Sunday, December 31, 2017

Product review: Raqpak Travel Laundry Set with Adjustable Bungee Clothesline, Clothes Pins, Sink Stopper

In my efforts to travel light I like doing laundry on the road. This kit has everything I need - a stopper to turn the sink into a wash basin and a clothesline with clips to dry things out. This listing contains two lengths options 1.3 m and 1.8 m. Because the length are specified in metric measures I made a bit of the mistake ordering the short one, it is only 41 inches, where is the long one is 71 inches. However, even a short one works because I can attach it on angle between two adjacent walls.

The weak point of the set are the suction cups. They can hold very light items, but something like heavy hiking socks (one of the things I like washing on the road) are too heavy for the suction cups. The good news is that this clothesline also has hooks under the cups and using the hooks it can support more weight. The challenge with hooks it to find to places to hook them, but usually I can figure something out.

Bottom line here is that if you are planning to dry light items you can take advantage the suction cups, if you are planning to dry heavy things you need to use hooks.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Friday, December 29, 2017

Product review: BirdRock Home 55" Extendable Snow MOOver

Several weeks ago I purchased the "BirdRock Home 55" Extendable Snow MOOver".  I own a Honda CRV, which is a pretty tall car and in the past I always found the squeegee part of the snow brush worked more effectively for snow removal especially from the roof. When I saw this snow mover I thought it has a potential to be a really good match for me. I am writing this review after the first snow (and ice) event with the BirdRock snow mover and it worked very well, better than my old brush scraper.

In the past I owned brushes with two different extension mechanisms - the twist and the button release like BirdRock. The buttons work much better when the weather is cold and wet. The twisting mechanism often froze on me just when I needed it. I also like the foam handle, they don't chill my hands. 55" length is a very good length is long enough to push the snow off the roof the car on the other side. I am fairly short and the car is fairly tall, 55" just enough to reach accross. The width of the head 14". 55" length is the length of the moover when it is fully extended, when it is collapsed it length is 36".

The orange head the moover is made out of stiff synthetic rubber type material which has some give it to it. I can flex it a little bit with my fingers, but it is stiff enough that it does not bend pushing the wet snow. The scraper on the other end is made out of hard stiff plastic and has a good shape - small enough to get it into crevices next to the side mirrors.

Overall, I am quite pleased with my new snow and ice tool.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Product review: BB Prevent Outdoor Faucet Cover

These covers are made out of nylon fabric with 1/4" insulation material between the two layers.  The insulation layer feels like plastic packing sheets.  It provides light protection, it is probably not sufficient for a deep deep freeze we occasionally get in New England. So it is always best to turn off the water and drain the the pipe for winter and these covers provide some extra insurance.

These covers are easy to install - I just slipped them over the faucet and tightened the Velcro around the pipe.  The package included two covers.  Their size is 7" by 5.5".  The Velcro strip is 6".

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Monday, December 25, 2017

Product review: Lemome Bullet Journal - dotted design

I really like this notebook.

(1) I like the dotted design, it allows me to write straight no matter what orientation I use the notebook in
(2) The notebook lays flat no matter where I open it, I do not need to "train" it
(3) I like that it has both the bookmark ribbon and the elastic that keeps the notebook closed
(4) The notebook's cover has a nice texture, it has slight give to it 
(5) The bookmark has an elastic loop to hold a pen
(6) There is a pocket on back cover to keep small notes. It arrived with a sheet of colorful sheet of page dividers tucked away in the pocket.
(7) The pages have a perforation so pages can be ripped out neatly if needed

The size of the notebook is 8.4" by 5.7". It has 180 pages.

This is the first time I bought a notebook with a dotted design and I really like it.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Product review: Pro Line 15 Watt Soldering Iron with Ceramic Heating Element & Ergonomic Cool Grip Handle

This a nice soldering iron. It comes in a 12" x 4" x 2" case. The soldering iron has an ergonomically shaped handle which is 6.5" long. It stays cool while you use it, and its texture is grippy. The package includes a 2" x 2" safety stand. The soldering iron has ceramic heating element and heats up quickly. Maximum temperature is 824°F (440°C). The tip is iron-clad chrome-plated and replaceable. The soldering iron has a 8-foot power cord.

In attached video you see my husband working on the banana plugs for the audio cables. He thought the soldering iron worked well. The soldering iron has been in use since 2014, he uses it for a couple of projects every year.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Product review: Cartman Windshield Sun/Snow Shade

The windshield shade is made out of light weight nylon. Its size is 59" x 27.5", in attached photos you can see it on Honda CRV SUV. The windshield is covered fully side to side but not all the way from the top to the bottom as you see in the photo on the left.

 The silver side up is used as a sun shade, and the black side up is used as a snow shade.

The windshield shade has flaps on the sides to hold the shade in place.  The suction cups held well when I tried them in the warmth of the house, but they do not stay attached to the metal or glass in the cold weather.  However I am able to tuck the flaps into the doors and that holds the shield in place.  The flaps are in the middle of the shield and as you see in attached photos the top and bottom edges flap in the wind.  I thinking of adding additional straps at the top of the shield to hold the top from folding over.

Overall, it does makes snow removal easier after a snow fall, even though I think how it attaches to the car can be improved.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Product review: Cartman 3-in-1 Collapsible Car Snow Brush- Ice Scraper

This three in one tool include 35.5" shovel, 30.5" show brush, and 27.5" ice scraper.  The tools feel fairly sturdy, compact and light weight.  Especially handy for our smaller car.

The workmanship is a pretty rough, the metal edges are not well polished and I scraped my hand on a sharp edge when putting the shovel together so be careful.

Changing heads is fairly easy if you use something other than you fingers to press the button and then the handle to keep the button depressed by the sides and then with the button depressed pull or push the handle as needed.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Product review: JEBSENS Z6 Metal Architect Swing Arm Desk Lamp

Not that long ago LED lamps did not quite work as desk lamps because they did not cast a large enough spot light. Jebsen's LED Desk Lamp proves that those days are in the past. Not only is the light bright it cast a large area of light. In my video I turn off all the lights and you see all the light cast by this lamp at my desk with a book on the desk. This lamp has three levels of brightness and is controlled by a touch control on top of the light. The lamp operates smoothly and what I really like that it is quite tall. Its first joint is 19", the second one is 16.5", and the light panel itself is 11.5". What this means is that I don't have to mount it in the middle of the table, I can mount near a corner and still light the entire table. My old lamp has to be mounted in the middle, and sometimes gets in my way when I want to spread something on the table (like when I am sewing).

The light has a nice sturdy clamp. It attaches well, however you need an Allen wrench to adjust it. You also need an Allen wrench to adjust other angles. Allen wrench is included.

This lamp produces very nice bright light as well as a large spot light. I like it!

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, December 15, 2017

Product review: Flashlight WUBEN Waterproof 1200 Lumens CREE LED Rechargeable Battery and Zoom

Wuben flashlight is a very bright flashlight. It generate an even bright beam of light that can be zoomed. It has 5 modes of light: Eco,Low,Medium,High, and SOS.

In addition to a permanent light on setting, the light can me turned on briefly when the button is pressed half way down. The instant-on light only stays on while you hold the button half way.
When the button is pushed all the way down it switches modes.

This light runs on one 18650 battery. The battery is included.  The flashlight also servers a re-charger, it can be plugged in using a standard micro USB cable.

The flashlight is waterproof to IPX-8 standard, which means it is protected against water submersion in water. The flashlight comes with a couple of spare o-rings in a plastic baggie.

Wube flashlight feels very solid. In attached photos you can see it on the 1/2" grid and on the scale. It is 6.5" long and weighs 6.2 oz (with the battery installed). It comes with a wrist strap and a micro USB cable.  I liked that the cable had a braided jacket.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Product review: Yes4All Wall Mount Chin Up Bar

Amazon has carries two types of chin up bars from Yes4All  combined in one listing. I purchased the newer version which is one piece bar (not the one that has rivets connecting two pieces).

I purchased this chin up bar to follow Dr. Kirsch exercise protocol for shoulder pain. Which means I use it to hang from the bar rather than do chin ups. I was looking for something I can mount in the basement and something that was not too expensive. This bar met these requirements.

The bar is meant to be mounted on the studs which are 16" apart. The mounting plate dimensions are 7" x 3". Mounting hardware is included. The horizontal grips extend 12" from the wall and vertical grips extend 15" from wall.

I am including a few photos to show close ups of the hardware, the mounting plate, and the bar/supports. When I was shopping I wished I could those things to finalize my decision.

Overall, pretty good. The mounting instructions could have been better.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Monday, December 11, 2017

Product review: SmartSpeed Cat Window Seat Mounted Cat Bed with Suction Cup

I want to start with a few words about the construction of the seat. The suction cups are LARGE (3.25"), so they provide a secure hold. The string that holds the seat is made out of twisted metal wires, like a heavy duty picture frame hanging wire, so that is also very secure even if the kitty runs its claws over it. The seat is made out of canvas bag with a waterproof lining inside the bag. The top material has a feel of canvas (it is not plush). The plastic tubes are hollow this provides structural strength. So I believe it can hold a couple of heavy cats. Our kitty cats are pretty small (7 and 8 pounds) so it sure holds them well. In attached video you see them rubbing against the wires supports and pulling on them with their paws, we held our breath watching them but the shelf held without a problem. The shelve has been up for more than 2 weeks with the cats going up and down and we did not need to readjust or reattach it.

Assembly was easy. The plastic parts push together to form a frame. The canvas bag is pulled over the frame. The canvas seat has two small holes through which you need to feed the wires that to to the top suction cups. As the cats sit on the shelve it does not remain taught, it kind of sags in the middle forming a nest.

I have to say that our kitties did not take to the shelf right away. They did not like the texture of the canvas. We fixed that by putting a towel over it as we know our cats love any towel. With the towel in place they had an initial fear of the seat, but we enticed them to try it out by placing a couple of Greenies in the middle of the shelf. Our kitties love Greenies so they went for it. Once they were on the shelf they realized it was a pretty good place to be. By the next day they did not need any enticement, and we see our cats taking turns sleeping there as well as looking out of the window. We put the window seat on the windows across from our bird feeders as our indoor cats often look at the birds through the windows.

The seat comes without assembly instructions. My video include the major steps
1) putting together the frame of the seat
2) threading the wires through the seat
3) inserting anchors into the suction cups
4) attaching the seat to the window

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Product review: Way Basics Eco Stackable Storage Cube Plus and Cubby Organizer

Each storage cube is made out of corrugated cardboard covered with paper lining. The cardboard boards are held together by small wooden pegs and strips of fairly thin 3M glue tape. These connections are not strong if the force is not exactly perpendicular to the connection. In practical use this means the cube comes apart easily if something pushes on the walls sideways. I found out that using the cube with books and other heavy items causes them to fall apart and now use the cube to store light clothing items. The cube can be used with the opening either up or to the side (i.e. all walls are finished).

I got the cedar color, which is natural wood color. The finish is neat looking but it is pretty obvious that it is not real wood. The size of the cube is 12" width x 14" height x 10.5" depth.

The assembly was pretty easy, the boards are connected by wooden pegs and glue tape. No tools were needed except on the last step when I used a mallet to make tight connections on the last step.

Note that each sale is for one cube. The pictures that show more than one cube show how the cubes can be put together as a demonstration.

Bottom line: Not bad looking, but disappointing constructions.  They are not  heavy duty. Since the cubes are made out of cardboard do not use them in rooms that have high moisture content.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★☆☆☆

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Product review: ICZI USB 3.0 3-Port Hub with SD/TF Card Reader Combo laptops and iMacs

This hub has three USB slots and two card reader slots(1 micro SD and 1 SD). It is compatible with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0.  I tried USB memory sticks that were both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 and both worked.  In above photos I show the hub on 1/2" grid for relative size reference, you can also see that its cord is 6.5" long.

To test how well the card reader worked I ran bench marking utility and compared them with the standard real life benchmark.
You can see the results below, this is an average of 30 samples.

➨ USB 3.0 port and USB 3.0 memory stick
Average read rate ~~~~~~ 0.406 GB/s
Average write rate ~~~~~~ 0.137 GB/s
Average Access time ~~~~~ 1.31 msec

For comparison industry standard benchmarks for 3.0 USB reads (real-world (i.e. NOT THEORETICAL) speed based on 2017 benchmarks)

➨ USB 3.1 gen 1 ~~ 3.2 Gb/s
➨ USB 3.1 gen 2 ~~ 7.2 Gb/s
➨ USB 2.0 ~~ 0.32 Gb/s

The speeds I saw in my testing are slightly faster than USB 2.0. This is not the speediest hub and falls below the 3.1 USB benchmarks. On the positive side the hub feels solid, the cards slides into the slots smoothly. I like that micro SD card is not seeded deeply so it is easy to insert and remove.  The hub is compact and fits nicely in the busy space near the computer. 

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Product review: COMFITS Over The Door Shoe Organizers - 24 Pockets and Hanging Closet Organizer Storage

This over the door hanger has double sided hooks to work with think and thin doors.  I am using the thin ends to put over the door and the longer hooks is holding the shoe organizer. In attached photos are show the hooks on 1/2" so you can see their dimensions and thickness.  The hooks are quite thin and I had no trouble opening the door.  However, if your is very tight you might have a problems and the hooks door require about 1/8" of clearance.

The canvas organizer is made out of grey canvas, the pockets are generously sized.  I show how Crocs fit into the pocket, and Crocks are pretty wide and stiff shoe so this gives you a good idea of what the pockets can fit.  I would not describe the organizer as beautiful, but it looks good on the inside of the closet door.  The closet looks much more organized and has more room with the shoes off the floor.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Product review: YIGII Hook 3M Self Adhesive Brushed SUS304 Stainless Steel Hooks (4 Pack)

I got a set of Yigii stainless hooks and I am quite pleased with them.  They have 3M sticky tape on the back and hold well on textured surface.  Note that they do not work on painted surfaces, they work on surfaces like glass, metal and plastic.  In attached photos I show the hooks on 1/2" grid so you cane how each hooks extends from the wall.  The hook is a nice size and I am able to hang quite a bit of stuff on each.

The listing includes 4 double hooks.  They are quite sturdy and have a nice clean brushed stainless steel look.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, December 1, 2017

Product review: Eparé Egg Cracker Topper Set – Soft Hard Boiled Eggs Separator Tool - Shell Remover & Cutter

There are lots of different ways to top an egg this gadget adds another option. This little device drops a guillotine on the egg to crack and behead the shell in a perfect circle. It takes a little practice to develop the perfect touch. As you see in video sometimes the egg shells is removed perfectly and lifted by the topper, and sometimes it scores the shell and leaves it on the egg and it is necessary to remove it separately using a knife.

The instruction recommend not to wash the egg topper in the dish washer. The manual also contains a warning that the edges are sharp and to take caution while washing the egg topper not to cut your fingers. I wash the egg topper with a small brush that can get inside of the topper.

The set include two egg holders, two egg spoons, and one topper. The entire set is made out stainless steel. The only down side to egg holders being metal that if you like your boiled eggs hot, the holders get hot as well. My ceramic egg holders don't have the same issue. But the matching holders look good in the beheading ceremony! It is a nice set and a perfect gift for an egg lover who has everything.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Product review: coLorty Black on Yellow Laminated Label Tape for P-touch Labeler PT-D210, 24mm x 8m

I purchased coLorty 1" tape at the same time as I purchased my label maker (Brother PT-D210).  I relied on the Amazon product description saying tha "Perfecty compatible with PT-D210", however PT-D210 does not take 1" tape. It is unfortenate that the listing combines many different tapes yet the description does not clearly state which tapes are compatible with which models. PT-D210 only accepts tapes that from 0.13 (3.5 mm) to 0.47" (12 mm). When a tape wider then 1/2" is inserted the case does not close and the tape cannot be used. 

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★☆☆☆

Monday, November 27, 2017

Product review: Brother P-Touch PT-D210 Label Maker

This label maker produces laminated self-adhesive labels.  It take label tape that ranges from 0.13 (3.5 mm) to 0.47" (12 mm). It DOES NOT take 1" tape even though many compatible label tape makers state their tape is compatible with PT-D210 P-Touch the 1" tape does not fit (the case cannot be closed). 

The package includes the label maker, instructions, and a short sample label tape. 

The label maker can run on batteries (six AAA batteries) or AC adapter cord. This package does not include either the AC adapter cord or the batteries, they need to be purchased separately.

The size of the unit is 2.7 x 6.2 x 5.9 in. It does not need a computer to run, so it can be used anywhere.  Once the label is printed you need to push the button to cut the tape. I recently used it to help with a move and used it to label packing boxes.  I did not need a computer or power outlet, it was very convenient.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Product review: H&R Block Tax Software Deluxe + State 2017 (Tax preparation software for Windows and Mac, download or CD)

I have been using H&R Block tax software for many years. I keep using it because it does what I need and 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 just completed my preliminary tax return and here are my observations.

* If you are using a digital download you will need an activation code to install the software.
The activation code is shown in your Amazon Software downloads (it used to be also included in email confirming the purchase from Amazon but it was not included in the email this year). To locate it you need to do this:
1) Log into Amazon
2) Select 'Your account' and the section called 'Digital Content'
3) Select 'Your Games and Software downloads'
4) Then under H&R software entry you will see activation code

* 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:
"Software copies. You may only install and use the Software on one computer. You may copy the Software for backup and archival purposes only, as long as the original and each copy are kept in your possession and control."

Using tax software includes two fees - one to use the software and the second one to e-file the returns with IRS. This package includes the cost of using both the Federal tax return and State return for one state. If you need to file tax in two states, you will need to purchase the rights to use the second state software. The package also include the cost of 5 free Federal e-files, but does NOT include the cost of e-file for the state return. Note that there is no limit on how many returns can be printed on paper for either Federal or State return, so you can print and mail any number of returns you desire.

Note 1: New York State law prohibits additional charges for State e-file (NY residents still have to pay for using the software).
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 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 2018". When the state forms became available the state software can be downloaded directly from the H&R Block from the first screen of state tax preparation.


* In the past the interview started with a create that immediately prompted you to start a new return via a button on the screen, this year I had to 'File - Create New Return' to see the button to get started.

* This year there is an option to import old data not only from a data file but the a PDF file of 2016 tax return.

* The current forms are preliminary, the final versions will be available January 5, 2018.

* 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.

* This year I noticed an improvement in on-line help. In the past help was not context sensitive, it just brought up help dialog and it was up to you to think of the right keywords and find help. This year it actually opens up the right section of help! After so many years I lost hope that it will ever become context sensitive - I was pleasantly surprised!

* To combat stolen-identity tax returns H&R Block now requires you to provide state-issued ID number.

* 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. In addition this year you can also import pdf file of your return no matter what software you used to save the old 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 several web sites that provide this service with a "convenience" fee (lowest fee is $2.25 flat fee for a debit card and 1.87% fee for a credit card). If you search for "pay taxes by credit or debit" you will see the detailed fee schedule on the web site.

PRICE considerations
The price on H&R Block package changes often and you can catch some great discounts. I got H&R Block on Black Friday sale. If you missed that sale you can still get bargains by using a tool that alerts on Amazon prices discounts for any product. 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 it up 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.

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).

Unlike last year, I did not run into any glitches during installation or using the software. The biggest difference in this year's return preparation was the improvements to on-line help. Making it context sensitive made it useful, in the past I used to do internet searches when I needed to get an answer. This year I actually used on-line help! 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 ★★★★★

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Product review: Hunter House Handcrafted Solid Hardwood Bowl

This is a very attractive wooden bowl. The wood grain is very pronounced and makes the bowl look very pretty. It is polished and the finish is smooth and shiny.

6.5" wide and 2.75" tall. It holds 24 oz. It is just the right size for a candy dish or to use as a salad bowl. It is also pretty enough to use as decorative center piece on a coffee table. I hope the attached video will give you an idea how this bowl could fit into your décor.

The bowl came with instructions on how to take care of it:
1. Never put into microwave
2. Never use a dishwasher to wash it
3. Wash by hand with soapy water
4. Dry completely with paper towels or cloth
5. To restore patina coat with mineral oil, leave overnight, then wipe with a paper towel
6. Periodically sanitize the bowl with a solution made from 3 tablespoons of white vinegar mixed into 1 cup of water

This bowl is provided by Hunter house. It is beautiful and its size is very practical.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, November 24, 2017

Product review: EnergeticSky Traction Ice Cleat Spikes Crampons

My shoe size is 7.5 and I wear size 8 hiking boots to allow for a thick sock.  I got size Large crampons, which start with size 7.5 women shoe.  I was a little worried that being at the start of the range would mean that the crampons will feel lose, but that worry was unfounded. As you see in attached video the crampon fit snugly, and they have a lot of stretch in the construction.  There is a tab on the clean that helps to pull the cleats off.

The metal cleats are are 3/8" long.  There are a total of 19 cleats.  The cleats are strong, they did not bend under my weight as I walked on the pavement (no snow yet).

I owned a number of cleats in the past and these look well built with the construction that should provide a lot of traction.

You can find these crampons on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Product review: AVANTEK Laptop Cooling Pad - Ultra Slim Laptop Cooler with 2 Fans Quiet Speed Adjustable

This review is from: AVANTEK Laptop Cooling Pad - Ultra Slim Laptop Cooler with 2 Fans Quiet Speed Adjustable - for 15"-17" Dual USB and LED Lights (Electronics)
Length:: 1:18 Mins

I really like this cooling pad. I have a lot of experience with cooling pads and in this review I will highlight the features that I like.

I use a lot of cooling pads because I have a lot of computers with difference operating system so I can test the software I write on different machines. Having that many computers creates a real space problem, so I have various laptops, netbooks, and network computers tucked away in small places. All of them are on cooling pads to overcome the lack of natural circulation and to prevent overheating.

This cooling pad has two fans and a large mesh which allows a nice flow of air. The pad has two controls. On/off buttons controls of the LED lights are on or off (great! because I do not like when everyting electronic in my room insists on having a bright LED light). The second controls is wheel which allows me to select the speed of the fans or turn them off.

A cooling fan does not have to blow hard to do its job, it just needs to create circulation. A cooling pad should be blowing towards the device you are trying to cool. I select the lowest fan speed that makes a difference to cut down on noise. What is the best temperature? It is best when computer CPU core temperature is under 50°C, if it is in the range of 50°C it is a sign of not sufficient cooling, if it is the in 60°C or higher it shortens the life expectancy of the computer components.

This fan is practically silent at the lowest speed and produces a slight whirl on the highest speed. My video includes the sound it makes on various speeds.

How well it cools depends not only on the cooling pad but on how many ventilation holes the device itself has on the bottom. In addition ventilation holes on the computer tend to fill up with dust. If you are not getting good results with a cooling pad try vacuuming the ventilation holes.

I have a little netbook that tends to run too hot with core temperature of 65°C when it run unventilated. I was able to get it down to 61°C with this cooling pad. This is still a bit hot, I am probably pushing the little netbook beyond its design by doing a lot write disk operations.

Number of fans:_______________ 2
Air flow:_____________________ dial allows variable speed control
Cord:_______________________ detachable USB cord (25" long)
On/Off switch:________________ yes
LED lights On/Off switch:_______ yes
Size:________________________ 14.75"W x 10.875"L x 1"H (height with feet retracted)
Noise:_______________________ low almost none, high very slight whirl
Color:________________________ black case, blue LEDs (which can be turned off)
Feet:________________________ Has rubber pads
Stand:_______________________ 2 feet on the back that can be raised
Flaws observed:_______________ None so far
USB ports:___________________ Has two USB ports, one used to power it another is free for other use
Packaging:___________________ No manual, specs are on the box (in English)

So far (continuous use of several weeks) I had no issues, the fans are operating quietly. I hope the video helps to illustrate my review.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Product review: Allied Tools Portable Work Station Saw Horse

This work station has a nice size and shape.   The gap between the particle boards can be adjusted. The work stations folds up for storage.  I like its overall design.

The legs are made out of metal and the top particle board.   Unfortenately, the metal parts are extremely flimsy.  How flimsy? The corners of each leg got bent  during shipping and the metal is so soft that I was able to straighten most of the pieces with my bare hands. And I have very weak hands! If I can bend its metal by hand how is it going to hold when a heavy load put on it? Not well.  This workstation is not for heavy duty work. 

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Product review: TopFit Back Cushion Lumbar Support Pillow Memory Foam With Fastening Strap Gray

I have a bad back so I have become a reluctant expert on lumbar supports. This lumber support is comfortable. It fits the my back very well. Its firmness feel comfortable - the foam is firm but not hard.

It is 15" wide and 16" high. At the widest point it is 4" wide. It has a rubber band with a closure in the back to attach to a chair. I am able to stretch it to 32" to go around my fairly large office chair. The strap is elastic and has a buckle so it can be shorted. 32" width is pretty close to its max. The cover is removable and can be washed in the washing machine on a gentle cycle and dried in the dryer using low tumble setting.

This is a very comfortable lumber support. If there was anything I would want to change it is to make it taller. My old (ratty looking) lumber support is 21" tall so it can support my upper back which gives me a better posture.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Friday, November 17, 2017

Product review: Synergee Gliding Discs Core Sliders. Dual Sided Use on Carpet or Hardwood Floors.

I was introduced to glider disks by Bender Ball Pilates Evolution exercise disks. The gliding disks add variety to exercise and make some exercises more challenging. Glider disks come in two shapes elongated or round. In majority of exercises (when only the toes or the heels rest on the disk, not the entire foot) you can use round disks. When you need to rest your entire foot on the slider the elongated disks work better.

The disks are used with the felt side down if you are using them on the wood floor. I have high polish floors and if they caused any damage I would see it right away. They do not. The felt side does not scratch the floor. On the carpet they can be used with the plastic side down (the felt side down does not slide on the carpet).

An alternatives to glide disks are "Furniture Movers for Heavy Furniture", however they are slightly smaller in size. Another option is to use paper plates instead of glide disks. They are more likely to cause damage to floors with high polish, however for carpets that offer a cheap alternative. I think the the paper plates do not work quite as well as real glide disks, but it is a cheap way to see if you like this type of exercises without spending any money.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★