Saturday, March 28, 2009

Platypus Wine Preserver

I like wine, I really do. I like wine so much that when my husband asks if I want to split a bottle with him, I say yes. Sadly, there is always a difference between how much wine I want to drink before opening a bottle and how much wine I want to drink after the bottle has been opened. In economics we call this a time inconsistency problem.

So whenever I agree to split a bottle of wine with my husband, one of two things happens:

  1. I drink three quarters of a glass of wine, refill my glass, and try to convince my husband that it's my third or fourth glass. This is not hard to do because my husband actually has consumed three or four glasses by this point.
  2. I have a glass of wine, my husband has two glasses. Then he realizes I'm not going to drink my share and he does not want to get drunk on my behalf. So we put the rest of the wine away for another day.
It's the extra wine that causes trouble. We're not big drinkers, and wine doesn't actually last that long. So we use our wine vacuum (which doesn't really do anything), put the bottle in the fridge, and promise ourselves we'll drink the rest before it turns to vinegar.

We inevitably fail. Whenever I open a bottle of wine, my mouth is writing a check that my liver can't cash.

That's why I'm psyched about the Platypus Platy Wine Preserver. It has a stupid name (what do platypuses have to do with wine?) but I'm for it. You pour wine into it, squeeze out the air, and voila, your wine lasts longer. It's the same idea that powers boxed wine.

The only thing the Platypus Wine Preserver is missing is a straw. That would make it like a giant Capri Sun, only filled with alcohol. Awesome.

Platypus Platy Preserve Wine Preserver, 800ml

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

ShopSmart Magazine

This should be a no brainer in terms of things I would recommend.

ShopSmart is a magazine filled with shopping recommendations from the fine folks at Consumer Reports. I spent a few minutes skimming through an issue at Barnes and Noble once (before the cashier's dirty look got the best of me) and I think it's great. It's like Consumer Reports but geared toward people who aren't currently in the market for a washer-dryer, a digital camcorder, or a four-door sedan.

It's expensive ($23 for 6 issues) but that's because it's one of those publications with integrity that uses neither advertising nor affiliate income to make money. Lame.

Anyway, I want it. If you are married to me, you may know that I have 2 anniversaries coming up (dating and marriage are two milestones and they both require presents). A subscription to ShopSmart Magazine says, "Honey, I respect you and the hard work you put into your awesome blog and I will never make fun of you again for buying something I think is stupid."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Water Bottles: Winners and Losers

I've decided to buy a new water bottle.

Of course, that means I'll need the perfect water bottle. It needs to be easy to carry, easy to clean, and easy to drink from. It also needs to improve my image. I want a water bottle that says, "I have a reusable water bottle because I care about the earth and definitely not because I'm trying to break a soda habit." Also, I'd prefer it not kill me by leaching poisons into my water, as I hear some water bottles are wont to do.

You are about to see what happens every time I decide I want something.

You may want to sit down for this. Being me is exhausting.
  1. Do a Google search for general reviews to get a sense of what's out there and what people generally look for in a this type of product.
  2. Go to Amazon to get a rough sense of what the folks there are saying and how much I should be willing to pay.
  3. Read reviews of specific products on Amazon and narrow down my selection down to a few contenders.
  4. Make my decision and check Froogle to make sure Amazon is not charging too much for the item I want.
  5. Wait. This is the indecisive phase, where I can't decide whether I really need to spend $20 on whatever it is I want. I'll generally stay in this phase for 2-3 weeks or until I find myself wishing I had the item in question (in this case, it will be a time when I am thirsty).*
  6. Place an order and kick myself for not doing it sooner.

So here are the finalists in the 2009 Water Bottle Off:

Nalgene: The standard water bottle. To me it says, "I never go anywhere without my gigundo water bottle, my journal of poetry, and my feelings about peace." I have never seen anyone in a suit carrying a Nalgene bottle. Come to think of it, I've never seen anyone carrying a Nalgene bottle anywhere other than a college campus. Let's rule this one out. Also, I don't really see an upside. It's too big, the mouth is too wide, and water left sitting in it tastes like plastic. (OK, you caught me, I own one already. I was in college too, you know. I, too, had a notebook and feelings about peace.)

Camelbak: I also own one of these. It's great because of the straw. I probably shouldn't tell the internet this, but I have never mastered the art of walking and drinking at the same time. If I'm carrying a bottled beverage, I need to stop walking in order to take a sip or else I will pour whatever I'm drinking all down my chin and the front of my shirt. So the Camelbak is clearly an option for me. However, it has a few strikes against it. First, the name "Camelbak." I have trouble getting behind cutesy spellings of things. Second, it has the same "water left in it tastes like plastic" issue as the Nalgene. Third, I don't know what it says about me when I walk down the street drinking from it. I'm afraid it says, "Hey! Look at that chick who we can safely assume can't walk and drink at the same time unless her bottle has a straw!"

Sigg: I don't own one of these, but I know it says "I am too cool for plastic water bottles. Also, I am a bike messenger/coffee shop employee/person who is way cooler than you." I like that about Sigg. I also like that it comes in a skull-and-crossbones pattern, as if everyone around me will watch me drink my water and think, "Wait! Is that poison? No. She's just cooler than me." However, I'm worried because the reviews say that aluminum might be crappy even with Sigg's patented liner. I hear the aluminum means Sigg bottles can make water taste metallic. That is bad because having a metallic taste in your mouth could also mean that you have been poisoned. What if someone poisons my water and I can't tell because the water tastes like metal already? There I'll be, drinking poisoned water out of a bottle with a skull and crossbones on it. By the time I realize I've just been poisoned, I'll be doubled over, clutching my stomach, and the people around me will think I'm just being ironic and they'll let me die.

Kleen Kanteen: This seems like the less hip Sigg. I generally like less-hip versions of very hip things (see, for example, my love of Jack Purcells over Chucks). It makes me feel like I'm a little bit hip but not like I'm trying too hard. Kleen Kanteens are made of stainless steel, which is supposed to be better than coated aluminum in terms of metallic taste. Also, reviews on Amazon say that the threading on the Kleen Kanteen cap is better than the threading on the Sigg cap or something. I will, of course, need to deduct points for the spelling of Kleen Kanteen (see above analysis on cutesy spellings). Also, they only have plain colors. Seriously, Kleen Kanteen, try a little harder to impress me.

Nathan: I had never heard of this brand, but the Nathan bottle seems pretty appealing. First, the name is just some dude's name that is not misspelled in any way. Second, it is made of stainless steel, so the water will likely taste like water and not plastic or water laced with rat poison. Third, it has a straw. I don't mean to keep pointing out that I can't walk and drink at the same time, but I can't, ok? I just can't. The downside, according to Amazon reviews, is that the bottle has a tendancy to leak out the air hole. I am not active and mainly plan to carry this bottle around the office with me, but I generally prefer rugged things to non-rugged things. The other disadvantage of the Nathan bottle is that I have no idea what it will say about me. If I'm spending $20 on a water bottle, I want it to improve my image, and I honestly don't know if this will do that. That's why I selected the pattern with the trees. It says "I love the earth" in a pretty in-your-face way, which I appreciate.

Anyway, no decisions have been made yet. I still need to choose which water bottle to buy when the time is right. Please leave your vote in the comments (or vote with your wallet and just buy me one).

Water Bottles at Amazon

*Note: 9 out of 10 items never make it past step 5. That 9 can be broken into 5 items I never purchase, 2 items that evoke such impatience that I need to purchase them at a store immediately, and 2 items for which step 5 lasts too long (requiring me to repeat steps 1-4 a year later).

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Shop It To Me

I am not a very good consumer of products marketed toward women my age. Expensive shoes and handbags generally don't command my attention the way a good gadget does. And clothes? Meh. I work at a company that encourages the wearing of jeans and flip flops, and I'm too married to care about impressing people with my personal style. I do, of course, have product recommendations for various wearables and accoutrements, but you won't find me suggesting you go out and buy a $100 tank top because it looked soooo good on [insert name of starlet here].

When it comes to clothes and shoes, it should come as no surprise that I only buy things on sale. I don't mean usually, I mean always. I cannot think of the last time I purchased a full-price article of clothing. Maybe high school?

And so I love Shop It To Me. You give them your email address, your sizes for various articles of clothing and shoes, and your store and brand preferences. Then they send you a daily newsletter telling you what's on sale in your size and where. (You can also access your own little "cheap stuff in my size" store through their website.)

If you know me from work, you know that I hate hate HATE email spam. I'm very wary of signing up for anything that requires me to give people my actual email address. In fact, I didn't sign up any of the first 30 times my brilliant older sister tried to sell me on Shop It To Me.

But oh my god I was so wrong. It's great. It tells me whenever my extra-long jeans are on sale at the Gap and it lets me know when a Cole Haan bag is on sale anywhere on the Internet. It solves the flat-fee shipping conundrum for people like me who won't pay more than $15 for a t-shirt by alerting me when a critical mass of cheap clothes is on sale at one of my preferred retailers.

And I promise they will not spam you. I signed up and have not received anything but my requested one email per day. If you unsubscribe, they will not contact you again. They're classy like that.

Shop It To Me
(Please use my link so they will give me free shit.)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Fountain Pens

Given the choice, I generally choose typing over handwriting. That's more an issue of efficiency (91 WPM, bitches!) than anything else.

But I recognize that there's something nice about writing something out by hand. Especially if I'm writing in cursive instead of my regular half-print half-cursive chicken scratch. And crossing things out in pen is so much more satisfying than hitting the delete key.

The key to maximizing the awesomeness of handwriting things is a fancy pen. Specifically a fountain pen. Nothing is more satisfying than writing things out by hand and then crossing them out with a fountain pen. I like to write things of dubious quality with a fountain pen and feel pretentious.

I'd like to note that cheap fountain pens suck. If you've ruled out using a fountain pen because you spent $4 on one at Staples and wasn't happy, you need to give them a second chance. You'll need to spend a bit of money, but quality fountain pens last a lifetime. Plus, fountain pens in the sale section are generally much much cheaper (and who cares if it's a little ugly).

I recommend Cross pens. They're great, you can generally find them for reasonable prices if you look for sales, and you can get 20% off already-reduced items on their site if you shop in the next four days.

Note: I like fancy pens, but I hate fancy notebooks and journals. I'm a regular paper kind of gal. I find fancy paper too intimidating, and I need to be able to rip pages out without feeling guilty. Also, it's paper. Get over yourself.

Cross Fountain Pens at Amazon

Cross Sale Section (extra 20% off until 3/24/09)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


As many of you know, I have many great ideas for websites. I am convinced that if I were to actually follow through on any of my genius ideas, I would be a millionaire already.

The bottleneck in my internet empire is my lack of website-building skills. If I had the skills of a web developer, I would be able to quit my day job within about a month.

Then again, learning things takes time and energy, and I am quite lazy. Thus I want Dreamweaver. I would settle for a (cheaper) application that would allow me to build pretty webpages with a minimum of skill, but this is the one I've heard of.

Yes, I know that actual web developers hate Dreamweaver. But I don't care. I just want to get rich quick. 

If you have other ideas (either for WYSIWYG editors or get-rich-quick schemes) please leave your suggestions in the comments.

Adobe Dreamweaver CS4

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce

I am not good at cooking. Baking? Sort of. Cooking? Not so much.

I can make very good chili, decent spaghetti and meatballs, and excellent applesauce.

And now I can make fairly delicious barbecue chicken. Is this thanks to my amazing cooking skills? Not so much. It's based on amazing pre-packaged barbecue sauce from KC Masterpiece.

Here is the recipe:

Put chicken in a baking dish. Douse it in KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce. Cover it in aluminum foil and bake it at 350 degrees for an hour. At some point in the middle, you can remove the foil and/or brush the chicken with sauce.

KC Masterpiece Original BBQ Sauce - GIANT Pack

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cascade 2-in-1 Action Pacs

This product recommendation is thanks to my friend Erica (perhaps you've heard of her), who convinced me to buy this product once when I dragged her to Safeway.

I don't know how much I can really say about dishwasher detergent, except that some kinds work better than others.

Cascade 2-in-1 ActionPacs work particularly well. They're little packets with dish detergent and rinse aid inside. They do a very good job of getting dishes clean. That's really all I've got to say on this subject, not being a dishwasher expert.

I do know one other thing about dishwashers, though. Put a few cups of vinegar in a bowl and put the bowl right side up on the top rack. Run a full cycle with nothing but the vinegar in the dishwasher using the hottest water you can. Your dishwasher will work a lot better if you do that once a month.

Cascade 2-in-1 ActionPacs

Disney Movies

When I was a little kid, I LOVED Disney movies.

It was less the thought of falling in love with a prince that attracted me and more the fact that Disney heroes and heroines seemed to get lots and lots of attention. (I was a middle child, as anyone who knows me now could probably guess.)

Aurora from Sleeping Beauty pricks her finger and an entire kingdom has to sleep for 100 years to keep her company. Ariel from The Little Mermaid disobeys her family, runs away, and still ends up getting to live on land. Belle from Beauty and the Beast is the only one who can turn the beast into a prince. And Snow White's whole story centers around the fact that other people are jealous of her.

You should buy all of them. The only one I own so far is Sleeping Beauty, but I plan to rectify that. I especially want Robin Hood and The Little Mermaid.

Note: Sleeping Beauty comes in a child-proof DVD package with weird little "open" tabs. For the first 10 minutes, the package was me-proof as well. Watch for that.

Sleeping Beauty (Two-Disc Platinum Edition)

Robin Hood (Most Wanted Edition)

The Little Mermaid (Two-Disc Platinum Edition)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Onion Goggles

I love French onion soup and I'd like to try to make it at home. I saw someone making it on a cooking show and it looked pretty easy. Put onions, broth, cheese, and some other stuff together in a specific way and BOOM. French onion soup. Except that french onion soup seems to require at least six onions, all of which must be cut up.

Everyone's eyes are sensitive to onion fumes. According to the Library of Congress, it's because of an enzyme discovered in 2002 called lachrymatory-factor synthase, which makes the substances in a cut onion unstable. Onions produce syn-propanethial-S-oxide that stimulates the eyes' lachrymal glands when the onion is cut.

But my lachrymal glands are more dainty and delicate than other people's. I need to open a window if an onion is being diced 20 feet away. When I cut an onion, I wear giant Jackie-O-style sunglasses, and even then I need to step outside if I'm doing more than one.

So French onion soup has always been beyond my grasp. Until now.

$20 seems like a lot to pay for a kitchen gadget with a single purpose, but it's not a lot to pay for a lifetime of homemade French onion soup. Well, $20 plus the cost of onions, broth, cheese, and some other stuff that goes into the soup.

RSVP Onion Goggles

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Touch Book

I've decided I want the Touch Book.

I've wanted a netbook for a while. My Mac is awesome because of all the user-friendly software products (you know, like i[insertnounhere]). But now that Google owns my heart, I do everything with online apps (you know, like Google [insertdescriptivewordthatiseasytolocalizehere]).

I'm not saying I want to replace my computer for no reason with one that can only handle a subset of its current capabilities. My Mac is 4 years old, and I want to replace it because as I type this, the letters appearing on the screen aren't keeping up with my fingers. You know your computer's a goner when it can't quite rival the wordprocessing skills of your old 386.

Anyway, I've decided on this one for several reasons.
  1. I like things that serve multiple functions. A food processor that also works as a juicer. A phone that also works as a PDA. A $400 computer that also works as a pen and paper.
  2. Computers get old and useless really fast, so it's best to pick one that isn't even on the market yet. That way you know it'll be cutting edge for at least a week.
  3. It's shiny and pretty.
On a side note, I've decided to add the word "book" to the end of a bunch of words and trademark them. It's all about advance planning.

The Touch Book

Saturday, March 7, 2009

DIY Starbucks Mocha

I like coffee.

Okay, that's a lie. I hate coffee. I like grande non-fat no-whip extra-hot mochas from Starbucks. They are equal parts delicious and expensive.

But a Starbucks mocha is nothing but milk, espresso, and cocoa. And Starbucks sells the very cocoa they use to make their mochas. (They sell the powder that the baristas mix with water in the store to make syrup.)

Let's do a quick cost-benefit analysis.

If you work somewhere with free milk and an espresso machine like I do, then it's a no brainer. Each grande mocha at Starbucks costs $4. One package of Starbucks Mocha Powder costs about $7 and makes 20 16-ounce beverages. So the purchase pays for itself after 2 drinks.

But let's say you don't work somewhere with ridiculous amounts of free food and drink. Let's say you have to pay for everything yourself. You pay $7 for the mocha powder, $40 for a cheap but well-reviewed espresso machine from Target, and $13 for quality espresso beans (which I'll assume last as long as the mocha powder). Plus we'll factor in $10 for milk. That's 20 grande mochas for $70.

By the time you reach 20 mochas, you've basically gotten 10 bucks and an espresso machine for free. And every mocha after that only costs you $1.50. You've just brought your CPMM (cost per marginal mocha) down by 62.5%.

Free tip: subtract the espresso and you have a Starbucks hot chocolate.

Starbucks Mocha Powder

Mr. Coffee Steam Espresso Machine

Illy Espresso Whole Bean Dark Roast

Friday, March 6, 2009

Six-Word Memoirs

I know, I know, it's been covered on NPR. That means readers of this blog already know about this book.

Well, you know what? I don't care. I haven't read it yet, and I want to.

My only concern is that annoying people will take something really awesome (the six-word memoir) and make it insufferable (like they did with robots and zombies). I hate when that happens.

Here is a six-word memoir to tide you over until you get the book:

Started a blog, stopped posting. Repeat.

Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak: by Writers Famous and Obscure