Thursday, September 26, 2013

Review and #Contest! Purex UltraPacks plus Oxi - Win a Free Package!

The Purex brand provided me with a sample of Purex UltraPacks plus Oxi in exchange for a product review. The brand also provided me with the coupons for the contest. All opinions are my own and that's always obvious but I have to say it.

Laundry detergent capsules in general are definitely appealing. I don't have to measure anything, there's no dripping, no waste, no fuss. I just shove it in the drum of my washing machine and go about my business. So those are the things I really liked about Purex UltraPacks plus Oxi. Plus, the UltraPacks worked in my HE washing machine, so that's good. Also, the scent was nice - sort of a soapy, rainy, pleasant scent. That's fine.

Bottom line: Purex UltraPacks plus Oxi (with Zout stain removers) definitely helped to remove stains as far as I can tell. My clothes looked and felt clean. So the packs did the job.

Now...well, here are the things I didn't like: The scent, while it wasn't unpleasant, was so strong that I wound up rinsing my clothes three times (twice with vinegar) to get everything under control. And it filled my entire (very small) laundry space. I've said it before, I'll say it again - why can't these capsules come in a free and clear version? Why do they have to be blue and stinky? Also, the warning on the package that I had to wash my hands immediately after using? That was a bit disconcerting (and let me assure you - I washed my hands!). I know it's likely just a common sense warning, and of course I'd wash my hands if I got liquid or powder detergent on them too, but still.

If these were on sale and I had a coupon, I'd consider buying them again to use in my towel laundry (strong scents don't bother me quite as much with towels as they do with clothing). And they really are easy to use, so that's a huge plus if you want to save time and just be able to throw everything around and go and not have to fuss with adding extra stain removers and so on.

Want to try these for yourself? Enter my contest and you can win one of three coupons for a free package of Purex UltraPacks with Oxi! (Open to U.S. residents only. Sorry!) You have until Friday October 4. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Happy Happy Thrift Thrift - September 22, 2013

Happy Fall!

Amy and I hit two of our favorite thrift stores on Friday and I think this was my best trip ever in terms of what I spent vs. what I got (and please note - NO BOOKS! None! I have issued a challenge to myself, actually, to pull out 50 books this week to get rid of. It's time. Also I may or may not admit that I'm going to my favorite used book sale of the year next weekend for half-price day...but it's the only sale I go to anymore! And so. 50 out. ANYWAY.)

Store #1 was having a sale. All summer clothes were a dollar a piece. A DOLLAR. The prices at this store are already very cheap, but this was fantastic. It's still warm here in Georgia, so I can still wear a lot of these now.

Also, here's my secret - a friend of mine told me about Twice - a site where you can buy and sell high-end used clothing. If you want to sell, you are limited to a strict list of brands. Twice will send you a postage-paid bag to fill, then they make an offer on what you've sent. If you want anything back, you have to pay to get it back - otherwise they donate it. And then they sell really nice clothing at deep discounts. I thought I might be able to make a bit of money back to finance my thrifting trips - so some of the stuff you'll see below is actually destined for Twice. But not much. (I'll tell you what pieces I bought to try to resell, OK?) If you are interested in Twice, here's my referral link:

I tried something different for the pictures - hanging everything up. I don't know if I would consider this a success, but you'll get the idea...

Adorable Ann Taylor Loft black button down shirt. I actually picked this up thinking I could resell it but IT FITS (but it's a weensy bit short - I think I can work with that). I have an idea for an outfit. Woohoo!
I had to - obviously - mess with the contrast/brightness on this (in a really terrible way) but it's an ADORABLE J Crew T-shirt with a little ruffly bit on it. And it's heading off to Twice for resale! Bye! [Update: Twice accepted this and paid me $2.50.]
Super super cute Ann Taylor Loft cardigan that is headed outward. I think this was $2. [Update: Twice rejected this, calling it "dated." I disagree but there is no arguing when you try to sell to Twice.]

Not quite short-sleeved Gap black shirt.

Oy. Terrible picture here, sorry. Brown Target shirt with longer than short sleeves.

I couldn't resist this Gap waffle shirt. I think it was $3.

Absolutely darling Ann Taylor Loft dress. MINE.

White House Black Market capris in perfect condition. These are going to Twice. [Update: Twice also rejected these and called these "dated." I have no idea why as to me these are not. Lesson learned.]

"Angels" brand jeans. I liked how they fit from the knees up a LOT. Not totally convinced that wide legs are for me, but today I'm wearing the wide-leg jeans from the last thrift post and they're pretty cute so. $3.

Levis. A tiny bit tight in the waist and I know that's not ideal but they were so cute otherwise and with a long sweater...right? $3

Gymboree sweater for the kid. Except she won't be this size for years. But for a dollar, it was just too cute and too perfect to pass up.

Same exact story as the brown sweater above. This one's a 2012 sweater, even.
Grand total with tax? $20.

Then we went to my favorite little store. That's where I bought the sweater/coat/duster from the previous post. And then I bought everything else. I will try to break down the prices when I know, but I wasn't even sure. Some things were $2 (like the duster). Some things were $1.50. Some things were 50 cents. I spent $15 total on everything.

Really cute Liz Claiborne top. I wasn't sure about it but it looks nice on and is a bit of a change for me. It was on a rack with "specially priced" clothes but it didn't have a special price, so this might've been $2.

Plain waffle shirt.

Plain black T-shirt because I can never have too many.

Plain black waffle shirt.

Green Old Navy top.

I loved this reddish top. But when I hung it up for the picture, I saw that it has a snag/hole on the front. BOO BOO AND MORE BOO. I am undecided as to whether I'll keep it for layering purposes or toss it.


This Vespa shirt is the tiniest bit too short but, come on, it's so darling. I can wear a tank top under it and nobody will be the wiser.

Why, it's another plain black T-shirt!

Terrible picture of a navy blue Old Navy sweater/hoodie (the hood is dragging down the neck, thus the weirdness).
Tadaaaaah. I now am pretty much set for the fall. I also went to half-price day at a nearby consignment sale for the kid and filled in her wardrobe ($13 for 4 pairs of pants/jeans, a T-shirt, a sweater, a long-sleeved Gymboree shirt, and...something else I'm forgetting). I love it. I LOVE IT!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Channeling My Inner Tyra - Almost a Thrifting Post - September 21, 2013

On Friday I went thrifting with Amy again (hadn't been for a bit).

I'll do a full-on catalog post soon because I love doing those posts, this is my blog, and so there.

But one piece deserves a post all its own.

I saw this wonderfulness on the rack and pulled it out as a joke. I tried it on, laughed, and then...I couldn't put it back. It had to be mine. It needed to be mine. It WAS mine.

It was a mere two dollars. TWO DOLLARS.

I don't fully understand what the INTENT of this piece is, but I feel that I should wear it to the grocery store. And while vacuuming. And to kindergarten pickup. And while flossing.

My friend Amy took some pictures of me wearing it and I channeled my inner Tyra. Find the light. Remember your neck. Smize.

I am no fashion blogger. I am no fashion model. I was being silly and over the top in our fun "photo shoot." But I like this picture of me. And I never like pictures of me! (Also I never ever wear my hair down because I am in desperate need of a haircut plus I am so low maintenance that throwing it into a ponytail every day is so much easier. But after seeing this picture, I think I actually need to change that.) And this coat...sweater...duster...thing....I adore it in its ridiculousness.

Enough words.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Let Me Tell You About: The Vignette App - September 10, 2013

This post - my thoughts on Vignette (Demo), the camera app for Android phones - was requested by a lovely commenter.

This is purely written because I feel like it, without any reimbursement at all. The people behind the Vignette app don't even know I'm doing this. The app is free (well, the "demo" version that I will tell you about is free - there is a paid version that I'm considering but as of this writing I haven't bought it). I get nothing nothing NOTHING for writing about this and there are no referral links in this post.

Also, while I have serious dreams of being a serious photographer, I'm not one. Vignette is an app for a phone. My phone takes decent 5MP pictures, and the demo version of the app limits you to a 0.8MP picture, meaning that right now I can't print high-quality pictures from the tweaks I make with it. So if you're looking for fancy photography advice, look elsewhere. But come back to chat with me after - I'd love to learn what you learned!

And finally, I wish I could afford an iPhone and the resulting monthly charges, but I can't. Vignette (Demo) is for the Android platform and I don't have any idea about what will appear for iOS, sorry. My phone is an HTC One V (not to be confused with the high-end HTC One, this is a sort of middle-end phone for Virgin Mobile (which I can afford, hooray!), and no, I would not recommend that you get one...).

PHEW. Let's get to the app. You can find it here.

Why do I love it?

Vignette has many, many customizable options for your pictures. You're not just limited to a few filters that mimic old-school cameras. It comes with a ton of pre-set filters within various categories - but then you can tweak each and every one so that it's exactly to your liking. Then you can combine the filters with customized picture sizes (including presets for Facebook and Google+ profile pictures, square sizes, panorama, and various ratio options) and frames.

While you can take a picture outside of the app and then import it to add all of your fun effects, you also can use the in-app camera, which also has many customizable options available. You can take four pictures in a row for a photobooth-style effect, for example. You can take a double-exposure picture. You can set a self timer, and you can take time lapse pictures. You can even take a picture underwater with specific settings for that if your phone can handle it. (Note: Vignette doesn't protect your phone from water damage... ;) )And then you can tweak the timing of everything if you want. Of course, after you're done, you can add all of the filters and effects on top of whatever you do.

When you're done, you can export said picture to wherever you like - including Instagram, of course, where you can layer yet another filter on top. But you also could take your picture with one filter, save it, and then import it back into Vignette for yet another filter. Filtering is fun!

This person made a nifty cheat-sheet showing you what a single picture would look like using many of the pre-set filters:

And Vignette itself also has a page set up to show you many of the available variations and options:

Did I mention that I absolutely love filtering my pictures?

For example:

Taken at Super H-Mart - a pretty wall of Mexican sodas of all kinds.
Tweaked to bring out the colors, made square, added a soft frame.
All colors but green removed.

All colors but red removed.

I forget what I did but...hey, it looks pretty funky, eh?

And then other silliness:

Not square!
Photobooth style.

Super-processed looks-like-old-negatives style.

More photobooth fun.
And more...
I had installed this app on my phone years ago because at the time Instagram didn't offer tilt-shift and Vignette did, but now of course that's a nonissue. I also got stuck on making pictures look like old Polaroids with Vignette - until I got sick of them. And then the app didn't work properly on my phone, so I wandered away from it (I have other photo apps I also use in rotation - I'll tell you about those another day but in brief, I also adore Pixlr-o-Matic and ActionSnap). But a few months ago I rediscovered this gem and it had been updated so many times it was nearly unrecognizable and was...fantastic.

What I don't like is that there is some guessing involved - there's no as-you-do-it preview (at least not in the free version). You open the picture, then you open a screen with options, you choose your options, and then you return to the picture to see how they all turned out. But then you can save the picture and change up the filters, change up the filters without saving, or just dump everything. You can also save your favorite tweaked filter as your own to use over and over again, which is a lot of fun.

So that, in a lot of words, is why my current favorite free photo app is Vignette (Demo).

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

What I've Been Up To - and Shana Tova - September 3, 2013

It's almost 5774 (and yes, I had to look that up) and Rosh Hashanah - "early" in the year. Here now.

Despite my changing beliefs as time goes on, I am extremely proud to be Jewish and I have always appreciated this time of year for the opportunity to slow down, take a few breaths, and reset. This year I am especially looking forward to that temporary peacefulness.

This also means we're in the time of year where people schedule things - things I'd really like to attend or be involved with - on the High Holidays (there are at least two things on September 14, which is Yom Kippur, that disappointed me with their scheduling this year, but every year there's something I suppose). I just had to get that out of my system.

Shana Tova. May you have a sweet new year.

Here's what I've been up to in the past few days:

At the Decatur Book Festival...

I did in fact meet Francesca Lia Block and she is delightful. (And I forgot to say about 100 things to her, but I also remembered to say 1,000 other things so I guess that's OK. Hopefully she and I will meet again, either in LA or...somewhere in the universe!) Also she was incredibly inspiring during her presentation/interview/Q&A and gave me some ideas that I hope will guide me back to working on some of the longer-form writing projects I have sitting on my hard drive.
I saw Rob Sheffield - he's manic and awesome and he made me reminisce about the karaoke nights I've had - in private rooms, in bars, with friends, with strangers, and rarely singing on stage but often singing in the audience.
I watched a cooking demonstration by Joe Yonan, who is the Food and Travel editor of the Washington Post as well as a cookbook author. The recipe he cooked was very simple - corn and pasta and not much else - and it was divine (they passed out samples). I want his new book (Eat Your Vegetables), which is vegetarian recipes for one (great for lunch, I suspect, or for nights when the rest of my family - ahem - wants macaroni and cheese for the millionth time and I want something a bit more special).
I also have been attempting new cooking projects. I made two different batches of pancakes with two entirely different recipes and froze both. Batch #1 had white whole wheat flour and whole wheat pastry flour, no eggs, cow milk, lots of baking powder. Batch #2 had eggs, almond milk, white whole wheat flour and unbleached regular flour, less baking powder. Batch #1 was eaten mostly by me and was pretty good. Batch #2 is in the freezer right now.

Part of the overarching experiment was freezing by laying things flat in the freezer first (on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper), then putting the frozen things in a bag so they don't stick to one another. So far, despite my freezer being both tiny and full, this process has worked well - both with pancakes and with frozen bananas. (I make banana "ice cream" on nearly a nightly basis - frozen bananas, a splash of almond milk, my Vitamix, 1 minute on high, eat. When I find marked-down browning bananas at the grocery store now - as I did yesterday - I do a little happy dance.)

And I tried making boba at home for the first time. I've bought tapioca pearls before and then left them in the pantry or fridge until they were thrown away. This time I forced myself to cook a batch. They were far easier to cook than I expected and they came out nicely chewy without being tough or powdery. Hooray!

Cold-brewed coffee, almond milk, simple syrup made with Zulka Morena cane sugar (non-GMO!), and boba. However, without the big fat colorful straw, this wasn't as exciting. I'll have to grab some of those the next time I buy bubble tea at a shop.
The tapioca pearls came from a trip to Super H-Mart, where I also purchased Mexican soda in tamarind and sangria. I haven't tried either yet - if you're interested, let me know and I'll post an update sometime about how they taste. Both sodas have terrible ingredients - chemicals and dyes - but hey, they also have real sugar instead of HFCS, so that has to count for something, right? Also, I try so very hard to eat clean and to be good and to avoid certain ingredients, but I simply cannot be perfect. So I bought them - and I will enjoy every sip.
The colorful wall of Mexican sodas at Super H-Mart.
And that's about it. What have you been up to lately?