Because all the cool kids are doing it..

Date Fri, June 20 2008

and, no, I’m not talking about drug rehab. In fact, I’m talking about a cool new social blogging service called EntreCards. You’ll notice the widget on the left hand column. As I get more of a feel for it, I intend to write a review of this service. So far, so good. I’m enjoying finding some new blogs and spreading word of mine as well. It’s fairly new but is spreading fast!

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Writing About Routers

Date Thu, June 19 2008

One of the most important things about having a blog is the act of blogging. One of the most important things about a review blog is having things to review. Actually, as I look at my desk, I see quite a few electronics that I could submit a review about, things that just hadn’t occurred to me. Often, if I find a product that works but is neither exceptionally good or bad, I sort of forget about it. One of the things I could review is several of the routers I have owned over the past few years. Like the KVM “black boxes,” these have helped me connect additional computers to the internet. My own computer has always been the main one so I cannot complain but with Ryan’s laptop being used more frequently, it makes me wish I still had a wireless router. Alas, I gave it to my roommate when we moved out.

So look forward to a couple of those reviews in the future.

Scotch Brite Dish Wands

Date Mon, June 16 2008

Are really awesome for those who hate touching the wash cloth or sponge when doing dishes. Like me!

They’re very simple creatures; simple enough, in fact, that this review might seem silly. But I’d like to recommended the Scotch Brite Dish Wand to you so here I am, reviewing it.

The wand you buy comes with a sponge head which is replaceable. Depending on the wand you buy, you may get just a sponge or the heavy duty sponge, which has 2 layers: 1 yellow softer sponge on bottom and 1 green scrub sponge on top. I picked up the Heavy Duty Dish Wand because it was all they had. Scratch refills can also be purchased for those really tough jobs.

So what makes this more than a sponge on a stick? Well, the “stick” or the handle is hollow and you filled it with your dish soap of choice. (The end is a cap which screws off.) The soap is then dispensed into the sponge via a tiny hole; it took me a few minutes to locate it when I was actively trying – although this was when there was already soap bubbles on the wand.

Once you fill up the Scotch Brite Dish Wand, you’re good to go. This method really helps regulate the amount of dish soap you use, helping you reduce waste. Furthermor, you always have an adequate amount of bubbles on the sponge to really clean your dishes.

The sponges are typical Scotch Brite quality and the heavy duty sponge head works well for scrubbing dried on food. Of course, after some use (it will vary depending on how many dishes and how dirty they are), the heads will need to be removed. You can probably prolong the life of the dish wand heads by being careful around sharp utensils such as knifes. Nevertheless, they will need to be replaced and doing so is easy, and fairly cheap; the replacement heads seem to run around $2/2 pack.

I love that the Scotch Brite Dish Wand keeps my clean and while making my dishes the same. I love that I save dish soap in the process. I love that I don’t need to use a big, bulky sponge to scrub my dishes.

Of course, there are several aspects I don’t love. Traditional bottle brushes will work better for some dishes (bottles, glasses, jugs) because the heads are more malleable and straight. The particular angle of the Dish Wand doesn’t work well. Sometimes I can’t reach and often, with glasses, I feel like I cannot clean the bottom of glasses adequately.

Also, most of the Dish Wand is plastic which doesn’t make it a very “green” product. I can accept the handle as it doesn’t need to be replaced and can probably be used for some time but each of the replaceable heads have some chunks of plastic on them which get tosses out with the rest of the head. However, for the convenience and cleanliness it offers, I’m willing to make that sacrifice. You might disagree.

If you want something to make doing dishes easier and almost, maybe, a little fun – check out the Scotch Brite Dish Wand!

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Mirro Get a Grip Pans

Date Fri, June 13 2008

When I first moved to Japan, we had to purchase everything new for our household as I couldn’t bring anything I already had. Previously, Ryan was living in a dorm with a common room/kitchen. Needless to say, he didn’t do a whole lot of cooking for himself, especially with a cafe right across the street. The number of kitchen items he owned could be counted on 1 hand: 1 gallon pitcher, spoon, pizza cutter and pizza pan. Although all those items did, and still do, serve us well, I needed to stock my house in order to be able to cook anything.

With limited supply at the BX, we didn’t have a lot of options. At first, we purchased a set of 3 sauce pans for a whopping $9.99. The price looked good and proved too tempting. The quality was sore. However, I made due with those shoddy pans until I couldn’t possible anymore.

It was time to upgrade and upgrade we did. We decided on a basic 10-Inch Saute Pan by Mirro, in the Get a Grip line, in addition to the 3 quart saucepan we already had. Eventually, I added the 12-Inch Covered Jumbo Cooker as well. This remains my current collection if Mirro Get a Grip pans, all in a wonderful red.

I made the purchases separately because, at first, I wasn’t sure how well they would hold up or how much I wanted to spend. In hind-sight, I wish I had purchased the 8-Piece Cookware Set, instead, and might still do so as it contains different pieces than the ones I already own.

With that said, you can imagine that I’m really impressed by the Get a Grip pans by Mirro! I will preface the rest of this review by saying they are not the best pans ever but they are likely the best you’ll find in this price range (The set runs for around $50 on Amazon and each piece I purchased individually ran around $10- $15).

The first thing that I love about the Mirro Get A Grip Aluminum pans is their colour: a beautiful red. It’s a bit darker than the pictures at Amazon show, which I prefer. This is a great, modern colour and will make any kitchen look pretty! In store, they also had black. Mirro cookware can be found in stores such as Target and Ace HardWare. Shoppers beware, the price of individual pans and the set vary greatly from store to store and also by colour. Sadly, some of the colour of my pans has chipped over time, but not much.

The second aspect I love about my Mirro cookware is that it’s non-stick. Now, we’ve all dealt with non-stick cookware that really didn’t live up to its name (my $9.99 trio for example); rest assured that Mirro Get a Grip cookware will! It’s not perfect, I’ll tell you now; I cook with forks sometimes and this has resulted in scratches on the non-stick surface but these scratches do not lead to peeling of the non-stick coating and are mostly due to my carelessness. I’ve had my Mirro Get A Grip 3-Quart Nonstick Aluminum Saucepan with Lid for over a year and a half, now, and scratching is really minimal.

Not only does the non-stick surface hold up fairly well, it works. Not only is cooking a breeze when food doesn’t stick but so is cleaning! Hand washing dishes is much easier than almost all of my other dishes and if there is a little stuck on food, it comes off after a short soak. Although hand washing is recommended, I have had no trouble washing my Mirro Get A Grip Aluminum Nonstick Cookware in the dishwasher.

The other namesake of Mirro Get A Grip Aluminum Nonstick Cookwave is it’s grip. Each pot or pan has a very sturdy handle, coated in quality silicone. You can be sure that your handles will be safe to touch with this cookware. Furthermore, the handles on Mirror Get A Grip cookware won’t slip, slide or turn in use; you’ll never have to worry about handles coming loose or off entirely like cheaper cookware.

Additionally, cooking is really improved with my Mirro Get A Grip Aluminum Nonstick 10-Inch Saute Pan. Not only does food not stick but it cooks more evenly than cheap alternative pans. Furthermore, it cooks faster. there is a noticeable difference in the cooking time and quality when using this cookware.


Lastly, several of my pieces have lids: the 3 Quart Sauce Pan and the 12-inch Jumbo Cooker. The lids are very well made domed “Safe-T” glass with stainless steel rims. They fit snugly over the pans and help reduce splatter messes while letting me keep an eye on the food. My only complaint is that my sauce pan does not also have a lid, which is typical for sauce pans. If any of the lids in the 8 piece set were interchangeable, I’d be in heaven.

So there you have it. Mirror makes aluminum pans with sturdy non-stick coating, secure silicone grip handles, rich colouring, and quality lids all for an affordable price and in available both in a set or individually. If you’re looking for decent cookware at a decent price, Mirro’s Get A Grip Aluminum Non-stock cookware is for you!

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Olay Deep Cleansing Face Wash

Date Wed, June 11 2008

Before this, I’d never used Olay. I knew many recommended the name, in general and when I was needing new face wash, I thought I’d check this out. Normally, I use cleansers meant to combat acne but since my skin had been clear for a while, I thought I’d branch out.

I shouldn’t have. I was sorely disappointed for this product. Though it claims to be for combination/oily skin, my skin became much more greasy after use. My acne also flared up. My face felt rather disgusting.

I’m not sure if Olay Deep Cleansing Face Wash was so drying that my face recoiled by going overboard with oil or if it just failed to cleanse my skin of oil but, either way, I was left with unpleasant skin.

I’ve been trying to Olay Deep Cleansing Face Wash Combination / Oily Skin up as it’s a rather large tube and I don’t want to be wasteful but it’s taking quite some time and every time I switched back to Olay, my break faces out and becomes covered in Oil again.

Perhaps I just need a different product or Olay Deep Cleansing Face Wash is a poor representation of Olay products but, either way, it can be improved.

Stepping Out IV, The Finale

Date Sat, June 7 2008

You might want to lavish some special attention on your feet, especially as warm weather invites us to don our peds with oh-so-revealing sandals and heels lest you become like many celebs whose lack of foot care becomes infamous online. I kid. Obviously, paparazzi aren’t busy following all of us around to snap pictures of our feet faux pas.

In reality, I am not a fan of sandals or even open toes shoes because I don’t like my feet. Partly due to the fact that feet look, well, just weird and partly due to my feet having stubborn calluses as a result of many years running around outside barefoot.

However, I am always looking to remedy the latter issue and I’ve used several foot care products in the search of the “one” that will leave my feet silky soft and ‘smooth. I’ve used foot files, buffers and pumice stones along with various lotions to achieve varying results.

Pumice stones are one of the older methods of softening and smooth hard and dry calluses on feet. They’re pretty straight forward; it’s a stone made out of pumice. Sometimes they’re called “pumice sticks” when a handle is attached and sometimes they come with a brush or file attached to do multiple duties. Sometimes it comes in pretty colours or shapes and sometimes it looks like a lump of grey rock because, oh wait, that’s what pumice is (“a porous or spongy form of volcanic glass, used as an abrasive”). Pumice stones are natural and can be used as part of a green lifestyle!

I’ve used one from Avon Foot Works attached to a handle and had little luck. Part of achieving good luck with pumice stones is finding a stone that is rough enough and that product just wasn’t. The other factor in good exfoliation is effort applied to the stone itself which might be a little easier to do without a handle though this may possibly be rough on the hands where skin is not callused.

I picked up my favourite stone from date in the dollar bin at the local store. (It was mislabeled and came up $2, though, humph!) It was a round stone with two sides and no handle, one the typical gray and the other yellow and was labeled “silver and gold.” The ‘silver’ was intended for abrasive exfoliating and the ‘gold’ was intended for moisturizing afterward even though it seemed to be pretty much the same as the other side. Despite its cheap packaging and price, it worked wonders (until breaking in my luggage on vacation!) and made me feet feel much softer and smoother. As it was a no name item, I have yet to find it again.

On the other hand, foot files are man-made, almost always have a handle and usually have 2 sides: 1 for abrasive filing and one for smooth buffing. Sometimes the files are metal, plastic, emery or even glass with have a sand-paper like look and feel.. I’ve used several, usually drug or dollar store brands, but not to much avail. It seems that pumice stones do a better job for me but, again, that may be because I’m not a fan of the handle. Also, foot files often have a finer grain than pumice stones.

Overall, I prefer the stones to the file because the stones do the work for you. Top it off with a daily lotion like Suave Skin Therapy Advanced Therapy lotion, and calluses will be greatly improved!

So, my recommendation? Avon Foot Works Sloughing Cream and Intensive Callus Cream work well together but for a less messy and easily attainable solution, the classic pumice stone with lotion also works well.

Stepping Out Part III

Date Thu, June 5 2008

You might want to lavish some special attention on your feet, especially as warm weather invites us to don our peds with oh-so-revealing sandals and heels lest you become like many celebs whose lack of foot care becomes infamous online. I kid. Obviously, paparazzi aren’t busy following all of us around to snap pictures of our feet faux pas.

In reality, I am not a fan of sandals or even open toes shoes because I don’t like my feet. Partly due to the fact that feet look, well, just weird and partly due to my feet having stubborn calluses as a result of many years running around outside barefoot.

However, I am always looking to remedy the latter issue and I’ve used several foot care products in the search of the “one” that will leave my feet silky soft and smooth. I’ve used Avon Foot Works Sloughing Cream as in-the-shower treatment along with Avon Foot Works Intensive Callus Cream with mixed results. Avon is a big name in the make up and cosmetics industry and is relatively affordable but is usually seen as a step above drug store cosmetics.

I remember fondly, the Avon Foot Works Sloughing Cream working well on my callused feet even if it was a little messy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work quite as well some years later, probably do to the calluses on my feet worsening over time.

Instructions read that one should use on dry feet after soaking them in Avon’s Condition Foot Soak, then, massage the area until flaky rough, dead skin wash away. I skip the foot soak step but using after a bath or shower would probably help the effectiveness of this product.

After applying the Sloughing Cream which contains rough, abrasive particles, I let it sit and then ‘massaged’ the sloughing cream into my feet. Let me say that massage is misleading; a rough rub is what one should shoot for to make this most effective. In doing so, I was able to see the dead skin actually rub right off. It also made my hands much softer. However, be aware of sores or cuts, especially tiny ones like papercuts, which will become irritated by the rough particles on the Foot Works Sloughing Cream.

Even after 1 application, my feet were notably softer and smoother. Note that using the product on wet feet or in the shower nullifies most of the effects. Water reduces the friction which actually causes the dead, dry skin to rub off.

I follow up with Avon’s Foot Works Intensive Callus Cream which is, unlike lotions, extremely greasy in application and has a very strong mint scent (the sloughing cream has a slight minty smell but it’s almost hard to notice). Unfortunately for me, I don’t like to feel greasy or to smell mint but it does make my freshly sloughed feet feel even smoother and softer!

There’s good news, though. Avon has seems to be developing Watermelon scented Foot Works products as an alternative. I will probably look into the Watermelon Exfoliating Foot Scrub or the Foot Works Exfoliating Bar Soap which should be less mess and usable in the shower, to replace the Sloughing Cream in the future. I hope they expand this line because Avon’s Foot Works product really do work!

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