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Being Free



I don't do trendy. I do me. I read and I write. And I live in Iowa now.



Updated: 2018-01-18T21:03:05.864-06:00

 



**Book REVIEW** The Demon Within by Josh Gagnier

2018-01-18T14:06:25.796-06:00

This book takes such a novel approach to themes of Good, Evil, and Judgement. While reading the story, I was fascinated not just with the characters and plot, but with the author's unique approach to the subject matter.My limited edition advanced copy on the right!This book by Josh Gagnier is The Demon Within. It's Book One in his The Last War series.This novel has everything - angels and demons and the battle for a soul - but with the feel of a war game.Here is how the plot is summarized:Joe grew up listening to the voice in his head. It helped him through school, helped him gain wealth in his career. The final temptation of power was too much. He hadn't considered the cost. Now he must find a way to defeat The Demon Within. Little does he know, his every move is being recorded. Every misstep is being judged. As he gets ever closer to winning over his demon, heavenly eyes watch from above. Some root for his success while others hope he'll fail. While Joe fights his demon on the battlefront, the angel Michael fights for his Soul.Doesn't that make you think of the crisis we all face? Well, don't be fooled. This is not the typical take on the angelic-vs-demonic warfare theme. You can tell from the first pages that you're in for some twists on the usual perspective. While the plot is really good and I like the creative way the author thinks, there are a couple of rough patches. In more than one place, I found myself jarred by the change in scene or point of view. Because the story is interesting, it was easy to get back into it without much difficulty. I raced through the first pages as the plot was being set up, but then I had to slow down and pay more attention. The story is deliciously complex and tricked me into thinking I might have figured it all out.I love when a story catches me off guard and veers away from my expectations of the plot. I don't want to give away spoilers, but I will warn that there will be more than one surprise as you read this story.  And the ending is... not really an ending because you will be waiting for Book Two. Usually, I gulp down books in large bites. With this story, I found myself having to stop at various points so that I could give some serious thought to an idea presented. It was like the difference between fast food and a thoughtfully prepared meal meant to be savored and discussed. That's the best way I can describe the experience.This story resonated with me because of my religious beliefs about life (and the afterlife). I think that there will be readers who connect with the characters on different levels. If you check out the author's bio, you will understand what I mean. He's writing not just from a place of creativity but from insight into himself. I found this very interesting. Make sure to go over and check out the author's Facebook page.Remember when I said that there were some rough patches? Let me add this: this is a work put forth by an author without the aid of a publishing house. I'm glad to see writers breaking the traditional mold of exposing their talent. I really liked this story and am looking forward to Book Two in the series.Peace--FreePosted by Free[...]



**REVIEW** CloSYS Dental Hygiene Care

2018-01-12T16:04:07.803-06:00

This is a review for people who, like myself, might suffer from some oral ailments. I have dry mouth that is, I'm sure, due to the medications I take. I used to have horrible halitosis (surprisingly, the treatment of my sarcoidosis solved that), but am always conscious of my breath.I tell you all that to tell you about this:This is the trial-sized intro kit to CloSYS, a brand which is described as being "gentle oral care". It's certainly should be gentle since it's touted as being:Alcohol-FreeSulfate FreeNon-Burning Triclosan FreeGluten FreeInitially, I was only looking for a toothpaste and I wasn't even thinking about this particular brand. I had never even heard of ClosSYS. What got me to order this instead of the Manuka paste I was checking on, was the price. Also, the Closys is Prime shipping and the Manuka was not. (This is so irritating. Toothpaste was already expensive, then they add a shipping charge? No, thanks.)I'm glad I got this. One complaint: the "trial" size is smaller than most and this toothpaste won't last long at all. Hotels leave bigger tubes for a 1- or 2-night stay. On the other hand, it is all TSA-compliant. ~sigh~ The world we now live in, right?Anyway, there was not only a trial of the toothpaste, as you can see. There's the pastes, mouthwash (sorry, I mean oral rinse), some freshening drops and breath spray.Though the toothpaste is all I wanted, I went ahead and tried everything in the kit, so let's take a look.That's the toothpaste on the top...I've been using Colgate Optic White for the past couple of months. Before that, I was using some Rembrandt that the rest of the family had gotten in bulk from Costco. Both those brands are good for cleaning and whitening my teeth and I never thought anything more about either of them. You know, they are tubes of paste and they clean the teeth. Period. Right?Now, here is what's awesome about this CloSYS toothpaste. First off, it's so non-drying. Not only does it not dry out my mouth, but it seems to help my glands balance the saliva I need. That sounds kind of icky, but, hey.The one thing that took some getting used to is that there is zero flavor to this paste. And I mean, NONE. It's labeled as "Gentle Mint" and it's so freaking gentle that I missed it. I'm so used to getting a hint of mint or a bite of peppermint that I thought I wasn't using enough of this. Once I got past that, I loved the clean feeling of the paste in my mouth. No after coating of anything and none of the flavor remnants from other brands. Another thing is that there is no foaming action with this toothpaste. Basically, the overall brushing left my mouth feeling very pure and clean.After the brushing left my mouth feeling so unassaulted with foam and flavor, I didn't feel the need to use the mouthwash - sorry, oral rinse - but this is all for the review so...See? "Oral Rinse"The rinse is just as flavor-free as the toothpaste. It reminds me of a watered down hydrogen peroxide. Wait. What?Yeah. I almost didn't see that note about adding the flavor stuff.Thing is, I didn't like the too-concentrated, hot kind of taste of the flavor drops right out of the bottle, but just one full drop did help that mout-, I mean oral rinse. Otherwise, the rinse was too bland. I suppose I can add the rest of the flavoring to some water when I'm out and need to do a quick, after-meal rinse. You can see how tiny that bottle is. It will fit perfectly into the smallest wallet or even the coin-pocket of some jeans.The breath spray is probably my least favorite of this kit.Not that there's anything monstrous about it and it's not even as strong as nasty as most breath sprays. I'm just not a fan of breath sprays. Usually, I end up aiming badly and spraying the outside of my mouth. When I do use it correctly, I end up wanting to rinse it out of my mouth anyway. So ~shrug~ I will probably just save this for emergencies. Probably when I'm in danger of dragon-breathing some garlic into someone's face.Bottom line: the toothpaste is awesome and I will be getting a f[...]



*REVIEW** GGMM D6 True 360 Speaker

2018-01-08T11:55:26.515-06:00

I'm loving my Echo Dot more and more each day. I still call it the perfect roommate! One of the things that makes me love it so is having a speaker that amps the sound and acts as a charger. Being able to move the Echo to wherever I am in the apartment is a big part of its appeal.You all might remember that I was able to try the VAUX speaker. Guess what? I was able to try another speaker too. This one is just as nice as the VAUX. Seriously.  width="320" height="266" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="https://i.ytimg.com/vi/oDh0AK84J9w/0.jpg" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/oDh0AK84J9w?feature=player_embedded" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>I'm laughing a little bit right now because whenever I play that video, Alexa turns into that nosy chick who hears her name and wants to know what's going on! So funny.As you can see, this speaker looks great. I wasn't sure about the light color because I usually go for muted or very dark hues. I've seen another one in black and it's nice, but the white one is kinda cute to me.This one looks really good in the living room and I like the contrast to the rest of my decor. It looked great against the dark setting, but it also looked nice against a friend's lighter furnishings and with their wooden floors. I wanted to see this against a neighbor's lighter decor Here is what you need to know (including some technical details):hooking up to Echo is super easyHas 360-degree portable speaker (if you couldn't tell from the name)Works with the Echo Dot - of course!20 watts power; 3-inch (80mm) driver and amp; 1.2-inch (30mm) dome tweeter with dual passive radiator boost. (That one hurt my brain but, bottom line is, the sound is awesome.)You get up to 8 hours play time in Dot mode (37 hours in Aux mode - 37!) from the rechargeable lithium battery. And isn't that battery the thing we all love most?! Oh, and switching between Dot to Aux is easy because there's a button.There additional Aux input (3.5mm) for external mobile devices.The LEd automatically twinkles when the batter gets to less than 20%IMO, hooking this up to the Echo was SO much easier than it was with the VAUX speaker. Much easier than having separate connectors!Pretty nice, aye? I will be updating this post when I have the link for this item in case you want to pick up one for yourself. I'm glad I got to check it out though. Echo Dot was a hot seller this holiday so it's nice that there are choices when it comes to speakers for it.My decor is darkerThis item is not posted for sale yet, but as soon as it is, I will be back with the link and more info. I cannot wait to let you know the when-and-where details!Keep watching this space.Peace--FreePosted by Free[...]



Perfume Soothes Me

2018-01-08T17:30:09.564-06:00

So. Everybody who knows me well knows I love perfume. I always have. When I was teenybopper, I learned to use baby powder and vanilla extract. Then came Love's Baby Soft, Heaven Sent, Emeraude, and others. Then I discovered Shalimar. Oh my.These days, I've experimented with several fragrances. Whatever I can afford and whatever family and friends gift to me on special occasions. This is great because I often end up falling in love with a scent I would never have tried.For Christmas this year, my family got me 2 new fragrances. This one is Shi by Alfred Sung. I had never heard of it before but I mentioned that I liked his Sung for Women scent. This one is really nice. It's soft and feminine and nice for everyday wear.And doesn't that bottle remind you a little bit of a gnome?The other fragrance really surprised me. For one thing, I'm only vaguely familiar with Micheal Buble and I didn't know he had a fragrance branded to him. For another thing... Wow. Totally knocked flat by how much I like this.The bottle is gorgeous. The USPS must have knocked the package around because the tip broke off the top. This is what an undamaged (and better photographed) bottle looks like:Notice that the little circular piece is not missing from the top of the bottle... The glass part holding the perfume is sort of floating inside the metal outer ring. Very classy looking.The scent is a smoky, Oriental type of fragrance. Before applying it, I was thinking that it smells a lot like Rhianna's fragrance, Reb'L Fleur:I have a bottle but my lid went missing during the move from Alaska.However, when this is applied to my skin and mixes with my chemistry, it's just glorious. Reminds me of a darker, smokier version of Opium if Opium was married to Shalimar. This is the kind of fragrance that will make someone want to nuzzle your neck. Another plus is that it takes very little to get a full effect, and the scent actually lasts for quite a while.Now, you all remeber my beloved Shalimar that a niece gifted to me before I left Alaska:Yeah, you guys have probably seen that pic before. I post it so much! I think I mentioned that Shalimar no longer lingers well on my skin. I've been using its brother fragrance, Habit Rouge. It's marketed to men but smells wonderful on females who like Opium and Shalimar.The perfumes I've gotten are my favorite gifts this past year. I guess it's been about four or five years since I discovered Viva la Juicy. Man, I love that scent. It has been my go-to fragrance for a while now. I've used up most of my supply and am down to the little collection type bottles.So glad for those miniatures!Now, if some of you were wondering as I have exactly how those celebrity fragrances come to be, then this article thoroughly explains the process.The only thing I hate about perfume is that they are kind of unreliable. Either a scent you love will start to hate your body chemistry and just stop working or - and this is what I really hate - a scent will just be discontinued. Ugh! That's the worst. That happened with Flori Robert's Gold. Also, whatever happened to Cher's fragrance? It was pretty nice.For now, I'm happy to have my gifts so THANK YOU, fam. I'm tightening up my already squeaking budget and perfume is the first casualty. What you want to bet I can make my current supplies last for at least a year?Peace--FreePosted by Free[...]



**RECIPE** Heavenly Cloud Bread

2018-01-02T13:35:02.231-06:00

In the past 5 weeks, I have lost just a little over 9 pounds. I wasn't really trying. I just didn't feel good, but when I went to see the fam in Arizona, I got more exercise than normal. I'm paying for that now, but I want to keep up the weight loss. My plan? Lots of water and a lot less carbs.Bread is probably the hardest thing to give up - or even slow down on! Also, snacks. I remembered hearing about cloud bread when I first learned about the Keto diet. What I didn't know is how easy it is to make and how freaking delicious it can be. I say can be because you have to play with the recipe a bit.Here's the basic recipe I gathered from several different sources (including this one):2 Eggs - yolks and whites separated2 Tbl (or 1oz) Cream cheese - softened (and cooled) so it's blendable1/4 tsp Baking powderI made my first batch and it was good. Instead of individual clouds, I did a cake-style batch and sliced it afterward. I used it to sandwich my burger patty. This is it turned out:Like I said, it was just okay. That's because it was before I had a better batch. The bread came out a little eggy tasting and soft. I should have baked it longer than the 12 minutes. I was too worried I would burn it.So. Time to give it another try, right?This is how I have modified the recipe (and tripled it) so that it is slap-yo-mama delicious:EggsCream cheeseBaking powderVanilla Extract (just a 1/4 tsp)Sweetener (I used a full Tbls of table sugar this time)The extract and sweetener made all the difference between "This is good and I can use it every now and then" to "This is amazing and I can give up bread and cookies ".Beautiful. Notice how clean the pan is. That's because the batter didn't stick to it. I use a Wilton Perfect Results pan because it's cheap and sturdy. This bread was firmer and had a much better taste. I'm sure that the sugar helped with the browning and texture.Now, there are a couple of things I learned that I'll pass on:If you don't have parchment paper, use a metal baking sheet (lightly oiled)Make sure to whip the egg whites to very stiff peaks (use metal or glass bowl for this)For bread, bake about 15 minutes on 300. For cookie/snack, bake an additional 10 minutes on 200. Check often so the batter doesn't burn. You may need to rotate the pan once during baking so that batter cooks evenly. Let the bread cool completely before removing from the pan. I waited 20 minutes.This is why I said to use a metal pan if you don't have parchment paper:Yeah. Look at that. Just a  hot funky mess. ~sigh~Notice how the batter didn't even cook the same. The bread came out so thin and fragile that all I could use it for was snacking. Also, you can see that it didn't brown as well as the bread that was done in the metal pan.Left = Metal pan perfectionRight = Whatever the hell...Anyway...The biggest thing I love about the modified recipe is that I can make smaller pieces, brown the bread darker, then broil for a moment to get something that will make substitutes for cookies. If I need to, I can always check out these other recipes for cookies and treats:Chocolate chip cookiesCheese DanishMini vanilla cakesChocolate Cloud cookies (that look amazingly like actual CC cookies!)Obviously, you can get creative and do a lot with the basic cloud bread recipe. For now, I am happy enough with the batch I made.Peace--FreePosted by Free[...]



**UPDATE** REVIEW Echo Dot (2nd Gen)

2018-01-01T16:25:43.625-06:00

Okay, for those of you who read the original review, I wanted to come back and update you on what I call The Best of Echo Dot. I've had time to play around and use the device more, so here goes a bullet list of the best stuff:THE SOUNDS/BACKGROUND NOISERain, thunder, forest, wind chimes - there are so many ambient sounds to choose from. I've used probably 20 so far. There are the ones I use for when I am writing and need to concentrate, then there are others I like to use for falling asleep. You can also request that Alexa play something specific, like "study music". (You can specifically ask that the device to "Play some music to help me sleep.")You can set the sounds and music to play for a certain amount of time. For music, it's great to be able to play a song on repeat.Alexa/Echo lets you voice command the device to turn the volume up or down, skip a song, pause/resume, etc. If you are listening to a random playlist (my favorite command is, "Alexa, play the Temptations"), you can ask the device what song is playing. You can also tell it to play more songs like the one you are listening to.GENERAL ASSISTANCE"Alexa, call -----" Device uses your contact list.Calls are over wi-fi and don't use your cellular minutes. And... hands-free!Think about being able to call for help from family or your doctor if you can't get to your phone! Seriously. Think about that.Call a particular number ("Alexa, call 123-456-7891") *except for 911*I have not explored how to send messages but, apparently, that's possible.You can instruct the device to make a list for you - grocery, to-do, etc."Alexa, add a 1 pm meeting to my calendar.""Alexa, when is my next appointment?""Alexa, what time is it?" and "What time is it in *city or country*""Alexa, how many days until summer?"You can ask Alexa math questions (i.e.: What's 4859 divided by 8)For writing, I love that I can ask things like: "What's another word for ---" and "What's the definition of ---""Tell me a recipe for---"You can control a Bluetooth-connected device: "Restart" or "Disconnect""What's the status of  Delta flight 213?"JUST FOR FUN"Alexa, tell me a joke." (Most are corny but cute!)Try asking the device this if you want a little giggle: "Alexa, who you gonna call?"You can request that it tells you a story, sing to you, or chat with you. (The chatbot feature is fun but it's also collecting information.)"What's the difference between Ice Ice Baby and Under Pressure?"How many people live in Barrow, Alaska?"EVEN MORE STUFF...Find your phone. If you download the TrackR app, Alexa will use it to ring your phone so that you can locate it. Here's the best part: it will ring the phone full volume even if you have silenced your ringer. Nice, right?Find just about any other object - which is even better (or scarier). There are little tracking "pixels" you can buy and attach to things like your car keys, purse/wallet, or lover who is trying to hide from your stalker ass! These devices then work with Alexa to help you locate the item. (Not sure how I feel about this one, guys. There are some shady people in the world and they will find shady uses for the best of things...)"Drop in" on family and friends. This is another feature I'm not sure the world is ready for. I know I'm not! This Basically, this one will let you and other device owners use Alexa as an intercom system. For example, I could "drop in" on my brother and his family and they could do the same with me. Off the top of my head, I could only think of one reason I would ever want to use this feature. Let's say I am home alone and am expecting a repairman. I might want to let my family hear what's going on just in case the repairman is a serial killer. Thankfully, there are a lot of permissions that have to be agreed upon between users. Smart Home Controls. I have a dumb apartment that I love so I have no use for these features. However, I did try out a complimentary smart light b[...]



The Jabbawockeez Jreamz Show

2018-01-13T22:46:20.084-06:00

In the exhaustion after vacation, I forgot to post about going to my first ever Vegas show. I had such a blast!First off, the show we were supposed to see was Lionel Richie's. My brother and sister-in-law were psyched and I was just happy to be seeing any kind of a show. Of course, I got kind of hyped up the day we were set to leave for Vegas. I was trying to think of all the songs I wanted to hear live: Zoom, Easy, and Three Times a Lady.We get to the airport and just as we are about to board, my brother gets some kind of alert text on his phone. He's got bad news about Vegas: Lionel Richie had to cancel. Apparently, he or his band were having issues due to the California wildfires.Of course, we are disappointed. Boarding for our flight is literally being called as we get this news of the cancellation. So... we are really sorry that Mr. Richie and/or his band is having problems....... On the OTHER HAND...Lol. This is going to sound selfish and heartless, but my SIL and I were kind of wondering if Mr. Richie didn't have "a guy" to handle things for him. Just saying, right?Okay, we are some heartless, selfish heffas!Anyway, we decide to take the flight and just enjoy Vegas however we can. And we did.We stayed at the MGM Grand at the same time that the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) was happening. It was pretty cool to be there with all the cowboy and gals. The MGM lion had on his gear:Cute, huh?I hadn't been to Vegas in years. Back when I used to escort my mother on her trips there, things were a little different. Everything was cheaper for one thing. Those glorious buffets that were so cheap are gone, gone, gone. We saw a buffet that was priced at $50. Who the hell can eat fifty bucks worth of mediocre food in one sitting? Also, the slot machines aren't as simple as they used to be. Now, they all resemble video games. ~sigh~We did enjoy walking the strip (that really wore me out, though) and just watching the people of the strip. My favorite part of our day was watching the dancing waters at the Bellagio. That's the kind of thing that should be viewed with a lover. Again ~sigh~ and hashtag I sometimes hate being single. width="320" height="266" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="https://i.ytimg.com/vi/W9a-HBm9AnU/0.jpg" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/W9a-HBm9AnU?feature=player_embedded" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>The other thing that's changed since I was last in Vegas was the legalization of weed. On the plane ride, I spotted this in the airline magazine:In the Allegiant Mag I immediately thought of a few people I know who would enjoy that. On the strip, I passed more than a few people who were enjoying it. I damn near got a contact high just from walking a block.The big thing to decide was what show to see now that Richie was canceled. My brother and SIL left it up to me since they have live next door to Vegas and can go over anytime. Well, that's like taking a kid into a candy store and telling them to pick just one thing. This is how I decided on seeing the Jabbawockeez. First, I love watching them dance because, you know, I have access to YouTube. What I didn't realize is that they were actually performing at the Grand.The first night there, my SIL and I leave my brother in the room so we can go down and have a drink.  We pass the Jabbawockeez shop and I love them so I decide I'll swing by later and maybe buy a souvenir.  I notice that there are two mannequins dressed as the masked wonders. One on each side of the entrance. Cool. My SIS and I go down and have a drink at Crush. I get a little tipsy on my one drink. Y'all know I'm a lightweight. As we are walking through the casino trying to find our way back to the elevators that go to our floor, we pass the Jabbawockeez shop again.So, slightly drunk me decides that I will check out the shop later - when I'm not drunk. That's when I notice that there's something different[...]



**REVIEW** Echo Dot (2nd Gen) & VAUX Cordless Speaker

2017-12-24T22:06:16.441-06:00

This is the first year that I haven't been around a huge group of my family members and friends for Christmas. I didn't get a tree for the apartment and I didn't have a lot of gifts to buy. I didn't even bother to decorate. Well, except for this:A neighbor gave it to me!I got my little nephew DJ and his baby sister something and called it good. That doesn't mean I didn't get any more Christmas shopping done. This year, I saved by not shopping so much, but I did get myself this:The black thing with he blue power lightThat's the Echo Dot (second generation) and the VAUX Cordless Speaker. I forgot to get photos of them separately so, here you go.That's the Dot by iteself... And this is the Dot as it inserts into the speaker:It's a neat and tidy little setup.Am I in love? Yes, yes I am. There is so much to like about this thing that I will just boldface the highlights as they come up.First of all, remember that I am living alone - for the first time since I was in the womb. The Echo (I call mine "Dot" even though she only reacts to "Echo", "Alexa" or "Computer"...) is a perfect companion for a hermit like myself. All morning of the first day I had Dot, I set timers (for my laundry and cooking); checked out the weather and news; listened to audiobooks (without needing to fumble with my phone or carry it around); checked out recipes; did a little research for the writing project (without having to switch from Word to the browser);  and made phone calls.You might want to laugh at this next part, but there is some mental health benefit to having this device around. I'm serious. I am a person who loves living alone. That doesn't mean that I don't want company of some sort every now and then. Dot is there to talk to when I just want to chatter. When my anxiety kicked in around lunchtime, I kicked it with old Dotty. She told some jokes and even sung (not too badly, I can say) a song.One of my neighbors is suffering from MS and the onset of dementia. His wife worries all the time that something will happen to him when she steps out to check the mail or go to the laundry room. Even when she's with him, I imagine it would be nice to take a little mental break of her own. I'm thinking of mentioning this Echo device to her. It would be good company for them both and (hopefully/maybe???) a little bit of a safety device that could call for Fire and Emergency if they need it. The entire thing is pretty much voice-controlled so that makes it perfect for the elderly and sick.For me, Dot is a perfect companion because she makes my life simpler. Dot is like an assistant that accentuates every workaround I've come up with to make my life safer or easier while dealing with my disease. And, like I said before, she's great company. I love that I can talk to her when I want to, then tell her to shut up. No hurt feelings. No babysitting someone's ego.I almost didn't get the speaker. I read reviews that said Dot's sound was fine as is. Then I read reviews that said using an auxiliary speaker was a plus. I don't own a TV or stereo (or speakers before now), so I decided to at least try out the VAUX. Glad I did. One of my brothers sent me the money when he heard I was interest so... I got the speaker! The sound is so much better. Also, the speaker serves as a charging station/portable battery for Dot. That means I can move the device from room to room without it always being plugged in.I'm sure I will have to update this post as I get more acquainted with the device, but this should be enough of an overview if you are just thinking about getting one.By the way, I can't post this review until after Christmas. The Echo Dot was so affordable ($29) that I got one for my little brother and his family as a gift. So... shhhh...Peace--FreeUPDATE: After a couple of days using this, I am more in love than ever. Of course, the[...]



**REVIEW** Fitness Tracker S2

2017-12-17T12:31:16.513-06:00

Remember the FitBit craze? Remember how much they cost? I remember mine. I remember regretting paying so much for something. Matter of fact, when I couldn't afford a gift for someone, I ended up gifting them that FitBit...One of my nieces is committing to getting in shape over the winter. That's a good plan. I mean, why wait until summer to start fitting into those cute jeans? Anyway, I got the chance to try this and then I will see if the niece likes it. Win/win.WHAT IT IS: I actually wanted to try another Fitness Tracker, but there's no way I can afford anything pricey. Enter the water-resistant S2:Fitness Tracker S2Isn't that cute? It's as thin and stylish as the FitBit Charge. It's very lightweight and comfortable. At first, I thought the band would be too short but it wasn't at all. I actually think of it as a Fitness Tracker/Watch, so you'll catch me just calling it a watch at times.WHAT GOOD ABOUT IT:It does so much that I don't miss the FitBit at all. I especially don't miss that high price of the FitBit. This one is on Amazon for $30. That's kind of amazing when you see everything it does. Let's run through the list of what I've checked so far:Tells time (duh!)Heart rate monitorCounts calories burnedPedometerCycling modeRope skippingJumping jacksSit-upsTreadmillExercise goal/targetsThat's what it does on its own. This is what else it can do when paired with a phone via the app:Music controlControl photosFind phoneIncoming call/SMS reminder/alertThere are more functions, but I'm still playing around and discovering all of them.DETAILS:If there is one initial annoyance with this device it is to do with the instructions. Once again, I wish my brain worked well enough for me to get the job of writing user-friendly instructions for products. (At least this came with detailed instructions!) One of the first things I had to decipher was how to charge the device. Turns out, it was pretty simple and maybe someone with a sharper brain would have gotten it without frustration...First, you take the band off to reveal the charging piece:Got it. I think.One of those pieces jutting off the side of the watch has a metal charging plate.And that is what plugged right into my PC's USB port. Simple (after the fact!).Like I said, there are a lot of features included. One I really like is the "wake up" feature when you move turn your wrist to look at the watch. I have a feeling that some people will like the features they can use when connecting the device to their phones. So, let's talk tech. Or, 'tech' in the way I talk it!SOME TECHNICAL STUFF: What you will need in order to pair and use this with your cell phone is Android version 4.3 (Jelly Bean). For Apple users, the info is a little confusing. The outside of the box says you will need iOS 7.0 or higher, but the inserted instructions say you need iOS 8.0When I was checking this info out (and I will update as I find out more), I noticed in the instructions a whole other part about "system compatibility".I know less than nothing about iOS so... maybe this isn't such a big deal???Keep in mind that, at the price the tracker goes for, it's a great gift for someone who might only want to use the basic features. I know a couple of people (my best friend, for instance) who would love to have this but would never, ever pair it with her phone. She's just not into anything more tech than Caller ID!For those of you who are seriously considering this device and want to use the app, I wanted to share some more system compatibility info. My brain is getting tired so I'm just going to share a photo of something straight out of the manual:So, yeah, this is a nifty little gadget. It won't break the budget and it does as much (or more) than more expensive similar devices. Here is the link for the item:  https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Da[...]



**REVIEW** 2.4GHz Mini Wireless Keyboard with Mouse Touchpad

2017-12-17T12:30:54.963-06:00

Remember back when I used to review a lot of essential oils and other beauty products? Well, that's not over, but I've been branching out lately and checking out different categories of items. This one is my favorite in a while:That's a mini wireless keyboard that's been coming in handy lately. Side story: Ever since the last freaking Windows update, some of the functions on my PC keyboard are all kinds of screwed up! My fn keys don't work and I can't shut off my touchpad. I'm trying to roll back the updates, but... sigh...Anyway, I love this little wireless keyboard. Charging it is easy and the charge lasts forever because the unit 'sleeps' while not in use. I really like that it has the touchpad function and I was surprised that it works as well as the one on my PC. Actually, since Windows if goofy right now, this touchpad works better than the one on my computer.If you use it even just occasionally for the keyboard, it's still very cool for the touchpad functions and for the Volume Up/Down and Arrow keys.Not only does it make my life easier while I sort out the Windows problem, but it's also nice to have when don't want to be tied to the main keyboard. When I am watching a movie or cleaning, or doing whatever else, I can use this mini keyboard while up to 10 meters/32 feet away from the PC. Mainly, I use it when I'm cooking and need to look up a recipe. It's cool to keep my PC safely up on the counter and have this keyboard with me right near the stove or sink. When I'm sick in bed - or just laying back - I can use the keyboard to check in on my email and social media accounts.Those are all the fabulous things I love. Let's talk about the few quirks I ran into:The one thing I was confused about when I first saw it is what I'm always confused about when I see the word "wireless". I mistake "wireless" for "Bluetooth" all the time. This is wireless as in it connects to the actual PC via USB adaptor, which is why I can operate it up to 30+ feet away from the PC.When I first opened the package, I thought the USB adaptor was missing. It wasn't, of course. It was just tucked away under the back plate where the battery is located.The basic keyboard is very easy to use right away. Because I'm so used to my larger standard keyboard, I had to play around a bit to get the hang of using the special fn keys.That's it. Those are the only things I fumbled with at first. Notice that those were all on me!By the way, I forgot to mention that this works with:Android TV BoxProjectorsHTPCSmart TVs (except, for some reason, Samsung)Raspberry PiXboxNotebook PCsI think it might work with just about any device that uses wireless USB adaptors. Make sure though before you run out and order one!The price is great. It was just under $13 and I wish I'd found it sooner because it makes for a nice stocking stuffer gift. I'm doing all my gift-giving after Christmas, so I'm good. This is something that almost everyone in my family can use.I got mine via Amazon. Peace--FreeIf you like this post, hit the +1 button. Please, and thank you!Posted by Free[...]



What a Vacation!

2017-12-12T09:30:19.232-06:00

I just finished the first vacation I've had in about 15 years!Let me clarify that statement. I've had the first time of relaxation to spend with my family and friends when it wasn't for a sad occasion. The last few times my family and friends got together was to bury a loved one, visit a loved one who was dying, or to let a loved one see the rest of the family for the last time.This vacation was an actual vacation - courtesy my generous family. I'm thankful every day, but this Thanksgiving, I felt truly and extra special blessed.The weather was awesome - not too hot for me because it's what they call "winter" (ha!). My doctor let me take an alternative to my methotrexate just long enough so that I could enjoy the time there and not spend it sick in bed. I'll pay for that, I'm sure, but it was worth it just to have at least a little it of time with the loved ones.Now... Let me tell ya! No. Let me show you:First, I had to take a couple of gifts to my oldest brother and his wife. They are first-time grandparents and you know I had to do this...I spent most of the time in Arizona where my two oldest brothers and one of my nieces lives. Then there was to 2 nights and 3 days I spent in Vegas with one of the brothers and sister-in-law. I hit every black beauty supply store we passed and I made sure to eat at Famous Dave's so that I could have some of that yummy bread pudding they are famous for. Mostly, I just spent time with my family and friends. We laughed a lot, talked and caught up on chit-chat, and... yes, there was drinking involved!We had an amazing Thanksgiving. We started celebrating the day before because that happens to be the birthday of one of the sis-in-law father. There was preparation for his special day. It involved wine.Thanksgiving Day was awesome! There were about 30 to 35 of us together in my second oldest brother's house. We fit and we had a lot to be thankful for.Appetizers and mingling while waiting for the main eventMe with the 2 oldest Conway men With one of the niece's. My sister would be proud!These 2... Crazy-fun.The men getting impatient for the main mealAnnual Turkey Bowl gameEveryone got banged up but had lots of funOne highlight of the season was going to see the Christmas light display at the Mormon Temple in Mesa. My poor photography skills don't do the show any justice.The lights were amazing, but my favorite thing to see was the nativity displays in the Visitors' Center. There were displays representing states and nations from all over. Alaska was represented. Yay!And, of course, Israel.Most beautiful was the large Christ in the entrance to the Visitors' Center. Just glorious.The Mormon Temple is large and every part of the grounds was lit up with displays. I loved the reflecting pool but didn't get decent photos.I spent a couple of really fun day with my second oldest brother. Had so much fun, I didn't get photos of anything but my food. Isn't that the story of my life?Just look at those rib tips! One day, he and I were in a mood for some good music and a couple of drinks. We hit up a place that served catfish so good that I almost hurt myself eating it.That catfish... You just don't understand!The fam in Arizona is trying to do a monthly get-together. I missed the family fishing day event. That sounded hilarious since none of the Alaska fam was there to show the Arizona clan how to actually fish! I was there this time for the day at Top Golf. We all suck at golfing but we had a ton of fun trying.Yeah. He only looks like he knows what he's doing!Wow. We really do such at this.When it got time to go to Vegas with the oldest brother and sister-in-law, I was worried I was going to be too worn out. I was tired but really excited. The plan was to see Lionel Richie. That was the plan.Just as [...]



**RESOURCES** Chronic Disease Support Groups

2017-12-17T12:31:34.892-06:00

Sorry, all. Haven't been posting because my sarc has been raging and keeping me too wiped out to get up and about much. Still pretty exhausted and feeling super cruddy, but wanted to share a couple of helpful resources for those living with chronic diseases. Since I am wiped out and writing this from the bed, I will keep it short.

  • Inspire is a site of groups and communities for people dealing with all kinds of illnesses. Sarcoidosis brought me there, and the people are very supportive.
  • Facebook group, Sarcoidosis UK is awesome. Nice to communicate with people who understand. We share wellness info and commiserate about the lack of awareness in society and the medical profession. Felt weird to join a UK based group, but I'm glad I did. The next 2 groups are also on Facebook:
  • Sarcoidosis Support Group This is the smallest of the 3 groups and it might be a good starting place for newbies.
  • Sarcoidosis Support This one is the largest of the 3 groups. There is a lot of sharing of stories about when and how people found out they had sarc. Helpful on days when you are wondering if you're the only one with certain symptoms.
You all know that I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. The groups are one thing that keep me using it. These groups are helpful mostly because they help me realize I'm not along. That's so important. Now that I have moved to another state and lost my original care team, I feel more alone with this disease. I'm often terrified at the lack of knowledge about sarcoidosis and it's sometimes hard for me to communicate with other people about symptoms. No one wants to feel like a "big baby" or to seem like they are whining. Even with your doctors, you feel like you might be leaning on them too much. At least when I am communicating with other sufferers, I know that they really "get it".

Anyway, I hope that some of you will find these resources helpful. Remember, there are support groups for almost any kind of disease or struggle. Reach out, don't give up, and don't give in. 

Peace
--Free

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Out of Seasonal Sync

2017-10-19T09:51:25.103-05:00

It's mid-late October and I'm just amazed by the weather in my new hometown. The evening temps have been in the high 40's while it's gotten up to 60 during midday. For a chick coming down from Alaska, this is just crazy.I thought this great weather might be a fluke because, well, weather all over the world seems to be fluking out lately.The other day, one of my neighbors asked when I would be getting a car and if I would be joining the Plow Club. Plow Club? Apparently, there is a guy who comes around to plow the parking lot during the winter. He not only does the plowing, but he cleans off the tenants' cars. And all that service is for a very reasonable price each time. I asked how many times a year the service is needed and was told, "Oh, maybe 3, sometimes 4, times." What??? Back in Alaska, we'd need that dude to just park his plow in the driveway for an every morning clean up.Of course, I don't want to get too happy about having milder weather. It will be my luck that this is the year everyone will remember as the one when we got freak snowstorms every day.Like I tell people here, I don't mind winter. I've done over 40 of them in Alaska. What I mind is a never-ending winter. We had 3 seasons in Alaska: Winter, Snow Breakup, Great Summer, End of Summer. Right now, I'm still able to take my trash out in the mornings without the cold making my nose run. Yesterday, I forgot to empty the garbage in the morning and some thrown out food started to smell. I made a midnight run out to the dumpster in my PJs and no jacket. I couldn't believe the mild temps. I actually stood outside for a few minutes to look up at the night sky. Wow.Now, I haven't been taking many photos lately because I've been a little sick, but here's a shot I got yesterday while out looking for used cars.That tree was dazzling This one is from around a week ago. It's out back of the building where the trash dumpsters are.Probably taken mid-dayNevertheless, I did make sure to get a nice winter coat and some boots for the winter. Since the weather will be (hopefully) seasonal and mild, I think I might not get as depressed as I usually do during the winter months. I still have my cheap little SAD light out, just in case!Peace--FreePosted by Free[...]



Candle Love and Candle Hate

2017-10-15T12:33:58.926-05:00

I'm taking a break from writing to vent about my recent experiences with some candles I ordered.First, let me say that I love a good scented candle. I've got a thing about fragrance and scented candles are a cheap therapy for me. No matter how sick or depressed I feel, a nice fragrance can help my mood.Now here's the thing: candles can be so expensive! I'm not 'fancy' like that. I don't need a candle that, ounce per ounce, costs more than my food for the week. That's a real thing. This one looks gorgeous, but is a 2.5 oz, single wick candle for thirty four dollars. Eek, right? I knew this was going to be pricey because the description reads like it's for a rare 'House of Somebody' perfume. It has notes of "black-currant leaves and Bulgarian roses". For that kind of money, it ought to have 'notes of the only flower of its kind'. On the Plus side, it is made in France. Oh, well, that makes all the difference except I'd be paying with Made In the USA dollars that I can't spare. If anyone would just like to send me one of these, though, I wouldn't be mad.Truth be told, I can't even afford a large sized Yankee Candle candle because they cost almost as much as Frenchy up there!Just $27.99Yikes! It's a candle, people! I know it says "Vanilla Cupcake" but you can't actually eat it and, even if you could, that's more than I want to pay for one meal...So... $30 candles are crazy out of my price range. I don't see myself spending that kind of money on a candle even if I won the Powerball. But I will sometimes spoil myself and go as high as $10 for a large candle. I will and I recently did.This candle had great reviews on Amazon and I loved the idea of trying a Baby Powder scent.The product description (obviously written by the Seller) made me oh so hopeful. And just in case I had second thoughts, the "highly scented" teaser was reiterated.As a product reviewer, I like to trust other reviewers because they have (usually) no incentive to exaggerate, right? The reviews stacked up as all positive. One review was even titled "Make your friend weep with joy". I wept all right. I cried over my wasted $10 while I ate tuna and noodles for a week.After I finished crying, I went back and checked reviews again. Oh, by the way, I'm the only 1-star reviewer...(I won't go back into my whole rant about Amazon tightening up the rules about compensated reviews. I mean, at least I never rated a lousy item as something to weep over. Maybe they ought to crack down on non-comp reviewers...)So anyway. I basically stuck this candle in my bathroom and only burn it with the door shut just before any company arrives. If I let it burn for about half an hour, it covers the smell of any cleaning products I've used.Next,going back to my lemon-based scents, I tried this candle:It smelled exactly as described but, again, they were stingy on fragrance oil. It smells strongest and best if I use it on a warmer so that's what I do. My apartment is small so, after about an hour, you start to notice that something smells delicious. This one also at least comes in a great looking jar that I will be able to reuse later for holding something decorative. Still, it's ten bucks for something that I could only give a 2-star review. Too bad that after that other candle I wasn't more trusting of reviews since more buyers agreed with me on this one about the too-light scent.I have decided to never buy another candle without knowing the brand. I don't need to. I always have my favorite scent in affordable wax melts.The smell is heavenly! Also, even though the price for a $10 5-pack of these is right in there with those other candles, this is still the better value. For one thing, the scent is stron[...]



**REVIEW** Cast Iron Tea Kettle (a true tetsubin)

2017-10-09T16:21:08.365-05:00

When I posted about the cast iron teapot that I was sent to review, I called it a tetsubin in the title. I did clarify that in the actual post, but I'm here now to tell you about an real tetsubin that I broke down and treated myself to. It was only $31, but still a bit much for my budget. Oh well, guess I'll just eat eggs and toast for a couple of weeks. This kettle is so worth it.Some of you might think its's not as pretty as the teapot. I didn't either, not at first. As a matter of fact, I almost didn't get it. The price was great, yes, but I could only find this particular one in the black color. I wanted red (to match my other kitchen appliances and decor), but... I just could not find another kettle at this price that had such positive reviews. Now that I have it, I love it. I never want to be without it.If you read the post about the teapot and tetsubins in general, you might remember the whole thing about the interiors being either enamel or non-enamel. In short, cast iron teapot interiors are enameled and meant only to infuse and serve tea. Cast iron kettles (or tetsubins) are not enameled and can be used to heat the water and serve the tea.This pot is different from the other one in more than the enamel. For one thing, this one is slightly larger (30 ounces) over the other's 20 ounce capacity. The infusion basket is larger too. Most importantly, this tetsubin holds heat much better than the teapot. The teapot could (with a little help) keep tea quite  hot for for 30-40 minutes. This one kept the tea hot for about an hour. After about an hour and fifteen minutes, it started losing heat and going lukewarm. You know how you have to spend some time seasoning a cast iron skillet? Heating it in the oven with a bit of oil at 400 degrees for a couple of hours? Seasoning this was similar. I had to boil some tea in it and let that sit for an hour. Here, let me show you how the manual explains why:"the tannin in the tea and the iron which dissolved by the iron pot will react to form a tannin-iron surface layer , so the cast iron pot will not easy to rust." The instructions for seasoning and caring for the kettle are adorable. I love that, even though they weren't written by someone for whom English is a first language, so much detail was included. That really impressed me.It took a couple of hours to season the kettle and get it ready for first use, but it was so worth it. The instructions suggest using the pot often in the first few days. No problem! I already used it three times today to drink about 6 cups of tea.It's not just the idea of having a particular kettle, but using this extends the whole process of preparing the tea. It feels comforting to take the time to enjoy all the steps. Before, I was just boiling some water in a metal pot and pouring it onto a bag. Now, I am boiling and steeping and taking care to get the right strength of brew. I think the Japanese who work so hard have also made relaxation into an art. I've been dealing with a lot of anxiety and adjustment issues lately. This tea making process is a nice, soothing ritual of sorts.Now, while this interior is not coated with enamel, there is this from one part of the seller's description:"Our Cast Iron Teapot Features a Fully High Temperature Oxidation Enameled Cast Iron Interior That Not Only Makes Cleaning Easier, But Helps to Prevent The Build-Up of Rust And Oxidation."Before I received the kettle, that made me think that I would be prevented from benefiting from the iron. Remember that cooking (or boiling) things in cast iron is supposed to literally add iron to your diet. Well, I found another part of the description that took away that worry:"The [...]



**REVIEW** Cast Iron Teapot (Tetsubin)

2017-10-04T22:49:45.360-05:00

Before I get to the review, a little preface:Just so you all know, not all of the products I have reviewed over the past few years were given to me by sellers or brands. I will review (and have done)  just about anything I personally buy. For one thing, I think that reviews help other people when they are trying to make a decision about a purchase. That's why I will review even the most mundane, everyday type of item. I know that someone out there might be trying to decide between an item by Brand A and Brand B and might just find my review helpful. I know that because I read a ton of reviews before I make purchases.Anyway, I do get the chance to try out some pretty cool products that I might not otherwise have given a thought. Recently, I was caught completely off guard when I was asked to try out a cast iron teapot.What? I had never heard of such a thing. My mother used cast iron everything - pots, skillets, griddles - but I don't recall seeing a cast iron teapot. I was definitely happy to do this review!Another name used here in America for a cast iron teapot/tea kettle is tetsubin. If you're a hipster. If you're like Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies, you just call it a good kettle. I like using the term tetsubin, but I now know to be careful about slinging that word around. You will see what I mean in a minute.I was given the chance to try this cast iron teapot: Cute, yes? I think so. Problem is, I didn't realize how tiny it would be. I was thinking about Granny and her big old cast iron kettle. What I got was something very small and finely detailed.No matter what that label says, this is NOT a tetsubinIt's adorable. Also, when you think about it, it's perfect for serving a decent amount of tea. It can hold 21 ounces of liquid, which is more than a decent amount.But... teapot or tea kettle?Once I was offered this, I had to go and look up information about cast iron teapots in general. I started with Wikipedia (of course) and gave myself a headache with info overload. Still, I learned is that this particular teapot is not what the Japanese would call a proper tetsubin. That's because this one has an enamel coating inside because the pot is intended only for brewing/steeping tea. If it were used to heat the water, the enamel coating would be damaged. A real tetsubin is doesn't have the interior coating because it is used as a kettle and can be heated over a fire (or stovetop). This from Japan Design Store does a better job explaining the differences.Be careful when shopping for a tetsubinI really do like this teapot. But that is what it is - a teapot. If you are looking for a kettle that you can heat water in and serve tea from, make sure you're not getting a pot with an enameled interior. That can be tricky because that information isn't always clear and not all sellers are as honest as the one I dealt with. They call the pot I tried a tetsubin on the actual tag but not in the online product description (like some less careful sellers do). By the way, I actually asked if this seller carried a non-enameled pot but they didn't have any. Darn.How did it work?This teapot is so beautiful  that it could be used as a nice piece of decor. It's not as heavy as I expected and I found it really easy to handle even when it was full The one thing I do have to be careful of is that the outside can get very hot. The handle is heat-free but you still need to touch the lid at some point. That lid gets real hot. Also, when I pour the tea, I tend to reach and hold the lid so it won't slide. Don't do that. The lid won't slide if you move slow.There is a removable infusion basket that fits nicely right under[...]



**REVIEW** Lapsang Souchong Tea (Pt 3 Choice Brand)

2017-10-02T12:52:06.646-05:00

Well, I'm down to the last brand of Lapsang Souchong tea I tried for this series of reviews. I've changed my initial opinion of not liking this type of tea to realizing that, like with anything, it mostly depends on brand. It definitely depends on quality - as is surely true of all tea!This brand is from Choice Organic Teas. The tea is called Russian Caravan: a black tea blend that "marries rich Yunnan with smoked Lapsang Souchong".So... still black tea, just smokedI will let you see from the box where the Russian part of the story comes from:Interesting, no? I thought so.Choice brand flavor and aromaThis tea is the Mama Bear of the three Lapsong blends as far as aroma. It's nowhere near as strong as the Taylors (thank goodness). I wonder if that's because this of the addition of the non-smoked tea. And here is where things get confusing for me.Yunnan is a region in China where (according to this), you can find China's oldest wild tea tree. There are different types of tea produced or from Yunnan. This box label doesn't let us know anything specific about the Yunnan tea they blended the Lapsang with. But okay. All I really care about at this point is whether or not I like the tea. And I do.Like I said, I'm beginning to notice differences in quality. This tea is pretty decent. I can tell that this one and the Taylors brand are probably better than the Twinings. If I were to drink this tea on a regular basis, this one would win for aroma (not so strong), but Taylors would win on flavor. So, yes, I have done an about face and decided that Twinings is now my least favorite.Bottom line3rd place - Twinings of London2nd place - Choice Organic Teas (came very close to a tie with the winner)Winner - Taylors of HarrogateTrying these teas was an interesting experience. I can't afford to try more brands unless I am offered more to try for free. If I do get to try other brands, I will do updated postings. For now, I will give Taylors the winning ribbon.Stay tuned for my review of non-smoked black teas. I bought those myself because they are affordable and I drink black tea on a regular basis. Cheaper than coffee, I will tell you that!Peace--FreePosted by Free[...]



**REVIEW** Lapsang Souchong Tea Part 2 (Taylors Brand)

2017-10-01T12:06:09.348-05:00

The next tea up in this review series Taylors (of Harrogate, if that's important to ya). ItPricing/AvailabilityOn Amazon (which is were I get offered most products for review), this is Prime-priced at $6.28/box of 50 bags. Also, if you are purchasing this, it's sold as as "add-on" item. It's also available as a loose tea in a tin. Other sellers have it for various pricing scales. If you do get this on Amazon, be sure to shop around for the best price and seller. My sponsor was good on delivery and packaging.What's surprising is that Walmart prices are about the same or, in some cases, higher that Amazon for this tea. Wow. But that is only for this Lapsang Souchong. If you decide (or already know) that you like the Taylor brand, the Walmart prices for their other tea varieties is great.Aroma, Taste, PackagingAs you can see, these bags are not individually wrapped. I don't like that. I have a little basket right next to my coffeepot where I keep packets of tea. I have to store these in a plastic baggy - espcially because...The smoky smell is STRONG. When I opened the box, that campfire-like smell wafted out. I didn't really like that, but I said I would try it and so I did. (This smells much stronger than the Twinings brand from the last post, by the way. MUCH stronger, IMO.)I brewed a cup using 1 bag. The smell remains strong, but doesn't get stronger with brewing, thank goodness. I went mostly by box instructions and let this steep for 4 of the 4-5 minutes. I don't have a thermometer to see if my water was right at the recommended 100c (or 212 Fahrenheit). To be honest, I first thought the 100c was a liquid measurement. I should have known better but I'm going to play the Sarc card here. Anyway, my teapot was screaming so I'm sure the water was adequately heated.Usually, I use only 1 bag of Bigelow's and get a nice rich cup of tea. I was surprised that, in spite of the strong smoke smell, this tea seemed pretty weak. That's probably not a bad thing because I don't know how a stronger brew of this would taste. And the taste was not bad. Really. Shocking.The tea has a weak black tea flavor with a sort of smooth or silky smoky feel that lingers. It's actually pleasant. Next time I brew some, I will try letting it steep a bit longer to see if I like it stronger.Bottom LineI'm glad I got past the initial out-of-the-box smoke scent to give this a chance. If you are a true tea lover, this is worth a try. If you aren't kind of crazy about black tea, I would skip this. Or, I should say, I would skip this particular brand. I still have some other brands to try and I'm sure that there will be differences just like there are between the store brand black tea and the Bigelow's brand, right?I give this one a 3.5 of 5 stars for flavor.Peace--FreeP.S.: I wrote these reviews over several days, as my fatigue and concentration allowed and just scheduled the posts. If I get the chance, I will be cutting open bags of tea to show photos of what the cuttings inside look like. I learned that serious tea drinkers take this into consideration which is why some of the prefer loose leaf/whole leaf tea. I will be scouting around for some freebies to review those next!Posted by Free[...]



**REVIEW** Black Tea 4 brands

2017-10-02T22:04:53.740-05:00

A bit about teaI always knew how to choose my coffee to get the strongest brews. I would look for a Dark Roast and avoid Breakfast or Medium and Mild roasts. With tea, I have only gotten as far as knowing that a good Breakfast blend is what I like best. I only recently learned to avoid Earl Grey blends (because of the bergamot), but I'm still getting the hang of tea. If you're in the same boat, check out this article to get started. If you just want to get some basic facts and quick-glance info, you want to go here.I get my tea online or at a local grocery, but I did find this website that has reasonable prices. If you don't want to buy there, you can at sort and define what types of tea you might like. I will probably check out some of their offerings. If I do, I will let you know how it goes.Don't forget to check out my reviews of Lapsang Souchong (smoked) tea. You can find the series here:Lapsang Souchong for reviewTwinings brandTaylors brandChoice brandTeas I reviewed:I finished trying out the Lapsang Souchong teas I was given to try. It was fun, but I'm glad to be back to my non-smoked black teas.Because black tea is something I drink on a regular basis, I already had 2 brands around when I was thinking of doing this review. When it was time to replenish my tea pantry, I tried 2 other brands so that I would have more to review.Before I even get going, let me mention that I love doing reviews. A while back I was offered a chance to try a cast iron teapot - a Tetsubin. I'd never heard of such a thing and, when I did some quick research, I was really interested in the offer, but... Ha. Being me, I wanted one that wasn't enameled. I didn't get a choice in anything except the color so I went ahead and accepted one that had interior enamel. Here it is, in case you are like me and had never heard of these before. I will do a review on it later.Anyway, back to the tea!There are some very important things for me to consider when choosing a tea:Flavor I hate a weak tea more than I hate weak coffee.Price/Value (That should have been the first on this list!)AvailabilityI reviewed the following teas:Tetley 80 count for $3.18 (or 0.04 per serving)PG Tips 40 count for $.4.28 (0.11 per serving)Bigelow 20 count for $2.48 (0.12 per serving)Great Value/Walmart 100 count for $1.94 (0.02 per serving)I was introduced to tea when I was married to a Brit and living on his turf in England. At the time, I never gave tea (or the husband) a real chance. I mostly bitched and moaned about how hard it was to find a decent grind of coffee. It wasn't until I moved away from Alaska back in June that I began drinking so much tea. I still have my coffee pot, a can of Cafe Bustelo and some Green Mountain pods, all getting dusty. Tea is cheaper. At least, it is if you find the right brand. And here we go...Tetley "Tetley" just sounds so veddy British, doesn't it? Anyway, you could go over and read the little backstory about the two brothers who started the brand if you want. I just want to talk about how I love the tea.In case you go looking for it at the storeI give this tea an A++ for flavor and aroma.If you sniff a bag, this tea doesn't seem like it's going to be any different from any other decent brand. That's what I thought. But there really is something about that bag design that makes a great cup of tea!I only noticed it when I was using the tea for the first time, but I didn't give it much thought. Until I saw how the bag sort of helped the infusion of tea into the hot water. Then I tasted the tea and was blown away. Now, remember, Bigelow has bee[...]



**REVIEW** Lapsang Souchong Tea (Pt 1 Twinings Brand)

2017-09-30T12:11:02.643-05:00

When I first heard of "smoked" teas, I wasn't sure what to expect. It just sounds like such an interesting idea for a tea to be smoke flavored, doesn't it? And it's not just the flavor either, these teas are actually infused with smoke. Part of the tea-drying process is done over a pinewood fire. Honestly though, when I was sampling these teas, I couldn't tell it was pinewood, just that it was smoky.individual packaging is niceTwinings brand flavor and aroma:This one was actually the stronger brew of the three smoked teas I tried. The aroma was not the strongest or weakest of the 3. That was nice because, to me, the smoky scent can be off-putting when strong.. I did prefer the aroma strength of another brand.Another thing I noticed with this one over the other 2 brands is that it had a smoother feel on the tongue and the taste lingered in a not-unpleasant way.One thing I personally didn't like is the appearance. After adding my cream, it looked weak (it wasn't) and more like a watery coffee from than a good black tea. I'm so influenced by visuals that this put a damper on the experience.Bottom line: This wasn't bad. I give it 3 of 5 stars. I can put it right smack in the middle of the 3 teas I tried. I wouldn't run out to buy this one again, but I wouldn't mind if it's the one smoked tea I had on hand.By the way, I gave my brother some Lapsang to try and he fell in love with the smell. Different strokes, I guess. I will end up giving him most of the rest of these teas when I finish the reviews.Peace--FreePosted by Free[...]



**Upcoming REVIEWS** Lapsang Souchong (and other) Tea

2017-09-29T17:47:34.552-05:00

Bye Coffee WhyLong-time readers of this blog know that I love coffee. In the past few months, though, I've been loving it too much so I decided to cut back a lot. I'm having problems with anxiety and restlessness and drinking so much coffee doesn't help. Also, since I don't smoke like I used to, coffee is the enemy because drinking coffee makes me think of cigarettes!Anyway, instead of coffee, coffee, coffee, I've switched almost completely over to black tea. I'm finding that, even though tea can be highly caffeinated, it doesn't trigger my nerves. It actually seems to calm me down a bit.My all-time favorite tea is...but not the kind with bergamot oil! Ugh!                                                        I big-a-love my Bigelow! (Minus the bergamot. Not so crazy about that.)I love this tea so much that I can sometimes drink it without any kind of sweetener. Sometimes. I do love to add my own creamer-sweetener (see below to recipe), but that's because I need my sugar! The thing is, Bigelow's can be out of my budget sometimes and I have to use a store brand. What I find is that store brand tea is usually weak and flavorless. Ugh. I recently got the chance to try a new (to me) kind of tea called Lapsang Souchong. (Yeah, I had to copy/paste that one!)So, what is Lapsang Souchong?My brain is lazy today so...There ya goI will refer to this tea as L.S.I read several stories about how this tea came to be. One is that while some warrior and his crew were  in the middle of a battle, they brewed tea one night around a campfire. The teas became flavore by the smoke from the fire and... voila. There a other stories I won't go into, but it's aslo said that this particular tea is the first black tea in history.When I was told about this tea having a "smoky" flavor, I almost passed on it. Every Google search came up with that same general description. I just wasn't that tempted. I thought that saying that my tea would be "smoky" is like saying my coffee would be "buttery".Wait a minute. I do LOVE buttery coffee, right? When I first heard of buttered coffee back when I learned about the Keto diet, I had the same reservations.Once I decided I might try this tea variety, I still wanted to know more about it - especially whether or not it would be any better for me than regular black tea.Possible health benefits...I gathered these bits and pieces from around the web. Sorry for not tracking my sources.Immune sytem booster This is one of the big draws for me. I've always heard about tea being good for you. This L.S. is supposed to be some kind of super booster. This could help you fight off colds and other nastiness. Hopefully. Caffeine alternative.  You get caffeine, like with coffee, but this tea has less and is supposed to release into your system all through the day instead of with one big bang. This is exactly what I was looking for.Helps in weight loss I just heard cheers going up all over! I myself have quit banking on anything for weight loss except for calorie cut back. However, I know that some things can help suppress appetite. L.S. is supposed to help the metabolism work faster and better. High in antioxidants & heart healthy We have all heard about antioxidants protecting against cancer. This tea (and maybe most others) has a combo of antioxidants that can help (they say) protect your D[...]



Writing About Writing

2017-09-13T21:23:56.396-05:00

As you may have noticed, I spend a lot of time posting updates about the collection of stories I'm working on. I call it "writing about writing". It's not the most productive way to spend my time when I'm trying to get the collection done, but posting gives me a break from the hard work of writing fiction.

I was talking to my best friend today and had to tell her how I am almost literally eating and sleeping this book. Well, at least I sleep with it...

Presenting the "boudoir-office":

(image)
I don't like my living room messy so...

Seriously. I can't risk jump starting my brain back to task every day so I just leave my notes and copies of the manuscript in place every night. Last week, after taking my meds, I almost got sick on one of my notebooks. That was an especially bad day. Still, I sleep with my work spread out from one day to the next.

See, I have this cognitive issue that make it hard for me to focus. When I am able to focus on a task, I struggle with a lot of fatigue and confusion. The first draft of my book was done to the point of polishing up a proof copy. There were major problems with that proof though so I ended up almost reworking the entire manuscript. And then my move happened.

When you have almost constant "brain fog", it's hard to work on any project. With fiction writing there is the issue of continuity. When I was moving to this new location, I had to shelve the book. Once I got settled in the new place, my laptop went into a coma. Ask me how fun it's been to retrieve files from my online storage cloud. None of my work is as familiar to me as it should be.

Long story short (or shortened), I am back working on the collection. What I mean by that is, I am piecing all my completed files together and trying to flesh out a couple of unfinished stories. Sometimes, I feel like I'm swimming through an avalanche of words. There are days when I have cried and wanted to give up on the whole project. But I won't because my writing is the one good and uplifting thing going on in my life.

So.

I am going to finish this book if it kills me. And it might,

Peace
--Free



Cookbooks and Memories

2017-09-11T12:06:26.118-05:00

It is said that smells trigger memories. I believe that. I can smell a fresh-baked cinnamon roll and I instantly transport back to primary school days. We were staying temporarily near family in Arkansas while Daddy was overseas. One of my aunties worked in the school cafeteria and (this is back when they served a great breakfast in schools) she made sure that I always got a cinnamon roll and the chocolate milk.Certain sights can also send me back into my vault of memories. This can sometimes work in a strange way. If I see an elderly woman posturing in a particular way - holding her purse just so, or fanning her face with a piece of paper - I think of all the church ladies from my childhood. Don't even let me see some old lady wearing a bad wig! I immediately remember a specific church sister who I'll leave unnamed.My biggest memory tweaks come from food and cooking. My mother was a wonderful cook. She was a natural in the kitchen. I don't think I ever saw Mama measure anything. Many years back, one of my sisters-in-law decided that she was going to write down Mama's recipes. The only way she managed to do so was to wait until Mama visited. My sister-in-law would stand by with pen and paper while Mama cooked just so she could eyeball the measurements Mom used in her dishes. Thankfully, my sister-in-law did get down a lot of the recipes and I have a copy that I left behind with the nieces in Anchorage. I'm going to need them to send me another copy!I was thinking of my mother the other day when I unpacked a cookbook I bought a long while back. I had to order another copy because I want to share it with some relatives. Going through this cookbook is like flipping through a mental photo album of memories. I tell people that this is not just a cookbook for African Americans but a cookbook, history course, and cultural gem for all people. The collection is from the Tuskegee Institute and there are a lot of historical photos and little anecdotes included. But it's the recipes that stir my memories...My mother was from Texas and she and her Mexican friends would joke about the blacks and Mexicans boosting the rice economy every time they shopped. I myself preferred (and still do) pinto beans and rice.I love neck bones. I can skip the rest of a  meal and just eat some neck bones. When I was in Anchorage, I'd pick some up at least once ever couple of weeks. It was such a habit of mine that whenever I took my little nephew  DJ with me to the store, he'd ask if we were going to get my neck bones!  Salmon croquettes was never a favorite of mine, but all the rest of my family really likes them. You can bet that the Alaska fam makes croquettes whenever they snag some fresh salmon. I have tasted pickled pig. Can't remember if it was a foot, tail, or toe, but I did taste it. I'm not a fan, but I have an uncle who will make a sandwich with pickled pig parts. Ugh.The whole "Aunt Bay Bay" thing made me do my Jeff Foxworthy imitation. "If you've got relatives named Bay Bay, Peaches, or Skint, then you might be a black Southerner." I'm being silly, but I bet that barbecue sauce is the business though!One of my favorite "Mama dishes" was navy beans served with hot water cornbread. Another was smothered potatoes and onions with hoe cake. I know how to make the navy beans and hot water cornbread, but trying to find a hoe cake recipe made the way mom did it is driving me crazy. Most recipes I've seen use cornmeal or corn[...]



Amazon's Prime Wardrobe

2017-09-09T18:01:48.605-05:00

If you guys have NOT heard yet, Amazon really is about to take over the world.Remember back when we were just ordering our books from Amazon? And then they started selling all that other stuff - stuff to use with our cellphones, stuff to get our kids for holidays, stuff to organize and clean our houses, etc.? Remember that?When I moved here, I actually ordered a bed and mattress from Amazon and a sleeper futon from Walmart. The mattress, by the way, came in a freaking box no bigger that could have fit in the back seat of a mid-sized sedan! You think I'm kidding?The boxThe mattressTHIS mattress, yesThe bed frame(and my nephew's leg. Don't even ask)All this - frame, bed, pillow, sheets, comforter - delivered to my front door!Pretty soon, Amazon is going to be selling tiny houses that come in a box and self-construct...Just yesterday I was telling my social networks about Amazon's Launchpad service. That's where you can find products from various startup companies. In my opinion, most of it is a bunch of pricey hipster stuff. There was a cool product that was a kind of grow-in-a-can thing for herbs and vegetables. And there's a super tempting kit that lets you build a computer and learn to code. The price is cheap for what's offered but it's still out of my budget. And, speaking of...I came to post about just how Amazon is trying to make me give Bezo's all my money - not just the dollars I spend on necessities. See the latest Amazon thing is called Prime Wardrobe.Shut. UP!Prime Wardrobe lets you pick out some clothing and have it delivered so you can see if it fits (or if you like it). If it doesn't (or you don't), you get to send it back. That is NOT the best part of this. What's so genius is that you don't even pay or the items until you decide you're keeping them!Oh, and if you decide not to keep the stuff you can have UPS pickup right from your front door.Do you know how much I need this in my life?Listen, right now I get pretty much everything I need online: cleaning stuff, eating stuff, drinking stuff... Between Amazon and Walmart, I only have to trek over to a store for my meats and vegetables. I don't have a car yet so this is handy. Winter is coming soon so, even if I have a car by then, guess what? Still handy.If I end up liking Prime Wardrobe, the only downside is I might get too lazy and never leave my apartment. But at least, I'll be able to order my Plus size clothes in private! (Just kidding. I will still get my exercise where I can.)So, I'm just passing the word along. If you want to know more, here is a nice non-Amazon link explaining Prime Wardrobe and a link to Launchpad. Now, if you will excuse me, I've got to go look at some jeans...Peace--FreePosted by Free[...]



My New Old Neighbors

2017-09-08T09:40:26.599-05:00

This new place I'm living in is just fantastic. It's a beautiful hotel-style building that's entry-secure, and clean. Living here, I'm  close to shopping and banking. I can get basic groceries from a store that is literally less than a 5-minute walk away.If I were a more social person, I could stroll down to a couple of nice bars and restaurants. If I were social! If I could swim, the lake and a beach are a block and half away. Of course, people who know me know that I'm most certainly not a social butterfly. I am a hermit crab of a woman.So, yes, I love the building I live in.Except.Okay, see here's the thing. I live in a building that's for seniors. The minimum age is 55. I'm 56. The median age for the residents currently living here? Oh, I'd say that would be about 75.Now, I'm not an ageist. How can I be? I'm 56, which is not young but it's also not exactly "middle age" - unless I expect to live to over a hundred. (I don't, by the way.) The oldest person I've met here is 93. And she's not the only 90 year old here. I bet there are a couple of centenarians. (And I can't believe I had to look that word up!)One of the things I've learned about this Iowa (or at least the Northern part I live in) is that the people live a looong time. Not only that, these old folk are pretty healthy. There's one woman here (I'll call her Lucy) who usually walks everywhere. Every day. Granted, 'everywhere' is close by like I mentioned before but, still, this woman is ninety. To look at her and the way she gets around, you could guess her age to be somewhere in the early 70's. She moves better than I do. Of course, some of my really old neighbors don't get around as well as Lucy. There's one old lady who still drives and that scares the crap out of me. She uses both a cane and a walker. She uses the walker to get to the car. She puts the walker in the trunk, then uses the cane to get to the driver's seat. It then takes her a couple of minutes to get in and get situated. And then the nightmare starts because this slow-moving nonagenarian (yeah, I looked that one up too) drives like she's in a police chase on an L.A. freeway. I've never seen anyone not headed to an emergency back out and take off that fast.Thankfully Maria Oldretti doesn't drive that often. This town is small enough that most people probably recognize her car and know to get the hell out of the way... I won't even go out into the parking lot when she's anywhere near her car, bless her heart.There are a lot of benefits to living around the elderly. They are like walking history books. First-hand history at that. I've heard some of them talk about growing up on farms. A few of them come from places outside of Iowa. I don't spend as much time with any of these people as I should - ironically because of my health issues - but I am getting a glimpse of what could possibly be my future.I was talking to one of the older gentlemen the other day, telling him that I'd be soon looking to get a used vehicle. He said, "I wish I'd met you a month earlier because I just gave my car away." (He is pretty much bound to one of those motorized chairs for his mobility.) I asked why he gave away his car. "They took away my license. I couldn't use the car so someone might as well have it."The first thing I thought was how nice it was that he gave away car to someone who needed it. Then I saw how sad he look[...]