Wednesday, October 31, 2012

(Product Review) General Mills Monster Cereal, Count Chocula Cereal

Monster Cereal, Count Chocula Cereal, 10.4-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 12)

Product Rating: 5

Community Rating: Very Helpful

Pros: Fun to eat, great taste, vitamin fortified, whole grain nutrition, boxtops for education

Cons: Seasonal availability, small boxes go too quickly

Summary: Pick some up if you can find it. Check the expiration dates and stock up if you can because you may not see it again until next year.

It is Halloween morning, so what is for breakfast? One of our seasonal favorites is Count Chocula Cereal from General Mills. This chocolaty marshmallow cereal is impossible to find locally, except for the availability around Halloween, but my family loves it for a delicious change of taste.

Count Chocula is actually one of three different Monster Cereals available from General Mills this time of year. Although Count Chocula is my personal favorite, I have also been known to indulge in a tasty bowl or Boo Berry or Franken Berry cereal from time to time. Like the Count Chocula, these are difficult if not impossible to find in my area any other time of year, but your experience may be different, depending on where you live.

Count Chocula has a sweet,  chocolaty taste. The cereal pieces are not too hard, nor do they get soggy as quickly as some other cereals I have eaten. I like to take my time and enjoy a bowl, and this is one of the cereals that aren't soggy by the time I finish my bowl of cereal. This also works well when being served to my granddaughters because they can be easily distracted at times and even at those times when the cereal sits a little longer than it should, it doesn't get too soggy to eat after a few minutes. Even my son enjoys it, and he wil not eat soggy cereal.

Count Chocula Cereal is also loaded with delicious frosted marshmallow bats, much like Lucky Charms contains assorted marshmallow shapes. These marshmallow bats used to all be uniform in shape, size and color, but these days they vary from solid brown color to a swirled color. They add a delicious sweetness to breakfast.

It may not be the healthiest breakfast because let's face it, a chocolate and marshmallow treat is not going to be the most healthy thing out there, but it isn't the worst either. Although it has a higher sugar content than some other cereals, it is fortified with vitamins and minerals, including iron. A 3/4 cup serving contains 110 calories, and contains 170mg sodium.

From what I understand, the original Count Chocula Cereal was temporarily discontinued years ago because of concerns about the high sugar content. Since that time however, it has been reformulated to a whole grain corn cereal and reintroduced. Even though it is a little different than the original cereal the taste is still great, but now it is healthier than the original product.

Although my family enjoys this cereal, there are a couple of problems with it. First is availability issues. As I mentioned, this is not readily available in my area except around Halloween time. I can get it online whenever I want to, but searched every store in a fifty mile radius a few months ago and was unable to locate a single box. Aside from that, my main issue is that the 10.4 ounce boxes are pretty small and are gone much too quickly.

I never buy a single box because of this. Instead, I pick up several boxes, or even a case at a time to be sure that everyone gets some. I find it best to stock up when it becomes availabe because it won't be around for long. Just remember to check the expiration dates on the boxes and you will be able to enjoy a fresh box of this cereal for months to come.

Another good thing about this cereal is that General Mills participates in the Boxtops for Education program. Every box has the Boxtops for Education which can be given to your local school to help them purchase supplies and other items. It is an easy way to donate to your school district without costing you anything.

During the short time that these cereals are available, you can often find them on sale for around $2-$3 per box. You can often find coupons available as well, which can really save you some money if you don't mind shopping around and using coupons. Personally, I take every opportunity I can find to get this cereal and other items for the best price.

I highly recommend this cereal to chocolate lovers everywhere. I have tried substituting other cereals, but nothing compares to Count Chocula Cereal. I only wish it were available year round.

Originally published on Epinions.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

(Product Review) Ruffies Color Scents 8 Gallon Garbage Bags

Berry Plastics Corp 981266 "Ruffies Color Scents" 8 Gallon Small Garbage Bag, 50-Count

Product Rating: 3

Community Rating: Very Helpful

Pros: Inexpensive, come in a variety of colors and scents

Cons: Not a heavy duty bag, but adequate for light duty trash removal.

Summary: These bags come in an assortment of colors and scents. They work well for light duty purposes, but are not recommended for heavy loads.

There are many trash bags on the market, and although Ruffies Color Scents Trash Bags are not a heavy duty garbage bag like some, they work well for lesser tasks such as in my home office. Since this particular wastebasket is a 7 gallon size, I chose the Ruffies Color Scents 8 Gallon Garbage Bags for this location.

Although these bags are not as sturdy as some of the major brands such as Glad or Hefty, they still have their place in my home. The bags are plenty strong enough for lighter trash removal tasks such as office waste or light duty trash receptacles.

The thickness is 0.35 mils compared to the .95 mil thickness of Glad Forceflex that I often use for my kitchen trash. This is thick enough to do these lighter tasks, but would not hold up well if loaded with diapers or some of our heavier kitchen trash. Since the majority of trash added to this particular container consists of paper and other lightweight materials, these work well for this container.

I have tried Ruffies Kitchen Bags before as well, but soon determined that they were not efficient for heavy loads. Since these trash bags are much less expensive than the sturdier bags though, I still use these in selected areas of my home that don't require a stronger bag.

Ruffies Color Scents Trash Bags come in assorted colors and scents. The almond colored bags are vanilla scented. These are my favorites and the ones I buy most often. They also have at least a couple of other colors such as blue and green to choose from. The colors and scents available vary by the size of the bags.

These bags come in a roll of 50 bags, packaged along with twist ties in a plastic bag. To use them, you need to remove the roll from the bag, then unroll a trash bag or two from the roll. You then need to tear them apart at the perforation, then open the trash bag. Waving the bag around a bit as I open it spreads a bit of added fragrance to the room as well, so by the time I get the bag into my wastebasket, the surrounding area generally has a pleasant aroma.

The bags fit nicely into my wastebasket, with just a bit of room to spare. They work well in my office, as well as bathrooms, bedrooms or any other area where you have a smaller size of wastebasket. As previously mentioned though, these are not a good choice for heavy loads. Additionally, these are a thinner bag which is rather transparent, so if you are concerned about others seeing the contents of your trash, you may not want to use these bags.

Ruffies Trash Bags are available in 4 gallon, 8 gallon and 13 gallon sizes, so although this listing refers to these as small garbage bags, these are actually the medium size. I have used all three sizes, and find them acceptable for light duty trash receptacles.

If you are looking for an inexpensive trash bag, and don't need a heavy duty bag, these will serve you nicely. I recommend them for light duty purposes only because they are not nearly as strong as some of the other brands. Even so, they are well worth the money spent on them if I can use these for those wastebaskets that don't require the extra strength of the more expensive brands.

Originally published on Epinions.

Monday, October 29, 2012

(Product Review) Rubbermaid Black 7 Gallon Soft Molded Plastic Rectangular Wastebasket

Rubbermaid (295600BK) Soft Molded Plastic Wastebasket, Rectangular, 7 gal, Black

Product Rating: 4

Community Rating: Very Helpful

Pros: Made in USA, sturdy, inexpensive, easy to clean, nice size for my home office.

Cons: None

Summary: Recommended for home or office use. This lightweight wastebasket fits nicely under most desks, or other similar areas.

I have a variety of trash receptacles of various sizes around my home. They range in size from a small wastebasket to a full sized trash can. One of these wastebaskets is a Rectangular 7 Gallon Rubbermaid Soft Plastic Wastebasket.

This Rubbermaid Wastebasket is the perfect size for my home office use, and fits nicely beneath my desk. This 28 quart wastebasket measures approximately 15 inches high, and is rectangular with dimensions of 14 3/8 inches wide by 10 1/4 inches thick. I slide it under the edge of my desk for easy access.

This wastebasket is made of molded plastic, so it won't rust, dent, or chip. Even though this basket is lightweight at just a couple of pounds, it is sturdy enough that I expect it to hold up for a long time. The rim is rolled for added strength and durability, and is easy for me to grasp the receptacle from beneath my desk for easy removal.

You can use this either with or without a trash bag because it is made of solid plastic, unlike some of the other waste paper baskets I have used. The matte finish hides fingerprints or other dirt, and is easy to wipe clean with a damp cloth. Because it is made entirely of plastic though, you could also easily wash it out in a sink or tub if needed.

This wastebasket is made in the USA, and is available both online and in stores. I paid around $5 for mine at Home Depot, and have seen similar pricing at several online sources. This review is of the black wastebasket, however these are available in other colors as well. Although this is a simple open-topped wastebasket, there is an optional swing-top lid that can be purchased separately if desired.

Originally published on Epinions.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

(Product Review) 3-Tier Chrome Hanging Basket

Stacks and Stacks 3-Tier Hanging Basket (Chrome) (30"H x 12"diameter) (HB300)

Reviewed by kelly60 on 2012-10-28

Product Rating: 4

Community Rating: Very Helpful

Pros: Attractive, versatile, functional, convenient, sturdy

Cons: None

Summary: Attractive and versatile way to store and display a variety of items within easy reach.

My mother always had a three tiered wire basket in her home. A few years back I picked up one for myself as well. The 3-Tier Chrome Hanging Basket is great for a variety of purposes. Not only does it keep the clutter on my counter to a minimum, but it works well for storage and displaying fruits and vegetables, allowing for air circulation around these foods.

This hanging basket consists of three wire baskets suspended on a set of three chains. Unlike the hanging baskets I remember as a child, these are not the lightweight, mesh type, of baskets. Instead, these are made of a sturdy chrome finished steel wire that will hold up indefinitely. The baskets graduate in size with the bottom basket being 12 inches, the second basket being 10 inches, and the top basket being 8 inches in diameter. The entire unit is 30 inches long.

The unit has a hook at the top which can easily be hung from a bar or a ceiling hook. It hangs down nicely, holding whatever contents you wish to store in it.

As mentioned previously, it works great in the kitchen to hold fruits and/or vegetables. It also works well for holding a variety of snack foods within easy reach. I keep healtier snacks in the lower tiers for easy access, and some of the less healthy snacks in the smaller basket on top.

I find it rather handy in my craft area for keeping a variety of craft supplies within easy reach. In the bedroom, it works well suspended from a closet rod for easy access to accessories. I have used a similar hanging basket to hold a variety of hanging plants, however this one is much sturdier and would have worked much better if I had owned it at the time. It works well for keeping toys or pet supplies put away when not in use. My mother has long had one in her kitchen, and also has one in her bathroom, decoratively displaying various bath and body items for guests.

This attractive hanging basket is both attractive and functional, and would make a lovely addition to any kitchen, bathroom, office, playroom, garage, craft room, or wherever you need an attractive way to display stored items.

Originally published on Epinions.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

(Product Review) Scott Bathroom Tissue

Scott Bathroom Tissue 1000 Sheets 6-Count (Pack of 8)

Product Rating: 2

Community Rating: Very Helpful

Pros: Less expensive than some others, but must use more to get the job done.

Cons: One ply, not as soft or absorbent as most other brands I have used.

Summary: Not that I condone toilet papering your neighbor's houses on Halloween, but as I see it, there is little else that Scott Bathroom Tissue is good for.

In an effort to save money, a friend of mine purchased the Scott Bathroom Tissue. The price was much lower than the brand of toilet tissue she previously used, and since her grandchildren always used excessive amounts of toilet paper, she decided that this would be a good way to save money.

Scott Bathroom Tissue comes in a six roll package with 1000 single ply sheets each, amounting to 1152 square feet of toilet paper each. You can purchase these packages individually, or purchase a case of 8 packages if you like. Scott Bathroom Tissues are also available in other package sizes, so you can purchase as much or as little as you wish. This toilet paper claims to be septic safe, and as far as I know, my friend has not had any septic problems over the past few years.

Although Scott Bathroom Tissue is not the worst toilet paper out there, it is far from acceptable for my needs. To start with, this is only a one ply toilet paper, and since the single ply tissue is only about half as thick as the two ply tissues I normally use, it is not very absorbent. It may have saved a bit of money on what the kids used, but for the rest of us, we needed to use twice as much toilet paper to get the job done.

This toilet paper is so thin that it is easy to accidentally put your finger through it while attempting to wipe. It also takes several layers to be able to blow your nose because the toilet paper pretty much blows apart in your hands. It is not at all strong, and without using several layers, you are likely to have a mess on you hands, and elsewhere.

As for softness, it was not nearly as soft as many other brands I have used in the past. Although not as rough as some of the cheap toilet paper I have come across in gas station restrooms, it was far less gentle than most other brands I have tried in my home.
Equipped with a large enough wad of toilet paper, you can manage to clean yourself after using the bathroom, however, the job would be much simpler and more comfortable with a much lesser amount of a decent quality toilet paper.

I have spent a lot of time at my friend's house, but always hated to use her bathroom because of this toilet paper. When spending a few days at her home a couple of years ago, I considered bringing along my own toilet paper, but thought that she might be offended. I did bring along a pocket full of tissues for blowing my nose, however I suffered through the weekend with the Scott Bathroom Tissue.

Even though I don't condone toilet papering your neighbor's houses this Halloween, I don't find this particular toilet paper good for much else. It doesn't work well when wiping after bathroom use, and you might as well forget using this to blow your nose as well.

Originally published on Epinions.

(Product Review) Honey-Can-Do Traditional Wood Clothespins

Honey-Can-Do Traditional Wood Clothespins 96-Pack DRY-01389

Product Rating: 3

Community Rating: Very Helpful

Pros: Easy to use, hardwood construction won't rust, use for laundry or craft projects

Cons: Slightly smaller than my older clothespins, some roughness on surface of a few pins

Summary: These aren't as heavy duty as some of my older pins, but work well for most laundry and craft projects.

Although I don't hang my laundry out on a clothesline nearly as much these days as I did in the past, I like to keep a few clothespins around for some of the larger items such as sheets and blankets, rugs, and during the summer, hanging towels when we return from a day on the water. Most of my clothespins have either broken or disappeared over the years, so I had to pick up a new supply.

As most of you probably know, there are a couple of kinds of clothespins to choose from. I like the spring-type ones for some things, but the Honey-Can-Do Classic Round Wooden Clothespins work great for so many things.

Unlike the spring loaded type, these Honey-Can-Do Traditional Wood Clothespins are easy enough for even youngsters to use because you don't have to worry about whether they might accidentally pinch their fingers. They also work well for those of us who have trouble with our hands. There is no need to squeeze these clothespins together, just drape your clothes over the line and slide these pins down into place. Your items stay even on a breezy day. Removal is just as simple. Just grasp the pin and slide it off the clothesline to release your clothing. Nothing could be easier.

Another advantage to this type of clothespin is that they are made entirely of wood, so there is no chance of getting rust stains on your clothing from hanging wet clothing with them. The spring type, or bulldog clothespins can sometimes get a bit of rust on your clothing because of the metal spring used in their construction. Because no metal is used on these pins though, there isn't going to be any rusting.

Additionally, these Honey-Can-Do Traditional Wood Clothespins are not going to fall apart like the others sometimes do. They are made in one solid piece, and even though they are not unbreakable, they aren't going to fall apart unless you ram them onto a heavier rug and break the wood.

These clothespins measure approximately 1/2 inch in diameter by just under 4 1/2 inches long. According to the manufacturer, they are rated to hold up to 10 pounds per clip. I can't vouch for this because I have never weighed my wet laundry, but I can say that they have worked well for me.

This isn't to say that these are perfect for all laundry uses though. Even though you can easily hang most laundry items with them, the slot is a bit narrower than some of the older clothespins I have been using. This makes it a bit more difficult to hang some of the heavier items mentioned such as heavy rugs or blankets. When hanging these items, you will need to slide the pins on gently so as not to break them. Even so, some of the pins will spread just a bit further than others, so you may or may not have problems when hanging thicker items.

Additionally, a few of the pins were a bit rough on the surface. This isn't a big deal for me since I only hang certain items on the clothesline, however the roughness of some of these pins could snag dedicates if used to hang them. I'm sure that with a bit of use, these will smooth out, but the roughness is present on some of the pins when they first come out of the package.

The birch hardwood construction of these pins works well for hanging laundry, but also works well for a variety of craft projects. One of our preschool classes used them to make adorable clothespin people to take home as Christmas ornaments. They work well for other occasions too, such as Halloween ghosts, or even animals for any occasion. We have also used them for hanging freshly painted t-shirts to dry.

Originally published on Epinions.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

(Product Review) Fun Express 2.5 inch Zoo Animals Slide Puzzles

Fun Express Zoo Animal Slide Puzzles (1 dz) - 3915220

Product Rating: 3

Community Rating: Very Helpful

Pros: Inexpensive. Challenging for kids to learn how to put them together.

Cons: Can stick or fall apart. Order extras so everyone gets a working puzzle.

Summary: Recommended as an inexpensive party favor. These are cheap filler items for goody bags, but will not hold up well.

As I have mentioned in previous reviews, I like to pick up assorted odds and ends for goody bags for the kids. One of the items I purchased was a package containing a dozen 2.5 inch Zoo Animals Slide Puzzles. I thought these would be something that the kids would enjoy, and they fit in nicely with a recent safari themed birthday party.

You can pick up a package of these puzzles for anywhere from $4 on up, depending on where you purchase them. If you are willing to purchase larger quantities, I have seen them for under $2 per dozen if you wish to purchase at least 6 dozen.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of these slide puzzles, they are a brightly colored square plastic tray which contains 15 square tiles and an empty space. Each tile contains a piece of the puzzle, in this case, assorted zoo animals such as a lion, tiger, monkey, and a giraffe. The object of the game is to slide the square tiles in various directions, trying to put the puzzle together. You can only move the tiles in limited directions because there is only one open space at a time, so you have to try to figure out how to get the pieces to end up where they need to be.

I remember really enjoying the slide puzzles as a kid, and thought that these kids would get just as much enjoyment out of them as I did, so I placed one in each of the goody bags for the kids. I had mixed reactions from the children, and soon realized that some of the puzzles didn't slide as nicely as they should have.

For younger children, you might want to only mess up one small corner so they just need a couple of moves to put the puzzle back together. Of course, it is likely that they will end up with the entire puzzle messed up, so be prepared to help them "fix" their puzzle if needed. Older kids can generally get these puzzles back together with a little patience, and usually seem to have fun doing it.

I guess the old saying holds true here, that you get what you pay for. I really didn't expect quality for the price I paid, but some of the pieces wouldn't budge at all, and a couple of the puzzles broke right away. This may have been due to a couple of impatient kids with sticking pieces, although I'm not sure about this. In any case, I ended up tossing a few of these into the trash and replacing them with a working puzzle. Once they all had working puzzles, they seemed to enjoy them much more.

These are an inexpensive party favor, which is what I was looking for, so they served their purpose. I didn't expect them to hold their attention for a long period of time, and I don't expect these cheap toys to last forever, and neither should you. I wish that all of the puzzles would have been usable, but even so, I had enough puzzles to give one to each of the kids to play with and take home with them. It worked well to fill the goody bags with inexpensive items, and the kids were all happy with the things they got.

One word of caution for these puzzles is that they do occasionally fall apart, and the tiles are rather small. This makes these a possible choking hazard for younger children. Because of this, you should always supervise their use around small children.

I will recommend these puzzles if you can find them for a low price, but with the warning that you should pick up a few more than what you will need in case some of the puzzles don't work properly. The kids did seem to enjoy them, and they always like to get a few of this type of trinkets in their goody bags.

Originally published on Epinions.

(Product Review) Petco Rubber Textured Bone Dog Chew Toy

Petco Rubber Textured Bone Dog Chew Toy

Product Rating: 4

Community Rating: Very Helpful

Pros: Safe, non-toxic, fun, textured

Cons: None

Summary: Recommended for dogs of all sizes. This is a great toy for teething, playing catch or fetch, and more. It is one of Jasmine's favorite toys.

I'm not sure where it came from, obviously one of Jasmine's friends came to visit her and brought a toy from home, but I recently found a Petco Rubber Textured Bone Dog Chew Toy in my yard while Jasmine and I were walking around. As soon as she spotted it, she immediately picked it up and began to play with it.

This doggy chew toy is bone shaped. The outer rim of the bone is covered in a thick black textured rubber, while the center area of the bone is a bright yellow. The entire bone is textured, with the black part resembling tire treads and the yellow area made up of firmer rubber nubs.

This Petco Doggie Bone measures approximately 3 inches by 6 inches, which is a great size for Jasmine, who is a Greyhound, Lab and Boxer mix. Obviously, whoever brought it over liked it well enough to carry it with them from their yard to ours, then apparently forgot to take their toy home with them.

In any case, this Rubber Bone is something of a teething toy for dogs. Just like my grandson's teethers, the nubs work well for young pups. Providing puppies with chew toys is important because all pups are born with a natural urge to chew, and supplying them with a chew toy such as this can prevent damage to furniture, shoes, or other inappropriate objects.

Adult dogs like Jasmine enjoy chewing on this as well though. When she found the toy in our yard she immediately snatched it up and began chewing on it. She was tossing it around and grabbing it back up for a few minutes before she invited me into the game. Playing catch, or fetch was fun for her, and a quick game of tug-o-war was easy with this toy too because the textured bone was easy to grip. Another fun feature of this bone is that when thrown, the shape of this bone makes it bounce in odd directions at times. The bone sometimes hits the ground in front of Jasmine, then bounces in an unexpected direction, making the game a bit more interesting for her.

This bone is made of durable non-toxic thermo-plastic rubber, so it is both safe and long lasting. She has had it for around a month or two now, and despite showing some signs of use, she will likely keep playing with this for quite a while longer before it will need replaced. She is an aggressive chewer and toys rarely last this long for her.

The important thing to keep in mind is that pets should be supervised during play because most toys can become choking hazards if pieces are broken or chewed off. I expect that this toy will last her for a long time yet, but it is always a good idea to inspect your pet's toys regularly.

I recommend the Petco Rubber Textured Bone Dog Chew Toy for all dogs as a safe and fun toy. Jasmine really enjoys playing with it, as do the pups. 

Originally published on Epinions.

Monday, October 15, 2012

(Product Review) Necco Mary Jane Candy Chews - 240 piece Tub

Mary Jane 240 Piece Tub (Necco)

Product Rating: 4

Community Rating: Very Helpful

Pros: Made in USA, retro treat, individually wrapped

Cons: None

Summary: I recommend this handy container full of nostalgic candies. These are great for goody bags, pinatas, trick-or-treats, party favors, candy dishes, or any time treats.

For Halloween, as well as several other occasions, I like to provide a variety of treats for the kids who come to visit. The treats include chocolates, non-chocolate items, and non-food goodies for the children to enjoy.

One type of candies I have purchased in the past was Necco Mary Jane Candy. These chewy candies come in a 240 piece tub, which weighs in at 67.5 ounces of candies.

These bite sized candies remind me of the Bit-o-Honey candies that I recently reviewed. They are yet another nostalgic candy that many will remember from their childhood days. These have been around for over a hundred years, and were available as a penny candy when I was growing up.

According to the manufacturer, these are "Named for the favorite aunt of the original manufacturer, Mary Janes Original taffy chews feature a molasses-flavored, sticky-sweet shell that hugs a real peanut butter center. After a long, slow chew, the crumbly goodness of genuine peanut butter will melt in your mouth and leave you reaching for more."

The texture is rather sticky, and sometimes can be difficult to remove from the wrapper. If you enjoy molasses and peanut butter, they are worth the effort though. These are a refreshing change for those who are looking for an alternative to chocolate candies.

These retro candy favorites are individually wrapped in a yellow and red waxy wrapper. They come in a plastic tub, so you could easily use the tub for passing out these goodies to trick-or-treaters. The clear plastic tub comes with a plastic lid so you can easily just replace the top and place them on the counter like a cookie jar.

In addition to passing them out to the ghosts and goblins that come out trick-or-treating on Halloween, these also work well as party treats in goody bags, as pinata fillers, or as a convenient take along snack or lunch item.

A serving is considered to be 5 pieces, although my sweet tooth is often satisfied with just two or three. Each 5 piece serving contains 160 calories, 4 grams fat, 32 grams carbs, and 1 gram of protein.


corn syrup, dry roasted peanuts, sugar, molasses, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil [cottonseed, soybean], soy lecithin, salt, mono & diglycerides, hydrogenated vegetable oil [rapeseed, cottonseed & soybean], glycerin and natural flavor

Warning: Contains peanuts and soy

* Nutrition information can and does change from time to time. For the most current nutrition/ingredient information consult the website or product packaging.

Originally published on Epinions.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

(Product Review) Prepac Slimline Multimedia Storage Tower

Prepac Slimline Multimedia Storage Tower Review

Slimline Media Storage Tower BMA0160 Prepac (772398220024)

Product Rating: 4

Community Rating: Very Helpful

Pros: Made in USA. Attractive and functional. Great for small spaces.

Cons: None

Summary: Recommended for smaller media collections, or as an overflow area for larger collections like mine. Sturdy, attractive and made in the USA.

I should start by saying that between karaoke and audio CDs, games, software disks, movies, and other assorted CDs and DVDs, I have thousands of CDs and DVDs in my home. I started with smaller media storage areas, but had to add more and more storage space to accommodate all of my music, games, movies, and software.

One of the storage spaces I purchased was the Slimline Media Storage Tower. Although this particular shelving system doesn't hold a lot, it is perfect for a smaller area because it takes only a small space in the room.

The tower measures just 13 inches wide by 8.75 inches deep and 51 inches high. The dimensions are a bit deceiving though because the 13 inch base extends beyond the sides of the tower for added stability. The tower is steady and I have never had a problem with it tipping, but keep in mind that it also means that there will be a bit of wasted space on both sides of the tower. The assembled product weighs in at a bit under 20 pounds.

Even so, it is a nice size to fit in a small space, and works well for storing discs within easy reach. The tower claims to hold up to 160 CDs, 65 DVDs, or 120 Blu-ray discs, or 40 VHS tapes. Of course this will vary by how you have it set up. The tower comes with 5 adjustable shelves, so you can position them however is most convenient for your needs.

Of  course, you can optimize your space by setting up the shelves to best utilize the space, and by using slim cases for your CDs rather than the thicker ones. This will double the amount of CDs that will fit on the shelves.

Although some assembly is required for this tower, the one I purchased was a pre-assembled display model at Walmart. It does appear to be a simple project though. After glancing over the included instruction manual, I feel confident that I could have assembled it if needed.

This product is made in the USA. It is well constructed, and according to  the manufacturer, it is made of CARB-compliant laminated composite woods with a sturdy MDF backer. It is a sturdy shelving system, and as I mentioned previously, the over-sized base makes it much less likely to tip than one without such a base.

Although this unit doesn't require much in the line of maintenance, it is easy to clean with regular dusting and an occasional wipe with a damp cloth if necessary. It makes an attractive storage/display area for CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray disks or VHS tapes.

Originally published on Epinions.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

(Product Review) Smarties Candy Rolls

Smarties Candy Rolls 160 Ct

Product Rating: 5

Community Rating: Very Helpful

Pros: Nostalgic candy, fat-free, sodium-free, low calories, easy to share or take along, classic favorite.

Cons: None

Summary: This nostalgic favorite candy is great for Halloween, pinatas, candy dishes, lunchbox treats, or any time.

As mentioned in previous reviews, I like to provide a variety of treats for all of the little ghosts and goblins who come trick-or-treating on Halloween. The treats I offer include both chocolate and non-chocolate items, plus a few non-food items. Smarties Candy Rolls are one of the many different treats I have offered over the years.

These nostalgic candies look like little candy pills, wrapped up tootsie roll style in a twisted up cellophane wrapper. Although the rolls come in different sizes, the ones we will be discussing here are the 160 roll box of Smarties. This big box works great for Halloween, pinatas, party favors, candy dishes and much more.

Each roll contains approximately 10 candies. The flavor is a mixture of sweetness and tartness, not to be confused with sweet tarts candies. These come in assorted flavors which the manufacturer lists as being orange cream, pineapple, cherry, strawberry, grape and orange. The artificially flavored candy tablets do not contain a strong flavor of any sort, only a mild fruitiness among the sweet and tart flavors.

Each 10 tablet roll (4 grams) of Smarties is considered to be one serving. There are 15 calories, 4 grams of carbs and 3 grams of sugar per serving. These candies are fat free and sodium free. Smarties are free of any of the top common allergens. In addition to being a healthier alternative to many of the other candies out there, these are great for sharing and are easily portable.

Smarties are made in the USA by Smarties Candy Company. This classic favorite has been around since 1949. These are offered online for around $9 for the 160 count box, but if you shop around, you may find a better deal.

Ingredients: Dextrose, Citric Acid, Calcium Stearate, Artificial Flavors and Colors (Red 40 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, Blue 2 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake).

Allergen Statement: Smarties contain none of the following: gluten, (from wheat, barley, oats and rye), milk, egg, fish, Crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts or soybeans. 

* Nutrition information can and does change from time to time. For the most current nutrition/ingredient information consult the website or product packaging.

Originally published on Epinions.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

(Product Review) Granite Ware 18 Covered Oval Roaster

Granite Ware 18 Covered Oval Roaster. - CH0509

Product Rating: 5

Community Rating: Very Helpful

Pros: Made in USA, cooks evenly, easy cleanup, large size, not too heavy, inexpensive

Cons: Absolutely none, except that the porcelain could possibly chip but this does not affect performance.

Summary: This 18 inch covered roaster does a great job of cooking everything from Thanksgiving turkeys, Christmas hams, pot roasts with all the fixings, large casseroles, and lots more.

The holidays are fast approaching, which means getting ready to prepare holiday meals. Several years ago, my mother gave me a Granite Ware 18 inch Covered Oval Roaster that she picked up at an estate sale. She has been using hers for as long as I can remember, and really didn't need another one, but knew that I wanted one.

Since that time, I have used mine many times. I have used it for cooking Thanksgiving turkeys, Christmas hams, large pot roasts, and more. This 18 inch roaster works great for so many things, especially larger items that just won't fit in a smaller pan.

This roaster measures 18 inches long by 12 1/4 inches wide and 7 1/2 inches high.  You can easily cook an average sized turkey, or a larger ham or a big roast with all the fixings in this pan with no problem. According to the manufacturer, it holds a 15 pound turkey or an 18 inch roast. I find this to be fairly accurate if using the lid, but once cooked a 26 pound turkey in this roaster by using aluminum foil instead of the lid. I have used it for all of these things and more.

My mom uses hers for many other things as well. An extra large batch of lasagna is one thing she often prepares in the roaster and brings to family gatherings. It also works great for large batches of meatballs, scalloped potatoes, baked beans, apple cobbler, and other foods for potluck dinners.

The manufacturer states that the dark porcelain surface and steel core absorb the heat to distribute it evenly to the contents of the pan. All I know is that it does a great job of cooking everything I have prepared in this pan. I have never had any problems with things cooking unevenly when using this roaster.

This roaster has sturdy handles on each end, and they work well for lifting your roast, turkey, ham or other meal in and out of the oven. The domed cover fits snugly to keep the natural juices inside so meals are always flavorful and never dry. There is a large sturdy handle in the center so you can easily lift the lid. Remember though, that the handles will get very hot, so you should use a potholder to avoid being burned.

Before I got this roaster I tried roasting a turkey in one of the cheap aluminum pans. Never again! The pan was so flimsy that I nearly lost my turkey on the kitchen floor. Disposable pans like the one I used may work well for some purposes, but roasting a ham or turkey is not one of them. This roaster is perfect for what I needed. It is obviously not going to be as lightweight as an aluminum pan but is light enough that it is fairly easy to handle. Of course, once I put in that 26 pound turkey I mentioned earlier it was a whole different story. But then again, this isn't the fault of the pan.

Cleanup is fairly easy with this roaster too. I use Dawn Dish Detergent and a little hot water, and it cleans up nicely. For stuck on foods, I occasionally have to soak it for a short time, but even then, it wipes clean easily. This is also said to be dishwasher safe, although I usually wash my pans by hand. I see no reason why this would be harmed by the dishwasher though, since I have washed other porcelain items this way.

I also like that Granite Ware is made in the USA. I prefer American made products when possible, and for a price tag of around $10-$15 for a roaster like this, you really can't go wrong. I got a great deal because of my mom found me this used one for a great price, but I would have gladly paid full price if she hadn't found this one.

The only thing I don't like about this pan is that at some point, the porcelain got a tiny chip in it. This isn't uncommon for porcelain, and really makes no difference in the way this product performs. The small blemish was there when I got the pan, so I am not sure if it got banged around, or how it happened, but as I said, it isn't a problem.

I love this roaster, and would recommend it to anyone who cooks. It is one of my favorite pans, and works well for a variety of foods.

Originally published on Epinions.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

(Product Review) Novelty Manufacturing Gold Coins

Novelty Manufacturing Gold Coins (144 pieces)

Product Rating: 4

Community Rating: Very Helpful

Pros: Use for party favors, games, decorations, and more.

Cons: You may find a coin or two with rough spots (easily clipped or filed down)

Summary: Recommended for decorations, party favors and more.

While foil wrapped gold coins are great for some purposes, sometimes you might want non-candy Gold Coins for decorating or other purposes. You can pick these up for around $5-$6 from Novelty Manufacturing, and other retailers.

Novelty Manufacturing Gold Coins are made of sturdy plastic. The coins measure approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter and come as a gross (144 coins). The color of the coins is supposed to be gold, but unlike the picture, is actually somewhere between silver and gold. This isn't a big deal, just something I felt should be mentioned because the picture is nowhere near the actual color of the coins.

These Gold Coins are great to use as play money when playing house or shopping games, as well as for decorations for your next St. Patrick's Day or pirate themed party. One note on these coins though is that they are not what most would refer to as pirate coins since the picture is of a Roman man, rather than any sort of pirate theme. Still, since these are geared more toward kids, I doubt that any of them would notice the difference, and no matter what the picture on the coin, they work well for the intended purpose.

We have used these as party favors in the past by placing a few into the loot bags we hand out, and keep some on hand for the kids to play with. For the most part though, we use these for decorating purposes. You can scatter a few on party tables, add them to a treasure chest or pot of gold for an attractive centerpiece, in pinatas, as incentives for kids to earn rewards for doing chores, getting good grades, or following rules, as prize tokens to buy prizes at carnival type games or other events, for playing a variety of party games. There are lots of great ways to decorate with these Gold Coins as well.

As I said, the coins are sturdy, and have multiple uses. Aside from the fact that they are made in China rather than USA, there is only one thing I don't like about these coins. They are manufactured in sheets of coins, kind of like the model cars you may have put together as a kid. If you have done this, you will probably remember that once the pieces are snapped apart, you may come across an occasional rough spot or nub on some of the edges. This isn't a problem for most decorating purposes, but if people will be handling them much, you might want to check them for any sharp edges. These can easily be filed down or clipped of if you find one. This worked well for the ones given to the kids for play money, although I didn't bother doing this for the ones used strictly as decorations.

As I mentioned earlier, these coins measure about one and a half inches in diameter, so you should use them with caution around small children because they could be considered a choking hazard. This is just a standard precaution for any small items, and should be common sense to most of us. Even so, even preschoolers can use these under close supervision for things like practicing math skills and counting.

As for the design of these coins, they are molded plastic, with heads on both sides. Each coin has the slogan, "Veni-Vidi-Vici" (Latin for I came, I saw, I conquered) printed along the top rim of the coin. Along the bottom rim there is a date printed in Roman Numerals. These ones have the number MCMLXXXXIV, which translates to 1994, although I am not certain whether all of the coins are dated the same. Maybe these double headed coins are not the most authentic coins out there, but they look decent as far as plastic coins go. The kids were very happy with them, and several people complimented me on the party decorations at our last event.

No matter how you use them, these coins are a decent product for a reasonable price. You will probably want to order more than one since 144 coins doesn't go very far, especially if entertaining a larger group or using them for purposes like filling treasure chests or pots of gold.

Update 11/26/15: Although the gold coins I originally reviewed don't appear to be available at this time, you can find a variety of gold coins to choose from here.

Originally published on Epinions.

Monday, October 1, 2012

(Product Review) Apex Ultra Bubble Lok 7 Day Pill Organizer

Apex Ultra Bubble Lok 7 Day Pill Organizer

Product Rating: 5

Community Rating: Very Helpful

Pros: Inexpensive, sturdy, easy organization, great for travel, doesn't spill

Cons: None

Summary: Recommended for organizing your medications at home and on the road. Quality product at an inexpensive price.

I have medical issues and therefore find myself taking several medications on a daily basis. Keeping track of these medications can sometimes be an issue, so I had to find an easier way to keep track.

The Apex Ultra Bubble Lok 7 Day Pill Organizer is an easy way to lay out medications for yourself or for a loved one so that it is easier to keep track. The plastic organizer has seven separate compartments, one for each day of the week. Each compartment has a snap lock lid to so you can open just one compartment to get the pills necessary for the day. Just press the bubble top of each compartment to release the lid, then remove the pills from the contoured compartment. The pills slide out easily.

The seven pill compartments are labeled for the days from Sunday through Saturday with large letters for easy identification. It is easy for even those of us with failing eyesight to tell at a glance which compartment is for what day of the week.

These organizers come in assorted colors, so you can choose a different color for different family members, or if you want to use a separate organizer for morning and evening dosages of your medications.

The compartments are quite large, enough to hold about 6 large capsules, or many more smaller pills. Most people won't need more space for their daily medications. As I mentioned earlier though, if you like, you can use a couple of these for morning, evening, bedtime doses, or any other way you find convenient for dosing ease.

This organizer can be used in your home, or as a travel medication dispenser. The locking system on the compartments works well to prevent your pills from spilling in your purse, suitcase, backpack or pocket. To open a compartment, you simply push the contoured bubble lock and the lid will open. The container does not pop open when dropped though, so the contents remain securely inside of their compartments. Closing the compartments is just as easy. Simply press down on the lid until the lid snaps shut. Your pills are locked securely inside and ready for use.

As with any medications, this container should be kept out of reach of children. The lids are made to prevent spilling, yet be easy to open, and children may open them as well.

Overall, I recommend this product to anyone who wants to keep better track of their medications, or as a travel medication container. It works well, is easy to open and close, and doesn't spill in your purse, pocket, or luggage.

Originally published on Epinions.

(Product Review) Shake-N-Go Equal Single Nutrasweet Packets

Shake-N-Go Equal Single Nutrasweet Packets - Office Snax Equal - OFX20008694

Product Rating: 1

Community Rating: Very Helpful

Pros: Individual packets make it easy to take along, low calories

Cons: Slight bitter taste, can cause health problems

Summary: Low in calories, but associated health problems make it a bad choice. It is a major migraine trigger for many, plus there is research suggesting many other health problems.

Years ago, I decided to look for ways to reduce my calorie intake. I experimented with many low calorie products as well as a variety of artificial sweeteners. Nutrasweet was one of the artificial sweeteners that I tried.

The Shake-n-Go Equal Single Serve Nutrasweet Packets are easy and convenient. They are easily portable as well. You can purchase a 100 count box, and have enough individual packets of Nutrasweet to last you for a long time.

Each packet contains enough artificial sweetener to sweeten your coffee, cereal, or other items. Just tear open the little blue packet and pour the white powder onto your food or drinks. Personally, I found it to be too much to sweeten my foods and drinks, and used only one half packet per serving instead. Each packet is considered a serving and contains just 4 calories.

As for the taste, a little goes a long way. As I mentioned previously, using an amount of this sweetener that is proportionate to the amount of sugar you would add might be a bit too much. Unfortunately, it also has a bit of bitterness to it, though not as bad as some of the other artificial sweeteners available. You can definitely taste the difference, and you know right away that you are drinking an artificially sweetened drink.

Unfortunately, some artificial sweeteners have side effects, and for me, Nutrasweet (also known as aspartame) is one of the worst. It is a migraine trigger for me, and for many others as well. I didn't realize it at first, but continued to get horrible migraines on a daily basis throughout the entire time I was consuming this product. Although I still get migraines often, removing this product from my daily diet eliminated at least half of the migraines I was suffering, in addition to the severity of many of the migraines I still had.

In addition to the problems I had from this product, I have seen a lot of research as to the ill effects that this product causes. Some of the articles I read blamed this product for everything from migraines, seizures and convulsions, chronic fatigue, depression, multiple sclerosis, asthma, blood sugar control problems, and much more. While I can't vouch for most of these issues, I do know what even short term use of this product did to me.

Many people are able to tolerate this product, as is evidenced by the massive consumption of diet products on the market that contain Nutrasweet. It is found in many diet sodas, diet candies and gums, and much more. I know many people who consume this product regularly and don't seem to have any problems.

If it works for you, then go ahead and give it a shot if you like. Personally, I can't recommend any product that has such horrible effects on my health, but if you really want to try it, I would suggest testing it from a restaurant where they offer the packets free with your coffee rather than purchasing them one hundred at a time.

Originally published on Epinions.

(Product Review) Tootsie Roll Midgets Candy

Tootsie Roll Midgets: 5LBS (Tootsie Roll)

Product Rating: 5

Community Rating: Very Helpful

Pros: Tasty, individually wrapped, easy to take along, versatile for all occasions

Cons: None

Summary: Delicious candy treat that is enjoyed by all ages. Trick-or-treaters love them, as does my family.

Tootsie Rolls have been a long time favorite for most of my kids, and I must admit that I enjoy one now and then myself. The Tootsie Roll Midgets are something that I pick up quite often. They are a great item to add to my trick-or-treat candy, candy dishes, goody bags, or just eat out of the bag.

A five pound bag of these tasty morsels contains approximately 720 bite sized pieces of candy. There are just over 23 calories per piece, while a 6 piece serving contains 140 calories.

These candies have the consistency of a soft toffee. They are easy to chew, or to enjoy the flavor longer, you can leave one in your mouth until it dissolves. Either way, you will enjoy the taste of a chocolaty treat, with just a slight hint of fruitiness.

Each piece is individually wrapped. They are easy to open by simply pulling on the ends of the wrapper, and popping the chocolate candy into your mouth.

These work well for a variety of purposes. I have purchased them for multiple occasions in the past, and they were enjoyed by both children and adults. They are perfect as Halloween treats, goody bag items, pinata candies, in stockings, in candy dishes, or any other occasion.

I recommend Tootsie Rolls Midgets for any type of party, snack, or treat. They are great for kids and adults, and make a wonderful addition to your lunch or any celebration.

Originally published on Epinions.