Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Product review: Mothers 07240 California Gold Clay Bar System

I learned about Gold Clay Bars in a Honda CRV forum, where car enthusiasts shared their favorite products. This was three years ago. Since then I clay my car twice a year, in the spring and the the fall.
I just finished my spring treatment when a fellow walked by my car and asked if this was 2012 CRV that I was washing. I told him it was almost 4 years old and he could not believe it. I have to admit that the car does look like new with much of the credit to regular claying and using back-to-black
on plastic parts.

I should mention that I store Gold Clay in a plastic container which used to contain onion dip. This keeps it pliable and clean. It is a bit strange that the container for clay did not come with the package. If clay dries out it will stop working. And it is sticky, so if you leave it without some sort of container it will pick up dirt that could scratch the car the next time you use it.

Claying system removes contaminants that attach themselves to the car. Clay does not polish the car or remove any paint of finish, so it is totally safe to the finish if used properly (i.e. with plenty of lubrication). The clay material (which feels like play-doh)makes the small particulars that are deposited on the car finish attach themselves to the clay and get lifted from the car finish. Clay needs to be used with heavy lubrication, which Showtime Instant Detailer, included in this package, provides.

I start by washing my car. I don't dry it as this time as water drops will be removed by other steps. Then I clay the car. I don't clay every inch of the entire car. I just examine the car by sight for any imperfections and by my running my hand over the paint to feel any tiny bumps. When I feel some grittiness or see some dirt on the paint, I generously spray that section with Showtime Instant Detailer, then knead the piece of clay in my hand and rub it against the spot I identified. Normally, you see the dirt disappear in a few swipes. Sometimes you need to reapply the Detailer and repeat. Kneading is important as you want to work the little pieces of dirt into the clay, and not leave it on the surface of the clay ball where it can scratch the car. This year we had a rough winter and I had some rubber marks from my snow removal tool in addition to the regular dirt specs. Clay did a great job on removing those marks.

I also use the clay on non-painted areas such as glass and chrome. It does a great job as well. After the claying step I wax the car is small sections. This wax on Amazon in this listing Mothers 05701 California Gold Carnauba Cleaner Wax

As my final step I apply Back-to-black (You can find "back to black" on Amazon by following this link.
) to non-painted surfaces. This turns the dull plastic into shiny new looking surface. Back-to-black is also effective in removing any wax that might have accidentally got on the plastic, that's why I do back-to-black as the last step.

You can find "mpther's clay bar" on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Product review: Formula 3 Anti-Fungal, Athlete foot

I saw a podiatrist several weeks ago and I requested treatment for fungus nails without oral medication. He told his patients have good results with Formula 3. His office sells it for $35, the expiration date on the bottle I received in July 2016. He told me that I will need to be patient with this medication. It takes a minimum of 6 months for the medicine to work, often it takes over a year. Note that the label on the bottle says use for 4 weeks and then consult a doctor if there is no improvement, which may lead you to think it will work fast.

The doctor also told me that that Tetra (manufacturer of Formula 3) provides unconditional money-back guarantee if the patient is not completely satisfied. Full refund can be received by calling 800-826-0479. If someone needs their mailing address it is: The Tetra Corporation, Eaton Rapids, MI 48827.

Formula three comes in a bottle similar to nail polish, with a brush applicator attached to the cap. The active ingredient is Tolnaflate 1%. The solution is oil based, so when you apply it put something under your foot to avoid oily stains. I had to learn from experience :-) The bottle has 1/2 oz of solution, but is fairly long lasting. After 5 weeks of twice a day use I am still only a little bit down.

Here are doctor's instructions on applying the medicine:

1. The podiatrist told me to apply it generously to both toe nails and the skin around the toe nail.
2. After applying it he told me to massage it into skin using a q-tip, especially near the nail bed.

I have been using Formula 3 for five weeks and noticed the following changes:
1. The nail color has become better. Rather than being totally white the nail has a more natural opaque color. Not back to normal, but better looking.
2. The nails used to have an unpleasant odor when I touched them or cut them. This would happen even when I was fresh out of the shower, so the scent was not sweaty feet it was the nail itself. The bad smell is totally gone.

I am pleased with the results so far. What I see so far is already better than other prescription cream I have tried in the past. I will keep this review updated with additional changes.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

5/29/2013 update

I started in September 2012, so it has been 9 months.  The nails are NOT clear.  There are some positive changes - there is no bad smell when I cut the nails, and they are slightly less thick.  I see the podiatrist every 9 weeks for another issue, and he tells me not be discouraged yet as it take some people over a year.  I am still using the original bottle, so it has lasted pretty well.  I have not given up yet!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Book review: The Complete Book of Sea Kayaking

I found this book very helpful as I was learning kayaking. This book covers a large variety of topics with detailed cartoon-like illustrations as well as some photos. I am attaching a sample page from the book to show you what a typical explanation looks like. I found explanations to be a great reminders/re-freshers of the kayaking classes I took on the water. I read the book several times as my skills improved and every time I was able to find something new and useful.  

Here are the chapters of the book:
1. Equipment
2. Basic strokes and techniques
3. Advanced strokes and techniques
4. Surging
5. Rescues
6. Waves
7. Winds and weather
8. Tides and tidal streams
9. Navigation
10. Arctic origins of the sea kayaking

This book is not just a manual for learning how to improve your kayaking technique and tips on outfitting your boat. This book covers kayaking history and shares author's passion for the kayak. I enjoyed every page no matter how many times I read it! I recommend this book.

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

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Product review: InterDesign 12-Inch Med+ Multi-Level Organizer

I originally bought this organizer to put into a medical cabinet. My medical cabinet has three section, the center part is a 12" closed section where I hoped to put this organizer. But it did not fit by a few milimiters.

Luckily my vanity had enough space to fit it next to the sink and I am very pleased with it. It works very well especially on things that otherwise would not stand vertically, such as toothpaste and scrub brush.

I am attaching a collage of two photos. The first photo shows the organizer next to a ruler. You can also see how the bottom is textured. The texture is on the outside, the bottom of the inside compartments is leveled, which makes it easy to clean.
The second photo shows the caddy loaded up with various items. It keeps things organized and keeps tall items from falling down.

Here are the detailed dimensions:
12" end to end (wide side)
3" depth (front to back)
tall parts 3.3" high
short parts 2" high

There are a total of 8 compartment.
Left to right:
First section: 2" long by 3" tall by 3" wide (when I say wide, I mean front to back)
Second section:1" long, made out of 3 compartments, each one is 1"x1"
Third section: is 4.5 inches long by 2" tall by 3" wide
Forth section is 2.3. inches long, made out of two compartments: 1.5"x2.3" each
Fifth section is 2 inches long, 3.3 inches tall, and 3 inches wide

I am very pleased! I gained quite a bit of space on my vanity top and everything looks neat and organized.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Monday, October 22, 2012

Book review: Kitchenability 101 by Nisa Burns

All recipes in this book have a few things in common:simple ingredients, simple to put together, and easy to make.  This book grew out of a culinary school student Facebook page called "Nisa's Cooking"  where Nisa Burns began publishing recipes, incorporating people's comments and suggestions.  Her original readership were mostly college students, but the book really is targeted at anyone who wants to eat tasty food without spending much time on preparation.

The book starts with an introduction of basic ingredient and techniques targeted at someone who never cooked.  This the part that makes the book accessible to anyone, even college students that never cooked before.

The book contains 7 sections (1 introduction and 6 recipe sections), and a total of 69 recipes. I am including a complete table of content at the end of this review.

 Each recipe is fairly short. Each one fits on half of a page, each starts with a couple of sentence of description, a list of ingredients followed instructions. Each recipe comes with a photo, which really helps to imagine the dish before you cook it.  I have tried several recipes out of the books and enjoyed them.  One of the recipes I tried (and liked!) is Fancy Mac and Cheese. It was very simple to make, delicious, and a bit different from you plain Mac and Cheese. I am including a photo of that page which shows the layout of the recipe and the photo.  The recipes in this book are not going to dazzle your friends, but they are tasty and simple.  Whether you are in a dorm or just in a rush, this is a good reference for a quick tasty meal.

If you are looking for simple delicious recipes this book is a good choice.
You can find this cookbook on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Product review: Sony DVPSR510H DVD Player (Upscaling)

I purchased this DVD to play movies on DVDs attached to a high definition SONY TV via HDMI cable. I was looking for basic functionality that works well at a good price, and this is exactly what I got in this unit.

I am attaching a collage of three photos that I will be referencing in this review.

Photo #1 shows everything that came in the package: the DVD player, instructions, 3-RCA component video coax cable, remote and batteries. NOTE: HDMI cable is NOT included.
I placed the unit next to the rulers so you can see the dimensions of the unit: 10.5 inches long x 8 inches wide x 1.5 inch high. The power cord is 58 inches long.
The top of the DVD player is flat, so I was able to stack other things on top of it. The unit has no display, other than a green light next to the power button which tells you when the unit is on.

Photo #2 shows the DVD on a digital scale. It is very light weighing in at 2 pound and 1.4 oz

Photo #3 shows the back panel and the HDMI cable (not included). HDMI (High definition Multimedia Interface) delivers audio and high def video over the same cable. When you use HDMI cable you don't need to use the RCA cables that came with the DVD. I am showing the shape of the HDMI connector in case someone will find it helpful as it needs to be purchased separately.

Amazon sells HDMI cables at a really good price like this HDMI Cable from DVI Gear

This unit provides good up-scaling. Up-scaling is the ability to play standard definition DVDs on a high definition TV. Standard definition TV set and regular DVDs have a maximum resolution of 720x576. The high definition sets have higher resolution. If you play a standard definition DVD on a high resolution TV the video without up-scaling feature the video will look pixelated. Up-scaling adds pixels to the video to smooth out the pixelated images. The final image is not as good as tru Blu-Ray DVD, but I find it completely acceptable. I am watching the movies on LCD TV. Up-scaling works best on LCD and Plasma TVs, and not as well on CRT-based high definition TVs.

The default HDMI output from HDMI OUT output is set to 1920x1080p. This can be changed if needed, and is controlled by the TV/projector settings.

The DVD player supports  5 speeds: 0.6x, 0.8x, 1x (normal), 1.2x, and 1.4x.  The speed is changed by repeatedly clicking on the fast/slow speed button on the remote. There are two ways to turn on subtitles: at the start of the DVD and at any time via remote. The sound is very good at each speed, however the subtitles are only shown at normal speed. When I tried forcing them on at another speed via remote control the player generates a message "operation not possible".  As soon as I return to 1x speed the subtitles are shown again.

DVD player supports the following file formats:
1. Video: MPEG-1
2. Photo: JPEG
3. Music: MP3

Supported extensions:
.mpg, .mpeg, .jpg, .mp3, .wma, .m4a, .wav,

Supported disks:
DVD, DVD+-RW/+-R/+-R DL, Music CD/Super VCD, CD-R/-RW

Files with copyright protection (digital Rights Management) cannot be played
Lossless files cannot be played
The player cannot play images in DVD-VR mode with CPRM (Content Protection for Recordable Media)
The player is designed to play disks with Compact Disk (CD) standard. DualDisks and music disks encoded with copyright protection do not conform to CD standard and may not be compatible with this unit.

WARNINGS from the manual:
1. To play a complex hierarchy of folders may take some time. Create albums with no more than two hierarchies.
2. The player will recognize a maximum of 200 albums and 600 files
It can recognize 300 photo and 200 music files if Photo(Music) is selected
3. The player cannot play a video file of size more than (720 width x 576 height)/2 GB

The remote is compatible with the following TVs:
Sony (default)

1. Plug in HDMI cable
2. If you are using HDMI cable ignore RCA cables enclosed in the box
3. Plug in DVD into power and attach HDMI cable to the TV
4. Now you need to configure your TV to recognize the new HDMI component
For my SONY TV there were three steps
4a. Under components menu - Label Video inputs
This option tells TV which HDMI input to use and which one to skip. My TV has four HDMI connections, one already used and three were available. I was not sure which one I used for DVD so I enabled them all in this step
4b. I went to the list of all inputs where I saw all 4 HDMI connections I tried each one. Two of them generated an error that there was no input, one was my old connection (DVR) and one was the new DVD. This told me
which inputs I should disable.
4c. I went back into "label video inputs" and set the label to "skip" for the two HDMI connections that told me "no input"

Overall, DVD player works well. The tray operations smoothly, the quality of the display is good, the remote works well. The only thing I don't like that the DVD turns off itself in 30 minutes if I put it on pause. I would have liked the ability to control this manually, or alternatively have the automatic power of be 2 hours. The unit does not shut off if it is being used. The auto shut off happens if the unit is in pause or stopped.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Book review: Estate Planning Essentials (Wills, Trusts, Probate)

"Estate Planning Essentials" is easy to read, it has rich content and is quite extensive. I am including a complete table of content at the end of this review so you can see exactly how extensive it is and what is covered.

I think this kit is useful whether you plan to go to a lawyer or do it yourself. Even if you go to the lawyer this book is helpful because, for example, it will help you determine what type of will you need. It talks no only about advantages of Living Trusts, but disadvantages as well. A few years ago my company had a benefits fair where they invited some legal firm to talk to us, and I recall that company tried convince everyone that they needed to set up a trust. I had a suspicion that they were just trying to sell an expensive option to everyone not just to the people who really needed it. If I had this book it would have given me an unbiased explanation who needs a trust and who does not.

In addition to wills and trusts, it covers probate and probate avoidance measures.  As well as a section on avoiding estate taxes.  There are a lot of tips and small details that I would not have thought of on my own.

This book includes not only explanations but worksheets and forms. It also has line by line instructions on how to fill out the official forms.

This is the second addition of the book.  The basic information in the book will continue to be educational and correct even with the passing of time, but some laws such as taxes may change. Keep this in mind as the publication date gets further away in time.

Overall, I found this to be a very helpful book. Not only was it helpful with the forms, but it helped me organize my thoughts and served as a reminder of the things to think about.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Product review: Benjamin Moore Aura Interior Matte Paint

My laundry room has a fairly new white washer and dryer. Between them I have an old laundry cart that is yellow in color with a few rust spots here and there. This laundry cart has been bugging me for a while, but it has such a perfect fit into the space between the washer and the dryer that I have not replaced it even though it is old and yellow and does not match my washer and dryer. 

This is a photo of my laundry room before the transformation:

Here is a  photo of the cart as I was working on it:


Benjamin Moore paint was a pleasure to work with. It did not smell and it dried very quickly.   I was able to put a new coat almost as soon as I finished the first coat.  When I finished painting I was able to put back in its place and put back all the items in one hour.  How perfect is that?

I used about 1/3 of the pint of Aura® Interior Eggshell Paint in “Simply White” for this project.

Here is a photo of my laundry room after the transformation:

I expected to get good results, but I did not expect that it will be so easy and pleasant to work with the paint. No smell and such quick drying - what else can you ask for?

A handy color chart of all Benjamin Moore paints can be located here.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Product review: Amerx - Amerigel Care Lotion for Callus treatment

I recently saw a podiatrist. One of my complaints was a callus on the bottom of my foot. It hurt when I walk and I wanted to know how best to remove it. The podiatrist recommended a combination of the Pumice Sponge Block  and Amerigel Care Lotion . His office sold it for $20. The doctor office price is a little more expensive than Amazon.com price but could be use with your pre-tax medical account as it comes with a doctor note as required by the tax regulations.

To treat my callus the doctors instructed me to leather up the sponge with soap and use it every time I take a shower. After using the Pumice Sponge he told me to use Amerigel Lotion. He said he finds it particularly effective THICK dry skin. It has been three weeks since I began using the pumice sponge/Amerigel and I am pretty impressed with the results. My callus no longer bothers me, and my foot feels smooth and soft.

I am attaching a photo of the bottle and a drop of lotion on my hand so you can see the consistency. It is fairly thick, does not feel greasy, and absorbs very quickly. It is totally unscented which is a big plus in my book. It is helping me quite well and I am recommending it.

You can find "Swissco Pumice Sponge Block " on Amazon via this link

YOu can find "AMERIGEL BARRIER LOTION" on Amazon via this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, October 12, 2012

Product review: Swissco Pumice Sponge Block for Hands and Feet for Calluse removal

I went to see a podiatrist a few weeks ago. One of my complaints was a callus on the bottom of my foot. It hurt when I walk and I wanted to know how best to remove it. In the past I used a real pumice stone on it as well as a metal file (Dr. Scholl's Callus Reducer) but was not fully satisfied with the results. The podiatrist recommended this Pumice Sponge Block. His office sold it for $4 (so a little cheaper than Amazon if you include the cost of shipping). The sponge did not look impressive. I was somewhat skeptical figuring they are just trying to find another source of revenue for the office. But since it was inexpensive I figured I would give it a try.

The doctors instruction were to leather the sponge up with soap and use it every time I take a shower. After using the Pumice Sponge he told me to use Amerigel Lotion . It has been three weeks since I began using this sponge/Amerigel and I am pretty impressed with the results. My callus no longer bothers me, and my foot feels smooth and soft.

I am attaching a photo of the sponge without a wrapper and at angle that gives you a better view than the official photo.

You can find "Swissco Pumice Sponge Block " on Amazon via this link

YOu can find "AMERIGEL BARRIER LOTION" on Amazon via this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Product review: 10 pack MAXELL AG13 LR44 357 button cell battery

I thought MAXELL button batteries were a great value. The price and shipping on this product seem to change but seem to always work out to be around 20 cents per battery. However there is a reason why they are such a good price! They don't last.

I bought these batteries for my old scientific calculator which requires 2 button batteries. The calculator was running on the original set of batteries for about 15 years.

I installed two batteries on 7/6/12. Originally, I was pleased with batteries. However, this review is written 3 month later and I am no longer happy. I use the calculator once a month for 10 minutes or less balancing my check book when I do monthly bills. On 9/30/12 weekend I found that the calculator was dead. I always turn off the calculator, but even if I have forgotten it turns off automatically after 1 minute of non-use. The batteries lasted 3 months, total of 3 uses, under 30 minutes of total active use. Since the previous set of batteries lasted for years, I can only give these batteries 1 star.

Ali Julia review ★☆☆☆☆

Monday, October 8, 2012

Product review: Dry Cleaner's Secret Woolite Dry Clean at Home

My long light coat became permuted with the smell of smoke and I decided to try Woolite dry cleaning sheets to see if I can get rid of the smell. 

I am attaching a photo of the cloth in my hand. Each cloth is a fairly thick moist sheet that can be used to rub out any stains and then tumbled in the dryer on medium heat for further cleaning. The cloth feels slightly oily, the cleaning solution is oil-based. The heat of the dryer activates the cleaning vapor in the cleaning cloth.  This vapor penetrates clothing fibers and removes odors from smoke and perspiration. The vapors clean without shrinking, fading or stretching the fabric.  I purchased the smaller box with 6 cleaning cloths, each enclosed in a water tight package.  This works out to about $1.50 for one cleaning.

Following instructions I placed my coat and one sheet in the drying for 20 minutes on medium heat.
When I removed the coat while it was still warm per instructions. It was wrinkle free and I no longer could detect the smoke smell. It did smell a light fragrance scent from the Woolite sheets themselves.  In about 7 days that Woolite scent was almost undetectable, and the smoke scent was still undetectable.

Tips based on my experience and manufacture recommendations:

1. TIME: The recommendation is treat the garment for 20 minutes. To achieve best results the garment should be soft and warm to the touch upon removal from the dryer. If the garment is hot and overly dry when your next load reduce the time by five minutes as your dryer maybe running hotter than average. On the other hand, if after 20 minutes the cleaning cloth is still damp increase the tumbling time by 5 minutes.

2. STAINS: Cleaning solution is oil-based and works based in cleaning oil-based stains such as makeup, lipstick, mayonnaise and salad dressing. Test a small spot of your garment for colorfastness before spot cleaning. Woolite cleaning sheets may not work on set-in or difficult-to-clean stains, such as cuff soil. For those you will need a professional dry cleaner.

If spot cleaning left a ring on your clothing there are two ways to remove it.  The first option is to tumble the garment on high heat for 20 minutes.  The second option is to use an iron to steam it out. To remove the ring with an iron you need to place the garment inside out on your ironing board. The spot should be facing down on a clean, light colored towel. Then you should lightly moisten area and set the iron temperature setting appropriate to the fabric. Iron the dampened spot with moist heat until dry. Rotate towel under the garment and repeat the process until the ring is gone.

3. TEMPERATURE: Recommended setting is Medium or Perma Press. If the drying does not have those setting, High heat can be used but the tumbling time should be reduced. Cleaning cloth do not work on "air fluff" setting as it does not reach the temperature high enough to generate the vapors.

4. VOLUME: Do not overfill your dryer; items must tumble freely.

The local store where I purchased the Woolite had only one choice, but I noticed that Amazon carries scent free Woolite sheets as well. I was pleased with how Woolite cleaning sheets worked but next time I will get the scent free option.

You can find "Woolite Dry Cleaner's Secret Dry Cleaning Cloths" on Amazon via this link

You can find "Woolite Dry Cleaner's Secret Fragrance Free Woolite Dry Cleaner's Secret" on Amazon via this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Book Review: Management Culture: Innovative & Bold Strategies to Engage Employees by Denise Moreland

I worked in a number of large organization, and I have seen the world of management from both the manager and the employee side. I have read many books on management and found "Management culture" by Denise Moreland to have a unique approach and be very specific about how to improve many management styles. She starts each chapter with a situation which does not go well: the employee is not happy at the end or the manager is not happy with the result. She dissects each situation to figure out why each person involved feels the way they do, then has specific suggestions for both the manager and the employee. She ends each chapter with the same situation but where the manager uses a different approach to handling the problem and how that changes the behavior of everyone in the scenario. The situations she chooses for each chapter are very common. I recognized almost every one of them as something I have seen or heard or felt first hand.

Part 1 of the book is about ownership. The manager has a lot of control of the job itself and the worker. The author discusses verbally abusive bosses, slave drivers, micro managers, and other behaviors that result in negative changes in the organization. Then she proceeds to give advice for employers and leaders of a different behavior that achieves the desired result in a positive way. Another important ownership is control of information. Secretive bosses produce gossip and grapevines of information. Bosses who know how to share information promote trust and respect. Ms Moreland helps to find the right balance in the information sharing.

Part 2 of the book is about superiority. Managers have a lot of control, this results in situations where the employee can feel coercion even if the boss did not intentionally mean to do exsert this force. She covers areas from making job assignments to socializing with the boss in after work situations. She talks about bosses who are abdicators, bullies, or control freaks. She also talks about employees who are bullies - emotionally or intellectually. As always she has suggestions for both employees and managers.

Part 3 of the book is about dynamics of the organization. In this section the author draws parallels between business organizations and families. She discusses the problems of treating employees like children. She also explains how protecting employees from news and "controlling the message" weakens the organization. She contrasts it with sharing the information to promote trust and reduce time spent on discussing rumors. I also found the discussion of "family support", "family loyalty" and "family pride" interesting. Even though they sound like they would be a good thing, they often are not.

I enjoyed the books approach of dissecting situations that commonly go wrong. I enjoyed an approach of having suggestion for both employees and bosses. I did not always agree with the suggestions on what an employee can do. For example, when you think your manager is not sharing enough information with you Moreland suggests to tell the boss that he does not need to buffer the truth from you. When I think back to my secretive bosses, I don't think that would have been enough to change them. Never the less, I enjoyed reading the suggestions as many of them were realistic.

Overall, I really enjoyed the stress on inter-personal dynamics and concrete suggestions to managers and employees on how to handle specific common situations. I am recommending this book!

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

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Product review: The Footstep Clothing PJ Pajamas

The Footstep Clothing Pajamas are of nice quality and I would be happy not only to wear them but give them as gifts. I am attaching a collage of 8 photos under customer photos numbered 1 through 8 that I will be referring to in this review. The PJ grey pants are made out of heavy duty sweat pant material. The PJ blue top is made of heavy weight cotton. In addition to grey pants I am also including an evaluation of blue/white flannel pants. The blue/white PJ pants are made from a lightweight flannel and available in other Footstep offerings.

What I always want to know when I buy closing on-line are exact measurements, quality of the material as well as color-fastness of the material and the goal of this review was to provide this additional information.

I hand washed PJ pants and top in warm water and took pictures of the water after soaking each piece for 10 minute to test color fastness of each piece. After washing PJs in warm water I dried them on medium heat in the dryer. I measured the PJ before and after laundering them to aid in proper sizing after the initial shrinking. Size note: I like my PJ loose and ordered 2X size, all measurements below are for that size but the relative shrinkage can be generalized for the fabric of any size.

Grey sweat pants measurements:
Waist before laundry: 38 inches
Waist after laundry: 38 inches
Hips before laundry: 48 inches
Hips after laundry: 48 inches
Length before laundry (from waist to the bottom, measured on the side): 45.5 inches
Length after laundry(from waist to the bottom, measured on the side): 45.5 inches
Summary: No shrinking, color fast (see notes below)

Blue/white flanel pants measurements:
Waist before laundry: 34 inches
Waist after laundry: 34 inches
Hips before laundry: 48 inches
Hips after laundry: 47 inches
Length before laundry (from waist to the bottom, measured on the side): 45 inches
Length after laundry(from waist to the bottom, measured on the side): 42.5 inches
Summary: Some shrinking, not color fast (see notes below)

Blue top measurements:
Breast before laundry: 51 inches
Breast after laundry: 50 inches
Length before laundry (from waist to the bottom, measured in the back): 31 inches
Length after laundry(from waist to the bottom, measured in the back): 25 inches
Crew neck opening before laundry (at shoulder seam): 6 inches
Crew neck opening before laundry (at shoulder seam): 5.5 inches
Sleeve before laundry: 28 inches
Sleeve after laundry: 25 inches
Summary: Slight shrinking, not color fast (see notes below)

Grey sweat pants notes:
Construction: high quality heavy duty double-stich construction (as seen in image #G3 and #G2, which shows waist band and the pant leg)
Pockets: yes, 2 pockets (image #G3, left shows nice finish on the pocket)
Waist band: elastic plus cord for tightening if needed (Image #G3, #G1)
Color fast: Picture #G4 shows no discoloration of water, the pants did not bleed any color at all
Material: heavy duty, good stretch

Blue/white flannel pants notes:
Pockets: no
Waist band: elastic plus cord for tightening if needed (photo #1P)
Color fast: Picture #2P shows slight discoloration of water, I expect the color bleed will stop after 2-3 launderings
Material: light weight, no stretch

Top other notes:
Construction: high quality heavy duty double-stich construction (as seen in image #2)
Print: there is a design both on the front and the back of the top. Both are printed (not embroidered). The front has an image of a snowflake with "Love your family" phrase written in script font. The back has LYF logo, and in in small font "love your family by footstep clothing". Photo #3 shows close-up of the front, photo #2 shows close-up of the back.
Color fast: Picture #4 shows significant discoloration of water, I expect the color bleed will stop after 4-5 launderings
Material: heavy duty, some stretch

Grey sweat pants label:
60% cotton, 40% polyester
Machine wash in cold water
Do not Bleach
Tumble Dry Low setting
Made in Guatemala

Blue/white flannel pants label:
100% cotton
Machine wash in cold water
Low Iron
Do not Bleach
Tumble Dry Low setting
Made in China

Blue Top label:
100% cotton
Machine wash in warm water
Non-chlorine bleach
Tumble Dry medium setting
Do not iron
Do not dry clean
Made in Honduras

Amazon carries a large variety of designs for Footstep Clothing. I was looking for universal design of neutral colors without much lettering. The blue top with a snowflake and grey bottom fit my requirement best. The blue plaid was very pretty and matched the blue shade of the top.

Overall, I am pleased with Footstep PJs. They did undergo some shrinkage after the initial wash, so I hope my measurements will help you to select the right size.

I received an evaluation pair of Footsteps Clothing pajamas to provide an honest and unbiased review. In this review I noted both positives and negatives of my experience and if you have any questions I have not covered in my review I am always happy to respond to comments.

You can find "Winter Snowflake Navy Shirt Pant Set" on Amazon via this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Book review: Living Trust Kit by Enodare

This book is a guide for preparing your own living trust. It is easy to read, it has rich content and is quite extensive. I am including a complete table of content at the end of this review so you can see exactly how extensive it is and what is covered.

Living trust is the most popular probate avoidance method. Probate is a an administrative process by which the assets of a deceased person are used to pay debts and distributed.  This book discuses not only living trusts but other alternatives. It also describes who does not need a living trust. It also goes over disadvantages of the living trusts. This information gives the reader a good background to make the right decision for their particular situation.

After the initial background, the book goes deeply into details: types of living trusts, state-specific information, very specific explanation about administration of the living trust.This book includes not only explanations but worksheets and forms. It also has line by line instructions on how to fill out the official forms.

I think this kit is useful whether you plan to go to a lawyer or do it yourself. Even if you go to the lawyer this book is helpful because, for example, it will help you organize your thoughts and explain the basics so the actual appointment would go faster. This book gives an unbiased explanation so you have the knowledge to make the right decisions.

Overall, I found this to be a very helpful book. Not only was it helpful with the forms, but it helped me organize my thoughts and served as a reminder of the things to think about.

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

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Introduction to Probate   
Probate Avoidance Measures   
Pay-on-Death or Transfer-on-Death Accounts
Transfer-on-Death Securities   
Retirement Accounts   
Joint Accounts   
Custodial Accounts   
Savings Bonds   
Life Insurance Proceeds   
Joint Ownership of Property   
Lifetime Gifts   
Probate Free Transfers of Assets   
Transfer of Vehicles
What Are Revocable Living Trusts?   
Advantages of Living Trusts   
Disadvantages of Living Trusts   
Types of Living Trust   
Living Trust for an Individual   
Living Trusts for Couples   

The Initial Trustee   
Appointing a Co-Trustee   
Successor Trustees   
Changing Trustees   
Types of Gifts under a Living Trust   
Specific Item Gifts   
Cash Gifts   
Gift of the Residuary Trust Estate   
What Is a Beneficiary?   
Types of Beneficiaries under a Living Trust   
Specific Gift Beneficiary   
Alternate Beneficiary   
Residuary Beneficiary   
Beneficiaries under a Shared Trust
Gifts to Spouses   
Community Property States   
Common Law States   

Management of Children's Property   
Uniform Transfer to Minors' Act   
Child Sub-Trusts   
Transfer of Assets   
What Assets should be put in Your Living Trust?   
Title to Assets Transferred to a Living Trust   
Transferring Property to Your Trust   
Real Estate   
Cars, Boats and Other Vehicles   
Cash Accounts    
United States Savings Bonds   
Broker Accounts   
Publicly Quoted Stocks and Bonds
Retirement Plans   
Other Property   

Making Your living Trust   
Reviewing Your Living Trust   
Amending Your Living Trust   
Transferring or Removing Property from Your Living Trust   
Revocation of Your Living Trust   

Pour-Over Wills   


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Product review: Grace Digital ECOXGEAR ECOXBT Rugged and Waterproof Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

Review for use with Nexus 7 Tab, Galaxy Nexus Phone, Galaxy 7.7 Tab, Sansa Clip+ MP3

I have tested Grace Digital ECOXGEAR bluetooth speakers with Android devices using bluetooth (Nexus 7 Tab, Galaxy Nexus Phone, Galaxy 7.7 Tab) and using a audio plug for non-bluetooth Sansa Clip+ MP3 player.  I found the speaker had a nice rich sound that can be made quite loud.  I paired with my bluetooth devices flawlessly and worked well with an audio plug as well for my Sansa MP3 player.  It really enriched my listening pleasure - the sound is so much better! Plus it extended the distance of where the sound is available from my devices.  My computer is on the second floor study. Normally the bluetooth connection on my computer allows me to listen to the devices on the first floor, but not on the deck off my first floor. With a ECOXGEAR bluetooth speaker I can listen to my tablet and mp3 while on the deck, plus I don't have to worry about exposing the tablet to sun and water.  Note that under manufacture warnings for ECOXGEAR (included at the end of this review) it is mentioned to avoid exposing the speaker to direct sun.
I am attaching a photo collage of 8 photos number 1 through 8 under customer photos for reference in this review.

Photo #1 shows everything that came in a package: in addition to the speaker, the package included a charging cable, a narrow profile charger that takes up only one slot on the power strip,  a leash for the gasket covering outlets on the back, and a small carabiner clip (which I have not found use for yet). 
The speaker is positioned next to the ruler for size reference. It is 9 inches in the widest part (handle-to-handle), 3.75 inches in height, the bottom is 2.5 inches wide.  Photo #5 shows the speaker on the digital scale weighing in at 1 pound 9.2 oz. It is a substantial piece of equipment, best suited for using on the deck or at pool side. It is a bit heavy for hiking, where I watch every extra pound I bring along.

Photo #2 shows the gasket covering USB and audio jacks. If you compare photo #1 which shows the gasket on, and photo #2 which shows the gasket off you can see how the design on the back of the speaker helps you position the gasket in the proper way.  Positioning the gasket correctly assures waterproof tightness of speaker. And it works! I put the speaker  under the faucet for a test, then dried the outside, and re-opened the gasket - it was completely dry.

Photo #3 shows the speaker upside down. The bottom of the speaker is 2.5 inches wide and has some textured, so the speaker stands very securely with a good balance.

Photo #4 shows the back of the speaker with a gasket on the leash. Initially I was not going to use the leash, as the speaker looks better without it when the gasket is closed. However, when I used it with an MP3 with an audio cable I misplaced the gasket. After finding it, it was immediately leashed!

Photo #6 shows the top of the unit. From the left:
- The first button is a power button, it is green when the unit is turned on. When you turn it on it generate 1 short beep to indicate it is on.
- The second (blue) button is bluetooth. When you want to pair the speaker with the device you press the button, the light will flash quickly and beep twice to indicate that the speaker awaits pairing. At this point you can go into bluetooth setting on your device and connect. Photo #7 shows "EXOXGEAR" appearing on my Galaxy 7.7 tablet. Once the device and the speaker are paired the speaker will issues 2 short beeps and the blue light stops flashing, when the unit is paired the color is steady blue.  Photo #4 shows power on and bluetooth on state of the unit.
- The third button (red) is battery indicator. When this button is red in indicates that the unit is charging, when it turns green it means the charging is completed and the unit is fully charged.  Photo #6 was taken when the unit is charging. Note this is another situation where the gasket is off and a leash is handy.
- The forth button (with plus/minus labels) is the volume button. One short beep is issued when the maximum volume is reached.  To reach the absolute loudest volume possible both the device and the speaker should be at maximum level.
- The fifth button can be used to answer phone calls if the speaker is paired with the  phone. You can listen to the caller on the speaker and talk over the built-in microphone. 

Photo #8 shows me holding one of the handy handles on the speaker.  Each size of the speaker has a handle. Pretty handy!

The unit can be charged while playing the music. However, if you plug in a charger while the speaker is playing the speaker will turn off.  You need to turn it on again, as well as re-enable bluetooth connection.  The first time it happened I thought I could not charge the speaker and listen to it at the same time, but it is possible if you restart the speaker.

The charging colors on the speaker (red for charging, green for full) are lit only when the charging cable is connected. If charging cable is disconnected the status of the battery is not shown..

Often I get extra insight into a gadget by reading the manufacturer's warnings.  Here is the complete list of ECOXGEAR speakers manufacture's warnings:

1.    Although the unit is waterproof when the CAP is properly closed, the unit is NOT designed for use under water. Do NOT intentionally submerge the unit underwater.
2.    Close the CAP properly before use.  If the unit is placed in water
without the cap properly closed, water may enter into the unit and void your warranty.
3.    Dry unit completely before opening the cap. Do NOT open the cap if wet or in a wet environment.
4.    Do NOT apply excessive force to any surfaces of the unit when wet or in a wet environment.
5.    Do NOT use or store the unit in places with high temperature.
6.    AVOID direct exposure to sunlight and strong magnetic fields.
7.    Periodically check the rubber seal ring on the cap for premature wear.
8.    Periodically clean the rubber seal ring with a soft moist cloth and ensure no objects such as dirt,
hair, sand are on the rubber seal ring. Do NOT use any oily solvent or chemicals for cleaning.
9.    Rinse off the unit with tap water after use in salt water or swimming pool.
10.    Power the unit using the built-in rechargeable battery for portable use and connect the USB cord
to a computer USB connection or to an AC outlet using the AC-to-USB cord adapter to charge unit.
11.    Noise and audio distortion may occur when the batteries are nearing end of charge.
12.    Do NOT remove the built-in battery. Do NOT remove the grill cover.

I received Grace Digital ECOXGEAR speakers for testing from the manufacturer to write an honest and unbiased review and you will find both pluses and minuses of my experience in this review.  If you have any questions on features I covered I am always happy to answer comments.

Overall, I am pleased with the speaker. It provides rich sounds and extends the use of my electronic devices to area I could not reach before.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

The speaker is available in three finishes black (shown in my photos), orange and red.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★