June 29, 2014

Dr. Scholl's Custom Fit Orthotic Inserts Aren't For Me

BzzAgent sent me a set of Dr. Scholl's Custom Fit Orthotic Inserts to try for free. My foot measuring experience was pleasant and easy, almost fun actually. I measured 120 probably because I'm small and don't put a lot of weight on my feet and my feet have normal arches. I tend to stand more on my heels than the balls of my feet when standing still, so I was hoping these would help relieve some of that pressure and disperse it more evenly.
I was pretty disappointed and want to speak to why I didn't feel the product's claims matched my experience since this is such a personal product and everyone is likely to have a unique experience. To understand my responses, here's some helpful info:

  • I am very thin and short (low weight)
  • My arches are considered "normal"
  • I wear a size 5-1/2 shoe and have narrow feet 
  • I only own one pair of traditional sneakers 

My Experience
First, Dr. Scholl's claims the inserts will fit easily into most shoes, including casual shoes, dress shoes, sneakers and work shoes. This was not my experience. They definitely too thick and wide for all of my dress shoes, work shoes, and casual shoes. My foot wouldn't stay in my shoes. I tried my Merrell sneakers which I use for long hikes and walks, camping and trips to the park and my foot wouldn't stay in those either, even when I took out the original insole that came with the shoe. At least with those, the shoes were finally wide enough to fit the Dr. Scholl's inserts. But you can see in the pictures below, the sneaker still looks a bit pushed open after the insert was placed inside the shoe.


Another product claim is that the inserts will stay securely in place, thanks to the ¾ length design. I'm not sure why the 3/4 length has anything to do with why they stay in place. Yes, the claim is accurate and they did stay in place, but the 3/4 length meant that when I took out the old insole, the shoe felt weird, even more uncomfortable then with the new insole over the old one.

my foot isn't all the way in the sneaker with the inserts inside
The inserts are supposed to provide heel cushioning to relieve foot pressure but I noticed how my heel felt even more pressure than without. I was hoping these would balance the pressure, but it seemed worse.

Lastly, the inserts are supposed to place your feet into a more supported position and disperses pressure levels more evenly. I just didn't have this experience. I felt like my heels were too high up so it was harder to walk normally.

At this point, I'm thinking maybe my feet are too small and narrow, my arches too "normal," and my body weight too light to get much benefit from the Dr. Scholl's inserts. I'm going to have my husband try them out because he has flatter feet and a lot more pressure to deal with. He's also more of a traditional sneaker-wearing guy.

June 27, 2014

Ordered My Next eSalon Kit

It's been almost two months since I visited eSalon in Culver City. My hair color still looks lovely. It's slightly faded and I have 1/2" of root growth and some grays coming in, so I figured it was time to order another kit. I couldn't recall how long processing and shipping takes, so I planned to color after an upcoming trip to Fresno.

I went online yesterday, uploaded the below photo from just after my eSalon color experience and a picture of me now (it's a goofy picture so I'm not sharing here). We've had crazy days of either insane bright sun or major storms, so getting a realistic view of my hair was tricky. In my order, I wrote that I wanted to maintain the color I had done in May, mentioned the grays and the roots and set my reorder schedule to 10 weeks. Amazingly, the order was processed the same day and went out via DHL. There's a very small chance, but still a chance, the kit will arrive before I leave on Monday. That would be amazing!

Now, all I need is a weather miracle because that nice, shiny, smooth hair in that pic is what I can normally achieve at home. However, we are in tropical craziness up here in Minnesota so no matter what I do, it frizzes out. My iron can't set it smooth, not even with my help from my most trusted products.

June 25, 2014

Hillshire Farm American Craft Sausage Packs Big Flavor

It's been a while since I posted about a BzzAgent campaign. One of the more recent campaigns is for Hillshire Farm American Craft sausage, but I couldn't find it anywhere in town. After a few weeks, I finally found them during my weekly grocery trip, so I bought both the Garlic & Onion and the Smoky Bourbon flavors. Hillshire Farm offers a third flavor, JalapeƱo & Cheddar, but I don't like spicy food and was pretty sure my daughter wouldn't try that one, so I didn't get it.

I have never cooked sausage before. I am not sure if I've even eaten sausage before, don't laugh. We rarely have hot dogs, so I wasn't sure what I'd think of of the Hillshire Farms sausage. I was eager to try them because I do appreciate the handcrafted quality, the slow-cooked small batch process, and definitely wanted to try the Smoky Bourbon first. Grill times were right on the package, so I just cooked them for the time indicated, turning once, and they were cooked just perfectly.

The outside was crisp and char-broiled, just like you'd expect on the grill. The inside was juicy and full of smoky, bourbon flavor. Delicious!

grilled Hillshire Farm American Craft Smoky Bourbon sausage
I also made one of the Garlic & Onion, which was delicious too. I preferred the bourbon variety, just because I like that flavor better than onion, but they're both yummy. I used them in a pasta dish and even my picky four-year-old ate them, and she usually doesn't eat much meat.

loving a bowl of pasta with sausage
My husband said, for sausage, the nutritional information was better than he'd usually expect. He's in the process of losing weight and is very conscious of calories, sugars, and protein. Overall, it was actually worth the wait, and my first experience cooking sausage at home was a success. Everyone ate what I served and they all seemed to enjoy it. We'll be having leftovers for lunch today!

Curious to know more? Check Hillshire Farm American Craft Facebook and Twitter accounts.

June 18, 2014

Coloring Long, Thick Hair: My Sister's Experience with eSalon

My sister and I have very similar hair, but while mine is just below my shoulders, my sister's is extremely long. Unlike me, she's also not colored in a long time, so the top half is natural medium brown and the bottom half is a light rusty red color.

With Kailee about to graduate from college, I offered to do her hair with color from eSalon. We uploaded a couple of photos and worked with one of eSalon's super helpful color specialists who suggested a demi-permanent color that would bring my sister to an overall natural warm brown which is easy to maintain as she goes off to start her post-college career.

the color kit from eSalon
Kailee needed more product than I would need, so eSalon sent a complementary second bottle to cover all her hair. It's a nice perk just for the first time you order, so you can be sure to get complete coverage the first time rather than ordering a bottle and later realizing you need two.

opening the eSalon kit

all the essentials in one box
I ordered a kit to help us with Kailee's first eSalon experience, so we had clips, a mixing bowl and brush, and a timer to make sure we get as close to a professional color application as possible.

I don't have a lot of full length pictures of Kailee right before we colored, but you can see below, she had uneven, grown out color, which meant we couldn't just squeeze a bottle on and hope for the best.

eSalon's team anticipated we'd need to take extra care when coloring Kailee's hair and provided thorough step-by-step directions, which I was very careful to read this time. We were given the process and the exact timings to use, even when to begin mixing the second bottle in anticipation of coloring the ends. They left nothing to chance so I was feeling confident we'd have an even result.

I carefully clipped up Kailee's hair into several sections. She has so much hair, I might have been better ordering a second set of clips, but we managed just fine. It took a while to cover the roots and part line because we were using the brush and working with small sections, then she waited patiently for a bit before we worked through the ends and rest of the hair. You'll see above, we used an old towel to protect her shirt. Like most hair color, when you have long hair, you're likely to get it on your shirt or shoulders if you don't cover up.

When all the color was worked into her hair, Kailee waited a bit, relying on the eSalon timer to remind her to rinse in a few minutes. When it was time to rinse, I added some water to the applicator bottle so Kailee could do a color rinse. Rinsing seemed to go well and didn't take too long. She let her hair air dry that day. I had to leave before her hair was dry, so I had to wait a few days to see the final result.

A few days later, it was time for graduation. My first time seeing Kailee's hair dry after we colored it was at the recessional, in her cap and grown. I loved the warmth that is especially noticeable in the sun. Her hair felt soft and looked shiny. When I asked how she styled it that day, she said she didn't do anything special. That's how she woke up.

After graduation, we went on a little house hunting trip and one night she let me style her hair like Elsa from the Frozen movie. Her hair texture was really soft and it was easy to comb out the knots after a few days of running around looking at apartments.

You can see from the back, how beautiful this shade of brown is and how smooth and shiny her hair is. This is without product. I love the color on her, which looks very natural. I suspect she won't have trouble with noticeable roots and it will be easy to maintain the color by ordering a new kit every 8 weeks or so.

Kailee's hair came out beautiful. Our mom likes it so much, she's ready to make some time to try eSalon herself. I'll post on that experience in a few weeks.

Want to know more about my eSalon experience? Here's what happened when I visited eSalon headquarters and had my hair done by one of their talented colorists.

Want to try eSalon? Let me refer you and get $10 off your first order. Subscribe to their service and your first order is just $9.95 plus shipping!

June 15, 2014

Burpee live plants for the straw bale garden

I had some gaps where I could fit a few plants in the bales after a few seedlings failed to transplant successfully. I had lost my remaining seedlings to the sun when my greenhouse hit more than 120 degrees and melted the tray plastic. Next year, I'll put a mesh cover on after April, or just take down the greenhouse when the outside temps hit 70.

I ordered two types of peppers and an eggplant through Burpee's mix and match program. The plants were shipped quickly and arrived in this clever container that did a good job keeping them safe.

Burpee provided excellent instructions with clear illustrations so I knew to water them a specified amount immediately, place them in a warm but not too sunny location, and wait a day before transplanting. Following the instructions was easy and the plants thrived overnight.

Here's a shot of the plants after I took them out of their packaging. Given they were in a UPS truck, they look pretty good. My UPS driver is super nice and took extra good care to be gentle with the box.

I planted each in the bales and they did well. The peppers transplanted with no problem. Eggplants are high maintenance and needed a couple days of thorough watering to perk up. They're totally fine now.

June 10, 2014

Bale Gardening

My bales had a lot of oat seeds but it's not affecting my plants. I trim as needed, sometimes pull the oat growth, but so far, it's all good. This is two weeks ago, I think. There's an eggplant, some tomatoes, peppers, greens, lettuce, and cucumbers. I've added some flowers around the outside but they aren't growing much yet.

I put a weed mat under the bales. It's debatable whether it's needed but it has helped with water retention.

At this point, everything is fine. I pull grass growth when I see it and watch for bugs. I'm using a garlic tea spray on rare occasion when I see a pest I would prefer to avoid. It's worked just fine. I also used a urine spray to keep the bunnies and squirrels away and that's also doing great.

Upcoming Product Reviews via BzzAgent

I haven't posted BzzAgent reviews in a while. It's not that I haven't had anything going on, but there have been a few delays that are out of my control. I'm really anxious to try Hillshire Farm American Craft sausage, but so far I've had no luck finding it at Walmart (where I'm expected to get it) and online, I continue to see it listed as out of stock in my local stores.

I'm also signed up for a Dr. Scholl's campaign. A few weeks ago, I received an incorrectly sized product and get to keep it for someone who fits the inserts, but I'm still waiting on my pair.

So here's some info on these fabulous products:

Hillshire Farm American Craft Sausage:

  • Comes in 3 flavors - Smoky Bourbon (yummmm!), Jalepeno & Cheddar, and Garlic & Onion
  • Slow-smoked in small batches
  • Handcrafted with real ingredients

I don't eat a lot of sausage or hot dogs, but I do appreciate good flavor and a chance to use the grill. The tidbit about these made with "real ingredients" cracks me up though. Real, as opposed to???

Dr. Scholl's Custom Fit Orthotic Inserts:
I probably have pretty normal feet. They're small, but not flat or too high of an arch. I don't wear sneakers unless I'm on a camping trip, so I don't yet know how I'll use these inserts. But, I'm happy to give them a try when they arrive. I went to Walmart and had my feet analyzed and found I'm the lowest number (meaning I probably don't need these). My husband was the highest number, so I'm tempted to buy a pair for him to try.
  • All-day relief for tired feet
  • Customized heel cushioning
  • Places feet in more supported position
  • Fit easily into most shoes and stay in place
I'm also trying a retinol cream my husband found for me on Amazon and plan to try eSalon again at home (all by myself) to touch up the color in late June or early August. I haven't had a need to yet. It's been more than a month and my color still looks fabulous!

June 5, 2014

Who Eats at McDonald's?

After I had my daughter, I vowed to eat as little fast food as possible. I binged on double cheeseburgers during pregnancy in an attempt to gain weight and by the end, was so disgusted. I very,  very rarely eat fast food and it's usually limited to a plain cheeseburger. No fries, no shakes, no nuggets. It's not that it doesn't taste yummy. I just can't stomach it anymore.

My daughter doesn't eat a lot of fast food either. We probably visit McDonald's once every other month. She'll get a Happy Meal, enjoy the toy more than the food, and complain there aren't enough fries for her ketchup, haha.

Since we now go so rarely, I haven't seen the styling of McDonald's change in a slow evolution. Instead, like a relative you see once a year, it was like McDonald's from my childhood to this weird new, super mod McDonald's aimed at what I think is business people who watch Fox News and read USA Today.

I don't mind the trendy look. It gives a cleaner feeling to the space, which is pretty important to me. But they're kind of failing in the bathroom.

McDonald's is still a place for families and for parents to take their children for a hurried meal between soccer practice and piano lessons. The food is still geared to children and families, yet the bathroom in our nearby McDonald's isn't even remotely designed for a family or children.

I wish I'd taken pictures, but basically the toilets automatically flush. That's all well and good, and might have some cost savings, but it scares the crap out of a four-year-old who finds flushing loud and when not initiated by her, scary.

The sinks are too high for children. A little step stool would help here. I've seen that at some restaurants who support their child-customers. I could even be okay with the high sinks and no stool but the faucets are automatic sensor types. Unless your hands are in just the right place, you get no water. It's super difficult to line up my daughter's hands under the faucet while I'm trying to hold her up (she's really too big for that now). I can't keep the water running long enough to try and shift the water from my cupped hands to hers, so that's not an option either.

Usually, in these situations, I'll grab a paper towel and wet it to rinse off the soap, but at this McDonald's there are no paper towel dispensers, only loud hand dryers. I've watched many children freak at the sound of those super loud dryers. It's not much fun to be in the bathroom while adults spend a really long time running the dryer, trying to get all the water off their hands while children waiting to use the toilet or sink cover their ears and whine at the noise.

So, I guess my question is, who is the McDonald's customer now? I think they're going for a customer that isn't common in my part of town - the rushed 8-5 businessperson. It's a family area. Suburban. There isn't a big lunchtime business crowd, just a lot of families looking for a quick meal.

The hygiene of paper towels vs hand dryers is still highly debated. The Washington Post published a piece on the hand dryer and paper towel debate in 2012, noting a review by Mayo Clinic showing paper towels being the winner. In the end, once the restaurant owner has made back the investment in the dryer system, it is probably cheaper to maintain a couple of dryers than deal with an ever-depleting stock of paper towels. However, customer service has a huge impact on the bottom line and if a company cares so much about the bottom line that they cut paper costs in a bathroom (note - while spending a fortune on upgraded fixtures and countertops), where else are they cutting costs that impacts their customer?

This is a heated issue and I'm not saying there's a right solution. But for a fast food restaurant in a family demographic area, lack of paper towels, automatic faucets, and self-flushing toilets is a real hassle.

June 1, 2014

Craftsy for fab sewing instruction

For the past several months I have slowly been making a beautiful dress following a Craftsy couture sewing class by Susan Khalje. Before this, I'd never made a fitted bodice for a grownup and had never made anything substantial from silk.

I made two muslins, realizing I'm a near perfect size 10 after making significant alterations to my first attempt with a size 12 pattern. With the 10, there were some tweaks during fitting, but nothing major for fit purposes. I altered my pattern so I'll have the sleeves I want, more coverage in the front, a longer bodice, and a higher back and then began by cutting the silk organza. With the markings on the silk, I don't have to mark the fashion fabric. I used the organza as a pattern to cut the embroidered silk dupioni and basted them together.

Truth be told, I'm still basting. I was trying to multitask, watching a TV show, and basted to the wrong side for all four skirt sections, so I'm halfway done fixing that mistake. I basted the bodice together and fitted it to me and it is just how I want it. There's a bit of room to move, but it's fitted enough. I made a couple of tweaks to where the princess seams hit the bust line, but that was mostly a minor adjustment to the curve thankfully.

It doesn't quite look the same on the dress form as it does me, but you get the idea here:

I haven't finalized the exact height and shape I want the back, but it's close to what you see above. I also haven't snipped the armholes. The zipper will go approximately where the pins are in the picture.

The skirt is a full 1950's style tea length, semi-stiff look. Fun and flirty and won't blow up in the prairie wind. Even though the fabric pattern isn't quite perfect at the seams, I'm quite pleased given I really didn't have much extra fabric to work with. I wanted to keep wide seam allowances and that was more important to me than having a perfect match. I think it's close enough to look lovely for what I'll be wearing it for.

After I have the whole thing basted, I'll fit again and pin the sleeves to decide on length. I'm certain I need to tighten them a bit based on initial fittings. Then I get to put in the permanent seams, take out the basting stitches and add stays in a few places around the bodice.

Then there is the lining to deal with. I found a luxurious green china silk but it's going to be shifty and tricky to cut I'm sure.