February Favs (and 1 Dishonorable Mention)

Absolutely none of the products in this post were provided in exchange for a review.

While it’s true that I’m on a spending ban for the foreseeable future (because, let’s face it, I have more than enough in terms of both stuff and bills), it’s possible to have favorites that are not necessarily spending-related. I thought I’d share mine because I like reading/watching favorites round-ups on blogs and YouTube, and sharing mine seems like a good idea.

Tech & Tools

Meet Betty Spaghetti, my very red 2-in-1 from Dell. I actually got her in January (what spending ban?!) but it was only partially a splurge. It’s try that I have a rather nice laptop (17″, widescreen, lots of power and storage), it spends 99% of its life hooked up to a secondary monitor, keyboard, mouse, 2 external hard drives, a graphics tablet, and two printers. Making it mobile is a chore, it doesn’t fit standard laptop bags, and the reason it’s lasted 4 years or so, already, is because I don’t move it all that much. Ergo, it’s not exactly portable.

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Still, I probably wouldn’t have ordered a new laptop had it not been for a YouTube video I saw where the YouTuber (BumbleBailey) was travelling but still able to edit videos and do other big computer things via remote login and her tablet.

Mind. Blown.

You mean I can sit in the living room with one screen and work on my laptop in the next room? Or, better yet, I could edit videos and use my design programs from an under-powered machine (no need for 64 bit system, massive memory, or non-integrated graphics card with this arrangement) from the back porch at work on my lunch break?! Madness! But also true. Once I realized what was possible, I had very few arguments left against purchasing a $300 laptop/tablet. And it’s served me quite well for the last month and a bit, so I’m feeling next to no buyer’s remorse.

And did I mention it’s red?

I bought a little wireless mouse to use with it and had a spare MicroSD card to expand the on-board memory. The only thing I really need, now, is a bluetooth stylus that will work with it so I can use the touchscreen as a drawing tablet and I’ll be set.

Music

I still have quite the band-crush on Walk Off the Earth; if I had a bucket list, seeing them live in concert would be on it (they’ll be at Busch Gardens at the beginning of April but I don’t see that as feasible right now). You may know them from their 5 Peeps, 1 Guitar cover of Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know (though I think I saw Little Boxes, first, thanks to a Facebook post from a high school friend), but they’re original music is definitely worth listening to.

Many of their songs are on YouTube in one form or another, and their newest album Sing It All Away can be found on Amazon, iTunes, and pretty much everywhere else. I haven’t looked at that app in a while, but they’re probably on Spotify, too. Some of my favorites are Hold On, I’ll Be Waiting, and Sing It All Away (though even picking 3 favorites feels incredibly unfair to the rest of the album) and from their earlier album (REVO) I adore Red Hands. In fact, to see just how awesome this band is, not just at making music, but at making videos, check out the behind the scenes shoot of Red Hands to see how they relearned their own song in a completely disjointed (and backwards, in one place) way to be cut from a single shot into a cohesive video.

Projects

The KAL afghan is coming along and the weekly art journal process is flagging (but still happening–I need to catch up on 2 pages and 4 videos; February is always awful for progress), my favorite project was probably the one that went up on Imagine’s site last week: my upcycled tea advent to puppet theater set (The Play’s the Thing).

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I think this project took 6 or 7 hours, all told, but I think it’s so adorable and a great use for a box that I just couldn’t get rid of. In fact, I think it’s just the right size for my (very neglected) Dals to play with. For them it’s next to life-size, lol.

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Events

Hands-down our favorite to-do this month was our picnic and open-air movie night (that I mentioned in the last menu post). It was just good, simple fun and hard to beat. You know we’re not exactly 100% kid friendly, but the kids running around and playing during the movie didn’t bother us. If anything, it was part of the charm (though I almost did have to ask a dad to sit down or walk away as he was standing smack dab in front of me as the movie started, but he was just dropping some things off, so all was well).

Food & Bev

Most days I drink (deaf) coffee or tea in the morning and switch to water in the afternoon and evenings. Sometimes, though, I want something fizzy and flavored and there aren’t a lot of options that aren’t loaded with high fructose corn syrup and/or caffeine, so finding a middle ground isn’t always easy (and don’t get me started on the drink mixes with the artificial sweeteners in them, blech!).

La Croix sparkling waters have a bit of a cult following so I gave them a try, starting with Lemon and had an absolutely wretched experience with them. Did not want. But a coworker offered me an Orange a few months later and that one was better, so I decided to give the brand another try and branched out among the flavor options (Coconut is pretty cool, by the way). But this fav isn’t for La Croix, it’s for their competitor in the fizzy water aisle: Aquafina.

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The grocery store was a little light on La Croix options one week, so I figured I’d give the other guys a chance. I’m not usually a fan of Pepsi products as I find them too sweet, on average, but when it comes to the flavored sparkling water, that appears to work in their favor. I’m working my way through packs of the Orange-Grapefruit as well as the Black Cherry-Dragonfruit and I’m going to go ahead and call myself a convert.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to a balance between the two components of flavor: taste and smell. La Croix smells right, but fall flat on the tongue whereas Aquafina has the follow-through. For what it’s worth, I’ve had the same issues with Daisani and Pellegrino flavored mineral waters, too, so I’m even more impressed with Aquafina.

Though, I will say, beware if you do what I do which is rinse out your travel mug from the morning’s coffee and fill it with the chilled fizzy water of choice. Should you, say, take the lid off to get the last sip at the bottom of the cup you might find a bit of trapped CO2 going up your nose if you don’t let it float away, first. I can’t imagine too much of that would be a stellar improvement on cognitive function…

Dishonorable Mention

I don’t usually feel the need to warn people against a product, but at the last possible moment (on the drive home from work on the 28th) I opened my first S’mores Soft-Baked Bar from Enjoy Life and, well, it wasn’t good.

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I usually enjoy (sorry!) this brand’s products, which is why I picked up a likely sounding package of bars for afternoon snacks. In a perfect world I’d set aside time each weekend to make and bake for my snacks throughout the week but seriously? Life is far from perfect at the moment so store-bought it is! I was disappointed not only with the flavor (rather bland) but also with the texture. Gluten-free baked goods often have texture issues, it’s a product of their make-up and I grant a certain leeway to every new thing I try. But this was unfortunately mealy and gritty. It was also a bit on the bland side–I mean, something that’s supposed to be graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate I expect to be very sweet. Not so much in this version.

I did try another the following day, just in case it was a poor first impression, but it was just as unpleasant. The upside is that there are only 5 bars and they work in a pinch if my blood sugar is dropping and I need something to bump me back up, but yeah, I won’t be buying these again or trying their other flavors. Live and learn!

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