October 13, 2014

Vitamin C serum review

I've been trying a lot of vitamin C serums lately. This one was offered to me by Morea Naturals to try out for free in exchange for a product review. I immediately noticed it's a larger amount of serum than I get from comparably priced serums and it's in a totally opaque bottle, which I honestly don't often find. The serum itself is a bit thicker than the ones I've tried in dropper bottles and it feels like I don't need nearly as much to get the same benefits. Therefore, I get more product and I use less of it. That's enough to convince me to buy it when I run out.

The opaque bottle that Morea Naturals uses makes me happy because skincare ingredients can break down when exposed to light and the pump style makes me more confident that I'm not getting bacteria in the bottle every time I use it, which is kind of how I feel when I use a dropper style product.

It honestly can take a while to see any real benefits from using a vitamin C serum, so I'm not going to make up a story about my skin looking 10 years younger after just one week. What I will say is that my skin hasn't had any bad reactions, the quality of the serum seems high (thicker, with beneficial ingredients), the packaging is better than what I'm used to, and overall, I feel like I'm being good to my skin using a vitamin C serum. I just want to stay looking like I'm 5 years younger than I actually am for as long as I can and I feel like I can do that using this serum every night.

Here I am, makeup free and my skin looks pretty smooth and moisturized:

I've also enjoyed how moisturized my skin feels after using Morea Naturals serum. Maybe it's the green tea or the hyaluronic acid, but I do seem to have less dry skin since trying this product.

Disclaimer: I received a bottle to try for for free from Morea Naturals in exchange for an honest review.

October 9, 2014

Leather Nova cleaner, conditioner, restorer products

I was given the opportunity to try a set of Leather Nova products to try recently. While we don't have a lot of leather products, what we do have is in pretty terrible shape, so I was pretty eager to try out something that might help clean and restore a few things in my house.

My husband's had this big Ikea man-chair for 8 years and it's been through the ringer. We've moved several times, we have cats who scratch furniture, and we've never properly cleaned the leather. We also have a dining seat with leather chairs, and while the big issue there is the cat damage, they could use a good cleaning.

Leather Nova sent three products. I tried all three this week so I could see what each product does. The packaging of each is very similar, so when you're shopping online, make sure you are buying the one you want, whether it's leather cleaner, conditioner & cleaner, or conditioner & restorer.

I first used Leather Nova Leather Cleaner on the big chair. You can see in the next couple of images that we have taken terrible care of this chair. It was dull and scratched with unknown markings from animals and children.

Mystery marks on the arm of the chair
Dried out, worn seat of the chair
Leather Nova's cleaner is designed to work on leather, vinyl, and plastic furniture, clothing, purses, gloves, and saddles, and you can use it to clean the leather in your car too. You can use it to clean off dirt and oil and since it opens the pores of the leather, after using the cleaner, you are ready to treat your leather with Leather Nova's conditioning products.

I tried the Leather Conditioner & Restorer next. This step helps protect the leather after it's been cleaned, with water and rain repellant (great for jackets and purses). While the cleaner did a good job getting the grime out of my chair, it is the conditioner & restorer that helped the leather become more shiny, smooth, and soft.

Leather chair after using Leather Nova
While the cleaner did a good job getting the grime out of my chair, it is the conditioner & restorer that helped the leather become more shiny, smooth, and soft.
Chair arm after using Leather Nova
Leather Nova also makes a Conditioner & Cleaner, which had me confused because they sell just a cleaner as well and I'm not sure why I wouldn't want to just buy the one combination product or how exactly it differs from the Conditioner & Restorer (noting that the cleaner version also says it provides instant restoration).

I ended up trying the Conditioner & Cleaner on my dining room chairs and it did a pretty good job. I think they're too far gone with deep scratches and tears from Simba and Little Kitty though. 

I blame these cuties for my scratched up leather
Overall, I'm a fan of the Conditioner & Restorer and think I could find more uses for it than the other products. I also just don't like to have so many similar products around taking up space, but I think if I had more leather, I might feel differently.

One thing that did irk me a bit is the smell. Leather Nova's product description calls out a "rich, leather fragrance," but it reminded me more of the stainless steel cleaner my husband uses, or this shoe protecting spray we use on my daughter's sneakers. Not pleasant. It dissipated after a few days, thankfully.

What's nice is the big black chair looks way better, almost new. The small scratches are less visible and the scuff marks and mystery stains are completely gone. It's worth buying just for that.

Disclaimer: I received a set of products for free from Leather Nova. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

October 6, 2014

A review comparing the Roomba 581 to the new 870

iRobot provided a significant discount so I could purchase the Roomba 870 for review. The iRobot Roomba 870 is my 4th robot vacuum. The first two were also Roombas, the 530 and 581, and the more recent robot was a Neato XV21. Roomba 530 died a few days out of warranty, but iRobot awesomely sent me a 581, before they were even sold in the United States, as a replacement. The 581 has lasted more than 4 years with one replacement battery. Neato totally konked out after a year, but we aren't keen to replace him with another one.

Roomba 870 & 581
Basically, I feel like at this point, I know my robot vacuums, so here's what I think of the Roomba 870:

The 870 is much better than the 581 and the 530 before that. The beater bars are almost zero maintenance and the dust bin is way easier to empty. It's a sealed bin, so it picks up a lot more too.

Roomba 870 dust bin
What I'll call "Old Roomba" (581) got fine hairs and dirt particles but the bigger stuff would get pushed around and left in big piles when he transitioned between types of flooring, like wood to carpet or tile to wood. So a trail of stuff was being pushed around, kind of annoying and gross when I'd step in it with bare feet.

"New Roomba" (870) picks everything up and hasn't pushed anything around, ever. Of course, if I leave out a sock or drop fabric on the floor, it gets caught, but that's like all the robot vacuums, and like a traditional upright as well.

Easy-to-clean beater bar of Roomba 870
New Roomba really isn't any smarter than Old Roomba. It gets stuck under one of my couches and sometimes under my husband's recliner. It gets stuck in the bathroom when it happens to close the door while cleaning, so I have to wedge something under the door to keep it open.

Getting a room cleaned happens and it cleans well, but it takes longer than my Neato, which is more methodical about going about a room. Rooma seems more random.


I liked neato's methodical way of getting a room compared to random way roomba. super long battery life, so gets it all, just takes longer. Thanks to the extra long Roomba battery life, taking longer doesn't mean it has to stop to charge. The battery can handle my 1200+ square foot main level.

Typical emptying Roomba after cleaning my first floor
There is something I don't like about the 870, but it's not annoying enough to give it less than 5 stars. When the dust bin is full, the detector works great and puts a light on. But that's it. Roomba keeps going and there's no alert, no stopping, so unless I check on the robot, I have no way to know if it's still cleaning or just running around with a full bin. Full bin means nothing is being sucked up. For my first floor, the bin needs to be emptied once a cleaning cycle.

September 25, 2014

Jimmy Dean frozen entrees are terrible

With coupons from Jimmy Dean, I bought two Jimmy Dean frozen meals to try, Golden Roasted Turkey and Southwest Style Grilled Chicken, for free. Both had pretty enticing box photos and I know Jimmy Dean is well-known for their meat products, so I figured it had to be at least as palatable as a Stouffer's or Marie Callender's meal.

Reading about a few options on BzzAgent, they actually sounded pretty decent. Imagine a grilled steak bowl with "savory grilled steak, golden potatoes..." or a pulled pork sandwich that's "pulled pork covered in chipotle BBQ sauce on a pretzel bun."

Good marketing, I guess because the reality was so disappointing!

Both meals look pretty lovely on the box, with nice portions of meat and just a touch of sauce for flavor. What's actually in the package is mostly sauce with a little of everything else. With the chicken meal, there was a reasonable amount of meat, but again, so much sauce! I really hate when a frozen meal is just a bowl of sauce. I was hoping for a nice plated meal, not a stew.

the picture on the box and the actual meal look nothing alike
The turkey was gristly, which I'm not sure how is possible. Usually chicken in frozen meals is tough and chewy, but turkey shouldn't be. Both meals were quite salty. I expect frozen meals to have a lot of sodium, but I don't expect to really taste like that.

all sauce, almost no meat
The chicken meal had a small sprinkle of black beans, a lot of rice, a little meat (enough, I suppose), and a bowlful of sauce. The flavor isn't bad, but that isn't enough to make me feel satisfied. I'll give Jimmy Dean credit for convenience. Like many frozen meals, it's easy to microwave and eat from the bowl. But quality? Ehh... and flavor, maybe average. Maybe I'm picky, but this isn't something I enjoyed. I tried two flavors and both were pretty terrible. Unfortunately that means I won't be giving Jimmy Dean frozen meals another chance and honestly, I'm not sure I have much interest in trying other Jimmy Dean products now.

If you're curious to know more, you can visit their Facebook and Twitter pages. I'm just one opinion, so shop around for other reviews, but definitely don't buy these based on the box photography.

September 22, 2014

A review of FURREAL FRIENDS®: Get Up & Go-Go, My Walkin' Pup™

Hasbro sent me the FURREAL FRIENDS®: Get Up & Go-Go, My Walkin' Pup™ to review for free. My daughter is almost 5 and has a neighborhood full of friends her age she plays with outside nearly every day. I expected her to drag the toy out each afternoon and share it with all her friends, walking it around the block, pretending to feed it and telling it to sit and stay.

The first time she played with the dog, she quickly figured out how he works, getting him to walk and sit. After I loaded it onto my phone, she also played quite a bit with the FURREAL FRIENDS iPhone app. One neighborhood kid came by and joined the fun, but they quickly began to argue over the dog and sharing issues, which we've never had with her friends before. For a short time, they worked it out with one walking and the other sticking twigs in the dogs mouth like a bone.

I thought the sharing issues meant my daughter wanted more time with her dog, but after that first day, she really hasn't shown any interest in it or the app. Her friend comes by nearly every day asking to play with it and to borrow my phone, so I gave a coupon to her mom to get it for her birthday. If she doesn't get one, I might pass ours along as a gift since my daughter has no interest in playing with it now. Since my daughter has been in love with her Violet for four years (goes everywhere with us) and a simple stuffed dachshund, I assume each kid has his or her own preferences.

The dog is cute and works well. It's a nice size and not too heavy to pick up. It moves along the sidewalk easily and doesn't scare our real pets. However, there's not much to do with it. It walks, barks and whines a bit, and sits but I can't figure out if there's anything else that makes it more engaging. My daughter would rather play with her regular stuffed dogs than the FURREAL FRIENDS®: Get Up & Go-Go, My Walkin' Pup.

That said, given how our neighbor absolutely loves it, I wonder if it's an age thing, or just that some kids will love it and others just won't. Our daughter happens to have no interest in it.

The dog is cute and works well. It's a nice size and not too heavy to pick up. It moves along the sidewalk easily and doesn't scare our real pets. However, there's not much to do with it. It walks, barks and whines a bit, and sits but I can't figure out if there's anything else that makes it more engaging. My daughter would rather play with her regular stuffed dogs than the FURREAL FRIENDS®: Get Up & Go-Go, My Walkin' Pup.  

That said, given how our neighbor absolutely loves it, I wonder if it's an age thing, or just that some kids will love it and others just won't. Our daughter happens to have no interest in it.

One thing I need to say that absolutely irritates me is the name of this dog. I know it's hard to come up with unique trademarkable product names, but this is way too long, and way too hard to remember. If I want to tell someone about the toy, I'm definitely not going to walk up and say, "Hey have you seen the new "furreal friends get up and go go my walking pup," lol. It's a fluffy toy dog that moves on a fake leash. Companies need to get smarter about product names because sharing online sometimes has its limits too - like wasting all my available characters on a product name if I mention on Twitter. My two cents.

September 15, 2014

Covering an office chair

I have this old office chair I got on sale several years ago. Honestly, I hate how traditional office chairs look and those that are nicer tend to also be much more expensive or simply too big for little me. So I end up with those rolling task chairs that never hold up or are boring gray or black when I yearn for a pop of color.

This was my task chair. My husband took the back off since I don't really use it, but it was still kind of blah.

This was my task chair. My husband took the back off since I don't really use it, but it was still kind of blah. In my stash, I found a yard of striped home decor fabric, which looked to be more than enough to cover the chair seat.

Now, there are plenty of proper ways to cover or reupholster a chair. My way is not the most durable or neatest, but it's quick!

1. Set the chair upside down on the fabric. Since it was a wavy stripe pattern and I knew I wouldn't get a perfect straight across doing this quickly, I set the chair on the bias. That way if the stripes don't go across perfectly, it's not obvious.

2. Pull at the fabric in all directions to make sure there aren't any big wrinkles.

3. Loosely cut the fabric around the chair leaving a lot of excess in case it has to be adjusted.

4. Staple on one side a few times, then staple on the opposite side (keep it taut). I worked around kind of back and forth around the chair to make sure I was pulling evenly on all sides. Around the corners, I folded the fabric like I would for a bed corner and most of those wrinkles are underneath where no one would see.

5. When it's all secure, cut off the remaining excess. I used pinking shears to hopefully keep the fabric from fraying over time. Since it's not getting washed, this is not a huge concern.

6. Flip the chair back over and see if any fabric hangs down where you could see sitting or standing near the chair and trim that back.

That's it! Less than 10 minutes and it's a whole new chair that looks way more awesome in my office.

Now, if you don't often sew and don't have a stash of fabric, you could go to the local big sewing store, but you'll have more selection and greater access to nice home decor fabrics at a low cost by looking online. My favorite site is Fashion Fabrics Club. Shipping isn't cheap but they have really sweet deals on fabrics in their discount section and have a huge variety of home decor and apparel fabrics.

September 6, 2014

Upcoming reviews: Roomba, Jimmy Dean, Furreal Friends, & Paula's Choice

This fall, I have some exciting reviews planned! Here are just a few of the interesting products I'll be trying out in September and October:

iRobot Roomba® 870

We are on our second Roomba and it's about 6 years old so it's not terribly efficient anymore. We've also got a Neato, which works just fine but needs a new battery. I hate how loud it is so I can't wait to try out the new Roomba, which has a unique new brush style that makes it WAY easier to clean the robot and their new battery lasts twice as long. Since our first floor is nearly wide open and almost 1500 sq ft, I want to test if it can handle our space without kinking out. Thanks to iRobot for a substantial discount to buy and review the 870!

Paula's Choice Resist C15 Super Booster
You guys probably know I love Paula's Choice. I trust their reviews and expert advice on other brand products and since I also enjoy reviewing C serums, I definitely can't wait to try this one out. Paula's Choice is providing a free bottle to test.

Furreal Friends®: Get Up & Go-Go, My Walkin' Pup™
I'm really quite done reviewing this but need to come up with a decent post to explain how I feel about it. It's a toy dog for kids with a phone app that offers some additional play features that go along with the real toy. I wasn't impressed but haven't come up with a good way to explain why just yet. Soon though.

Jimmy Dean Lunch & Dinner Entrees
I have some coupons for free Jimmy Dean entrees. It's not my thing but my husband definitely wants to try some. We just can't find these in stores around here, so I'll keep looking and hopefully they'll pop up at Hy-Vee or Walmart soon.