Sunday, June 26, 2011

Stacy Garrett Jewelry Designs

As I have mentioned previously, here at My Real Life Reviews; I am a big fan of all things Etsy.
If you've never checked out Etsy before (and even if you already have) you are in for a real treat when you stop by Stacy Garrett Jewelry Designs one of the best Etsy shops I have visited and shopped at.

Stacy Garrett Jewelry not only offers beautiful handmade and unique jewelry, they are sold at amazing prices!
A current sale offer at Stacy Garrett Jewelry Designs is for earrings. 

Buy 5 pairs of handmade earrings for the incredibly low price of only $20!
Some of the gorgeous choices now available.

These are just a few of the many, many earrings to choose from:



 ( I love the names too)





Evening Sunset


Hot Sauce

Stacy Garrett Jewelry Designs also sells other types of jewelry: necklaces, bracelets...but the shop is mainly filled with a beautiful variety of earrings. All lovingly handmade. There are frequent new additions so definitely worthwhile stopping by on a regular basis.

I have purchased several earrings from Stacy Garrett Jewelry already and it's always a pleasure shopping there. The jewelry is first rate as is the customer service provided.

If you are looking for a special treat for yourself or want to buy some gifts that will be enjoyed for years to come, stop by Stacy Garrett Jewelry at Etsy. It doesn't cost a dime to join Etsy and registering there as a buyer or seller is easy peasy. Only takes a couple of minutes and then it's time to hit the shops and enjoy a truly unique shopping experience.

Etsy is all about handmade treasures.  And Stacy Garrett Jewelry Designs is truly a treasure of an Etsy shop!

Overall rating for this Etsy shop: Excellent. 5 out of 5.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Catelli Smart Pasta


As an avid vegetarian cook,cookbook author and "big time" pasta-lover, I've tried many brands and types, over the years. Fresh pasta, homemade (when time permits) and of course the convenient dry pasta choices. I have yet to find any that I like any better than Catelli Smart Pasta.

Not only does this pasta (that comes in many shapes) have a pleasant, mild flavor, it's also nutritionally superior to regular white pasta, for a number of reasons, including more fibre and a slower-releasing type of carbohydrate composition. You can read all the details about this pasta at the Catelli site. Make sure to check out the numerous printable product coupons and plenty of recipes too.

Speaking of pasta recipes, here's one from my cookbook Not Just for Vegetarians that I hope you will enjoy. My version of an old family favorite: Yummy Mac and Cheese, With a Twist.  This is comfort food at it's best. And Catelli Smart Pasta works great in this recipe.

See the complete recipe at the end of this post, page 2. 


If you haven't tried Catelli Smart Pasta yet, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. And if there are any finicky eaters in your family who still won't touch any of the whole grain varieties of pasta, this is an excellent option too. They won't know it's more nutritious, they'll just appreciate that it's delicious!

I hope that Catelli will add some more pasta shapes along the way too, such as wagon-wheels, animals,shells etc. I know that a lot of children love fun shapes in their foods. And Smart fun shapes for pasta, would be even better!

Overall rating for this product: Very Good. 4 out of 5.

Friday, June 17, 2011

More... Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things from Reader's Digest Books

 I love books about saving money and using every day "around the house" items for double, triple and more duty. I was so pleased to receive a copy of More Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things from Reader's Digest Books, as a gift. It's been a fun and worthwhile read and a book that I have referred to several times already, in the past couple of months.

This is a book jam-packed with all sorts of useful tips and a few, kind of strange but still entertaining.  Brown eyeliner as an emergency lipstick NOT!!! For the most part though, some really good information shared here, all in one nicely presented, large format book over 300 pages in total.

Just a few of the hundreds of suggestions/tips included in this book:

  •  use indelible markers to cover up minor nicks in furniture
  • use a small piece of two-sided velcro as a temporary fix for a cupboard that won't stay closed
  • sooth chapped lips with a drop of olive or canola oil
  • cuticles, try a drop of olive or sweet almond oil for discouraging hangnails
  • mist a hair-covered (pet) garment with water, put in the dryer with a damp towel and air dry for a few minutes to remove the hair
  • repair a sole with a hole with a duct tape as a temporary fix
  • tie up a garden hose for winter storage with lengths of cut old panty hose
  • repel caterpillers from your garden with onion juice
  • reuse an old briefcase as a toolbox. great for car tools for the trunk

The list goes on and on and on....

From the Amazon product page: "The thirteen chapters focus on an integral part of everyday life. For the Cook: Learn how to extend the life of vegetables, tried-and-true methods for baking bread, and 10 kitchen uses for salt. For the Housekeeper: Discover faster, easier cleaning ideas, such as remove carpet stains with peanut butter, and 10 ways to clean with lemon. For the Handyman (or woman): Silence squeaky hinges with shaving cream, remove rust from tools by rubbing them with a slice of raw potato dipped in salt, and 10 neat home-repair uses for nail polish."

Yes, some of these tips I already knew about such as cleaning with vinegar, baking soda, reuseable washable wipes etc. But even for those, it's nice to have them all available in one, big reference book.

This would make a great gift for yourself. Also for students or young couples just moving/starting out. New home buyers as a thoughtful housewarming gift. A lot of money to be saved here and also a fun read too.

A book bargain at Amazon right now, on sale for less than $7! Check it out here.

Overall rating for this book: Very Good. 4 out of 5.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hamilton Beach Aroma Express 5 Cup Coffeemaker

As I wrote in this previous post  I am a huge coffee fan. Lately I have been making an effort to cut back on the java but sometimes, it's still gotta be the "real thing" to fit the craving.

As my previous coffeemaker had gone kaput quite some time ago and I had been drinking instant or coffee substitutes since then (more about a wonderful coffee substitute here) I recently decided to invest in a small coffeemaker to once again enjoy the full-brewed experience occasionally, at home.
The Hamilton Beach Aroma Express is small, doesn't take up a lot of counter space and cost less than $20 at the local Save-On store. I have also purchased other Hamilton Beach products in the past that performed very well. Brands do count, don't they? I know it's always a consideration for me.

And best of all the results: a really full, rich-tasting and hot cup of coffee. This unit seems to brew coffee at a higher temperature than many of the other coffeemakers that I've tried in the past. Add to that spring water and freshly-ground organic coffee, viola bliss!!!  I really savored that first cup of brewed coffee, after a long hiatus at home. And let's face it, restaurant coffee isn't all that great usually, unless you are visiting the coffee bars and putting out the big bucks for a truly satisfying cup of brewed java.
What I didn't like about this coffeemaker? Well, the Hamilton Beach Aroma Express is suppose to make 5 cups of coffee. It is called a 5 cup coffeemaker. So what does that actually mean? Last time I checked a cup was still an 8 ounce measure. This actually refers to 5- 5 oz. cups of coffee and not really even that as it has to be filled to the top of the carafe with water to make the full  5 "cups". And as we all know, filling a coffee carafe right to the top is NEVER a good idea, unless you like cleaning up a big mess afterwards with spilled coffee all over the counter.

I don't know why manufacturers of these products do this. Who actually drinks 5 oz. cups of coffee? For me, that's just a sampler. Most coffee mugs hold about 10-12 oz. now that's more like it. But to make it accurate and easy to understand, why not stick with a 1 cup measurement= 8 ounces. I think this is so misleading.

The picture on the box is also misleading, it looks like a fairly good-sized carafe. I didn't take the time to start undoing the box and packaging at the store. I always feel a bit weird opening boxes up to any real extent when I'm shopping and I was in a hurry at the time. So, the sorta surprise came when I unpacked the unit at home. Yes, I could have returned it at that point but for the price ($18. on sale) I thought, let's just give it a try.

It makes about 3 average-sized mugs of coffee when the carafe is ALMOST full of water. For the present, it will work out fine. And I do have a larger coffeemaker (with all the bells and whistles) in a storage unit right now so that's available when we get moved and back to having more room for all our appliances, in the near future.

For now, the Hamilton Beach Aroma Express (but not really 5 cup) coffeemaker makes a delish cup of coffee. Just not a lot at one time.

Overall rating for this product: Good. 3 out of 5.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Ryza Rice Beverage

This is going to be a rather short review as there isn't much to say about Ryza Rice Beverage other than it's just plain BAD!

I haven't used dairy milk as a beverage for many, many years. That being the case, I'm always on the look-out for new non-dairy options, including rice, soy, coconut, almond types of "milk" beverages. It's a market that is growing by leaps and bounds these days, with more and more people looking for ways to kick all or at least part of their dairy habit.

I tried Ryza Rice Beverage with an open mind. The carton was attractive at least, that got it off the shelf and into the cart! Things rapidly went downhill from there. LOL

My only regret now is that I didn't take it back to the store for a refund instead of pouring it down the drain. Yes, it really is that bad. Hard to even describe the taste: watery, bland, bitter... I'll say it again.... just plain bad.

Having no added sugar and using whole grain rice is all well and good, but come on, a product still has to taste good or at least be palatable to make it an option as a food choice and/or dairy alternative. Perhaps it's workable in cooking and baking, I'm not sure. But for drinking "straight up" forget it!

Tasteless products like Ryza are in my opinion part of the reason why so many people end up being wary of  trying new beverages in this category even though they may have a sincere desire/ interest in cutting down on dairy products. That's unfortunate because there are good non-dairy beverage available right now and more to come I'm sure as consumer demand continues to grow.

If you have actually tried Ryza beverages and were not impressed, don't give up on dairy alternatives in general. Keep trying other brands and if one doesn't suit, return it to the store where you purchased it and explain why you are returning it. I have found that in most cases grocery stores are ok with returning the full purchase price of a product if it simply doesn't meet expectations. Live and learn. And a heads-up for the store too, what consumers think of a particular product.

I will  be reviewing other non-dairy beverages here at MRLR in the future; some good and some just ok. But to date thankfully, none of them have been as BAD as Ryza.
Overall rating for this product: BAD. 0 out of 5.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bolthouse Farms Creamy Yogurt Dressing (Classic Ranch)


As an avid cook and cookbook author I am always on the look-out for good quality, great tasting products that contain the best and freshest of ingredients. I recently tried: Bolthouse Farms Yogurt Dressing (Classic Ranch) and I was really impressed.

This is a commercial "gourmet type" salad dressing that compares very favorably with other brands. I am a huge fan of Ranch dressing and I have yet to try any (even the full-fat) types that are any better than Bolthouse Farms Creamy Yogurt Dressing Classic Ranch.

If you are an label reader (isn't everyone these days?) you will probably already know about what can be found in some brands of commercial salad dressings. Not always appetizing or healthy that's for sure. I don't want to buy anything that contains ingredients I don't recognize as actual food. 

There are still a lot of companies making salad dressings (and other products) loading them up with preservatives, colors, additives and sub-standard ingredients.Time to join the 21st century! Ingredient list do matter and consumers are reading them.

Bolthouse Farms Creamy Yogurt Dressings also are a lot better choice calorie-wise. A tablespoon of their Ranch dressing contains 35 calories. I compared this with similar products from other companies that came in anywhere from 50 to a whopping 100 calories per tablespoon. And believe me, if you like dressing on your salad etc, a tablespoon does NOT go a long way.

From their "fun" website  ( the artwork and graphics are so cool ) :

"Bolthouse Farms® introduced an exciting new line of all natural refrigerated salad dressings. With yogurt instead of mayonnaise as the base, they provide less than half the fat and calories of the leading brand – with all of the flavor. Yogurt provides a smooth creamy texture with a tangy flavor that blends extremely well with other ingredients. Using an innovative pasteurization process, the premium ingredients maintain their flavor, freshness, integrity and nutrition."

I must admit that even though I love to cook, salad dressings are still something I'm a bit lazy about, when it comes to making them from scratch. I really appreciate having a bottle of a good-quality commercial dressing in the fridge available when I'm craving a salad but don't want to go to the effort of also making a dressing. Bolthouse Farms is definitely one I will have on hand now.Excellent on wraps, with pizza, in dips for fresh addition to topping fresh greens.

I am looking forward to trying some of their other Yogurt Dressing choices and there are quite a few to choose from including: Caesar, Honey Mustard, Thousand Island,Coleslaw,Chunky Blue Cheese...lots of other products too, including a variety of veg and fruit juices and fresh carrots (I've tried their carrots too, always crunchy good). I'm hoping they will be offering some organic options in the near future too. When I can, organic is always my first choice, for any type of food.

If you are tired of reading ingredient lists and calorie counts on salad dressing bottles that make you cringe, stop by the refrigerated section in the produce department next time you are grocery shopping and pick up a bottle of Bolthouse Farms Creamy Yogurt Dressing.  I think you will be glad you did!

Overall rating for this product: Very Good. 4 out of 5.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Official Fan Guide to The Fugitive by Mel Proctor

The Fugitive starring David Janssen was a TV series from the 1960's that had a huge fan base then and that interest  continues 40 years later. There have been years of re-runs on TV and recently, the DVD's of this series were finally released. This again has put this TV classic front and center for past and new fans, young and old.

I was just a kid when The Fugitive was first on the air but I remember it as being "the show" that everyone was watching. When the series wrapped in 1967, the final episode, The Judgement Part 1 and 2 had the highest rating of all time for viewers tuning in to see the exciting conclusion.  Stephen King has said that The Fugitive was the best TV series EVER made. I tend to agree. I don't watch a lot of TV but The Fugitive is still well worth the time. We are enjoying the DVD's now and the stories for the most part, still ring true. Riveting acting and full of suspense and emotion, all these years later.

I was very pleased to recently find this book about The Fugitive that was re-issued around the time of the DVD's being released. The Official Fan Guide to the Fugitive by Mel Proctor  is good in some respects, not so good for a number of reason too .

On the positive side, it is an engaging read, if you were ever a fan of this show or David Janssen. For me, that's a given. If I could ever consider myself star-struck, it was all about David Janssen! LOL I even wrote a post about this late, great actor at my poetry blog a couple of years ago, you can read it here.

Author, Mel Proctor provides many interesting stories about the stars of the show, guest actors and some of the behind the scenes happenings that make for interesting reading and a nostalgic trip down TV memory lane. That was all good.

What I didn't like about this book? First of all, the presentation is, in a word is CHEAP. What came to mind, looking through the pages initially was a grade school class report. Cheap paper, very poor quality photo images (copies of originals), page references that are incorrect....

This is the type of book that for fans should have been a collector's item to keep. If it had been produced in a smaller page format, with good-quality paper and photo inserts (even if that meant less images) and a quality cover, it would have been a lot more appealing. I don't know who edited this book (if it was) but it certainly could have been improved in many respects. The subject was a good one, the presentation unfortunately, left much to be desired.

For true, blue fans of all things relating to The Fugitive and David Janssen, this is a book that still may appeal in spite of it's short-comings. I'd look for a sale though, it's not worth the full price currently available at Amazon for almost $25. In my opinion, that's just too much $$$$.

Overall rating for this book: Fair. 2 out of 5.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Burt's Bees Shea Butter Hand Repair Cream

I'm always on the look-out for good hand and foot care products. For the most part, I have relatively normal skin on my face and body but when it comes to the hands and feet there's never enough moisturizer to be had!

Being a fan of many of Burt's Bees products, I was happy to try this Shea Butter Hand Repair Cream, which I recently purchased for the first time, on a shopping trip at our local mall.

Well, there's good news and bad news on this one.

The good news: Burt's Bees Shea Butter Hand Repair Cream does the job when it comes to moisturizing and repairing dry, cracked skin. I tried it on my hands and feet too, it really did leave them feeling softer and smoother, after only a couple of applications. So that's all good. I like products that do what they say they will do and deliver.

The bad news, this product smells TRES WEIRD!

 The first thing that came to mind was the bug spray RAID!!! Not that I have any of that around the house but it's a "scent" from childhood days that I've never forgotten. Back then, everyone was spraying chemicals (it seemed) on plants and around the house and RAID was a favorite product. Yuck!!!! I didn't like it then and I certainly don't like a similar smell in a hand cream.

The scent of this did wear off after about an hour so that was good but initially pppp...uuuu!!!!

So, if you can get past the initial "fragrance" of this hand cream, you might want to give it a try. But there are other products out there that work, that smell good right from the get go. One that comes to mind is Burt's Bee Foot Creme that I reviewed previously and still like.
I'm giving this product a 3 for doing what it's suppose to do but with reservations, due to the fragrance.

Overall rating for this product: Good. 3 out of 5. 
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