Portable Solar Charger Ultra-Efficient by SunLabz (13W) Review

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pictures can not do justice to the Sunlabz Solar Charger. This portable charger is so compact and sleek. It would easily fit into a backpack for hiking or in the trunk of your car as an emergency item. It is just really well put together.

The charger is pretty much made for small electronics and transfers power directly to a 5V USB output. There are no batteries to store or cords to finagle. The panel is 13W  and the solar cells have a 22% transfer rate.

This also means you must have the charger in the sun while powering your devices, there is no banking. Plus, you can ONLY charge devices that use a USB port. No kettles, toasters, flashlights, etc.

That is the only downside I see with the product, but understand that those items also draw more power and would probably require a much larger set up. This set is so compact and tight, you will appreciate it's ability to charge your devices and take up such minimal space.

I would highly recommend this for backpackers/hikers/campers/emergency situations. But...you may also be able to plug this in near a sunny window and charge your devices with the sun on a regular basis. I have argon windows so we do not get much sun penetration indoors, but if you have regular windows it's worth trying.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Gaffer Power Tape Review

Ever heard of Gaffer tape? Me neither...until I had a chance to review it. It's actually a pretty cool product. I would describe it as removable duct tape.

It's strong, solid tape. You can even tear it into sections like this:

So where I would use Gaffer tape? I would use it anywhere I needed a strong tape. I often tape my plants when they get injured, and I am busy building all sorts of solar equipment that can definitely benefit from a tape like this (remember: strong and removable!)

But the most common use is for AV equipment. If you see it laid out like this then you will most likely recognize having seen it in your life:
This makes me think it would be a great tape for sectioning off portions of a gym or putting down tape to define borders in a game.

It's a great product that I would definitely use again, and that I had never really knew existed. A useful product and learning something new, a win-win.
I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Silicone Ice Cube Tray - Makes 8 Large Ice Cubes - Set of 2 Review

If you preserve food using your freezer, then you will want to look into a Silicone Ice Cube Tray. Sure they can make ice, but they are so much more useful than that!

I use mine for freezing fresh herbs (just pack them down tight and cover with olive oil), homemade bone broths, and smoothie cubes.

Of course, if you have a baby in your house, these would be fantastic for freezing baby food cubes. I used "regular" ice trays when my kids were babies. The cubes were so convenient but it was excessively difficult to get the cubes out of the trays. You have none of these issues with silicone trays. You can bend the trays to remove the frozen foods and they come out without sticking.

This particular tray has 8 large squares. You can fill them half full if you want smaller cubes. They work so well, that I am considering getting them for all of my sisters and friends for the holidays.

They are also small enough to fit in a standard freezer so you won't have to worry ab out having enough freezer space. They are also BPA free.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

DIY Self Watering Water Bottle Seed Starters

Friday, November 21, 2014

When you start seeds, the soil needs to remain moist at all times. But you shouldn't water from the top because it increases the risk of "damping off" and also displaces the little seedlings that are not firmly rooted.

Here's a quick and easy solution (albeit an ugly one...at least in the following example.)
I have cilantro growing in these water bottles.  They are easy to make - just cut a bottle in half, cut a hole in the cap or cut holes into the top if the top will make contact with the water.

Put an absorbent wicking material into the soil and extend it into the water (I used yard. Hot pink works best *kidding*) Then add moist soil to the top half of the bottle and water in the bottom.

The soil will drain into the bottom if it is too damp and will wick up water from the bottom if is to dry.

The soil will stay wet enough on it's own. When you need to add water to the system, just lift up the top portion and add water to the bottom. Easy.

Mine are "dirty" because I had way too much water in the soil at the onset and as the water drained through the soil into the water below. No biggie. Just a little ugly.

You can also use bigger bottles and/or cut them better than I did. Mine look horrible, but these are my first attempt. I was practicing with used water bottles but will save bigger bottles (preferably ones that are large enough that more of the top can fit into the water) for my main seed starts this spring.

I am growing cilantro in these containers because cilantro is a great test of the system. It takes forever to germinate (more than a week!) so it's the ultimate test of keeping soil moist.

I am happy to say that the cilantro finally germinated and the soil stayed damp. I only had to refill the bottom of the bottles once per week.

My windows provide almost no UV light, so I am anxious to see if they will survive and be able to transplant into larger pots. Either way, the system seems to work as it should and I will be using these for some of my larger seedlings this spring.

How to keep seedlings from getting leggy and reaching toward the sun without using grow lights or electricity

When you plant seeds without adequate light, they inevitably become leggy and stretch themselves toward the light source. The solution is of course to use artificial lighting, but that is not self-sustainable (or cost effective!)

I may have come up with an easy solution.

Tin foil! It works as a reflector to bounce the light back onto the plants. I popped off the top of my solar oven to use as a reflector for my plants. My houseplants always look pretty sorry because we have argon filled windows and that blocks up to 99% of the sun's UV rays.

With only 1% of the suns UV getting through, it's a miracle anything grows at all. Since I need to start seeds in the house and want to do it without using electricity, I am relying on the reflector to enhance the small UV exposure we do receive. I'll also be using a mini greenhouse outside and winter sowing a few plants, so between all 3 options, I am hoping we can effectively grow plants.

If you have non-argon windows, then the reflector should help by leaps and bounds and allow you to effectively window garden.  Let me know how it works.

Are Siberian Cats Hypoallergenic? Results after 4 years living with a Siberian Cat.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Four and a half years ago, we adopted a Siberian kitten. We bought her from an area breeder (you can read about the experience here.) My husband and son were severely allergic to cats (and dogs.)

We were most concerned about my son because he had basically lived on steroids and nebulizers since the age of 1 1/2. He had severe asthma, a peanut allergy, and allergies to pets.

But we were determined to make it work. Here is the plan we came up with: Living with a cat when you have allergies. The first few weeks were challenging. My husband and son both had reactions. They took antihistamines for a few days.

Then we tapered off the antihistamines and eventually things changed. Sort of. Today, my husband is still allergic to our cat, but he can live in our home and has no issues unless he spends a long time petting or holding her. If he visits homes that have non-siberian cats, he immediately gets red eyes and sneezy.

My son is no longer allergic to her at all. He has no symptoms and actually outgrew his asthma and peanut allergy. He is also less sensitive to other animals (though he does get red eyes and a "closed throat" when we visit grandparents that have 3 little dogs.)

When we have guests over, even allergic ones, they have no issues with our cat. Most allergic visitors avoid her, but she lives in every room of the house and her fur and dander is....everywhere. I have also eased up on the vacuuming. It may have helped in the beginning, but it's no longer necessary.

If I could pin point what helped the most in ridding my son of his allergy, I would guess the following:

1. Omega 3 vitamins
2. A decrease in processed foods consumed
3. Age - growing larger lungs etc
4. Desensitization through exposure (through the cat and through repeated peanut exposure with the intent to desensitize)
5. Siberian breed having a lower FelD1 levels
6. Luck

In the end, I would say that Siberian cats are LESS allergenic but probably not NON allergenic. Keep that in mind if you are considering bringing a cat home.

Power Tek Fire Talon Multi-tool Pocket Knife Review

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Power Tek Fire Talon Multi-tool Pocket Knife 

Every one needs and emergency kit in their home and car. I just added the Power Tek Fire Talon Multi-tool pocket knife to mine. Now I'm thinking I might want a second one fro my purse....and my backpack....

I have multiple pocket knives and I carry a scissors, but this tool pretty much takes care of both of those items, plus has a built in flash light, bottle opener, screw drivers and pliers.

This is a heavy duty multi tool. I don't think it would break easily. It can be challenging to open without pinching yourself so be careful and practice with it a bit. 

My favorite thing about it is the pliers. They are big and strong and they line up with each other. I am fanatic about pliers and tweezers actually lining up and this is a quality set that you can use for real projects and emergencies.

I would highly recommend them as stocking stuffers this holiday season and for emergency kits of all kinds.
I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

AmbrosiaTM Apples Review

There's a new apple on the market! Actually, it's been around for 10 years, but I have yet to see it in my area stores. Luckily for me, a small crate of Ambrosia apples arrived on my doorstep and I had the chance to try them.

As an organic gardener, I am always open to trying to varieties and believe that widening our produce diversity is a good thing. Ambrosia apples add to the diversity of apples available. And best off all, they were bred by chance (by nature!) and not created in a laboratory or through a series of cross breeding.

So what are they like? Well, the apples that I received were huge! They were also a peachy blond, red, pink and yellow.  The apples were crisp and hard like a honeycrisp or gala. But they had a distinctly floral undertone. The apple was sweet and delicious and I would definitely buy them again.

I only had 4 apples to try, so I ate them all out of hand. I would love to try baking or saucing these apples. I could imagine they would make a very sweet pink applesauce. I'll have to look for them in the stores in order to get the chance.

It looks like they are currently growing in Washington, and it's possible they could pop up at nearby orchards. I'll be on the look out for them in the future and you should too.

*If you see them at your local market, leave me a comment. I'd like to find them in my area.

Disclosure: I received complimentary apples and compensation for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Lemon Zester Cheese Grater Review

I have become newly obsessed with preserving food. And lemon zest was high on my list of the products I wanted to dehydrate and jar for the winter. But zesting a bunch of rolling lemons with a peeler just isn't that much fun. Plus you end up with way more pith than you intended.

Enter the Lemon Zester Cheese Grater. It couldn't have arrived at a better time. I used it to zest up a bunch of meyer lemons and popped the zest into the dehydrator. I also used it to shave chocolate and to zest clementine oranges.

I plan on using it for nutmeg and hard cheese in the future. This zester is pretty much the perfect size to make the job easy. It's long, but that provides good leverage and strength. I imagine it will last for years with regular use.

My favorite part about the zester is the plastic shield that covers the blades. I can safely store the zester in the drawer without fear that my children or husband will accidentally cut their hands. The shield snaps on easily and perfectly and is a brilliant touch to make this zester stand out among the crowd.
I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

2.5% Retinol Moisturizer Review

I made a mistake when I took a break from using retinol creams. About a year ago, I decided to use only all natural products and stop buying creams at the drugstore. I noticed some quality changes to my skin, but one horrible side effect erupted. Acne.

Retinols had kept my acne at bay for years and stopping them was a big mistake. But honestly, in order to get an semi-decent percentage of retinol in the products I bought I had to pay exorbitant prices and the products were filled with "other" ingredients.

In my battle to repair the ravages of acne, I came across Body Merry 2.5% Retinol Moisturizer. 

This moisturizer has retinol at a strength of 2.5% (2 1/2 times the amount of retinol as the standard 1% strength found in most retinol creams and is the strongest percentage available without a prescription.) It is also free of parabens, sulphates, and phthalates. And they do not test on animals.

A higher percentage means I can use less of the product and the 3.4oz size means it will stretch a lot further. Since I am just getting used to retinol again, I am glad it's almost winter! The sun and retinol are a dangerous mix.

This is a moisturizer so in addition to the benefits of retinol, this product hydrates and plumps your skin. So far, I am quite happy with it and I would recommend it to others.
I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.