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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Product review: Homitt One Touch Automatic Electric Milk Frother

I like having frothy coffee in the morning.  In the past I have used hand hand milk frothers which I thought worked pretty well.  However, Homitt frother takes the froth to the next level. It generate froth like you would get in coffee shop or restaurant with smaller denser bubbles compared to the hand frother.

What you see in the video is froth from soy milk. Whole milk, of course, makes the thickest creamiest foam but even soy milk generates thick foam that forms peaks.

Cleaning the frother is a bit difficult, because you cannot put in the dish washer, you cannot submerge it in water, and you need to clean quickly after use before the remaining frothy milk forms a solid crust which is hard to work with. I use a brush that I typically use for cleaning mugs.  The package also include a small cleaner that can be used to clean the spring that generates foam.


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The max and min amount of milk are marked on the container. The minimum is 1/3 cup of milk enough to make frothy milk for two mugs. 

One feature this electric frother does not have that I have seen on other electric frothers is whether the milk is warmed or not.  Some frothers can generate cold foam, this frother has only one option warm foam. The foam is not hot so it cannot burn you, it is slightly warm.

The plate and the cover of the frother are made out of light weight plastic.  The body of frother has more heft and is metal.

Note that there are two attachments in the frother, one is attached to the cap and one to the spindle in cup.  The set also includes plastic spoons: several small spoons and one teaspoon size spoon.  They are made out of light cheap plastic and detract from overall package because they feel very cheaply made. They are not something I would use in the kitchen, but I found the use for them in my garden shed I will use them to scoop plant food and fix up liquid soil supplements.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Product review: ToJane Clamp LED Desk Lamp

This desk clamp lamp comes with two different clamp options.  It has two joints, one section is 15.5" and the second section is 16".  The third joint controls the head of the lamp and it can pivot 360 degrees. It can be moved up and down and side to side.  The best feature of this lamp is how flexible it is in position the light. 

How bright? The light has three level of brightness. On its brigtest setting the amount of light it produces is similar to a 60 watt CFL bulb. I measured its brightness with a lux meter at 19" (bright mode is 565 lux, medium 227 lux, and dim is 91 lux) and compared it with a reading I got from a CFL bulb at the same distance (527 lux). The spotlight it generates is somewhat smaller than a CFL bulb. It is sufficient to light the entire large format book, but not enough to light my entire desk surface with the same amount of light - the edges of the desk are darker.  In the video you can see it lighting a large book, the book is fully in the light, but you can see the edges of the desk that are not well lighted.  This is a nature of LED lights and to be expected.

video


The lamp has a nice large touch control. I like that it is large and position on top of the light panel. It is easy to reach and easy to control.

Assembly tip: the base has a screen which needs to be loosened and then tightened after the arm is inserted into the base.  This holds the arm securily attached to the base.

To summarize: I like the long neck and that I can re-position it in many way.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Monday, November 28, 2016

Product review: Garbage Bag, Hmane PE 6 Rolls - 4 gallon







The thing about unknown brands of trash bags is that their volume does not always match my expectation. A few times I got trash bags that were much smaller than expected.  The HMANE trash bags are the same size as a 4 gallon Glad bags. In attached photo you can see the purple HNAME bag on top of the white Glad bag for size comparison.  They are almost identical!

HMANE bags are thinner than Glad bags, they are good for soft light trash.  I am using them in the bathroom trash bin, they work very well there because all the bathroom trash is soft and small. In one of the photos I show my hand inside the bag, I think it gives a good idea of the bag thickness.

Each bag length is 18" and the width is 18" when folded in half (36" total).  The bag is wide at the top and tapers at the bottom.

I received 6 rolls. The listing states that the color selection is random and I got two purple bags, one blue, one yellow, one red, and one green.

This trash bag is a good match for the bin in the small trash can of the Nine Stars touch-less trash can set as well as another small trash bin I own.



You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Product review: Leeaw Defrost Tray Plate




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In attached video I show the defrosting of a salmon filet and two scallops (one on the tray and one on the plate).  The frozen salmon filet is defrosted in 1 hour when laying on top of the Leeaw defrost tray. Without the tray it takes me several hours to defrost similar pieces of fish. I like that the tray border can be easily removed for washing.

In the scallop video I defrosted one on the tray and one on the plate. In 15 minutes the scallop on the tray is defrosted on one side, the scallop on the plate is still a frozen brick.  In 45 minutes after I flipped the scallop one it was totally defrosted.  I use a thermometer probe to measure the temperature of both scallops.  The scallop on the tray showed 36°F, the other tray is below freezing point.

If you know a little bit of physics why defrosting trays work is pretty obvious. Frozen food lying on an aluminum tray thaws more rapidly than food lying on a tabletop rather than on a plate or a wood cutting board because aluminum is a better conductor of heat. What this means in practical terms is that the warm air in the room is transferred faster to the piece of fish or meat on the tray than when it is on the plate or the cutting board.

There is nothing remarkable here and you can get the same results using any heavy duty piece of metal, such a large coopper or aluminum pan or skillet.

In attached video you can see a piece of salmon that was in  my freezer for several weeks. I show it in one hour when it is totally thawed out. Without the tray it took me several hours to defrost the salmon filet.

How does thermal conductivity work?  The higher a material's thermal conductivity the faster it can equalize it's temperature with what it is touching.  Heat "flows" from the aluminum to the frozen fish, increasing the temperature of the frozen fish and decreasing the temperature of the aluminum tray. Heat also flows throughout the entire tray so that even the parts of the tray that are not touching the fish are losing heat.  As it loses heat it becomes cooler than the surrounding air.  Since the tray and the air want to be same temperature the heat from the air is absorbed by the tray increasing its temperature, which in turn heats up the frozen fish.  Since there is endless supply of warm air in the room this processes is continuous. The fact that the tray has feet on the bottom which elevates it from the table increases air circulation and helps the temperature exchange with surrounding air.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★



Saturday, November 26, 2016

Product review: MissyeeDirect Steam Mop X5 Steam Cleaners for Floor Carpet

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I like this steam mop. It does a good job cleaning and it is quite light (3 pounds 14 oz) which makes it easy to work with.  I also like the triangular shape of the mop head - I can get into corners better than with a square shape steam mop.

Assembly was easy.  The pieces of the mop fit together well, the connections feel solid. I did not need any tools. The instruction were very clear (words and diagrams). 



This mop is designed for sealed hard wood floors, tile, and vinyl floors.  It also comes with a glider that can be attached to the bottom to use on carpets. The cleaning pads attach to the mop by Velcro. The bottom of the mop has heavy duty built in Velcro strips that grab on to the Velcro on the bottom of the mop. It has a number of other attachments

I thought the mop did a fine job cleaning. The steam level can be adjusted up and down by a knob next to the on/off button.

I liked most things about the mop. If there was one thing I would change it would be to add a longer electric cord. Its cord is 127 inches.

Overall, I thought the mop did a nice job. It was easy to use, it did a nice job cleaning.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★


Friday, November 25, 2016

Food review: Sole Bean Coffee 100% Arabica Colombian Supremo Medium Roasted Whole Beans

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Sole bean coffee is medium roast coffee with a smooth taste. On the spectrum of medium roast coffees some range towards light and some range toward dark roast.  The sole bean coffee in the range towards light coffee, but has has intense flavor of medium roast coffee. The coffee comes in a ventilated foil pack. The package is fairly small - 8.8 oz.  The coffee smells terrific (both as whole beans and after it has been grounded).  The flavor is intense yet mellow. 

In attached video you see coffee made with one scoop of coffee grounds using pour over method.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★



Thursday, November 24, 2016

Product review: OTUS LED Desk Lamp with Gesture Control


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 Review update:  I originally wrote this review in September 2016. I liked the lamp with the exception on one feature, it beeped every time I changed the brightness or turned it on/off.  I saw that several other reviewers made comments about the beeping noises. The manufacture was very responsive and the beeping sound was removed from all lamps starting November 2016.
In my video you see the original release of the lamp that still beeps.

My original review follows:

This lamp is similar to engineering lamps. It strongest feature is that it is very bright. How bright? Brighter than a 60 watt CFL bulb. I measured its brightness with a lux meter at 19" (1117 lux) and compared it with a reading I got from a CFL bulb at the same distance (527 lux). This lamp was significantly brighter. The spotlight it generates is somewhat smaller than a CFL bulb. It is sufficient to light the entire large format book, but not enough to light my entire desk surface with the same amount of light - the edges of the desk are darker.

The lamp has touch-less controls (on/off). The lamp uses an infrared sensor switch and I just need to wave my hand in front of it to turn it on. This works reliably, however what I do not like that it beeps every time I turn it on or change modes. It is an unpleasant high pitched sound and I have not found a way to turn it off. (If someone figured out how to do it, please leave a comment with a tip!)

This lamp has 12 modes of brightness. In general, I do not like lamps that require me to cycle through many options. This lamp has many options, but I can pre-set your favorite settings so I don't need to cycle through all the options. When I turn it off it remembers my choices.

The lamp has a long neck that can be adjusted in many ways. The base is very heavy and stable.

Initially I thought the lamp's arm comes out too easily out of the base.  However, this was before I discovered a screw that need to be tightened at the base that secures the arm in the base.


To summarize: I like its brightness, I like the long neck and that I can re-position it in many way. I do not like that it beeps every time I touch a control.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Product review: GBGS DIY Window Bird Feeder, 2 suction cups






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We own a large number of window bird feeders but this is the first DIY window birdfeeder.  It is a little cheaper that already made bird feeders but it does take a bit of amount of time to put together.

Putting the bird feeder together is not difficult, but two simple things take time:
(1) Each panel is tightly wrapped in plastic and peeling the plastic off each panel takes several minutes. As you remove the plastic film remember to stick the numbers pack on to the panels, it will help with assembly.
(2) The panels are secured with very tight rubber rings. They are very tight so it takes a while to get each of them on. I used a small screwdriver as a level to speed up the streching.  I show my technique in the video.

This birdfeeder has one feature that our birds really like - the perch that spans the width of the bird feeder.  Some birds use it to stand on, others use it to crack the seeds.

It also has one feeder that squirrels like - the removable tray. The squirrels are so clever that learn to remove the tray and dump all seeds on the ground.  For that reason, I put a rubber band around the birdfeeder so the squirrels cannot remove it. 

The window bird feeder are not squirrel proof.  Even though they cannot climb the class, they can jump from the roof or from other things right onto the bird feeder. As most bird watchers know there is no bird feeder that can stop a determine squirrel.  For example, they learned to shake the birdfeeder which closes under the weight of a creature that is heavier than a bird. We no longer fight with squirrels, we  just add more seeds to feed all creatures big and small.  This bird feeder is small, you can see what a tight squeeze it is for the squirrel in my video.

The bird feeder is held by two suction cups. They provide sufficient suction power to hold the feeder, the seeds, the birds, and the squirrels.

Does the rain get into it? Yes. But the birds do not seem to mind. They are used to wet seeds on the trees.

If this is your first bird feeder it will likely that the birds will take a week to find it. For the first window bird feeder nothing happened for entire week, and then after a week my husband spread some seeds under the bird feeder and that seemed to help the birds find it. Now that we have a couple of window bird feeders it did not take them long to find the new one. The bird's favorite seeds are sunflower seeds. We spoiled the local bird population with sunflower seeds and if we put out the mixed seeds it barely gets touched where as the sunflower seeds disappear very quickly.

The bird feeder gets constant traffic all day long, our visitors love it. 

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆




Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Product review: Organic Lip Gel Lipstick by KK Fashion (Erotic Red)






KK Fashion lipstick comes in several colors and I select the Erotic Red color of this lipstick. Nice color!  It is vibrant red with a little bit of magenta undertones.  I like that it is not a fire truck red but a more interesting bright red color.

The lipstick gel comes in a small acrylic tub, with an applicator in a little draw hidden in the bottom of the container.  I found this little draw a little hard to open so unless I travel I don't click it closed, just gently close it so it is easy to open the next time. I tried applying the lipstick with the tip of my finger as well as with the applicator.  I like using the finger, but the gel really sticks to the skin and I need to use a bit of hand cream to totally remove it.  Using the applicator, of course, there is no problem with getting the gel on the skin but an applicator gives me  a bit less control.  It is hard to beat the finger as an applicator!

I like the lipstick gel has all natural ingredients:
Honey, Beeswaz, Cator Oil, Vaseline, Vitamin E, Microcrytalline Wax, Aloe extract.

I do not feel the lipstick on my lips other than a bit of moisturizer, it has no flavor.  It stays on well, unless I eat and then it requires re-application.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆




Monday, November 21, 2016

Product review: H&R Block Tax Software Deluxe + State 2016 Win

I have been using H&R Block tax software for many years. I keep using it because it does what I need it has always been cheaper than TurboTax. I have been buying the Deluxe version of H&R Block because it covers the mutual funds sales, cost basis calculations are included (Schedule D), the form for Foreign Tax Credit from mutual funds is present (Form 1116), as well as stock sales. To get this functionality in TurboTax you need to buy the Premium version of the software.

I always do my preliminary tax prep at the end of year before the final version is ready, and have not had any any issues other than not having the final version of the software. This year's software seem to have a few more glitches.

(1) Some information on the screen is rendered in a very small font and is hard to read, however most of text is okay.
(2) Initially I had issues importing previous year tax data, but I was able to resolve this problem after I saved this year's empty return and then used a menu choice "File - Import Last Year's Tax Data".
(3) I found it confusing that on the first page after install it had two references to activation codes. Each reference used a different terminology. The first activation code was to unlock the H&R Block software, the second activation code was to unlock 5 free filing. It was not clear to be if this was redundant information using different terminology or if I will actually need this information later when I am ready to file. I saved a screen shot in case I ever need this information but since I am not ready to file I will not known the answer until a few months down the road.

INSTALLATION
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
* If you are using a digital download you will need an activation code to install the software. The activation code can be located in several ways.
Option 1: The activation code is included in the message I received from Amazon with the subject line 'Your Amazon.com order of "H&R Block Tax software"'
Option 2: You can locate activation code in your Amazon account:
1) Log into Amazon
2) Select 'Your account' and scroll to the section called 'Digital Content'
3) Select 'Your Games and Software downloads'
4) Then under H&R software entry you will see activation code listed under H&R Block title

* If you have a virus scanner it will generate an alert the first time you run the program, change the permission to "Permit Always" otherwise the program will be blocked.

* Does H&R allow to install the software on two PCs?
No. The license agreement that one needs to accept during the install says this:
"At no time you cab have the Software installed on more than one computer. You may copy the Software for backup and archival purposes only."

* WHAT IS INCLUDED
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I purchased H&R Block Deluxe plus State. This version entitles me to 5 free federal e-files. I do tax returns for an elderly relative so I use a couple of them. Note that there is no limit on how many returns can be printed on paper, so you can print and mail more than 5 return if desired.

The rights to install one state software is included in the package but the package does NOT include free e-file for the state return (see exceptions below). If you want to e-file your state return you will need to pay a fee of $19.95 to e-file each state return. Alternatively, you can print all the forms and mail them using US post office without any additional fees. If you need to file taxes for more then one state, then you need to purchase additional states. Each additional state is $39.95 plus $19.95 e-file fee.

Note 1: NY state residents can e-file state returns for free if they meet income level qualifications
Note 2: It is not possible to e-file a state return for New Hampshire, the NH returns have to be mailed.

* The state forms are not available as of 11/20/2016 as I write this review. H&R web site says they will become available in January. To see the latest status you can go to H&R website, click on "Download software", and select "State Editions". Currently it says "Coming soon in January 2017". When the state forms became available the state software can be downloaded directly from the H&R Block software installed on your PC.

* GENERAL
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Here are my other observation after finishing my preliminary return. Note: the forms are not final until January of 2017. Overall it worked as expected, my comments are on low lights and high lights of my experience.

* H&R Block starts the interview process with an annoying up-sell pitch, recommending an upgrade from Deluxe to Premium even when it is not necessary. In my opinion, they should have determined if the person would truly benefit from the Premium version first. That would have been useful. As it stands now it is just annoying.

What is the difference between Premium and Deluxe? The Premium version offers advanced tools for self-employed and rental property owners: cost basis of home sales, dividends, gifts, and inheritance assets. It has advanced schedule C guidance to maximize deductions for self-employment income. And finally it has guidance for rental property income and expenses. The rest of the Premium package is the same as Deluxe.

Note that the Deluxe package has support for self-employed income as well as stock sale cost basis calculations.
  


* I do not like that the Help is not context sensitive. For example, they requested my mobile phone number this year. Next to this request there is a link "How is this information used." I clicked on it and it just put me into the top index of H&R help. I was not able to find a relevant help segment. Maybe I did not think of the right keywords. The help should have put on the specific text in help that explained how the mobile number would be used. This is typical, none of the Help is context sensitive and I rarely find anything useful there. If I need help I search the internet and I find better answers to my questions.

* H&R Block provided me some guidance for completing Form 1116 (foreign tax credit, for example foreign tax paid by a mutual fund). However, I needed to keep switching between the whole-form view to enter data and then back to interview to read the instructions. Even though the form where you can enter data is visible at the same time as instructions you cannot enter data into it until you switch into whole-form view. This is cumbersome, but at least there is some guidance for this form.

* I like DeductionPro which helps suggests reasonable prices based on condition of the donated used clothing items. It is nice not to have to come up with what is reasonable on my own.

* At the end of the interview process there is a check step (which you can run at any time, but the interview ends with this check). This step flags problems (e.g. missing information) and potential audit alerts (e.g. unusual deductions), and reminders (e.g. things you marked tentative). I find this check step very helpful.

* The final tax return can be saved in a .PDF format for future reference. I always do that so I can re-print an old return without having to run an old copy of H&R Block (especially down the road when a new computer may not even have an old H&R Block installed).

* H&R Block can print forms when Ethernet connection is disconnected. In 2014 TurboTax's introduced a requirement that the data had to be sent to Intuit's servers to be formatted for printing. H&R Block does not have this requirement.

* Does H&R has the ability to import TurboTax data from previous years?
Yes. TurboTax files have a .tax extension. Use the Browse button within H&R Block application to navigate to the folder you need and it will import the data from TT return.

* If you owe taxes there are three options for payment: electronic withdrawal from your bank, mailing a check and paying by credit card from a secure web site. Is there a charge to pay by credit card? Yes. There are three web sites that do this service and the fees vary from the lowest of $2.50 flat fee for a debit card to highest of 2.25% fee by credit card from one of the web sites. If you search for "pay taxes by credit or debit" you will see the detailed fee schedule on the irs.gov web site.

PRICE considerations
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The price on this package changes often and you can catch some great discounts. I use a nice tool that shows history of Amazon prices. If you enter "Amazon price history alert" in Google it will come up at the top, my favorite has the word "camel" (repeated 3 times) in the name. You can set up the tool to send you an alert when you desired price drop is reached. During the last tax year season the price fluctuated between $20 and the list price of $44.99, dipping below $30 a number of times. It also qualifies for digital credits for No-rush Prime shipping (but it appears that if you use the digital no-rush credits even for a portion of the full price Amazon removes the Verified purchase stamp treating them as Gift Certificates).

Also note that Amazon adds the State sales tax to the final price of H&R Block (in states where it has physical presences such as Massachusetts).

I am a little less happy with this version of H&R Block than in prior years, but overall no major road blocks. I will update this review if I find new issues or new kudos. If you have a question I have not covered leave a comment and I will do my best to answer it.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆





Sunday, November 20, 2016

Product review: Hawthorne Hand-Crafted Wood Earrings by Unkudu


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This is my first set of earrings made out of wood and did not expect them to be as light as they are.  I was curious about what wood this earrings are made of and contacted the manufacturer for more information.  I was told that the wood belongs to Pala indigo plant (Wrightia tinctoria family).


The earrings are fairly long: including the hook the entire length of one of earrings 1 7/8" (just the wood part is 1.25").   The shape of the earring is nicely proportioned and is very attractive.  The colors are predominately green in color.

The metal hook is made out of brass. I can tell that nickel is not part of the alloy because my ears start itching within a few minutes if nickel is present.  These earrings I can wear all day without any problems.

The packaging of the earrings is very nice.  They come a pretty wood box which can be used to store the earrings or re-purposed to store any other small items.  It closes tightly and not only looks beautiful but is functional as storage.

Overall, attractive, lightweight, unique looking. I like them.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Product review: FULLLIGHT TECH 720P 8.0MP Low-Glow Waterproof Game Camera

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I have experience with several wild cams because we have a lot of wild life on our property and love taking a peek in the life of our visitors. This wild cam produces very good videos (excellent color, good exposure, night time video has a lot of definition) but it has difficult controls including for the operation that I use most frequently - formatting SD to remove the old videos.

This camera is controlled by physical switches to set the mode and the switches works fine. Other operations require the use a complicated sequence of key combinations (up, down, and keys together). The camera often gets into a wrong mode even when the sequence is done correctly. I have been using the camera for over 2 weeks and it has not gotten any easier. I tried other methods of removing old videos like formatting the SD using my computer or removing the files without reformatting. This does not work. After removing files with the computer the camera does not record, it only works if reformat SD in the camera.

The highest resolution of video you can get with camera is 720P. The photo resolution maximum is 8M. However the quality of the video and images under different light conditions is very good. The night time video has more resolution and details then any of my other cameras. I have included a couple of video clips taken at night when the camera switched to infrared. You will be able to recognize those clips because they are black and white.

Motion activation mode works reliably. There is a switch of how long it should wait until the next activation (1 minute, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes). The camera can run on 4, 8, or 12 batteries. The battery use is quite good, it recorded a large amount of videos every day on the same set of batteries. On some days 32G of data was recorded at which point the camera stopped recording. The camera has a low battery indicator but it is a tiny light that is hard to see. Other cameras have an easier to see displays.

In attached video I included videos recorded during the day and during the night. The camera is mounted on a tripod using the screw on the bottom of the case. The camera is waterproof and has been out in several rain storms without any problems.

Keep in mind that video you see on Amazon is highly compressed and it is best viewed as a time stamp image, because then you don't see the degradation caused by compression.

Bottom line: The video is good during the day and excellent during the night (i.e. much more definition compared to my other cameras). On the negative side the camera controls are hard to use.

This camera was provided to me at a special discount for testing and review as part of a new product introduction. Getting a discounted product does not effect what I say. I always leave critical reviews when the product deserves it. This camera has both highs and lows and I described both aspects of my experience. I think the videos it generates are better than others, but the user interface is much worse.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆



Friday, November 18, 2016

Product review: Morning Smile Premium Bathroom Toilet Stool

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I saw a squatty stool idea on an episode of Shark Tank and thought it was an interesting concept. When I received an offer from Morning Smile to give one of these gizmos a try I accepted. It sounded like something my elderly mother could benefit from as she has problems with occasional constipation.

Even though I like the concept, I decided this particular construction is not for my mother or other elderly people. The strap between the two steps is a tripping hazard for someone who might be unsteady on their feet. I think a stepping stool that is a solid construction (i.e. not two separate things) would work better. If you want to shift your position while sitting the separate steps make it somewhat difficult for someone who does not have rock solid balance.

As far as squatting position, it does seem to be effective for its purpose even though it does take some getting used to. The height of each step can be adjusted by adding and removing the base. I found the low position most comfortable.

The steps themselves are quite small. In attached video I show them with 7.5 woman shoe size and 8.5 men shoe size. You can see that a portion of the foot is overhanging the edge in both cases which decreases comfort.

The strip between the two units tends to come off on its own (as well as being a tripping hazard) so we removed it.

The steps have friction pads on the bottom, so if one is careful they do not shift. The friction strips are attached by pressure to the bottom, three of them stay in but one of the strips kept fall out when the step was lifted, so I glued it down.

I received this bathroom aid for evaluation and review. If this makes you skeptical about what I say examine my review history to see that I leave critical reviews on regular basis when the products deserve it no matter what I paid for the product. This aid is not a good match for someone elderly or who has issues with balance. I think the concept is pretty good, but this particularly implementation had some practical issues.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Product review: Kora Spa Massage Shower Beach Slipper Sandal


These are plastic flip flops.  Their surface has texture and the texture combined with the hard finish feel like a massage to the soles of your feet.  The sole has through holes, so these slippers are particularly good around water they drain instantly.  These are not the kind of slippers I can wear all day, but they are good around the pool or on the beach.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆




Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Product review: Autumnwood Hand-Crafted Wood Earrings by Unkudu


video

This is my first set of earrings made out of wood and did not expect them to be as light as they are.  I was curious about what wood this earrings are made of and contacted the manufacturer for more information.  I was told that the wood belongs to Pala indigo plant (Wrightia tinctoria family).

The earrings are quite long: including the hook the entire length of one of earrings 2 5/8" (just the wood balls part is 2").   The shape of the earring is nicely proportioned and is very attractive.  The colors are of natural wood from dark brown to light brown.

The metal hook is made out of brass. I can tell that nickel is not part of the alloy because my ears start itching within a few minutes if nickel is present.  These earrings I can wear all day without any problems.

The packaging of the earrings is very nice.  They come a pretty wood box which can be used to store the earrings or re-purposed to store any other small items.  It closes tightly and not only looks beautiful but is functional as storage.

Overall, attractive, lightweight, unique looking. I like them.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Product review: Eparé USB Mug Warmer

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I thought this mug warmer would be really handy. However, turns out it does not provide enough heat to make a difference.

I conducted four experiments. I measured the tea temperature in several different cups after 30 minutes and after 60 minutes. I the "control" test I did not use the warmer, just let the tea cool naturally. In the first test, I used my favorite mug (this mug does not have a flat bottom). In the second test I was using a narrow cup that makes full contact with the heated surface. The third test was the using the same narrow cup without the heater. Finally, in the forth test I used a paper cup.

The most conclusive experiment was using the same narrow cup with and without the warmer. The heater made no difference, the tea cooled by approximately the same percentage. The cooled cooled off 41% while on the warming plate, and 40% without a warming plate. What made a bigger difference was the type of cup I used. The mug cooled off slower than a glass cup or paper cup.

~ At start of the first experiment the tea temperature is 136 degrees (mug)
~ 30 minutes later the tea temperature is 113 degrees
~ 60 minutes later the tea temperature is 104 degrees
~ In 60 mins temperature went down by 23.5%

~ At start of the second experiment the tea temperature is 179 degrees (narrow cup with heater)
~ 30 minutes later the tea temperature is 123 degrees
~ 60 minutes later the tea temperature is 105 degrees
~ In 60 mins temperature went down by 41%

~ At start of the third experiment the tea temperature is 163 degrees (narrow cup no heater)
~ 30 minutes later the tea temperature is 118 degrees
~ 60 minutes later the tea temperature is 98 degrees
~ In 60 mins temperature went down by 40%

~ At start of the forth experiment the tea temperature is 185 degrees (paper cup)
~ 30 minutes later the tea temperature is 129 degrees
~ 60 minutes later the tea temperature is 109 degrees
~ In 60 mins temperature went down by 41%

This mug warmer is slightly under 3" wide. It does not fit most of my mugs. It fits my favorite mug because the mug does not have a flat bottom but rahter a raised ring which is narrow enough to fit the warmer. Despite making limited contact with the mug warmer this mug did best in my tests just because its material held the heat better. The mug warmer does fit tea cups. The documentation indicates that it fits most cup and mugs under 12 oz, all the mugs I tried are under 12 oz. So measure the base to determine the if this warmer fits your favorite mug, not the capacity.

I took 1 minute and 40 seconds for the warmer to become hot (the switch is on the back next to the cord). The warmer has a green power indicator and a red heat indicator. The green power light turns on as soon as USB is plugged in, red indicator turns on when you press the switch on the back to turn on the heat. Note that documentation has the position of the two indcators reversed.

I my experiments using the warmer with different cups and mugs it did not keep the tea any warmer than not using it. I received this warmer for evaluation and review as part of the new product introduction. Getting a free review product does not effect what I say. I leave critical reviews when the product deserves it and unfortunately this is the case this time.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★☆☆☆☆

Product review: TOGUARD Dash Cam





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Through the years we owned a few dash cams which gives me a chance to compare TOGUARD with other car dash cams. TOGUARD video quality is excellent.  It does well under various lightening conditions and the color is true to life. Night time video is very good as well. The camera is small in side, the user interface is menu driven and intuitive.  The buttons are well marked and not overloaded for multiple functions, so I could use it even without reading the manual.

On the negative side it is designed to be attached to the window with a sticky tape. This does not fit in how I use the dash cams. I want to be able to take off my dash when I park in the city, I want to be able to move it from car to car.  However, I was able to come up with a way to use my own suction cup mount.  To attach the camera to the suction mount I use a phone holder.  Because the camera is small and light it holds securely.

♦ I had no technical issues of any kind. All files were readable. The camera writes out video frequently.  You can change how often under settings. I have it set to 5 minutes.  Some dash cams write one large file, this is much better as it improves reliability.

♦ The dash cam uses stands mini USB cables, the package includes a chargine cable and a cable with car port charger.

♦ Audio is recorded clearly, the default setting is to record with the microphone turned on.  It can be turned off.

♦  You need to supply your own micro card.  The package does not exclude one.

Overall, I this an excellent dash cam with only one negative for how I use the dash cam - the sticky tape mount.  I found a "fix" for the problem which is a bit of kludge but it works.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Monday, November 14, 2016

Product review: ELUNLANY Beach Slippers Sandal Flipflops


These flip flops are very comfortable. They are made from synthetic rubber.  The sole material has some give so it feel very comfortable.

These flip flops are unisex, I ordered the small size and they are a pretty good fit for a woman's foot.  In attached photos you see how it fits my foot which is normally is 7.5 shoe size.

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You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★




Sunday, November 13, 2016

Product review: SEREE S2 Ultra HD 4K 360 Degree Action Waterproof Panoramic Sport Camera

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The unique feature of the camera is has a fisheye lens which produces 360 degree video. Overall, the video quality is pretty good under many conditions but not all. It overexposes video when the camera is shooting in very sunny conditions and it does not compensate well when you move from shadow to the sun (like when you come out from under the bridge into the full sun). I show small clips which show the camera at its worst and at its best in attached video. Under good lighting the color rendition is good and true to life. It also takes pretty decent night time video. The camera microphone is worse than other sports cameras I have used. You will hear sound distortions in my video. Keep in mind that Amazon compresses video, so it is best to watch it as postage format so the compression effects are not visible.

The camera user interface is menu driven, but you can only see two lines. The documentation is not detailed and not good, so I am finding myself fumbling with the keys a bit as I navigate through menus even after several weeks of using the camera. The navigation and keys are not obvious in many cases. All buttons are overloaded with several functions depending on what mode the camera is in.

This camera support WIFI mode where live video can be see on the smart phone. The app for live product is called "XDV360°" (by Shenzhen Pisoftware Technology). The app is not great, but at least it is available from Googplay and the manufacturer did not ask me to load the app from an untrusted site. Downloading software from untrusted site is not safe and I never down load apps from manufacturer web site unless it is a well known trusted company.

The camera supports micro SD cards up to 32GB (the micro SD card is NOT included). To recharge the camera takes about 2 hours from empty, I am getting about 2 hours of video on one charge.

The package includes a large number of clamps and holders as well as a waterproof case. Windshield suction cup mount is not included, and because of the shape of the camera none of my old window suction cup mounts fit the camera facing forward.

The manual is very sparse. The manual is very small and only has a few basic operations. It does not have instructions for every button. Plan on doing some experimentation to figure out controls.

I received this camera for testing and review at a special discount as part of the new product introduction. If reviews for discounted items make you skeptical, examine reviewer record. I have a long history of leaving critical reviews when products deserve it. I covered pluses and minuses of my experience. I really like the fisheye lens. The video quality is very good under many conditions, but not all. The sound recording is not good. The user interface is not as user friendly as some other sports cameras. Overall rating OK.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆