Sunday, April 1, 2012

Products I Love

Disclaimer: All the reviews are my own opinion and are not influenced by the companies who make the products or the company that I purchased the product from.

It's been awhile since I did a blog post on some of My Favorite Things, and I've managed to accumulate quite a few gadgets and gizmos that I think are well worth sharing.

Bodum the Beloved:
I love coffee (exaggerated gasp of surprise and astonishment), but I don't drink all that much of it.  However, I am a picky coffee drinker.  I want it hot, I want it fragrant, and I WANT IT STRONG.  (Good coffee should be capable of shaking your hand and bending barbed wire).  A French press is such a delicious way to get all those things.  My previous experiences with French presses, while giving the desired taste, weren't all that pleasant because the stupid glass canister kept breaking.  I finally "splurged" and purchased a Bodum through, and I'm SO glad I did.  I've had it for several months now, I use it every day, and it's still unbroken despite my clumsiness and Handyman's inability to remember that I don't want my Beloved Bodum put in the dishwasher.  Ever.

The only downside to this wonderful gadget (is it a gadget if there's no electrical plug?) is that it wasn't available in a funky color, and it will only keep the coffee warm for about an hour, but I plan to remedy that by knitting a cozy for it.  Some people might find it inconvenient to have to boil water in a teakettle first before the coffee can be made, but I personally enjoy the ritual.

(If you'd like to find out more about how a French Press works, click here.)

The Great Wahl of Hair Cutting:
I've been cutting Handyman's hair since we were engaged (he's a very frugal and practical sort of dude), and I've always used his old Wahl brand of clippers.  They've held up really well over the years, but recently I purchased an extra attachment that I only wish I'd had before.  It's a size 15 trimmer guide that allows me to cut hair quickly without having to worry about it being too short on the top.  With the regular set of hair guides, the largest size is an 8.  On some dudes an 8 would be perfectly fine, but I think on my own men (Peter especially) I like the hair on the top to be a little longer so it doesn't look like I gave them a military-esque buzz cut.  This size of hair guide is the largest one that can be purchased for a clipper, and it leaves the hair 1 - 1/2 inches long on the top, which is still plenty short enough to ensure a respectable hair cut that won't leave the recipient desiring skull tattoos and a regrettable urge to play the drums.

Slam-Dunk Scooper:
I hate baking cookies.  
I'll give you a moment to get over the shock of it.

I just hate baking cookies.  It's the boring, repetitive (and seemingly unending) nature of it.  Scoop the cookies, plop them on the tray, and repeat ad infinitum.  Ugh.  Not my idea of how I want to spend an hour.  Also, Handyman (for whom I bake the aforementioned despised Cookies of Torture) doesn't like Chocolate Chip Cookies baked in bar form.  He says they taste different.  

(Rolling eyes).

So, despite my aversion to extemporaneous gadgets and things that clog up my drawer space, I decided to purchase a cookie scoop.  I am SO glad I did (and so is Handyman)!  After doing a little bit of research on quality, I settled on the OXO brand for the price and the good reviews for how well it held up.  Baking cookies takes half the time it did before, and better yet, I've found that my scoop works just as well for plopping out meatballs onto the baking sheet (another repetitive task that drives me nuts).  I still don't find baking cookies a fun project, but at least it doesn't make me want to start throwing things at the wall (or Handyman) anymore!

Yummy Yogurt:
For my birthday present I asked Handyman to get me a yogurt maker.  I'm not really a fan of yogurt per se, but the kids absolutely LOVE it and I know I need to get more natural probiotics in my diet.  We are very fortunate to have access to Raw Milk for only $4 a gallon, so making the yogurt at home is not only healthier but much more cost effective (other than having to pay the chunk for the yogurt maker.)  It costs me anywhere from $4-$6 for a large carton of organic yogurt, and I can make it at home now for $2, plus I can add (or not) whatever natural sweeteners to the yogurt I want.  Due to the amount of canning I do in the fall, I have lots and lots of organic canned fruit on hand and I can always add some brown sugar or maple syrup.  To my surprise I found that I absolutely love yogurt when it's warm and fresh (I don't care for cold sweets like ice cream) and between my husband and my kids we polish off a quart of yogurt every night for dessert.  Healthy and yummy!

- A couple of notes about yogurt-making at home: firstly, it's quite feasible to make yogurt without purchasing an expensive yogurt maker, but I found that for me the added bother was just enough that I wasn't going to take the time to do it consistently.  Also, you don't need to keep purchasing yogurt starter mix.  Once you've got your first batch of yogurt made, reserve about a 1/4 cup of the unsweetened yogurt in the fridge, and as long as you use it in a week with the next batch of yogurt, it will work just fine!  This blog link here was a great help for explaining how to make healthy and easy yogurt with or without a yogurt maker.

Viva la Vivobarefoot!
I don't like to wear sneakers.  I don't know if it's my family's European influences (generally speaking, Europeans sneer at the Great American Tradition of wearing tacky white sneakers, Mom Jeans, and baseball caps everywhere), but I just tend to think that wearing sneakers to anywhere other than the gym is tantamount to wearing nothing but Crocs.

(Sorry, don't hate me.  I do own Crocs, and I have been known to commit the horrendous social faux pas of wearing them out to do some shopping, but in my defense I can't reach my feet right now.)

I recently purchased a pair of Vivobarefoot shoes through (I might need an intervention with this website) and I am in love.  These shoes are amazingly comfortable, they work well for wide, flatfooted ducks like me, and they're so lightweight I don't notice I'm wearing them.  The traction is excellent, and most importantly, I think they just look cool.

I would like to say that I only purchased them recently, so I can't say how well they'll hold up to consistent use, but for now at least, I am more than happy with my purchase!

What sorts of things have you found to be worth sharing?  I'd love to hear about them!