March 26, 2019

Make Your Own Tucks®, and Other Uses for Witch Hazel

No one likes to talk about hemorrhoids, but many of us have suffered from them at one time or another.  There are creams, lotions, even suppositories that you can use to help with inflammation, but Tucks® are handy to tuck into your purse or pocket to use on the go - so to speak.  (See what I did there? Twice?).

But do you know what's in Tucks®?  Witch Hazel.   The list shows 50% Witch Hazel as the active ingredient, active being what makes it work for the intended purpose.  Walmart sells a jar of Tucks® at 100 pads for $6.98, and you know a drug store would be higher.  Even their own Equate™ brand is $5.98 for 200, which is a lot less, but you can do even better than that if you make your own.

I purchased a 16 oz bottle of Equate™ Witch Hazel for a whopping $1.44, and a pack of 100 cotton rounds for $1.98.  Two packages of cotton rounds and one bottle of Witch Hazel would set you back $5.40 which is still cheaper than the 200 Equate™ pads, but you would hardly make a dent in the bottle of Witch Hazel with 200 rounds, so the overall savings would be far greater.  It would be easy enough to squirt a bit of Witch Hazel on a couple of cotton rounds and slip into a snack sized bag to be ready whenever and wherever needed.

But you know what?  Witch Hazel is good for more than just wiping, you know, down there.  Witch Hazel is an astringent, which Wikipedia defines as "a chemical that shrinks or constricts body tissues."  You can pay up to $10 for a bottle of facial astringent in the beauty aisle, but why pay that much when you already have (a much cheaper) something on hand that can serve the same purpose?  Granted, those more expensive astringents might have other ingredients that are supposed to smell better or claim to be more soothing, but the active ingredient is usually Witch Hazel or alcohol.  Regardless of which product you use, be careful around the eye area, and avoid getting it in your eyes (rinse well immediately if you do).  I leave the bottle and a small stack of pads on the bathroom vanity so they're ready for whichever use I need at the moment.

So Witch Hazel can be useful to clean and sooth both ends of the human body, but that's not where it ends.  It can also take the sting and itch out of insect bites, and can help decrease inflammation, even in varicose veins.   Skin pinched after a bit too much sun?  Witch Hazel to the rescue.  WebMD has a list of uses and risks that you might find handy, but as always, use caution when introducing anything new to your body, and if you suffer from any health issues, always consult your doctor first.

~ Marie Anne

March 20, 2019

Great Value Fit Menu Bourbon Steak - Wasn't

I'm still stuck in a hotel more than six months after Hurricane Florence, so I have a very limited cooking area and have to make do with just two burners and a microwave.  I buy a lot of the frozen chicken/pasta/vegetable meals you can make in a skillet, as well as individual frozen meals that I can microwave, but the carbs in the pasta meals kills me.  There isn't much variety with those limitations, so when I was at Walmart the other day and spotted Bourbon Steak in their Fit Menu line, I snatched it up.

I wish now that I hadn't.  Blech.

The price wasn't bad at $2.97, if it was something that was palatable.  This stunk.  Seriously.  I'm not sure who's definition of  'robust, satisfying meals' they used, but this one doesn't get my vote.

I'm not naive enough to think that any packaged meal is going to closely resemble the box it comes in, but this was worse than most.  The package shows a large helping of the beef in bourbon sauce next to a hefty serving of broccoli and red pepper, with mashed sweet potato on the side - all arranged neatly in one bowl/pan.  What was inside the box wasn't even close.

In reality, the meal was in a divided dish, with the beef in bourbon sauce on one side, and broccoli/red pepper and sweet potato on the other, and the broccoli was so small that the largest piece would have fit on my pinkie fingernail.  (I wish I had thought to take a photo of the meal when I opened it, but wasn't planning on writing a review at the time).  There was more red pepper than broccoli, and while I'm not a fan of red pepper anyway, a small amount is no big deal.  I had to pick this out and when I was done, it seemed almost half of my meal was gone.  The sweet potato wasn't too bad, but pretty bland, even after I salted it and added a large pat of butter.

The beef, however, was horrible.  There was more sauce than beef, and the latter was cut into very small pieces - small enough that it took three or four of them to equal what I consider a normal bite of food.  And the taste?  Ewwww.  I wasn't crazy about the fact that it had alcohol in it at all, but do know that alcohol used in cooking is pretty much burned off, so that being an ingredient wasn't a deal breaker when I purchased it.  After trying to choke it down, I wished that it had been.

I drained out a good amount of the sauce, and the beef was still drowning in it.  The meal is described as 'tender beef in a tangy bourbon sauce', but tangy isn't exactly the word I would have used.  I could definitely taste the alcohol and the sauce was very bitter, and I couldn't even taste the beef, even when spearing several pieces for one bite.  Yuck.  The bitter taste was still in my mouth for a good period of time after I'd finished eating.

All in all, I don't think the meal was even worth the $3 that I paid for it.  It still had 40g so wasn't exactly low carb (thanks to the sweet potato), and if the small pieces of beef included in my meal was supposed to account for the 24g of fiber listed, I think the cardboard box must have factored in there somewhere.

I'm going to be displaced for another couple of months, so will have to find more creative ways to fix a decent meal that's somewhat nutritious.  I won't be buying Great Value Fit Menu Bourbon Steak again.

~ Marie Anne

December 28, 2015

Earn Money via Cash Back With Find & Save App

One of the newest smartphone apps to earn money when you shop is Find & Save.  Once you sign up, simply snap and submit receipts for various stores and get either a set amount ($1 or 2), or a percentage of your receipt sales.  The app also has the latest sales flyers and coupons for the stores in your area, so you can always find the best deals on the go.

The Find & Save app is pretty self-explanatory - simply open the app on your smartphone and look to see which earning opportunities are available and follow the instructions for that particular event.  Sometimes there is a short deadline, and there are new opportunities popping up all the time, so make sure to check daily so you don't miss one.

One of the great things about Find & Save is that once you reach the minimum of $25 to cash out, you don't need to do anything at all; the money is sent directly to your PayPal account without any further action on your part.

Look for Find & Save in the Google Play Store of your android smartphone, or your iphone app store.  When signing up, please use my referral code:  CWGS.

~ Marie Anne

August 3, 2015

Who Needs New Washcloths?

I'll admit, the quality of washcloths I buy aren't usually something I put a lot of thought into.  I buy whatever cheap cloths I can find at Walmart or wherever and call it good.  Still, I was very happy to  be offered the opportunity to buy this set of 24 wash cloths for a discounted price on amazon in exchange for my honest review, because some of my current face cloths were showing a lot of wear and would need to be replaced soon.

My first impression when I opened the box of wash cloths was eh, they're white wash cloths, nothing special about these.  They are a decent size (I measured just over 12" x 12"), and seemed to be much like the washcloths you might find in a standard motel.  I was concerned about how well they'd hold up in the wash, so I waited until I'd used and laundered a few of them several times to make sure I could give a valid review.

Well, I'm impressed.  They've held up very well after being washed several times, and I love the way they feel.  They're not super thick, but exactly the way I like them.  I don't like a cloth that's too thick that you can't feel through them, but not so thin that they're threadbare before you know it.  These are perfect, in my opinion.  I've not washed them any differently than any of the rest of my laundry, but these cloths are much softer after laundering than any of my other cloths.

This photo shows several of the cloths before laundering, and one that's been machine washed and dried several times.

The listed price for this package of 24 wash cloths at the time of this writing is $13.97, and even though I got mine at a discount, I think that's still a very good price - that's less than .60 each!

 ~ Marie Anne

Memory Foam Mattress Topper Test and Review

Wow.  I was allowed to purchase this memory foam mattress topper on amazon in exchange for testing it out and giving my honest review, and what a great deal that was!

I'm going to be honest ... I was going to put this on my bed long enough to give it a good ride and write the review, and then make a dog bed out of it for Molly.  The cover on her bed is in great shape, but the innards are nothing but shredded foam (or something) and it's a mess.  I figured I could cut this mattress topper to fit and get at least a double thickness out of it, but guess what?  If Molly wants a more comfortable bed, she's going to have to climb in with me!

The instructions said to lay this mattress topper out flat and leave it for (I believe) 24 hours to make sure it would flatten out appropriately, but I didn't have anywhere to let it set for that long, so I unrolled it right onto my bed and checked on it in a few hours.  Well, it flattened right out, so I made the bed and climbed in a few hours later.  There were no lumps or bumps at all, and it hasn't shifted.

My biggest concern before getting this mattress pad was wondering whether my regular fitted sheet fit over it all.  I'm happy to report that it's not been an issue at all; my fitted sheet stretched over my mattress and this topper with no trouble.

It's been a couple of weeks and it's still in the same spot I put it, hasn't shifted at all, and it hasn't lost its memory.  It molds to my body, no matter how many times I move around, yet doesn't leave that indentation from my butt like my regular mattress does.  Score!

Bottom line - I'm extremely happy that I was able to review this memory foam mattress topper, but not so happy that I have to find another bed for Molly.

~  Marie Anne

July 19, 2015

Cute little silicone chocolate molds

Ohmagorsh ... aren't these the cutest?  You've seen me post about silicone cupcake/muffin liners and other silicone bakeware ad nauseum lately and I was scoping out what else was out there and found these adorable rectangular baking cups.

 (Make sure to click through to see the rest of the photos and see just how cute they are).

At first I thought they were mini loaf pans, but they're even smaller than that.  I think they'd be great for fudge or other other types of chocolates - how about something layered, like peanut butter and chocolate, or white and milk or dark chocolate?  The possibilities are endless!

I haven't bought these yet, but as soon as I come up with more crazy ideas of what to use them for, I plan on it.  They'd be great for individual little cakes, but also kid-sized treats like Jello or ice cream.

What else do you think these rectangular silicone muffin cups would be useful for?  Please share your ideas!

~ Marie Anne

July 16, 2015

Baking Zucchini Cookies With a Grill Mat

Yep, MA's been in the kitchen testing out new bakeware again.  This time I was given a set of nonstick grill mats to try out and give an honest review of, but since I ended up not cooking out over the Independence Day holiday weekend, I used the grill mats on my cookie sheets and made zucchini cookies instead (link to recipe follows).  I had to come up with something to use up some of the zucchini that my buddy gifted me.

Grill mat on top of old, stained cookie sheet
© Marie Anne St. Jean

So how did they work out?

Short version - these grill mats are absolutely amazing!

Longer version -

The grill mats are super simple to use - simply swish in warm, soapy water before using, wipe dry, and put on top of your regular cookie sheet and bake your cookies (or whatever) as usual.  You don't need to make any adjustments to temperature or baking time at all.  I concocted a new zucchini cookies recipe last week and expected that the cookies wouldn't stick, but what I wasn't prepared for was for them to actually fall off the grill mat as I was bringing the cookie sheet over to the cooling rack.  Yes, they're that slick!

Cookie dough on the grill mat, ready for the oven
© Marie Anne St. Jean

Cookies slid right off the grill mat!
© Marie Anne St. Jean

I still haven't tried them on the grill, but imagine they would work just as well there as they do in the oven.  They're super lightweight, a breeze to clean, and can be stored right on top of your baking sheets, or rolled up and tucked into a nook in your cabinet.  You get a set of two grill mats, but you might want to grab an additional set - one for the baker and one for the grill master. Great gift item too!  Do you go camping and picnicking?  Take the grill mats along so you don't have to worry about the nasty grill at your picnic site.  Use them for pizza, chicken, fish, pork chops - anything that'd you'd cook on a grill or in the oven on a flat surface.

Now on to the yummy stuff - the recipe for the zucchini cookies turned out great!  They're not a real sweet cookie and are great with tea or coffee, or whenever you want a little something to snack on that's not completely overloaded with sugar and other junk.  They freeze well, so go ahead and raid your garden, or thank the neighbor who dropped a basket full of zucchini on your front step.

Zucchini cookies
© Marie Anne St. Jean

I have a recipe for a moist, cake-like chocolate zucchini bread coming shortly, so don't go too far!

~ Marie Anne