise, this stuff doesn’t trouble me, and the ingredients list goes lovely just three substances in: Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Fragrance (Parfum), Coumarin, Linalool.   That last ingredient, Linalool, is a naturally occurring terpene, and, while some folks can be sensitive/allergic, I don’t consider it a troubling ingredient.  And the Coumarin?  Makes my heart sing!  You know that smell of fresh-mown hay?  Doesn’t smell like hay at all, but a sweet, heady scent that only comes after hay’s been mown and is drying in the sun?  That’s coumarin, a chemical found in a number of perfumes (if it contains tonka beans, vanilla grass, sweet woodruff, sweet grass, cassia cinnamon, sweet clover, or deertongue, it’s got coumarin).  Coumarin is also synthesized and used as a blood thinner, but I’m not looking to drink it.   On my hair?  It makes my hair soft and manageable AND goes well, scent-wise, with my Unforgivable perfume, also a coumarin-containing product.

As a set, this is a great collection.  I do, however, have to say that I haven’t found these products to produce particularly “glossy” hair.  It’s about as shiny as it ever was.  Well, except when I was 17, and of course EVERYTHING was shinier at 17, right?

And complaints?

Only two.  The shampoo bottle’s flip-top lid is fiddly and sometimes doesn’t want to close easily, and the leave-in oil bottle is open-topped, i.e., no “drizzler” or spout to prevent spills.  If I knock it over after pouring some in my hand, it’ll run out in a half-second.  A drizzler top would have been better.

And that’s that, except for one thing, and I know I’m shooting myself in the foot here: get it at Costco if you can.  Almost half the price for the same product.  Problem is, Costco is hot and cold when it comes to stock—they might have it, they might not.  If they do, snap it up, because, while it’s worth $29.98, it’s nicer at $15.00.

 

Note:  there is also a , also available at Amazon (or, if you’re lucky, Costco) in a large pump-bottle.  The conditioner is a flat white.  It’s not waxy or greasy feeling, and it distributes easily.  It does take more effort to rinse than average conditioners, and my hair never feels quite fully rinsed.  A feeling reminiscent of some salon conditioners.  That does not translate to greasy or weighed down hair.  In fact, my hair feels very soft AND very clean when dried, and doesn’t look limp or sad.  Again, the usual suspects, ingredients-wise (though no parabens), with these gems pretty close to the top of the list: Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, and Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil.  The coconut scent is much more pronounced here, but I find that very pleasant.