Category Archives: Reviews

Silicone Sponges – YAY or NAY??

siliconespongesTHave you seen the movie Inside Out?  The character Disgust is usually wearing the face I make when I see a gross, old dish sponge.

NASTY.  Excuse me while I nope out of here!!!

I’m not huge germaphobe, but this is one thing that I just can’t stand.  I go through sponges so fast that I am spending a lot of money on them (yeah only about $2-3 for a 3 pack, but when I go through them so fast it adds up).  So when I started seeing ads for silicone sponges, I thought it might just help me with my problem.

I ordered these three pictured here on Amazon for about $12.50 and immediately trashed the sponge I had…


If you decide to try out these kinds of sponges for yourself, I recommend this pack of silicone sponges instead of what I purchased.  You get SIX of them for only $12.99, a much better deal!

Ok, so here is my list of Pros:

  • Can be used for more than just cleaning dishes (I’ll list some ideas below)!
  • Durable – have been using for over a month and zero damage, despite using it along sharp edges
  • Can be put in the dishwasher to clean/sterilize
  • Holds suds really well – some people did not find this to be true but for me it was no different than a regular sponge.  Perhaps it’s the brand of dish soap, but Palmolive and Seventh Generation has worked just fine
  • The ones you’re not using yet can be squished together to save space – remember the old Bristle Blocks?  Can’t save that space with regular sponges.

The different ways you can use these – I love multi-use items!

  1. Dish scrubber (obviously)!
  2. Pot holder – because it’s silicone, it can handle the heat!
  3. Open those tight lids – these have great grip on those jars that are sealed tight!
  4. Body loofah – NO KIDDING, people use these in place of their loofahs because they can be tossed in the dishwasher to get cleaned, no more buying and throwing out those wasteful loofahs, more money saved!
  5. Clean foods with them – because they are easily sterilized in the dishwasher (or a pot of boiling water if you want it faster), use them to wash fruits and veggies from the store of any pesticides or dirt!

Now for the Con:

Admittedly, I found it is not 100% in replacing the classic sponge.  Due to it’s nature, it cleans countertops well, but won’t soak up the water, just pushes it around.  Here is where I would grab a paper towel or a kitchen towel and finish the job.  HOWEVER, I was already doing that because I don’t want to use a nasty old sponge to “clean” a countertop!

TL;DR version:

Totally worth it.  Buy them today!  They could make awesome inexpensive gifts for the holidays 🙂

Budgeting 101

One of the most important things that so many people have never learned is BUDGETING.

I know, budgeting sounds scary, overwhelming, and restrictive.  For some it can make them look like deer in headlights, but trust me, once you get the hang of it, you can find it becomes easy, fast, and even enjoyable!

What is a Budget?

A budget is your estimated income and expenditures for a certain period of time.  Essentially: what you get paid and what you have to pay for with that money.

Why do I Need a Budget?

Without a budget, you are more apt to living paycheck-to-paycheck, make late payments, get assessed interest or late fees, and live beyond your means.  For many, this means living in a state of anxiety – who wants to live feeling anxious about money all the time???

How do I Make a Budget?

There are MANY ways to make a budget.  One of the simplest ways is by gathering bills and paystubs you’ve received in the last month or two, taking a piece of paper and hand-writing in 2 columns what each was.  For example:

This is a very simplistic budget that covers a lot of the basic expenses a young adult might see.  Obviously individual situations will vary.  In this instance, this person is living within their means, with $400 left over at the end of the month.  This helps them to cover unexpected expenses, or just get a jump on the next month’s bills.

But I Live in the 21st Century!

Then guess what?  I have the perfect system for you!  It’s called You Need A Budget 🙂

There are a lot of budgeting programs out there, and I have tried quite a few, including the Dave Ramsey method (which I liked, but at some point felt got too preachy and judgmental) and Mint (which I found a little too simplistic for what I wanted), but until I found YNAB I just didn’t feel very successful.

YNAB allows you to budget not only from your desktop/laptop, but also lets you do it right from your smartphone!  Out at a restaurant?  Easily log your cost before you even leave the table.  With direct importing from banks there’s no need to go hunting for wayward charges, either!

What is You Need A Budget?

What I found with other programs was that you did a lot more “forecasting” – making estimates of what you will get coming in and going out in the future.  This can be nerve-wracking and problematic, especially if you get variable incomes and bills, or you have kids or elderly pets that may need emergency doctor visits, or you get sick and can’t work as many hours if you’re an hourly employee.

YNAB starts by focusing only on what is most important to you and making sure you give your money a job so you can plan ahead.  Confused?  Here is a quick video that explains the basics:

Are you going to make mistakes?  SURE!  We all do, but YNAB offers a variety of ways to get the help you need, especially when you’re just starting out – with a free online classes, a vibrant forum and an active Facebook group, you’ll only be a few clicks away from getting the answers or directions you need.

So what are you waiting for?  Go use their free, 34-day trial to give it a test run and see how you like it, and let me know if I can help you myself!

Note: this is not a paid post, I use this program myself and love it so much!  The annual fee is $50 for this program, which I have saved MANY times over and find it worth every penny, however if you choose to sign up for the program, both you and I will get a free month added to our subscription!

Product Review: Zombies, Run app

Whoops, it appears I have been distracted by life and whatnots and haven’t updated in quite a while.  But I do have something awfully neat to share for those who enjoy running, or even those who hate running but still push themselves to at least WALK.

ZR1I recently discovered Zombies, Run! (technically Zombies, Run! 2) which is a fitness app that works on both iPhones and Androids.  It’s been around for a while, but it costs money to download and I am so cheap when it comes to buying apps.  After reading a lot of reviews, I decided to give it a shot.


Just one of the items you can bring back to Abel Township.

The basic idea is that you download these “seasons”.  Season One includes 23 “missions”, the first of which establishes the world you are entering.  There has been a zombie outbreak, and you are on your way to a fortified town called Abel Township.  You are labeled “Runner 5”, and become an important person to the town.  Characters speak to you through your earpieces, telling you what they see, or explaining what they need you to do.  Along the way, you may “pick up” items that will help you.  Each mission unveils more of the overall storyline, introduces more characters, or adds to the scenery.



All the while you are listening to this, the app is tracking your time, pace, and even mapping the route you are taking (if you are an outdoor walker/runner, make sure to have your GPS on, or you can use the Accelerometer to count your steps if you use a treadmill).  The app can be set to 30 or 60 minute sessions, and you can have it play songs from a specified playlist to keep you entertained between the story.  Additionally, if you download their Radio Mode, you can continue running for a while and listen to two guys chattering away in between songs.  If you’re an outdoor person and have the GPS on, you can even elect to have zombies randomly chase you…  if this happens, you must increase your pace (kick it into high gear!) in order to outrun them.  It’s a fun option that keeps you on your toes, makes you sprint for a little bit, and adds a sense of panic.

For Season 1, Mission 1 (S1-M1), I did not have music playing in between the storyline, which was fine.  I really wanted to see how the app worked without much distraction.  I went for a fast walk in my neighborhood, but kept having trouble outrunning the zombies when chased.  Part of it was that I hadn’t figured out how the program calculated your pace increase, and part of it was because my neighborhood is very hilly and I was ready to fall over and die if I had to sprint up a steep hill.  Since then, I have figured out what to do, but have mostly stayed inside and ran on my treadmill which doesn’t offer the zombie chase option.


I know what I am going to be for Halloween this year!

I am now about halfway through Season One and can say that I would pay double…TRIPLE what I paid for this app without hesitation.  In 11 days, I have increased my runs from a half hour to a full hour, and improved my pace by over 2 minutes per mile!  I am so confident in my stamina that I have taken the leap to sign up for my first 5K, taking place in just about 2 weeks!

And the story…  it’s hard not to get sucked in.  Even on the treadmill, I may glance to the side before I can catch myself when a character warns me of zombies coming at me.  And I’m not ashamed to admit I have emotionally reacted to some of the story, particularly S1-M9 and S1-M11.  Every day, I wake up sore and tired, but I still get on the treadmill because I want to hear more of the story.

So if you’re in the market for something to keep you entertained while you walk, jog or run, I highly recommend checking out this app.  🙂

Movie Review: Man of Steel

mosLet me start by saying I was born in the 70s, which means – in terms of Doctor Who – Christopher Reeve was my Superman.  Other versions have been fine, I really have no quarrel with any of them, but Reeve is still near and dear to my heart.  I didn’t even mind Superman ReturnsBrandon Routh did a decent job and hey, Kevin Spacey was in it being awesome.

So I go into Man of Steel thinking I’ll be entertained for the 2+ hours, but that was about it. Holy crow was I wrong.  Mild spoilers ahead if you have lived under a rock and have absolutely no idea what the Superman story is at all.

rcroweYou almost immediately get the story of Krypton, which moves at a pretty fast pace towards destruction.  Russell Crowe as JorEl?  Kick.  ASS.  He’s not just an intellectual like the earlier movies suggest, he can hold his own in a fight too.

ShannonZodMichael Shannon plays General Zod, and his portrayal is fantastic.  Determined to save Kryptonians the only way he knows how (by killing Kryptonians?), he ends up banished to the Phantom Zone only to be reawakened when Kryton imploded (and then exploded.  It was a pretty epic destruction).  Rather than Terence Stamp’s evil, mustache twirling portrayal of Zod (don’t get me wrong, he was awesome), Shannon actually gets you to feel sympathy for him.  Just before you want Supes to kill him.

maandpaKevin Costner and Diane Lane play Jonathan and Martha Kent, both excellent casting choices.  I was wary of Costner, but I thought he did a great job doing his best to help his adopted son navigate his moral dilemmas, and both actors were more appropriate ages to play the roles.  Earlier versions always seems to be closer to grandparent ages to me.

Amy Adams was an interesting choice for Lois Lane.  Gone is the typical raven-haired Lois, but her grit and determination keep the character familiar.  Like Margot Kidder, she exudes confidence and gets the information she’s after, gets herself in trouble, but never acts the damsel in distress.

la_ca_0422_man_of_steelLaurence Fishburne rounds out the big names as Perry White.  His role is not groundbreaking, but Fishburne’s name brings it more respect and it’s always a pleasure to watch him on screen.

Of course Henry Cavill takes the title role of Clark Kent/Superman, along with a couple of younger actors for the younger versions of Clark.  Both kids pulled off their roles perfectly, conveying the internal struggles of a child who can’t fathom why he’s so different from others, and doing his best to calm his frustrations.  Cavill portrayed a rather zen Clark Kent, having over the years obviously perfected the act of turning the other cheek in the face of aggression.  It is not until General Zod threatens his adopted homeworld that he really focuses on what’s important to him.

cavillMost of the movie is a simple re-telling of the Superman origin, with a few differences.  The movie establishes that the atmosphere between Krypton and Earth are different enough to be physically demanding, requiring Lois to wear breathing apparatus on Zod’s ship, and causing Zod incredible pain when exposed on Earth.  Yes, JorEl still speaks to Clark Kent to teach him about Krypton, but he comes across as more sentient and interactive.  In fact, it is through JorEl that Lois Lane learns how Superman can defeat Zod and his group, and acts as a Kryptonian Jedi in helping her escape from Zod’s ship.  Lois also knows him as Clark Kent and Superman – she is a smart woman, a pair of glasses certainly would never fool her.

I miss my Christopher Reeve, but in all honesty, this movie was incredible to watch.  There is also one specific point in the movie where I could swear they worked a little CGI magic and made Cavill’s facial features to look like Reeve, so much so that I actually teared up.  The action was thrilling, the struggles felt real.  I can’t wait to own whatever special edition comes out so I can absorb more of the behind the scenes details.  Five bright yellow suns for this movie.  ENJOY!


EDIT:  My husband found this article which backs up my claim to have seen a CGI glimpse of Christopher Reeve – at the time I wrote this review, I could not find a screenshot of the part where I saw him, but this article shows some of it…

Movie Review: Fast & Furious 6

FF6mpIt’s all empty calories, but yeah, I find the Fast & Furious series to be very entertaining.  For a movie or two there it looked like they were just going to crank out vaguely similar movies based on overclocked cars and skinny, barely-clothed women, but over time they’ve woven a bit of an interlocking story together, which continues in Fast & Furious 6.

They’ve brought the majority of the cast from Fast 5 back, and began the story watching how the characters each were spending their share of a $100 million heist they pulled off.  Here’s where the story comes right out and begins with the ridiculous.  You assume that each character was given about $11 million, and yet, a couple characters are acting like they got all $100 million.  Spending as quickly as they were, they should have run out of money about a month and a half in.  BUT this is F&F, so let’s put a pin in that one and move on…

In walks Dwayne Johnson’s muscles, followed a week later by Dwayne Johnson, reprising his role of CIA Hulk imitator Luke Hobbs, who delivers the news that a former member of the group, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) long though dead is actually still alive.  He tempts these former criminals into helping him take down a criminal mastermind (Owen Shaw, played by Luke Evans) who appears to have taken Letty under his wing.  Dom (Vin Diesel) is more than eager to get to Letty, and of course Brian (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) are there to help him, provided they are all given full pardons for prior crimes.

My daughter thinks it's hilarious how Han always has to be eating something.

My daughter thinks it’s hilarious how Han always has to be eating something.

So they reassemble the team, bringing in Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Han (Sung Kang), Gisele (Gal Gadot), and Tej (Ludacris).  They left out a couple of previous players, but for this installment, we’ll just assume they are sipping drinks somewhere warm and sunny.  Gibson’s chemistry with Kang, Ludacris and Johnson all bring a perfect amount of humor to the film, while Gadot and Kang continue to drop hints as to the story behind F&F3: Tokyo Drift (which is supposed to take place sometime AFTER this movie… yes, a little confusing).  And the party starts.


WHEEEEEE! And there’s no way I will be killed doing this! Seriously!

From completely unrealistic chases, crashes, mid air 90MPH catches, and fist-fights, this movie is full of all kinds of ridiculousness, but you really don’t care.  As long as you put your brain on MST3K mode and just accept the ridiculousness, it’s a bunch of fun.  The villain is so stereotypical that he even has a pencil-thin mustache I was waiting for him to try twirling.

The one thing, oddly enough, that I just COULD NOT get past…  The final action scene.  I had accepted people flying through the air and receiving naught but perhaps a scrape or bruise.  I had accepted a totally hellacious girlfight that should have resulted in several broken ribs as best, broken backs and death from blunt force trauma at worst but again resulted in perhaps a scrape and bruise.  I had totally accepted complete decimation of hundreds of vehicles, many of which our heroes were in when they were decimated and SHOULD have resulted in mangling them to bloody pulps, but again produced only a scrape or bruise.  But the end scene involved a very large cargo plane attempting to take off and of course our team is chasing it down with their awesome cars, using crazy weapons and whatnot.  FOREVER.  I said at one point… HOW LONG IS THIS FREAKIN RUNWAY???

Apparently someone else had the same question I did.  And created this:


Yes, after everything I saw in those two hours.  THAT is what bothered me the most.

But it’s all in fun.  Can’t wait until #7!

Movie Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

star-trek-2OH.  MY.

Before I dive right into this review, let me promise that I will not reveal any spoilers – even though I know Yahoo and Entertainment already let the cat out of the bag (YOU GUYS SUCK).  I will assume that anyone who reads this has seen the previous Star Trek movie (if not, feel free to surf away now if you plan to see it and prefer to go in fresh).  That said, let’s roll…

Much like Indiana Jones being pursued by natives after having stolen the golden idol, Star Trek Into Darkness opens with Kirk (Chris Pine) and Bones (Carl Urban) running away from a group of indigenous people who are on their tails after having stolen a sacred item of theirs.  While this is happening, Spock (Zachary Quinto) is getting himself all hot and bothered inside the nearby volcano that is ready to blow and wipe out the inhabitants unless they do something about it.  This scene taps so many plot points for Star Trek in general, I was surprised how much they hit: Prime Directives, moral dilemmas, romance, bromance, dealing with impending doom.

Here's Benedict, just stealing the movie.  No big.

Here’s Benedict, just stealing the movie. No big.

Back in London, a Starfleet officer (played by Noel Clarke, aka Mickey from Doctor Who) and his wife visit a hospital where their daughter is clearly dying.  Seizing on their desperation, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) convinces the officer he can save her life.  In exchange for a transfusion of Harrison’s blood, the officer must sabotage a Starfleet facility.  The officer does so, but sends a message to Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) confessing what he has done just before carrying out Harrison’s plan.

This sets the movie into faster motion and boy does it MOVE.  I was never bored or wondering how long the movie was.  The movie found a great balance between the heavier, dramatic exchanges and action sequences.  Visual effects were stunning, but rarely seemed overdone.

The ORIGINAL bromance.

The ORIGINAL bromance.

The relationship between Kirk and Spock continued to grow significantly in this film, almost to the detriment of Bones.  Unlike the original series, there was little to none of Bones getting on Spock’s case about being an overly-logical Vulcan.  To be honest, if the reason for the animosity between them was made known in TOS, I overlooked it (I’m not a TOS expert), but I don’t think that element was missed much in this movie.  To be fair, Zachary Quinto was given a lot of room to flex Spock’s human side (rather than play the more stoic Vulcan) and I was in awe of it!  More than once, Spock got to kick some MAJOR ass, and more than once his emotions got the better of him.  But it still felt very much like “Spock”…  Zachary Quinto is amazing.

spockuhuraSpock’s relationship with Uhura (Zoe Saldana) continued through to this movie, which was refreshing.  So often, directors will toss out previous romantic attachments as though they had run their course so as to introduce new romances, but I was really pleased that this was not the case here.  I found their relationship very sweet and did not feel out of place in the first movie.  That’s not to say they didn’t have their bumps in the road, but their disagreements and tension felt real and understandable from both sides.

Of course Scotty (Simon Pegg), Sulu (John Cho) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin) were all back, and although they didn’t seem to get as much screen time as the others, they had their moments to shine.

But the real scene-stealer was Benedict Cumberbatch.  I don’t watch Sherlock (although I might have to start), and I knew he was voicing Smaug in the Hobbit films, but to be frank, I thought he was a little odd looking in his photographs.  And for pete’s sake who names their child “Benedict Cumberbatch”!  Sounds like you’re just setting the poor kid up for getting shoved into lockers and random wedgies.  But he totally blew me away watching him on screen.  His voice is undeniably sexy, his presence pushes well past the 2D screen, and his expressions are so emotive that you find yourself easily able to sympathize with a mass murderer.  Apparently he also does a spot-on Alan Rickman impersonation that I am dying to hear.

Was this a perfect movie?  Nope, there was a plot hole here or there, but really, that’s just getting too nitpicky.  It was a highly entertaining film, it was incredibly enjoyable to watch these talented actors do their jobs, and I can’t wait to see it again.

Movie Review: Oblivion (2013)

I’m not a fan of Tom Cruise.  Yes, he certainly got dealt the “good-looking for life” card, and he is a decent actor, but his personal antics tend to leave me rolling my eyes – or worse – creeping me out.  So I wasn’t completely on board with watching Oblivion, but Morgan Freeman trumped my distaste of Cruise.


Jack ponders the meaning of his existence very dramatically.

The first five minutes or so was Jack Harper (Cruise) explaining the history.  Bad guys came to Earth, we ended up using nukes, bad guys were defeated, but Earth was decimated.  Survivors headed to “Tet”, a way-station between Earth and Titan, the Saturn moon where humans re-settled.  Jack is teamed with Victoria to help secure the remaining machines that are draining the last of Earth’s resources (water) to be transported to Titan and they are about 2 weeks away from leaving Earth and joining everyone else.  The last of the invaders (“Skavs”) tend to put monkey-wrenches in their plans by sabotaging drones that help secure the water-suckers.


Victoria gets the coolest computer ever. I want one!

His days are spent leaving the security of his home to patch up the drones while Victoria keeps an eye on things from the home office, assisted by mission control from the Tet.  While out on patrol or patching up drones, Jack finds remnants of the Earth that was, and has flashbacks to a life he’s not sure he actually lived.  In his reality, his mind was erased years before as a “security measure” so if Skavs ever captured him, he could not reveal vital information.  Of course, things begin to unravel, and Jack must figure out the truth while there’s still time.


I’m not sure why it’s not windy as hell up there, but apparently Jack can stand there with no railings and feel perfectly safe.

Overall I really liked the environment, the story idea, the acting.  I loved the technology they were using (I can absolutely see this coming), the vehicles and clothing styles were different enough without leaving me feeling bludgeoned by “HEY LOOK we’re in the FUTURRRRE!!!”  My biggest problem was how the story unfolded on screen.  For instance, the initial voice-over setup of the world as it is was repeated again for a character later in the film – I thought skipping the first voice-over and just allowing us to hear it when explained later would have saved us some time.  Some reveals meant to evoke shocking surprise from the viewers fell a bit flat, while other reveals that weren’t so obvious could have been treated with a better setup for a more effective jolt.  Often I felt like things were just being drawn out unnecessarily, and I thought the 126 minute film could have been tightened up to an hour and fifty minutes without losing the story.

Even something very basic to me seemed off…  it was clear that Sally was pushing Jack and Victoria to do their jobs effectively and constantly monitored progress from the Tet.  Victoria, feeling the pressure from Sally, was the middleman who sometimes shielded her sometimes-rogue partner’s antics from the boss (coddling his interest in old Earth relics, but never allowing herself to be sucked into it) and often pushed him to stay on task.  At one point, Jack tells her he’s going to patrol in an area where the reception is bad and he’ll be radio silent.  I expected him to get away with about 10-15 minutes before Victoria or Sally start getting antsy, but where he goes it is clear he’s been there before many times, and he has enough time to take a freakin’ nap without getting much flak for it.

The action scenes sometimes fall flat as well.  I never felt much anxiety during them, never felt completely drawn in.  Often I drew parallels to other movies.  Morgan Freeman was, of course, the effective Morpheus in this story, allowing Jack to unfold the truth at his own pace, but I felt some interactions should have been heavier, weightier where others were too dramatic.

Go the the theater if you enjoy sweeping landscapes, watch it at home if you just like a decent movie on a Saturday night.  In the meantime, enjoy the trailer:

Review: The January 2013 DailyHiit 30 Day Challenge

In the past few months I have made small changes to my overall diet and exercise routines.  I’m trying to eat more simply – less processed foods, more fresh stuff, and have been trying out HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts to see what kind of results I get.

dailyhiitI discovered the BodyRock/DailyHiit people, who have HUNDREDS of videos up on YouTube (their channel is here).  They began a 30 Day Challenge back in January, but I wasn’t able to start it at the time.  I was glad I waited, because someone created a 30 day calendar with all the names of the videos in order, so I printed it out and have been working from that (CLICK HERE for the calendar PDF) – I am happy to credit whomever made it, but when I tried to find where I got it, I just couldn’t locate it again.  While the DailyHiit website is chock full of information, the organization is still lacking in some areas (Facebook comments are ripe with “where do I start!?!” and “how do I find XYZ?!?”).


This is LisaMarie, not me. Not sure I will get to that level of fitness, but I certainly respect her hard work and dedication!

Not sure if HIIT is right for you?  I know I was a little nervous about something that was “high intensity”, but I found that there are a lot of modifications that can be done to stay at your level and you can work up to the harder stuff as you gain strength and muscle.  Besides, just look at LisaMarie, one of the hosts of the videos…  she’s lean and strong, and they love to post pictures from people who have transformed themselves.  Plenty of people that look like me have gotten a lot out of it, so why not try it out!

I figured if anyone wants the challenge in order, you can also come back here to go day by day.  Since this will be a very long post, I will break it up into pages so it doesn’t crit you with a wall of text.  Also, I noted what pieces of equipment they used each day.  The majority of exercises can be modified to not using equipment, although there are some that you will just need to substitute another exercise in.  By the end of the challenge, I already had or purchased a yoga mat, a sandbag, and a set of Equalizers.  They also use a set of these PowerBlock SportBlock hand weights, a weighted jump rope, and I noticed that they also use these grip pads.  You can read my review of the Equalizers from the link.  I did not purchase the same sandbag they use, and the only real difference is that the one I have does not have a center handle for doing evenly-weighted swinging.  Aside from that I love the sandbag, I think it’s my favorite piece of gear.  I love the design of the hand weights they use, but at $160 for the set, I am going to have to make do with something else for now.  I never got the jump rope, I simply do not have the space in the room I exercise in to use one without taking out light fixtures.  I will likely pick up a pair of the grip pads, however, I have found times when those would come in handy for sure.  Now on to the 30 day review…

Product Review: Lebert Equalizers

LebertEqualizer1I’ve been deeply entrenched in a 30 day fitness challenge put together by the DailyHiit folks, and they have several pieces of equipment that they use regularly in their videos.  One they use for a lot of their exercises is a set of the Lebert Equalizers, simply two metal stands that can be used in many configurations to help aid your workout.

They aren’t cheap, I did find mine through Power Systems and while deciding whether or not to take the plunge on actually purchasing them I saw advertisements encouraging me to return and complete my order with a free shipping code.  I did see that some people had been able to manufacture their own, but ultimately I wasn’t confident I could do that myself so I bought them.

lebertequalizer4First, the pros: the Equalizers are definitely helpful in doing exercises you may not otherwise be able to do.  There are plenty of items around the house you might be able to modify or use to do similar exercises, but I found there were a few I just could not do without them.  Many people use chairs or coffee tables to take the place of an Equalizer and get just as effective of a workout.  With my limited space, and household items, I just couldn’t do much substitution so that’s why I decided to go forward with them.  They have a smaller footprint and can be stored fairly easily without being too in the way.  They weigh about 8 pounds each so they can double as extra weights for some exercises.  They also feel very solid – I do not feel like there is a weakness to them, even at the places where the bases screw into the top frame.  They are cool looking enough that my daughter gravitated toward them and wanted to do all the exercises on their poster.  In addition to the poster of exercises, they also give you a DVD full of Beginner and Intermediate exercises you can do with them.

lebertequalizer3Now the cons: Upon opening the box they arrived in I was hit with an overpowering chemical smell.  I have smelled this before (particularly with sporting equipment, go figure), it’s a pungent odor that my nose equates with burnt rubber.  I hoped that being out of the box and bubble wrapping would allow it to “de-gas”, but my husband walked into the room I exercise in about 24 hours after I got them and immediately asked who was smoking cigarettes in there!  We are a smoke-free household, and when I entered I could still smell the original odor.  I currently have an Airwick plug in wide open to try and mask the smell.  There are two other complaints I have with the Equalizers, one is that the end-caps on the feet are plastic, NOT rubber as I would expect.  With hardwood floors, these can slide easily and I must try and position them on my yoga mat for safety.  Doing this sometimes forces me to modify exercises or take longer than normal to move from one exercise to another, which I find a but irritating and throws off my rhythm.  The last complaint I have is that Equalizers are a One Size Fits All product, when clearly, they need to make them adjustable or make other sizes for people of different heights.  I think this is perfect for someone around 5’7″.  I am 5’11” and when standing next to it, my fingernails JUST brush the hand grip.  I think for someone of my height, it needs to be at least 3″ taller.

I am not unhappy I purchased them, but nor can I give them a top score.  I am hoping the smell will eventually dissipate, and will just have to get used to crouching down further to adjust for the height.  Not sure what I will do about the caps, perhaps try and wrap them in something to help give them some stick, or only use them up against the wall so they don’t slide.

UPDATE:  Wanted to swing back in and let you know that the odor did indeed go away.  While they are not my main piece of exercise equipment, they are still in use today!

(Photos from Lebert Fitness)

Product Review: Eau Good Water Bottle by Black + Blum

I have purchased many a water bottle in my lifetime with the best of intentions.  It’s obvious that the waste produced by bottled water you can purchase in the store is overwhelming, and I’ve tried to do my part to cut down on it, but sometimes the water from my tap is not the best tasting.

eaugood1The good folks at Black + Blum sent me one of their Eau Good water bottles to try out, and now that they are readily available, I can tell you all about it!

First, the packaging it comes in is simple and recyclable, so they are minimizing waste already, but the bottle itself is really… cool!  Each bottle comes with a cork stopper and a charcoal stick.  Rinse the stick to remove loose charcoal dust and pop it in the bottle.  To secure it, simply squeeze the bottle and allow the stick to roll so it “wedges” into this little notch in the lower part of the bottle.  Fill it with water at night, leave it in the fridge overnight, and in the morning you will have clean, crisp, cold water ready to go!  A small metal loop swings over the cork top, so you can grab it and go without worrying about spills.

The charcoal is rechargable as well.  About every three months of everyday use, pop it out of the bottle and place it in boiling water for 10 minutes.  Allow it to dry, and it’s ready for use again.  I have not used it every day, but I have had it long enough to recharge it once.  After two recharges, they recommend replacing the charcoal with a new one, but feel free to recycle the old one rather than throwing it out – break it up and sprinkle in houseplants for extra nutrients, or in the cat box to help neutralize odors.

The taste is great, too.  I definitely taste the difference from tap water, and consider this…  Let’s say you purchase a pack of 24 bottled waters at the store for about $4.00 (I’ve seen them cheaper AND more expensive, but that’s about average).  That means each 20 ounce bottle is $.17.  That’s not too bad, but you are also left with 24 bottles to recycle as well as the carton and plastic they were wrapped in.  An Eau Good water bottle with the first carbon is about $20 and lasts at least 6 months with daily use, which means $.11 a bottle (which is 27 ounces).  After that, you will want to purchase a replacement charcoal.  Through the Black + Blum website, you can get the replacement charcoal for $13 (product plus shipping) – personally I hope they switch to USPS shipping for the states because they could ship it for less than $3 as opposed to $8 through UPS, which would make the price a LOT more attractive.  But even at $13, that means every bottle drops in cost to $.07.

So, not only are you cutting waste, you are saving money!  Over a full year, you are cutting your bottled water costs in half.  How could you not like it?

eaugood4Oh, and do you have multiple people in your household?  NO PROBLEM.  They have different colored tabs so you can assign each member their own color.  Drink more than 27 ounces of water in a day?  Get more Eau Goods and rotate through them, you are still saving money and cutting down on waste.  Really, there is no reason not to own these!

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