Sunday, August 31, 2014

Food review: Viva Labs Organic Coconut Flour


Coconut Flour is very finely ground and smells very nice. Its baking characteristics are different from grain-based flour so I am still learning to work with it. I am including a video of my first batch and you will see that the cookies are not pretty but they taste good. Based on the taste I will continue to use the flour.

Coconut flour has different characteristics from the grain-based flour and cannot be substituted 1 to 1 ratio. The instructions on the package say to substitute 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup of coconut flour for 1 cup of grain-based flour. Coconut flour absorbs more liquid than the grain-based flower so for 1 cup of coconut flour I used 6 eggs and 1 cup of liquid. I also found that maple syrup works well as a binding product. Coconut flour feels pretty clumpy as you work with it, I mix it longer than I do regular flour. The good news is that since it has no gluten there is no danger of the final product becoming too hard as a result of over mixing. I found some very nice recipes and tips on Wellness Mama blog.

This flour is provided by Viva Labs, and the product is made in the Philippines.

You can find coconut flour on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Product review: Love Home Coccyx Orthopedic Memory Foam Seat Cushion


In the last 10 years I had 2 back surgeries, so I have variety of cushions and supports that help my back. None of the old cushions are made out of memory foam so I was curious to see how memory foam measures up. I found the cushion comfortable, the main difference with the other supports I have is that it compresses much more. If you are looking to improve comfort of your office chair without raising the height so your hands remain in the old position this cushion is perfect. If you are looking for a cushion that would raise you (say for short person to take to a concert) this is not the right cushion to choose.

This cushion is 15" wide, 11.5" front to back, 3.5" thick uncompressed, under 1" once you sit on it and it compresses.

One distinctive feature of this cushion is a cut out in the back which is helpful for people with hemorrhoids or tail bone pain as it prevents putting pressure on that area as you sit. The top cover is removable for cleaning, but the cushion itself is not washable according to the label.

Like many products made out of memory foam the cushion initially has a chemical scent to it. I am publishing this review after 2 weeks of using the pillow and the scent has diminished. From prior experience with memory foam body pillows the scent sometimes take several months to totally disappear, but eventually it does.

You can find this seat cushion on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Product review: Epica Electric Yogurt Maker


I am slowly becoming a yogurt making expert. So far I have made 6 batches and they are getting better every time. I have tried 2% milk without pre-boiling, 2% milk with pre-boiling, whole milk with pre-boiling, and goat milk with pre-boiling. I also made a couple of batches just changing the length of incubation to get an idea of what difference that makes. In some batches I added a straining step at the end to make Greek yogurt. The biggest difference in results is whether I pre-boil milk or not. Pre-boiling creates significantly thicker yogurt. The initial temperature at which you start the incubation of the mixture is also a key to success. Without pre-boiling the texture of the yogurt I get is more like (delicious) buttermilk. By pre-boiling milk I get a texture similar to a yogurt I buy in a supermarket.

The process of making yogurt is quite simple. The key is to keep the yogurt culture at a steady temperature and steady position (no moving or shaking) during the incubation period.

To make the yogurt you need milk and yogurt culture. Note that the Epica package contains two starter packets of culture. Once you made the first batch you can keep using one of your containers for the next batch. There are several options for both milk and yogurt culture.

Milk options:
♦ Pasteurized milk (whole, low fat, or skim)
♦ UHT sterilized milk
♦ Instant powered milk (reconstituted)
♦ Soy milk (unflavored that contains honey, fructose or malt)

Yogurt culture options:
♦ 6 oz store-bought yogurt with active cultures
♦ 6 oz home-made yogurt from your previous batch
♦ freeze-dried yogurt culture

For my first batch I started milk at the room temperature, mixed in the yogurt culture (that was included with the yogurt maker) in half a cup of milk, then mixed it with the rest of the milk. Another option is to boil the milk, then let it cool to 108-112°F. This produces a thicker yogurt. Based on my experience I now always pre-boil because it makes a big difference. After the mixture is done, all that is left is to fill the jars and put them into the incubator. How long you wait depends on the milk you use.

♦ whole milk takes 7 hours if milk was boiled, 8 hours if not boiled
♦ 2% milk takes 8 hours if milk was boiled, 10 hours if not boiled
♦ skim milk takes 10 hours if milk was boiled, 12 hours if not boiled

For my first batch, I used 2% unboiled milk and waited 10 hours. For the next batch, I used 2% boiled milk and waited 8 hours. My video includes the results of both so you can tell the difference that boiling makes.
After the incubation the yogurt needs to refrigerated. Refrigeration stops the incubation process. Instructions say 3 hour are required minimum before adding any flavorings, and 6 to 8 hours is recommended. Note that the incubator does not turn off on its own, it should be unplugged. The home made yogurt should be consumed within 1 week.

Since I like the thicker greek yogurt taste I strained several jars of my yogurt after making it. In a couple of batches I mixed in Vermont maple syrup, in a couple of other batches I added Manuka honey... and I thought my yogurt was better than store bought!

The yogurt maker comes with 7 jars each one has 6 oz capacity. Instructions said to fill each jar 3/4 full. So I got about 35 oz of yogurt. The entire yogurt maker is pretty compact it is 5.75" tall, 9.5" in diameter.

Any negatives? Yes, one thing. The timer on top of the yogurt maker does not turn off the appliance, you need to do it by hand.

I love yogurt. My favorite Greek yogurt costs me over one dollar per 8 oz cup, goat yogurt is even more expensive. So trying to make my own is very appealing to me for cost reasons as well as experimenting with my own favorite flavors. I love it!

You can find this yogurt maker on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Product review: Zendure A2 6000mAh Portable Charger


Zendure A2 external battery has one charging port and its capacity is 6000 mAh. Since some capacity is lost to inefficiencies such as heat you can expect to get about 4500 mAh out of it. I was able to charge my Samsung Nexus phone with 3800 mAh extended battery from empty to full once with some charge still left in the battery. This is a very rugged battery, it has a shock absorbing belt.

The battery weighs 4.95 oz, and is 3.5" x 1.75" x 1" in size. This battery has a bright charge level indicator, the indicator when you plug in a device or when you press the on button and then turns off in a second or two.

To tell how various battery packs perform I measure their performance with a current monitor. I use Samsung Nexus phone and iPad Mini for testing to give me a Android and an Apple mobile devices. I test all my chargers using the same charging cables and starting all tests at same charge level of the phone to account for non-linear charging. This allows me to compare different batteries to each other so I can rate the battery keeping everything else constant. This battery performed fairly well, close to optimal for Android and a bit below optimal on my iPadMini but better than many others.

Samsung Nexus phone:
Zendure A2:__________0.92A/5.05V
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this phone is 1.00A/5V)

iPad Mini tablet:
Zendure A2:___ 1.29A/5.01V
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this tablet is 1.70A/5V)

This a nice battery for active life style - hiking, biking, etc - you will not need to worry the battery is going to get damaged if you drop it.

You can find this power bank on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Product review: G.u.m Power Toothbrush Crayola with Suction Cup

I am a big fan of Gum brushes, my dentist recommends them. I picked up the Crayola with suction cup for a visiting youngster. It small in size and fits a small mouth quite well, the bristles are soft.

However, after the toothbrush has been used it turns out that there is one fundamental issue with this design. Because you stick right to the vanity top the toothbrush drains directly to the vanity creating a mess. I did not like that it created extra clean-up work for me. The handle is too thick to fit into the tooth holder. So despite having a very nice head this brush did not get much use. I did not think of the messy aspect of the design before I bought, so I wanted to share my experience.

Ali Julia review

Friday, August 22, 2014

Product review: Deshedding Tool for Pets - Fur Eliminator for Short/Long Hair Dogs & Cats


This deshedding tool is very effective. It removes an enormous amount of hair. Our long haired kitty loves being brushed and she liked being brushed with this brush as much as the old one. The kitty was willing to stay there as long as a human was willing to brush her.

This brush removes significantly more hair than the old brush we use every day. Be prepared to be totally covered with hair yourself. My husband looked like a cat himself after he was done brushing, static electricity made the hair cling to his shirt and his entire front was covered with cat hair.

The brush feels heavy and heavy duty. It comes with two interchangeable heads, one is 3" the other one is 1.75". The tools is well balanced with 6.5" handle. It weights 4.6 oz. Both I and my husband found it comfortable to hold.

You can find this brush on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Product review: TaoTronics E27 12W Led Grow Light Red Blue LED Lights for Plants in Garden Greenhouse(TT-GL20)


My husband is a garden enthusiast who grows everything from seed. This year his plan is to plant something every week through the summer so we have small seedlings in the house all the time.

To test the effectiveness of this grow light we planted three identical pots with peas and corn sprouts. The first pot was left to grow outside in the sun, the second pot was left to grow near a sunny window inside, and the third pot was left in an area which does not get direct sunlight and was left under a grow light.

The attached video includes the photos taken every day for 7 days. I was sceptical that the plants under the grow light will do better than the plants left outside in the sun but as you see at the end of 7 days the plants under the grow light are significantly bigger. On day 5 the "window" plant got disqualified from the experiment because our cat chewed it. I continued to leave the injured plant in the photos for reference but it looks pretty sad. It should be noted that it was the smallest plant at the time when Hedy decided to mess with the experiment. The results at the end of the 7 days are pretty conclusive! Grow light wins!

TaoTronics 12W Grow light fits into a regular bulb fixture. Each bulb has 3 blue and 9 red LED lights. The light weight 9.15 oz and is 5.5" long, and 4.75" wide. The light feels well made. The finish of the bulb looks neat, and when I shake it nothing rattles.

You can find this grow light on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★