Sunday, January 29, 2012

Book review: Quick & Easy Beaded Jewelry (Beadwork Books) by Elizabeth Gourley

Excellent! Clear and detailed instructions

 This is an excellent book with clear explanations and interesting projects. I am relatively new to beading and picked up this book in the library to learn how to add clasps correctly. This book is great. It had terrific section on techniques. In the table of content below you see that there is a lengthy chapter on techniques. It helped me solve the issue I was having with clasps. In addition the book has a lot of interesting projects, in particularly I enjoyed the section on weaving necklaces techniques (I am attaching an example under Customer Photos). It gave me a lot of new ideas and showed me the tools that will help me get the job done better and quicker.

This book has 127 pages, lots of images, and clear explanations. It has a nice index at the end, which helps to find a specific topic. The projects are suitable for new and experience beader, some are quick and some a lengthy. Here is the content with my annotations. I hope you will find it helpful.

Introduction - Excellent chapter for a beginner as me, I finally undersood what exactly falls into "Findings" category.
Threads and Wires

CHAPTER 2 - My favorite chapter, very clear explanations, shows many options for each area.
Jewelry Standards
Attaching Clasps Using:
- Thread
- Crimp Beads and Tiger Tail
- Bead Tips
- Cones and Eye Pins
- Cord Tips
Using a Head Pin or an Eye Pin
Making a Jump Ring
How to Open and Close a Jump Ring
Tying Knots
Tying a Stop Bead
Making Stitches, Netting, and Angle Weave:
- Ladder Stitch
- Chevron Chain
- Daisy Chain
- Vertical Netting
- Square Stitch
- Right Angle Weave
- Making Even-Count Flat and Tubular Peyote

CHAPTER 3 Bead Stranding Projects - Very nice, project range from simple to complex.
Metal Flower Anklet and Earrings
Lemon Necklace and Bracelet
Black and Silver Necklace and Earrings
Tooth Necklace and Earrings
Pink Stretchy Bracelets and Earrings
Grapes Necklace and Earrings
Three-Strand Flower Necklace and Earrings
Seven-Strand Twist Necklace and Eyeglass Chain
Three-Strand Braided Necklace and Headband
Seven-Strand Braided Bracelet and Barrette

CHAPTER 4 Knotted Projects
Knotted Pumpkin Necklace and Bracelet
Blue Ribbon Crystal Heart Choker and Bracelet
Knotted Pearl Necklace and Anklet

CHAPTER 5 Bead Weaving Projects - Stunning results, detailed explanation on how to achieve them.
Green Ladder Stitch Bracelet and Ring
Purple and Black Ladder Stitch Necklace and Earrings
Blue and Green Chevron Necklace
Purple Chevron Choker and Earrings
Topaz and Lavender Daisy Chain Necklace and Bracelet
Black and Turquoise Triangle Daisy Chain Necklace and Earrings
Blue, White, and Purple Netted Choker and Earrings
Vertical Net Necklace and Headband
Peyote Stitch Bracelet and Barrette
Tubular Peyote Sunset Bracelet and Earrings
Square Stitch Scarab Choker and Belt
Square Stitch Flower Broach and Earrings
Crystal Right Angle Weave Pink and Purple Bracelet and Earrings
Blue and Roses Right Angle Weave Dog Collar and Ring

CHAPTER 6 Wirework Projects - Very interesting, I became interested in trying wirework which I was not considering before reading this book
Memory Wire Choker and Ring
Wirework Rosebud Bracelet and Anklet
Rhinestone Necklace and Earrings
Carnelian Daisy and Chain Necklace and Earrings
Red Glass Beads and Wire Necklace and Earrings
Jump Ring Netted Necklace and Bracelet

Excellent book, clear instructions, projects in the book will inspire you!

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Book review: Chic and Easy Beading, Vol. 3, by Editors of Bead&Button magazine

 So much content - I was very pleased!

I am relatively new to beading and picked up this book in the library to learn how to add clasps correctly. This book was all I could hope for. It help me solve the issue I was having with clasps and gave me a lot of new ideas and showed me the tools that will help me get the job done better and quicker.

This book is written by Editors of Bead&Button magazine.  This book has 143 pages, lots of images, and clear explanations. The projects are suitable for new and experience beader, with the goal of producing great results without a huge investment of time. It has basic as well as unique designs. Here is the content with annotations for each project. I hope you will find it helpful.

Lampwork and gemstones
This project combines stone nuggets with lampworked beads in a classic necklace accented with silver tube beads.

Leaf necklace
This simple two-strand leaf necklace is a perfect example of "less is more."

Seed bead serpentine
This project adds textural interest to a double-strand necklace by winding seed beads along a natural path to a lampworked focal bead.

Chain and simple
Beaded elegant necklace that is fast to make.

Neckline variations
Because this design includes both scoop-and V-neck lines, the necklace looks terrific with many wardrobe choices.

Great lengths
This project makes a luxurious scarf necklace with long, flowing strands of seed beads.

Dew drops
Turns sparkling teardrops and bicone crystals into interesting components on an elegant chain necklace.

Lavender lights
project for hydrangea lovers, this a flowery necklace looks like hydrangea.

Falling star necklace
Project to create a sparkling choker.

Triple decker
Bead choice determines the flavor of this three-strand stone, pebble, and pearl necklace.

Shell lei
Shell slices and jade beads fit together in a summery strand.

Cool dip
This necklace uses crystals and seed beads in cool, refreshing colors.

Plaited pearls
Braided beads and pearls coil into a luscious necklace.

Tiered drops
Simple wraps secure dangling pearls and crystals in an choker.

Sparkling sunflowers
Weave crystals and petal-shaped cubic zirconias into a glittering pendant.

Some assembly required
This project uses any small beads you have on hand to create a pretty necklace.

Multistrand elegance
This project creates an elegant multistrand necklace.

Pearls and gems
Play off color and shape with luscious stick pearls and stone slices.

Modern clusters
Wrap crystals, pearls, glass, and gemstones through geometric links for a necklace with casual elegance.

Better in blue
Use five strands of seed beads dressed up with a few crystals, simulated opals, and silver to pick up the shades in a pendant.

Crystal drop necklace
Crystal drops and opalescent seed beads turn this simple pattern into a versatile necklace.

Midnight lariat
This lariat is unusually short, keeping its appeal close to the neckline.

Focal bead fun
Set off a large focal bead with a spray of accent beads in a multistrand necklace.

Pearl garden
Create a stunning pearl necklace from a collection of sparkling components.

Butterfly necklace
This simple multistrand necklace is designed to show off two artist beads.

Tassel necklace
This tasseled piece spotlights an art bead with a multistrand design.

Quick change pendant
This easy pendant is designed to slip on and off a chain, leather, or cord necklace.

Beachy bracelet
Pearl or crystal dangles accent the gleam of shell buttons.

Multistrand twist bracelet
A magnetic clasp is the secret to these easy multistrand bracelets that use up leftover bits and pieces.

Meandering river of beads
Beautiful baguette-cut two-strand crystal spacers connect rows of bubbling beads.

Wire-wrapped bracelet
Wrap assorted beads around a sterling silver form to make an upscale accessory in a flash.

Wrapped hematite hourglasses
Swirling wire and free-floating seed beads encase hematite hourglasses. String in a simple pattern to emphasize the wire curves.

Watch out
The crystal sections of this sparkling watchband string up easily.

Briolette bracelet
Briolettes and crystals combine with accent beads for a sparkling bracelet.

A garden of charms
Combine fun glass beads in the shape of flowers, leaves, butterflies, and ladybugs to make an adorable charm bracelet.

Chapter : EARRINGS
Turning wheel earrings
Textured, hollow copper disk beads are light enough to make comfortable earrings.

On multiple levels
Use chain to create length and movement in these long, dangly earrings.

Feathered finery
Opulent, sable marabou feathers are a wonderful inspiration for jewelry designs and fun plumage to add to any wardrobe.

Gem-set pearls
Teardrop coin pearls are matched in pairs and set on both sides with a variety of tiny, faceted stones in gold bezels.

In one ear.
Personalize metal earrings and frame your face with a favorite phrase, quote, rhyme, or lyric accented by a variety of beaded dangles.

Crisscross earrings
Gold-filled and sterling small-link chains give dangle earrings a delicate look.

Chained beads
These simple but stylish earrings are a good way to use up leftover beads and pearls.

Boho hoops
Suspend a shimmering mother-of-pearl bead in generous double hoops for earrings with a Bohemian vibe.

Creative clusters
Get maximum wear from a few basic earring styles with this modular approach.

Upside down
Free-form wire design is fun and has limitless possibilities for these earrings.

Enamel sensation
Combine fabulous enamel beads with crystals in a classic necklace, bracelet, and earring ensemble.

Charmed coral set
Combine silver shells, pearls, and coral for the perfect summer set reminiscent of a classic charm bracelet.

Faux lariat
This lariat design eliminates the wrap around your neck, but leaves two long, slinky strands of beads.

Silver cascade
Simply strung, this necklace can be casual or dramatic, depending on the length and quantity of strands.

Tears of joy
String small teardrop beads between large glass beads for an easy two-strand necklace, bracelet, and earrings.

Pearls just want to have fun
Crystal pearls dance and swing on this bracelet with matching earrings.

Focus on findings
Combine gemstones, crystals, and pearls to showcase textured silver components in simple but elegant strung jewelry.

Chandelier ensemble
Make a delicate pendant-and-earring ensemble with tiers of wire arches accented with small, faceted dangles.

Garland necklace
String a strand of easy-to-make components to create the illusion of an intricate necklace.

Delicate drops
Teardrop crystals drape daintily from a chain necklace and earrings.

Triple-take garnets
Float slivers of silver between garnet beads for a classic three-strand necklace.

I really enjoyed this book, learned a lot, and already used several projects in practice!

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Food review: Loacker Quadratini Lemon Wafer Cookies

WARNING: Addictive! 

These wafers need to come with a big warning "Addictive"! It takes a lot of self control to stop eating them. If I did not exercise a lot of self control I would eat a whole bag. Wafers come in a resealable bag, and in theory can last a long time... but in my house the longest one bag lasted was 2 days!

I bought the lemon flavor of Loacker's Quadratini wafers. They have a nice strong lemon flavor - nicely tart with a sweet creamy finish, crunchy and pleasant on your tongue. You can chew a wafer to get the pleasant crunch on just hold it in your mouth and let it melt slowly. Either way you will get an extra ordinary taste experience!

I am attaching a photo and two cookies shown from different angles. Each cookie is 1 inch square. Each consists of 74% lemon cream and 26% wafer.

Wafers have no artificial flavors or colorants, and no preservatives.

Unbleached wheat flour, pressed coconut oil, glucose syrup, sugar, whey powder (milk), dextrose, soy flour, barley malt extract, lemon juice powder 2%, salt, leavening agents (sodium hydrogen cargonate, disodium diphosphate), emulsifier soy lecithin, natural vanilla pods, lemon-peel-oil, spices.

Loacker wafers are made in Austria and Loackers company had been known for their wafers since 1925.

Ohhhh, so good! I signed up for regular deliveries with Amazon's Subscribe & Save.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Monday, January 23, 2012

Product review: Opteka RC-3 Wireless Remote Control for Sony Cameras

  Used with Sony NEX-5N - it just works! Simple to use & inexpensive!
I purchased this remote control for Sony NEX-5N camera. It is sized 3.25" long x 1.25" wide x 0.25" thick. I am attaching a photo with a pen and penny next to it for size reference.  Its weight is 0.5 oz.

The remote has two options: one for instant shutter release and one for a two a two second delay. Each action corresponds to two buttons on the top labels "s" and "2s". It is brilliant in its simplicity. It comes with an instruction sheet but I did not need it.

1. The first time you use it you need to remove the plastic separator from the battery compartment
2. Then you need to put the camera in to remote control drive mode.
This is accomplished with two clicks. Using the round navigation wheel on the camera clicked left (it is labeled with timer icon). Then turn the wheel up one notch from single frame to remote control drive mode.

Remote control functions in Intelligent, O, A, S and M modes. Unfortunately it does not function in anti-motion blur mode which has become my favorite (this is a camera limitation, not the remote control limitation).

Other details
1. The remote operates on CR 2025 battery
2. Its range is 16 feet
3. Battery life expectancy: 2 years /10,000 exposures
4. Warranty: 1 year
5. Made in China

I highly recommend this remote control. I like its size, well labeled buttons, it is light, easy to use, inexpensive and it works!

I'm very pleased with this purchase!

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Kindle book review: The Heart of Abundance: A Simple Guide to Appreciating and Enjoying Life

Create your own reality: mindset and your attitude control how you feel
At the present time this Kindle book is free on Amazon.  It is well worth reading, grab while it is free! This is a very positive book.

The basic idea in the book is that everyone has something to be grateful for. If even on our worst days we start looking at what we already have, rather than what we do not have we can improve out outlook and spirit.

The book encourages the readers to believe in the best in each person they meet and provide each person some positive feedback. Small specific acts to make a positive difference, for example offer a ride, say a few nice words, say thank you.

Her positive thoughts and ideas are accompanied by paragraphs from scriptures. If you are religious you will find comfort in these frequent references. If you are not religious you might find these references to God too frequent, but I would still encourage you to plow through it, as the book has a lot of positive thoughts especially for someone who is struggling with difficulties in life.

The Heart of Abundance is about appreciating life right now. No matter what hand you were dealt, finding even the small things that are good can help pass through a dark passage. This book is about being positive about life every day, not just on the occasions when everything seems to be going your way.

I was pleased to recognize some of the things I do when things are not going well. I do find it helps to concentrate thinking about something you look forward to every day, even if it can be as small as, say, a TV episode you plan to see when the bad day at work is over. I found it helps me to get through a bad day.

This book will help you create your own reality - mindset and your attitude control how you feel.

You can find this book on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, January 20, 2012

Product review: Carex Bed Buddy Warming Footies / Rice Socks / Foot warmers

They slips off my small feet as I sleep, my home-made solution described

These warming footies is a good idea, but one-size-fits all is not a good execution of it because they don't stay on my (small) feet.

In the winter my feet get so cold that I have trouble falling asleep. I purchased these footies to wear them at night when I sleep but the booties slip off my 7.5 sized feet while I sleep. Putting them back on requires enough effort to really wake me up.

However, I am came up with a solution that really works much better for me. I found stretchy socks into which I inserted my own home-made microwavable inserts. Here is the description how I made them.
I measured the length and width of my foot and created two strips which were 1 inch larger than my measurement in every direction. I cut strips out of strong dense cotton fabric. I put the right side fabrics together (the side I wanted to be on the outside) and I stitched 1/4 inch around them 3 times leaving only 1 inch opening on one of the narrow sides. Then I turned the fabric inside out, stitched around it one more time, still leaving 1 inch opening. Then I filled the bag with grain (I used barley, but round rice will also work well) and then stitched the opening closed by sewing it several times for strength. I did not over-stuff the bag, the grain can move easily and conform to my foot.

Before I got to bed I put these bags into a microwave for 1.5-2 minutes, and stuff into the stretchy socks, which I then put on my feet on top of terry socks I normally wear to bed. Perfect! Warm and comfortable, the bags stay on my feet all night. Even when they stop being warm, they provide extra insulation and my feet has been toasty all night.

This solution cost the under a buck for fabric and barley/rice. I have been using the same bags for over 1 year, and they are still working perfectly every time. I hope this home-made option will help someone else!

You can find these "Carex Bed Buddy Footies: on Amazon

Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Product review: Spectrum 33000 Mop And Broom Holder

Works only for some mops : 1 out of 4 for me

The holder holds the mop well if the mop fits into the holder. Unfortunately only one of my four mops fit the holder. For example, the Swiffer Sweeper mop with its softer thicker handle was too large to go through the hole.

I am including the details about the dimensions and installation so you can make figure out if your mops fit the holder. I am attaching three photos that I will be referencing in this review.  

This holder works when you insert the handle into the circle from the below. It is held in place by friction. See Photo #1. You can see me holding the holder with the broom inserted into the hole. I am not touching the broom, it is being held in the air by friction generated by contact with the holder. On the split image on that photo you can see a close up of the rubber ring with groves which provides a good grip on the broom handle.

The inside diameter of the hole is 1 inch. If the handle of the broom is thicker you will not be able to put it through the hole. For example, Swiffer Sweeper handle has a thicker handle and I was not able to get it through the 1 inch hole.

The holder has two options for hanging: adhesive strips on the back and screws. The warning on the package is that you cannot use adhesive strips on the wall paper. This is what I had a room where I wanted to hang the holder, so I had to use the screws. The screws that come with the holder are plain screw, anchors for hollow walls are not enclosed. I had some anchors on hand and was able to proceed with the installation.


After inserting anchors into a hollow wall, I screwed in the back plate half way in, leaving some room between the wall and the back plate. This is necessary so you can slide in the top plate before tightening the screws (see Photo #2). Photo#3 shows the broom hanging on the holder.

Bottom line: The one broom that fit the holder is firmly in place, it is easy to take out and put back in. However, the fit limitations were not clearly stated in the description and the Swiffer Sweeper I wanted to keep in this holder did not fit. Mounting limitations were not clearly stated in the description and I was not able use the adhesive mount. Not all mounting hardware was included (no anchors for hollow walls). Thus an 'okay' rating of 3 stars.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Product review: Clover Leather Coin Thimble for Sewing and Quilting

My favorite thimble, combines comfort and strenth

I am a quilter and have a collection of thimbles. This review presents the comparison of the thimbles along with images of how they fit.

Clover Coin Thimble is made out of pliable leather and is very comfortable. It has a metal plate at the tip, which can be used to push through needles with strength without hurting the tip of your finger. This is my favorite thimble, and I own two of them as I often use it in two fingers (second and third) at the same time.

I am attaching comparison and pictures of the thimbles in my collection. In one image you can see the thimbles by themselves, and in another picture of how they fit on my fingers. The numbers in the images correspond to the numbers below.

1.    Leather thimble with a metal plate (marked #1 in the photos, this is the product in this listing) is my favorite, most versatile thimble. Because it is leather it become shaped to your finger and gets more and more comfortable with use. The metal plate on the tip allows to push through and not hurt your finger. It does not have an opening at the top, so it may not work for those who have long nails.

2.    All leather thimble (marked #2 in the photos) is extremely comfortable, but because it has no metal parts it provides less protection. I often use it as a second thimble on the hand to protect another finger because it does not get in a way. It has an opening at the top, so it works for those who have long nails.

3.    Strip thimbles (marked #3 in the photos) turned out not to be very useful. The leather itself can be penetrated by the needle, the pink plastic insert does protect the finger. However the string that holds thimble together on the back broke very quickly. I was able to repair them by stitching them together on the back to replace the string that broke. As you see from the photo they don't cover the very tip of the finger, so they did not work well for me.

4.    Plastic thimble provides good protection, but hard plastic makes it a bit hard to work with. So I usually put it on only when my needle is stuck and needs an extra push. It has an opening at the top, so it would work for someone with long nails.

5.    Thimble #5 is a thimble I made myself out of band-aid wrapped around my finger. I needed to protect my thumb, and my home made thimble worked best. If you have hard time finding a good thimble, give it a try making it yourself out of Nexcare bandages. They seem to hold the shape well, and I could put my home-made thimble on and off, so I could re-use.

6.    Thimble #6 was a thumb thimble I bought, but I found that it got in the way because it was a bit too long and made my hands less agile. It has no opening at the top, so it might not work for people with long nails.

So if you have to buy one thimble I would go with the Clover leather thimble with a metal plate.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Product Review: Aniise Eye Serum - Anti Puffiness Formula Cosmetics

No shine, odorless, does a nice job

Over the last few years I have developed a bit of puffiness and bags under my eyes. I have been trying a variety of products to arrest this process and improve the appearance of the skin under my eyes. Aniise eye serum is the latest product I tried. Overall, I like it. I see some improvement, it worked better than some of the other products I have tried, although this is a very hard area to treat and nothing brings back the old skin back.

The serum itself is clear rather liquefied cream. The delivery system for the serum is a pump. Due to its consistency the pump works better than other products I have tried. With the products with thicker consistency (for example, Co Bigelow triple task eye treatment) the cream stop being delivered through the pump about half way down the bottle and I have to switch to using cue tips. Aniise eye serum pump works much better, I don't think I will have a problem with it until there is almost nothing left in the bottle.

The serum spreads nicely, leaves no shine so I can put it on and go out without worrying about tell-tell shine under my eyes. I am apply the serum twice a day in the morning and in the evening. It is totally odorless which is very important to me as I prefer fragrance free cosmetics.


Deionized Water
Methyl Gluceth-20
Propylene Glycol
Hexylene Glycol
Hyaluronic Acid
Xanthan Gum
Dimethicone Copolyol
Sodium PCA
Ascorbyl Palmitate (Vit C)
Tocopheryl Acetate (Vit E)
Chitosan Lactate
Aloe Barbadensis (aloe Vera)
Chamoilla Recutita (matricaria) Extract
Anthmis Nobils (Chamomile) Extract
Rosemarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Extract
Symphytum Otticinate (comtrey) Extract
Camellia Sinensis (Japanese Green Tea) Extract
Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Extract
Tetrasodium EDTA
Propylene Glycol
Sorbic Acid

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Product Review: Aniise Normalizing Zinc Creme

My Skin Looks better!

After using this skin for a bit over a week I see that my skin looks better because the pore look less visible. The reason they look less visible is what was caught in the small indentation has been removed. I thought I was keeping my face clean, but now I see the difference! A small amount of cream goes a long way. I put small dab on each cheek and nose on dry skin and spread it. When I just spread the cream it leaves a bit white residue, so I only use it at night. In the morning the cream has been adsorbed, and I wash my face with a hot washcloth. My skin looks and feels great!

One other important positive for me that the cream is totally odor free. I don't like any scent in the products I use, especially on my face and when I have to put them on at night. Scents keep me from falling asleep fast, and I am very pleased that this creme is scent-free.

As dirt, skin oil, and dead skin cells build up on the skin, they can clog and, over time, stretch out the pores. To keep pores small is important to keep them clean. However, it is equally important not to over-cleanse the skin. When you over-wash you face, it removes too much protective oil and moisture from the skin. This can make skin oilier as it begins to produce more oil to compensate for the oil that is removed by over-washing. Aniise repair and forming creme is a nice way to break this cycle. It not only cleans the skin, but make skin more elastic, it allows pores stay their smallest and rebound from previous damage.

1. Does a nice job cleaning pores
2. Totally odor free

1. Leaves white residue on the skin, so I only use it at night

This cream cleans your skin, cleans pores and helps you maintain blemish-free skin. This cream contains Zinc oxide which helps fight bacteria and regulate oil production that causes acne.


Purified Water,
Mineral Oil,
White Zinc Oxide,
Stearic Acid,
Isopropyl Palmitate,
Glyceryl Stearate,
PEG 100 Stearate,
Tocopheryl Acetate,
Retinyl Palmitate,
Chamomile Extract (Anthemis Nobilis),
Comfrey Extract (Symphytum Officinale),
Propylene Glycol
Sorbic Acid

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Food review: Kopico Coffee Asian Candy

  Taste is fabulous, the amount you get not so much

The taste of this coffee candy is terrific - not too sweet, not too strong, just perfect.  You get small round disks of delicious coffee morsels. I like taking them to work for a quick perk-you-up in the afternoon or during a boring meeting.  I only eat 1 or 2 candies at a time, this totally satisfies my craving.

In this packaging you get a box with 20 small packages, each package contains 6 candies, for a total 120 candies.  The current price on Amazon plus shipping is $14.20, which works out to 12 cents per candy.

I really enjoyed the taste and was inspired to investigate other Asian Coffee Candies. If you like Kopiko I recommend that you also try Bali's Best Coffee Candy, 5.3-Ounce Bags (Pack of 12).

Bali's Best has a slight stronger coffee taste compared to Kopiko Cappuccino flavor, and just slightly sweeter.  Both are fine candy, but Bali's Best is a much better deal. I paid 3 cents per candy with Bali's.
See my review of Bali's Best Coffee Candy for details.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Food review: Bali's Best Coffee Candy, Asian Candy

Great candy taste and great deal too!

Very excellent coffee candy. I bought a box of these candies on  I received a package with 12 bags, each 5.3 ounce bag  contain 42 candies each.  I was pleasantly surprised by the amount and the weight of the package.

I decided to try Bali's Best Coffee Candy after trying Kopiko coffee Candy. I really liked the candy but thought the price was too much ($5.49 for 32 candies, 4.23 oz). So I decided to try this Bali's Best Coffee Candy. Bali's has stronger coffee taste and slightly sweeter. Both are excellent candy, but Bali's is a much better deal.

I noticed that the price on the Coffee candy fluctuates. I found a nice tool that shows history of Amazon prices and allows you to generate alert emails when the price reaches the desired price. If you enter "price history alert" in Google it will be come up at the top, it has the word camel in the name. I find this tool to be very helpful.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Book review: Rethinking PowerPoint: Designing & Delivering Presentations That Engage The Mind

Very excellent! Not just for PowerPoint, makes you a better presenter using any presentation software!

This is a terrific book! I have taken a number of classes on effective presentations and the materials in this book not only echo some of those expensive classes but has a number of new and useful suggestions that I am planning to use.

This book is written about PowerPoint, but of course, it is really about creating good presentations. It does not matter what software you use to bring your ideas to the audience.

What makes one presenter better than another? The book analyzes some of Steve Jobs presentations, who was generally acknowledges as a fantastic presenter, and generalizes some of the approaches that Steve used in his presentations to capture the audience.

We all know that someone who just reads bullets-ridden slide is a less compelling presenter than someone who speaks directly to the audience using the slides to illustrate the talk, not fully repeat the spoken words. When people see a lot of written text, they tend to read it rather than listen to the presenter and the content of the presentation has less "stickiness".

The book teaches how to use the presentation slides what the words cannot do, i.e. emphasize what you are saying in a visual way. Instead of using slides to remind you want to say next, the book suggests using speaker notes for that. The maid purpose of a good slide is to focus audiences attention on what is most important in what you are saying. A key to good presentation is to find a sweet spot between too much information and too little information.

The book teaches how to start creating your presentation. When you start thinking about your presentation don't start typing into Power Point. Come up with the content outside power point, so you know what you are going to say before you start working on the slides. Then think of the visuals that will halp you drive the ideas home. Best presentations are created when you think of a big picture. Once you have a big picture, break up presentation in chapters, create tension in the mind of the audience, then resolve it. Steve Job's example for introducing iPad: starts with "we are going to introduce you to a magical and revolutionary product" (set the theme and tension) ... "but before we get to that let me bring yoou up to date on some other things." (suspense, everyone is paying attention)

Sometimes the book breaks convention with the presentation classes I have taken in the past. For example, I was taught to have less slides than the number of minutes you have to speak. This book makes a case for having many more slides. Their surprising conclusion high number is not bad. 30 minutes and 80 slides are ok if the amount of info on each slide is small. 3-4 bullets on a slide, 5-6 words per bullet point.

Drawing the picture contains the simplest possible explanation of what are the elements that you are explaining. The author goes back to Steve Jobs example of introducing Mac Book Air by putting a picture of manila envelope on the screen, saying that this computer is so thin that fits into the manila envelope.

I really found a section on the use animation in the most effective way helpful. Another piece of information that was interesting is the color of the presentation background as it related to the room in which you are presenting. When you are selecting the backgrounds the author recommend considering whether the lights will be turn off in the audience or not. Dark background is better when the lights are off because white light will glow and it will be harder to read. But the key is contrast, the slide has to have high contrast between background and text.

The book has very strong opinions about hand outs. Several rules are suggested: (1) The Handouts should be different from slides, they should have more text and then the slides with less text will make a better presentation. (2) Make them available after the presentation, but mention that you will be handing them out (or providing on-line access) so people listen to you instead of reading ahead or writing copious notes.

To be perceived as a good presenter body language is important. You need to look at audience about 80-90% of time, if there are too many words on your slides you are going to read them. Importance of making big gestures with your hands. Things to avoid - hands in your pockets. Making big gestures slows down your speech (good), hands in your pockets speeds up your speech (bad).

Best presentation are given by people who are having fun and enjoying giving the presentation. If the speaker is bored, the audience will be bored. The passion for the subject is contagious. But not too much so it does not sound fake, like some of those TV personalities that make you switch the channel because of the fake enthusiasm of a salesman.

Another nice and new to me trick was using blanking the screen as a tool to get attention. It forces the audience to focus on you, the presenter.

The book ends on how to close the presentation. To have a good presentation you have to have a crisp ending. Several options that work are listed, and several options that do not work as well. Having those listed explicitly is a good idea, as I have heard many people use those unfortunate endings. And finally, there are some nice tips on how to hold a Q&A. What to do if your audience challenges something you said or disagrees. And how to handle a situation when no one asks questions.

Overall, very excellent book. I highly recommend it. It over exceeded my expectations.
You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Product Review: Aniise Cocoa Butter Foot Creme

Very nice - a luxurious treat for your feet
During the winter my skin gets very dry, my legs look like alligator skin and my heals get painful cracked skin if I don't moisturize them. I have tried a variety of moisturizing creams, and recently started using Aniise foot cream. I apply Aniise foot cream after each shower to lock in moisture from the hot shower. I apply a small amount on my foot and massage it in. With Aniise treating my legs is not just a chore, it feels like a luxurious treat.

Once I discovered how nicely my heels felt, I also apply it to a scar on my shin. This summer I fell and really scraped my leg pretty badly. The gouge left a pretty ugly scar. I began applying Aniise to the scar as well, and the scar is looking better, the skin around the scar is slightly less red and scar itself feels softer and less noticeable.

I am attaching a photo of the opened container. Aniise is rich and creamy, spreads well, is absorbed quickly, and does not feel greasy. After several days of application the skin on my feet became very soft, even when it is time for the next application I can tell that it has an effect from the previous treatment. It is very important for me that creams I use have no odor and Aniise has no scent. The cover inside the screw top top has a convenient little tag handle, so it is easy to lift from the container. I like little thoughtful touches like that, it shows the care with which the product is produced.


1. Moisturizes very well
2. Feels very nice to touch
3. Has no scent


1. A bit pricey...

Purified water
Cetyl Ethythexanoate
Cetyl Alcohol
Stearic Acid
Glyceryl Stearate
PEG 100 Stearate
Cocoa Butter (Theobroma Cacao)
Lactic Acid
Tocopheryl Acetate
Retinyl Palmitate
Avocado Oil (Persea Gratissima)
Castor Oil (Ricinus Communis)
Jojoba Oil (Simmondsia Chinensis)
Wheat Germ Oil (Triticum Vulgare)
Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis)
Chamomile (Anthemis Nobilis)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis)
Comfrey (Sympliytum Officinale)
Propylene Glycol
Sorbic Acid

I am really enjoying Aniise Foot Cream. I recommend it!

Cocoa Butter Foot Creme

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Monday, January 9, 2012

Product review: Clorox Toilet Wand Disinfecting Refill

Inferior to the original product

I have been using Clorox Toilet Wands for several years.  These wands really speed up the process of cleaning the toilet and make it less unpleasant.

When I ordered refills, however, I received an unpleasant surprise.  Clorox changed their original pads to a new inferior design.

The new pads are 1/2 height in size, and don't have the same scrubby material of the original ones. They also have a more unpleasant odor.

They do okay job on light stains, but do not have the power to deal with serious build-up. I am hoping to find the original ones for heavy duty cleaning and use the new pads for light duty clean-up. I am attaching several pictures with the original cleaning head and the cleaning head I received in this order. The pictures are worth a hundred words.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

 Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Product review: SanDisk 8 GB microSDHC Card with SD Adapter

SD Sleeve defective, USB Sleeve missing, microSDHC packaging is suspect
It is not often that I am disappointed in purchase received from Amazon, but  unfortunately I got a disappointment in the mail yesterday.

I purchased a microSDHC card with SD sleeve for my MP3 player. Since SD cards have a limited number of writes before they go bad, my plan was to use the external micro SD card so when I get bad sectors I will replace the external card and not have to worry about having bad sectors in the internal storage of my MP3 player.

I picked this particular product because it had both SD Adapter and bonus USB sleeve mentioned in the description and by other reviewers.

Unfortunately I encountered several issues with this order:

1) SD sleeve included in the package did not work. When I inserted it into the computer it was not seen. I have tried it on three computers (in addition to my home computer I tried it at work, and also at a friend's house), all 3 computers had SDHC slots that work with SDHC cards. I tried the card under both Windows and Linux operating systems. The problem is definitely with the sleeve, not the computers.

2) The USB sleeve, mentioned as a bonus in the product description as well as in several Amazon reviews for the product, was not included in my order

3) The packaging of the card (as seen in attached photo) was just a plastic bag. I am not sure if the product is new or refurbished.

Since this product is sold by different vendors and fulfilled by Amazon, I need to mention that the seller of the package I received is "MemoryMogul/Progressive Interest Corporation".

My MP3 player does see the card, but because the SD sleeve is not working my computer does not. I was able to copy files to microSDHC card by attaching my MP3 player via USB cable to the computer, but this is not how I planned to use it, so I am not a happy camper!

Next time I will need a new microSDHC I will definitely seek another option, I will look for a product sold directly by Amazon not just fulfilled by Amazon. One item missing, one item not working, one item in questionable packaging... This is not the quality I've grown to expect from an Amazon purchase. I debated between 1 star and 2 stars ranking for this purchase, but since the microSDHC is working I decided 2 star is the right ranking for this experience.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★☆☆☆

Friday, January 6, 2012

Product review: OXO Good Grips Expandable Wall-Mounted Organizer

I purchased this organizer over 6 months ago, and I am very pleased with it.  It really organized my cleaning tools well, and freed up a lot of room in the closet.

The installation into a hollow wall was difficult but once it was installed I am pleased with the organizer (a minor issue detailed below).

The organizer can be installed in a variety of configurations ranging from 12 inches to 20 inches. I hung it in the most extended length of 20 inches, which is shown on Photo#1. Photo#2 shows the organizer in its most compact form. In the shortest configuration no silver slide bar is showing, the organizer will look all black.

The organizer consists of 4 holders, 4 hooks, and 4 mini hooks. CamLock Holders hold a pole by squeeze it. Each CamLock Holder also has a very small hook built-in into one of its sides. In addition to CamLock Holders the organizer comes with 4 slightly larger hooks, which can be positioned separately. Photo#3 shows a close up of a holder and a hook.
I found only one brush (see blue loop on the right) that fit the very small hook on the CamLock Holder. This is the minor issue I mentioned earlier. I wish these hooks were somewhat bigger to be useful. The larger separate holders were a good size to hold all the things I wanted to hang (see red handle), however when I "auditioned" hanging items on the hooks many of them hung in the orientation that put their heads perpendicular to the wall, extending them further out than if they hung against the wall. I placed the organizer behind the bathroom door and for the door to open without hitting anything the Swiffer and other implements had to hang flat against the wall.

However, I managed to fit everything I needed on the organizer (see Photo #1 at the top of the review). The larger hooks accumulated two small things hangings (but each of the things I was able to double up on the bigger hook, did not fit on the smaller hook of the CamLock Holder once the CamLock Holder was holding something). I have all 4 larger hooks and 1 small hook occupied as well as all 4 CamLock hodlers occupied. The CamLocks hold the handles well and it is easy to take thing in and out of the holders.


To install the organizer you need to completely take it apart. Photo#4 shows the organizer disassembled. In addition to the hooks and holders, there are two slide panels that hold the hooks and holders, two mounting brackets (one with built-in level), and nails and hollow wall anchors. The positions of the mounting brackets are very
important, the instructions specify the clearance you need to allow to the ends, with respect to each, and minimum amount of overlap they need to have. I marked positions on the wall with masking tape, measured and double measured. I drilled pilot holes and then inserted the anchors. The anchors that came with the organizer are not the easiest kind of anchors to work with. After they were inserted into the wall they made the holes so large that when I attempted to mount the bracket the screw along with the anchor came out of the wall leaving a very large hole behind. I had to run to the store to get spackling paste and better anchors (the one that have metal wings behind the wall once you screw them in). I had to spackle the holes, wait for patches to dry up, and start all over.

Using the replacement anchors the installation of the anchors went better, however the mounting bracket is pretty thick and the screws that came with the new anchors were a little too short to open the wings behind the plaster and I had to go out again to get longer screws. The screws of 1" are too shot, you need 1 1/4" or a little more. Before mounting the first bracket with built-in level (pretty handy!) I used it to mark the level of the second mounting bracket making it levelled with the first one. I made a pilot hole for the second bracket. Then mounted the first bracket.

When I slid the panels over the first bracket I found that I have a problem. The second (small) bracket had to be mounted a bit lower (not levelled) with the first bracket. I decided that I will spackle the hole and drill a new pilot hole, but first I decided to mark the hole by putting in the second bracket into the sliding panel, sliding the entire panel onto the first mounted bracket, and making a perfectly aligned mark with a screw (the mounting bracket was too thick for a pencil to reach the wall). That all worked well, except when I was done I could not unscrew the screw from the second small mounting bracket. The screw just spun in place without going up or down. Nor could I slide the bracket out so I can pound on the screw from the other side (since the screw was embedded in the wall). After working on this for a while, my only option was to leave it mounted without an anchor (the first bracket was mounted with two anchored screws). I will have to hang only light objects on this side, which is not supported well. Once the slide panel was installed the rest of the installation was easy. I slid the locks from the ends, and clicked in the hooks from the top.

Based on my experience with installation I would recommend
1) get better anchor for hollow walls right away, minimum screw length has to be 1 1/4 inches.
2) do not use a screw to mark hole position, only use a pen (you will need a very thin pen/pencil for the small bracket).

Once the installation was complete, I was very pleased with how the organizer handled all my tools and how roomy my closet has become.

After more than 6 months of use I am still very pleased with the organizer. The squeeze mechanism continues to work well and have not lost the strength of the spring at all.

I finally found a good use for the small hooks I mentioned in my review as not being able to hold much of anything. The organizer is hanging in my bathroom, which has a shower and I now hang a terry robe on one of the small hooks. This worked out to be very convenient.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Product review: Tom's of Maine Anticavity toothpaste, Silly Strawberry

Should be named "Bubblegum" not "Strawberry"

I purchased "Strawberry" flavor toothpaste after buying and loving Tom's of Maine "Orange mango". I expected that this flavor will be as true to its name in taste as Orange mango was to its. However, this is not so. This toothpaste has a flavor of bubblegum. It is not unpleasant, not too sweet, however not strawberry.

I don't like mint flavors in anything, so I have been very pleased to discover non-minty flavors of Tom's of Maine. This toothpaste has fluoride which fight cavities and it whitens with silicas.

The Bubble gum flavor is okay: it is not too sweet but I would not call it refreshing. Despite its name this toothpaste is suitable to adults, as it is not too sweet. The flavor does not linger when you are done brushing. It leaves a slightly chalky aftertaste which does not last long. This toothpaste does not foam. By comparison Orange Mango foams a little however less than a regular toothpaste like Colgate. Orange Mango felt refreshing and you could feel the flavor for a few minutes after brushing.

Attached is a photo of the Silly Strawberry on the toothbrush so you can see the actual toothpaste color and texture. The second photo shows that the toothpaste arrived sealed, which is very nice so it will keep longer. I also liked the fact that I could keep the tube standing on its cover, so gravity keeps the toothpaste at the opening and it takes up less room on the bathroom counter.

I have to say that I liked Orange Mango more in both respects of flavor and foaming. I will finish the three tubes of Strawberry I received in this order, but I will not be buying this flavor again.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Product review: Tom's of Maine Whole Care Fluoride Toothpaste, Orange Mango Gel

Makes me want to go and brush again

I don't like mint flavors in anything, yet for years I had to put up with minty toothpaste. It is nice a have a choice! Tom's of Maine orange mango gel toothpaste has fluoride which fight cavities, it whitens with silicas, and has a pleasant taste that makes you want to brush more frequently which promotes fresh breath and lessens tartar.

The orange flavor is noticeably yet light and refreshing. It foams a little less than a regular toothpaste like Colgate, but feels nicer. It leaves a cool refreshing feeling and the slight orangy flavor lingers for a few minutes.

Attached is a photo of the Orange Mango Gel being put on the toothbrush so you can see the actual toothpaste color and texture.

It is a little pricier than a typical toothpaste, but I am very pleased I got it and have been enjoying now for a few days.
I recommend!

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Product review: Waxman Reusable Sliders Furniture Moving and Gliding exercises

Double Duty Sliders

I am very pleased with Waxman sliders. I initially bought them for moving furniture during house re-modeling. Then a few years later I found that I can use them for "gliding" exercises instead of buying more expensive gliders designed specifically for exercising. I love when things have multiple uses!  I purchased them in a local Home Depot store, they came as a set of four sliders with 4 woollen sleeves.


I purchased the Waxman sliders with the woolen sleeves (see attached photo). I used them with the sleeves on wood surfaces and without woolen sleeves on tile. They did very well on both surfaces. My floors were not damaged and the items were moved without too much trouble. I was particularly worried about moving the stove on the new tile floor in the kitchen, but the floor was totally undamaged. I am attaching a photo of my gliders, and you can see that the heavy stove left permanent impressions on the black side of the slider, the white part is slightly scuffed up, but the floor is completely scratch free.


I enjoy gliding as part of my exercise routine (for example using exercise DVD Bender Ball: The Gliding and Bender Method). The exercise gurus typically recommend Valslide sliders for doing gliding exercises. Those sliders cost over $40 dollars. But I found that WAXMAN gliders work just as well. You can also use oval version of them. The round ones work best when you need to glide on your heels or toes typically from a sitting position, the oval ones work well when you need to slide your entire foot.

These gliders work very well no matter what I use them for! Highly recommend!

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Monday, January 2, 2012

Product Review: Universal Clear Laminating Pouches, 5 mil, 2-1/4" x 3-3/4", business card size pouches

Good deal, great fit for business cards

Universal laminating pouches are currently by far the best deal for business cards laminating pouches on Amazon. However their width dimensions were slightly smaller than other better known brand names and I was a little concerned about the fit. I figured I might have to trim my business cards if they don't fit right. However, the fit is perfect! 

I am attaching a collage of two photos to illustrate the fit.
1) The first photo shows my business card in the sleeve next to the stack of sleeves you get. I put the reflection on the corner of the sleeve so you can see how much clearing the sleeve has around the business card.
2) The second photo shows the business card in the sleeve on top of the ruler with 1/8 of the inch grid marks, so you can see the grid through the edges of the sleeve. Note that the second business card was a not laminated yet, that is why the appearance of the sleeve is somewhat smokey. Once it is laminated it is totally clear. 
Note: The text on the business card was blurred for the photo, blurriness is not caused by the sleeve.

The sleeve worked very well in my Scotch laminator, and I recommend these pouches as a good deal.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★