Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Home Gadgets to Increase Your Productivity


I received the following products in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are 100 percent my own. This post contains affiliate links.



I’m a gadget geek and am always looking for items that affordably help make housekeeping tasks and my life faster or simpler. Here are some of the latest items that I’ve discovered:

Fitness Gadgets


  • Yoga socks: I hate getting my feet dirty and regular socks slip on my carpet when I do gentle workouts, like yoga and pilates. Halo Yoga Socks contain organic cotton and have a grippy material on the soles, like socks at hospitals. They’re kind of like a fingerless glove version of toe socks in that they separate your toes (it feels good). I’ve worn my pair of yoga socks several times and think they feel comfortable. They’re not good for wearing with shoes, however, because they make my feet feel too hot.

  • Reflective ankle bands: I like to walk in the neighborhood in the evening. I also like to be safe and seen by drivers, so I’m thankful for BlazeBands Reflective Ankle Bands. The set of two bands are elastic, bright neon yellow and have a reflective silver strip in the middle. Since you secure them with Velcro, you can wear the bands on your ankles, wrists, arms, around a dog leash and more. I’m going to use these on Independence Day because my family and I are going to set off fireworks on a rural road. The bands will keep drivers aware of our presence.  

Organization Gadgets


  • New thin hangers: My closet was a mess and full of miss-matching “fat hangers.” I started using slim hangers with black flock on them last year, but they’re kind of spendy at the store. When BriaUSA gave me the chance to review its hangers, I was super excited. I received: 

The velvet hangers are really cute and the flock doesn’t rub off onto your clothes. They are also budget-friendly at $11.98 for a set of ten at the time of publication. The cascade hangers are a bit more at $14.95 for a set of ten, but they come with a hook that allows you to hang a lightweight garment, which is perfect for preparing your wardrobe in advance and saving space in your closet. All of the hangers have a grippy no-slip texture, so my clothes never fall onto the floor.
  • Metal Clip Hooks: I use hooks and clips all over my home, especially in the bathroom and kitchen. Pro Chef Kitchen Tools sent me a set of 10 Portable Travel Laundry Hooks that have a hook at one end. The clips are a lot bigger than I expected. The clip is 3 inches long and the hook has a 1-inch diameter. The clips seem durable and I have a bunch of ideas about how I want to use them, like to hang:
    • Lightweight pans in the kitchen
    • Aprons to free up drawer space
    • Boots in my closet
    • Hand towels in the bathroom and kitchen
    • Guest towels in the bathroom
    • Line-dry clothing
    • Garden tools and grilling accessories in my backyard
    • Lightweight hanging planters
    • A CPAP tube in your room or while traveling
    • Scarves
    • Belts

Task Gadgets

  • Multi-purpose LED flashlight: I use flashlights when looking in the dark recesses of my cupboards and closet. I also use them if I get the mail at night. It’s hard to look for stuff and hold a flashlight at the same time. The Aennon Ultra-Bright LED Work Light Flashlight solves this problem. It comes with a hook, magnetic mount and a stand. You can pivot the light while it’s in the stand so it’s at the angle you need. The main flashlight has a COB LED light with 150 lumens. You also get 30-lumen flashlight with five LEDs at the top of the torch.


  • Dog tags: Give your pup a cute tag from Doggie iD. The tag looks like a little driver’s license and comes complete with your dog’s picture, name, address and your phone number. The tag is simple to design online and I received it in less than 10 business days. I’m really happy with the final product.





  • Earplugs: I work from home. The neighborhood kids like to scream and play outside my window as I work. To help me concentrate, I’d listen to music, which was distracting, but better than kids screaming. I now have Mighty Plugs Ear Plugs. The plugs are made of beeswax, cotton and lanolin, giving them a putty-like feel. I like that a local company makes them using natural ingredients. After you soften the putty, the plugs are simple to mold into your ear. The earplugs are great for sound blocking. I’m not sure that I’d use them in bed, however, because the plugs might get full of lint.  

Kitchen Gadgets

  • Manual coffee grinder: I have a regular electric coffee grinder at home, but sometimes I want to grind spices. The Brillante Manual Coffee Grinder is a great solution. You open the top of the metal canister, attack the crank and grind. The thickness of the coffee, spices or herbs that you grind depends on the direction that you turn the crank. The canister on the bottom catches everything you grind.




  • Vegetable steamer: This is how I steamed vegetables in the past—I filled a pot with a bit of water, threw in some vegetables and put a lid on top. I would also fill a pot with water, place a metal colander on top and try to put a lid on the vegetables to trap the steam. Both methods were inefficient. I now have the SunsellaVegetable Steamer. This stainless steel steamer fits in my saucepots and my large stockpot. I now only fill pots with a bit of water, place the steamer inside, throw in the veggies, place the lid and let them cook. So far, I’ve successfully cooked broccoli and artichokes. My husband even left the steamer in the pot overnight and it didn’t rust.


 

 

Garden Gadgets

  • Spray bottle: I have a bunch of orchids in my home that require watering and misting throughout the summer. The Hosezzle Garden Spray Bottle is the perfect solution. It holds 1.5 liters of water and has an adjustable nozzle. I like to use the “spray in fog” setting to mist my plants. The pump is simple to use and the trigger feels comfortable. The only thing I wish the sprayer had is a pressure-release valve so I wouldn’t have to twist off the top to release the pressure.

 

Cleaning Gadgets




 I received the products mentioned in exchange for an unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links, meaning that I receive a small commission if you click on a product link and make a purchase through Amazon.com.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cubic Zirconia versus Diamonds


I received the following products in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are 100 percent my own. This post contains affiliate links.

Image: Wikipedia

I’m a big fan of things that glitter, so I never turn my nose up to jewelry made with crystals. In my mind, cubic zirconia looks just as good as diamonds. 

Cubic zirconia is a crystal. It is crytallographically isometric, so it has the same attributes as diamonds. When people make it in a lab, they mix zirconium oxide with calcium and magnesium stabilizers, giving the synthetic gemstone the same appearance and refractivity as a diamond. The highest quality cubic zirconia is so similar to diamonds that gemologists can’t tell them apart when looking at them.

Differences between Diamonds and Cubic Zirconia

Cubic zirconia:

  • Is less brilliant, or sparkly, than diamonds
  • Has more fire (makes more rainbow color flashes) than a diamond
  • Weighs 75 percent more than diamonds
  • Is a thermal insulator; diamonds are thermal conductors
  • Less expensive
  • Perfect in structure

Check out this link to learn more about cubic zirconia.

Just as Good as the Real Thing

Would you rather sport a big synthetic rock or a tiny diamond? What if the tiny diamonds were conflict, or “blood,” diamonds? The Kanye West video below tells about the importance of making sure that the diamonds that you purchase don’t have a dark history. Some celebrities happily wear cubic zirconia over diamonds, including Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Paul Wall, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ann Hathaway and even KateMiddleton




When I was in high school, I saw an episode of “Oprah” in which Oprah said that every woman needs a pair of diamond earrings. This stuck with me. Now that I am an adult, I have a pair of diamond earrings. I hardly ever wear them, though, because I’m afraid of losing them. 

IceCarats recently sent me a pair of its 2-carat 6-millimeter cubic zirconia earrings with sterling silver studs. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear they were diamonds. The earrings come in a nice gift box and a certificate of authenticity. 

Because of their inexpensive cost, I wasn’t sure that I’d like the earrings. I’m very sensitive to nickel, so that was my main concern even though the listing says the studs have sterling silver. These earrings are 925 sterling silver, meaning that the silver is 92.5 percent pure; the posts aren’t just silver-plated. The remaining 7.5 percent of the metal is copper, bronze or zinc. 

When I wore the earring, the metal didn’t irritate my skin at all. My husband said that he really liked how the earrings look, adding that the stones didn’t look fake. 

These are a winner in my book.



I received the products mentioned in exchange for an unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links, meaning that I receive a small commission if you click on a product link and make a purchase through Amazon.com.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Low-Carb Gluten-Free Pizza Recipe


Image from KUPO
I received the following products in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are 100 percent my own. This post contains affiliate links.



I’ve been eating gluten-free for nearly a decade and recently learned about the benefits of a low-carb diet for those with hypothyroidism. Going low-carb doesn’t mean eating eggs and steak all the time. With the right ingredients, you can enjoy food like pizza.

The “All Day I Dream about Food” website, one of my favorites for tasty recipe ideas, I encountered a tasty pizza crust recipe. I adapted it using the ingredient I had and use a chicken garlic topping from a take-and-bake pizza place. Here is the original recipe.

My version of the low-carb gluten-free pizza recipe

Oven 350 degrees (F)
Ingredients:
  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup olive oil
Preparation:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees (F).
  2. Grease an 8-by-8-inch pan.
  3. Whisk together the dry ingredients.
  4. Add the eggs and olive oil to the dry ingredients; mix until combined.
  5. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
  6. Bake in a 350-degree (F) oven for 20 minutes, until the bead is thoroughly cooked.
  7. Remove the bread from the pan and cut it in half width-wise, so you have two square pieces of bread. This makes the crust thinner, which I like.
  8. Add your favorite pizza toppings on the cut sides of the bread.
  9. Place the pizza in the oven for about 10 minutes.

This pizza crust is thick. My regular pizza slicer couldn’t cut it. This is where the KUPO™ Pizza Cutter came in handy. The cutter has a 4-inch diameter! This baby is going to glide over the thickest pizzas with the highest toppings. The blade seems sharp and the handle is nice and long for big hands.

Before, I’d use my big chef’s knife from my knife set to cut big pizzas. The KUPO™ cutter is much simpler for this task.

What pizza cutting tricks do you have? Is there a low-carb pizza crust recipe that you like?


I received the products mentioned in exchange for an unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links, meaning that I receive a small commission if you click on a product link and make a purchase through Amazon.com.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Summer Travel Tips


I received the following products in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are 100 percent my own. This post contains affiliate links.



Traveling during the summer is fun. The weather is nice, pools are open, nights are long and it’s warm at night (in a lot of places). While I don’t like humidity and temperatures over 95 degrees (F), I look forward to one event every summer—the Perseidmeteor showers. This year, the showers last from July 17 to August 14, 2015, peaking around August 11 (the beginning of the week). TimeandDate.com tells you the best time to see the showers and where to look in the horizon on August 11 and 12.

For me, the most stressful part about traveling is packing and figuring out what to do (everybody seemingly has no idea what to do, but have an opinion about your ideas). Here are my tips to make summer trips go a little smoother.

Summer Travel Tips


  • Start making your packing list early. I’m a list-maker. I want to make sure that I don’t forget things, like my underwear. As soon as I plan a trip, I use a comprehensive pre-made travel checklist (this one is my favorite) and add anything to it that’s not listed, like gifts that I want to take to a friend.

  • Make sure you have enough meds. Some pharmacies can’t fill certain types of prescriptions if you travel to another state. Make sure you pack enough.

  • Call your bank. When a bank notices debit card charges in a different state, they may freeze your account, thinking that someone stole your card. Before your trip, call your bank and let the representative know your travel dates, the destination and any layovers.

  • Pack a sewing kit. Hotel sewing kits are so-so, but you can do better. I really like the Quick Stitch kit. The kit is smaller than a CD case (Remember those?) and comes with a variety of needles, scissors that really cut, a dozen small spools of thread in different colors, seam ripper, measuring tape and more. This permanently stays in my travel kit.

  • Cord organization. Somehow, I’m always the one in charge of transporting cell phone chargers and cords. I use a little makeup bag, like the free-gift-with-purchase kind at the department store, to keep everything together. If you want something more manly, an eyeglasses case that snaps together works well.

  • Bring your own water bottle. I hate paying for bottled water (unless the tap water is contaminated). Whenever I travel, I always take my Sigg. I use my carabiner to clip it onto my backpack or bag so I don’t lose it. My trusty water bottle has already traveled to three countries.
  • Pack moisturizer. Hotel moisturizers aren't that great, which is bad for my chronically dry feet. I always pack a good moisturizer in my travel kit. This summer, I'm taking the Organic & Vegan Ultra Hydrating Facial Mositurizer by NOUVEAU/ORGANICA. While this moisturizer is for your face, I love it for my skin and feet because of its first ingredients -- shea butter and coconut oil. These oils are a bit too heavy for my face, but they're great for your body. When I use the cream on my feet, they stay hydrated all day.  

  • Protect your phone. Going to the beach, theme park or aquarium? Protect your phone from water by using a waterproof case, like the Universal Waterproof Smartphone Carrying Case by Number 1 in Gadgets. While you may not be able to retrieve your phone from the bottom of a lake, the case will keep your phone safe in a “splash zone.”

  • Roll your clothes. When I pack, I lay the clothes for a daily outfit flat on my bed and then roll them up together, like a flauta. Doing this saves space and prevents wrinkles. I also do the same with clothes that are similar in length.

  • Organize your jewelry. If you don’t have a jewelry roll for traveling, use a large pill holder instead. Each space has enough room for medium-sized earrings.

  • Get a $1 shower caddy for road trips. Make eating in the car simpler and less messy by giving each person a shower caddy from a dollar store to use. It’s perfect for holding hamburgers, lidded drinks and snacks.

  • Don’t leave maps visible in the car. If you’re going to a touristy town, don’t leave travel guides or maps out in the open in your car. It’ll make your car a target. Put them in the glove box or trunk.

  • Bring an eye mask and ear plugs. I’ve had the good fortune to stay in hotel rooms whose windows were near a street lamp and had partiers downstairs. Instead of getting crabby and losing sleep, pack an eye pillow and ear plugs. I like the large Lavender Eye Pillow from Eye Pillow Vacation. I chose the black cotton pillow because satin ones tend to slip off my face. The eye pillow also doubles as a mini heating pad or cold pack if you have sore muscles at the end of the day. This pillow has a strong lavender scent, which I like, but others don’t.


What do you do to prepare for a trip? What travel hacks do you use?


I received the products mentioned in exchange for an unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links, meaning that I receive a small commission if you click on a product link and make a purchase through Amazon.com.