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saturday review

Review: RawSpiceBar Monthly Spice Box

When RawSpiceBar contacted me and offered up a free month of their spice blend subscription service, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. My husband – the cook in our family – adores fresh spices, interesting spices, and tasty spice blends.

So, what exactly is RawSpiceBar? Short answer is – a monthly subscription box filled with three spice blends. I’ll take the long answer straight from their website: Receive 3 hand-picked, small batch, freshly ground spice blends with each monthly box. Each monthly spice box contains 1-2 ounces of spice blends, creating three dishes for serving 4-6 plus kitchen-tested recipe ideas. RawSpiceBar partners with award winning chefs, bloggers & sources old family recipes to bring you unique spice blends from the highest quality spices around the world, with an unprecedented focus on quality and flavor.
Raw Spice Bar
November’s selection was Ethiopian-themed. Here is what we received:

Berbere – “Arguably the most famous spice blend of Ethiopian cuisine, berbere is smoky, spicy and complex. This spice mix is traditionally used in nearly all Ethiopian dishes but particularly shines in stews and on meats and poultry. Also try as a rub on roast chicken, roast vegetables or stir into oil and vinegar as a dip.”

Mimtita – “This bright orange, crazy hot spice blend is perhaps Ethiopia’s second most famous spice mix. African birds eye chili peppers, cardamom, black peppercorns and other spices add a spicy hot kick to meat stews, lentils or grilled meats. Also great for using in place of hot sauce or Siracha as a powdered dip or condiment.”

Pumpkin Pie Spice – “This fall inspired spice blend is unlike all those other traditional blends- with freshly ground cinnamon, allspice and star anise as the star ingredients. Sprinkle over squash and roast, stir into yogurt or ice cream or brew into your morning coffee or add to cookies, breads, cakes, pies or other baked goods.”

I love that they include recipes for your spices – and not just any recipes, recipes using ingredients you can find in any regular grocery store and cooking equipment you actually have at home. I love all different kinds of cuisine, but sometimes it can be really hard to make those favorite dishes at home without investing an unreasonable of time and/or money.

We didn’t end up using any of the recipes this time around, but added them to our collection for future inspiration. And having the recipes there for reference helped us decide how we wanted to use the spices with ingredients we already had on hand or regularly purchase.

We ended up using the Pumpkin Pie Spice on baked sweet potatoes and on roasted butternut squash. The result was mixed on the sweet potatoes – my husband thought it was too sweet, but my daughter loved it – but favorable on the butternut squash.
Pumpkin Pie Spice
Then we used the Berbere to make Doro Wat. This was a totally new experience for me; we don’t have any Ethiopian restaurants in town (that I know of) and I couldn’t think of a time I had ever tried it before. Honestly, all I could have told you about the cuisine was that I think it is pretty spicy. I was very happy to remedy this situation with a classic Ethiopian chicken dish.
Doro Wat
We haven’t tried the Mimtita yet, but plan to break it out once our sore throats are gone and we feel like we can handle the spice.

Frankly, I think this subscription is pretty awesome. It opens up a whole new food world for the very small price of only $6 a month. Personally, I wouldn’t just walk into a store and pick up Berbere because I would assume I wouldn’t be able to do anything with it and that it would just go to waste. Plus, I’d be wary of investing money in a full bottle of a spice I’ve never even tasted.

But with RawSpiceBar, I got to dip my spice toe into the river of Ethopian cuisine without hesitation. [Gee, I really need to work on my metaphors. Spice toe?] This would be a great for anyone who wants to spice up their cooking (ha! get it) without a lot of shopping and hassle. Also a delicious gift for the foodies in your life.

Saturday Review: aLLreLi Multiple Port USB Charger

aLLreLiIf you are a household with a lot of electronic devices, this kind of charger is a must-have.

Let’s start with the official information from aLLreLi:

With the Multiple Port USB Charger, you can charge up to six devices at one time in more than 150 countries around the globe. The charger features dual-voltage technology and comes with four plug adapters, making it possible to use it in the US, the UK, Australia, the EU and in many other places without any additional plug adapter or voltage adapter. The travel charger fits easily into luggage to make it simple to take with you anywhere in the world.

The Intelligent Charger uses smart IC technology to sense the type of device that is placed in each of its six ports. Once the device is identified, the travel charger automatically adjusts the flow of current to recharge the battery at the fastest possible speed while ensuring safety. Universally designed, the travel wall charger can be used to recharge:

  • iPhone 4S, 5S, 6, 6 Plus & 6S
  • iPad Air & Mini
  • iPod Shuffle & Touch
  • Samsung Galaxy S3, S4, S5, S6 & S6 Edge
  • Samsung Note 3, 4 & 5
  • HTC ONE M8 & M9
  • Google Nexus 5X, 6P, 7 & 10
  • Other Android tablets & smartphones
  • BlackBerry phones
  • Windows phones
  • GPS devices
  • E-readers
  • Digital cameras and camcorders
  • Handheld video games
  • Many other USB devices

Equipped with overheat, overcharge and short circuit protection, the aLLreLi International Charger provides the absolute best charging results while ensuring complete safety.

And now some Playfullytacky household specifics:

This is out second charger like this, one lives in our office-area for the adult’s devices and this specific aLLreLi charger is in my daughter’s room for her iphone, ipad, Nook, and heated plush slippers. She has been using it for two weeks with no problems. I love that she can charge all of those devices and still have two ports left in case she has friends over or needs to charge a random fun device. All of the devices we have plugged into it appear to be charging at normal speed or a bit faster.
aLLreLi Collage
A charger like this is really useful when traveling, as a group of people can charge their devices using only one electrical outlet. We take one with us when on vacation – especially if we are traveling with other family members – so there aren’t any problems trying to find places to plug everything in.

The aLLreLi adds an extra bit of usefulness by including interchangeable plugs for international travel – love it! [Okay no, we don’t have any international trips planned. But still. . . I’m sure that is a really cool feature if you do.]

Disclaimer: I received this product free in exchange for a review on Playfullytacky.com and Amazon.com. All opinions are my own.

Saturday Sponsored Post and Review: Michael Todd 3x 35 Vitamin C Complex Plus Retinol Rejuvenating Serum

Whew. The title of this blog post is a mouthful.

This is a sponsored post and I’m going to put this disclaimer at the top instead of the bottom because I really want to explain why I decided to try this out. I’ve tried several samples of Michael Todd products, but they were all small. Too small to make an informed decision. I jumped at the chance to test this serum. In fact, I wanted to try it so bad that I did not accept payment for this post, just the product. So in short. . . I received this product in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
MT Collage
Let’s start with the official information from the Michael Todd product page:

World’s most effective versions of stabilized vitamin C and Retinol work together in this highly concentrated treatment gel to correct uneven skin tone and texture while stimulating collagen production. Potent treatment complex with special non-oxidizing actives for the most effective rejuvenating serum to smooth fine lines, correct dark spots and improve skin’s texture.

Key Ingredients:
Contains 5 of the most effective and stabilized versions of vitamin C available to correct uneven skin tone.
1. 3-0- Ethyl Ascorbic Acid
2. Ascorbyl Glucoside
3. Sodium Ascorbate
4. Textrahexyldecyl Ascorbate
5. Ascorbic Acid

Contains stabilized concentrated versions of vitamin A to optimize product performance
1. Retinol
2. Retinyl Propionate

Directions:
Apply to freshly cleansed skin morning and night. Allow for absorption before applying moisturizer and SPF. Use daily for optimum results.

Full Ingredients:
Water, Glycerin, Polysorbate 20, 3-o-ethyl Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Ascorbyl Glucoside, Sodium Ascorbate, Retinol, Caprylic/capric Triglyceride, Lactobacillus/radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Rosa Canina (Rosehip) Extract, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Extract, Macadamia Ternifolia Nut Oil, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Tocopherol, Niacinamide, Ascorbic Acid, Retinyl Propionate, Acrylates/c10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Hydroxide

And now for my thoughts:

You guys already know I am a huge fan of serums. It is a 100% essential part of my daily skincare routine and my skin has improved dramatically since I added that particular type of product (and switched to a Korean-based routine. . . I credit both equally with my skin success).

I’ve been using this serum twice a day (usually) for three weeks now. I haven’t seen any additional improvement, but my skin as maintained its shine, smoothness, and elasticity. As a regular serum user, I didn’t expect new results so I’m happy with this.

I found the product to have a slight alcohol-like smell at first pump, but this dissipated as soon as I started putting it on my face. There was no lasting smell (I don’t know about you, but I don’t like my face products to be scented. . . especially those that are layered with other products).

It went on smooth and soaked in quickly. Overall, a good serum!

And it is a good price at $37 for 40ml. I think this is a good product to try if you are looking to up your skincare routine from typical drugstore products.

Saturday Review: Oak Leaf K-Cup Carousel

Oakleaf1I was recently able to revamp my coffee/tea area with the Oak Leaf Coffee Storage Carousel for K-Cup Pods. This particular model can hold 35 k-cups, rotates like your standard carousel, and comes with a three-year replacement guarantee.

My first impression? This thing is sturdy. When we first our out Keurig several years ago, I considered getting a carousel-style holder but found them to be wobbly and flimsy. I was surprised at the weight of the Oak Leaf version when I pulled it out the box. Don’t get me wrong – it isn’t heavy by any means, but it feels better constructed than some of the lightweight chrome kitchen and organization products.

So, let me show you what I was working with. The coffee area of our kitchen takes up on entire corner of our very small counter. It is reserved for coffee, my daughter’s growing tea obsession, alcohol, and a few random other drink-related products.
OakleafReview2
For a while I’ve been storing our k-cups in this basket made of newspaper. It is a great basket, but not optimum storage for this setup. It doesn’t hold very much, but is somehow still so packed that we kind of have to dig through it to find what we want and often make a big mess trying to find something special. It gets worse when I’m trying to make a cup for myself – we buy decaf and regular coffee of the same brand and this leads to a lot of picking one up, reading it, putting it back in, picking one up . . . etc. Not a huge deal, but a hassle that could improved.

And here is what we ended up with after I added the Oak Leaf carousel.
Oakleaf4
So nice! It is a small change, but it makes a big impact. The carousel tidies up the space and makes it easier to find the k-cup we are looking for. Plus! It holds a lot more than my basket. You can see from the photos that my basket was reaching its maximum storage level. I transferred all of those to the Oak Leaf carousel and still have half of it open for more. Since we’ve reached November, I’m going to buy some seasonal flavors to fill that thing up!

Oakleaf6My overall impression? I wasn’t sure if I would like the carousel setup, but I’m really happy with it. The Oak Leaf carousel is sturdy, streamlined, and practical. Recommended!

Now I just need to figure out a better option for all that tea. . .

Disclaimer: I received this product free for review purposes. All opinions are my own and I was not otherwise compensated for this post.

Click here to see more Saturday review posts.

Saturday Review: Pagoda Pork Egg Rolls

I was recently able to try a package of Pagoda snacks for free through BzzAgent in conjunction with Kroger. The tacky husband picked out the Pork Egg Rolls and we enjoyed them earlier this week. While the egg rolls were free, all opinions are my own.

The good: These things were crispy and delicious. If I hadn’t seen the box, I would not think they were from the frozen food section. Very tasty.

This egg roll is ready for its closeup.
This egg roll is ready for its closeup.

The okay: The sauce that came with it was just okay. It kind of overpowered the egg rolls, so we stopped using it after a taste or two. Also, I wish these came in a package larger than 4. Six just seems better; I like having plenty.

The bad: What I’m about to mention may not bother you, but it ventured all the way into the “bad” territory for me and will probably stop be from purchasing Pagoda snacks on any kind of regular basis. Each of the four egg rolls was individually packaged. Great if you are just looking to heat up one for a snack, but a lot of useless trash if you are planning to use them as appetizers or with dinner. And here is the biggie – these things took twenty minutes to cook in the over. Twenty minutes! Who wants to spend twenty minutes on a snack? Can you imagine pulling one of these egg rolls out as a snack and waiting twenty minutes to enjoy it. Hmmm. . . I was just really disappointed in that.

So much trash for four little egg rolls.
So much trash for four little egg rolls.

The verdict: So tasty, but impractical.

Saturday Review: Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium

Black Opium
I recently received a small bottle of Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium perfume free from Influenster for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

I’m pretty picky about fragrances. I usually prefer deeper, mostly musky scents – these really work on me, where as more fruity and flowery scents tend to go a little bit bitter. First opening the bottle, Black Opium had an appealing scent, but I was unsure how it would work on me.

First impression: Black Opium is strong and deep. I like that is comes off a little woodsy, but I’m unsure about the long-term wear-ability.

Later impression: The vanilla really starts to come out after a bit and I like it. Since I usually gravitate to musky scents, I miss out on the more sweet flavors. I like that this combines the two.

End of the day: This smell spectacular on me. A win.

Verdict: I really like this. I’ll use the rest of this sample bottle, for sure, and I might add it to my list of possible future purchases. I also enjoy the sparkly bottle.

Special Tacky Husband Saturday Review: the Apple Watch

Hello everybody. I’ve been struggling to review the Apple Watch for a few weeks now. I want to get straight to the important part. I can’t recommend this device to anyone . . .yet.
apple-watch-logo-main1_1For some background, I have been an Apple fan boy since I first saw OS X in 2001. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of using most of Apple’s products including MacBook, iMac, Mac Pro, iPhone and iPad. When Apple announced the Apple Watch, I was pretty excited. Like Apple does best, they made me want one. I wasn’t sure how I’d use it, but I wanted one anyway.

The watch was released and there was some confusion. You see, the Apple Watch comes in three flavors – Apple Watch Sport, Apple Watch, and Apple Watch Edition. Each model has two sizes available, 38mm and 42mm, and each model is made of a different metal and has multiple different band options. In their default configurations alone there are 38 separate models. 38! Prices range from $349 (for the stainless steel 38mm with the Sport band) all the way up to $17,000 for the 14-Karat Gold 38mm with red leather band. (Seriously though? WTF?)

Since there are so many options, Apple offers a concierge service – a dedicated Apple employee to help you try on watches in different combinations of watch body and band. The Apple Store carries some models and the rest have to be ordered and shipped to you. Something to note: bands for the Apple watch are universal. You can buy an Apple Watch Sport with a rubbery sport band and get a leather band later. There are also third-party bands all over the internet and even adapters that let the watch work with traditional watch bands.

Let me level with you guys. There are too many options and anything more than the Apple Watch Sport isn’t worth it. The guts of the watches are identical for each model. The $399 Apple Watch Sport is going to perform just as well as the $17,000 gold model. There is NO difference in the product on your wrist.

Apple1I’ve had the 42mm Apple Watch Sport in Space Gray for a few weeks now. My overall opinion? I’m testing an unfinished Apple product! Where’s Apple Watch OS 2.0 . . .?

The Apple Watch is an extension of your phone. The watch notifies you of everything your phone can; SMS/iMessage, Email, Calendar, Weather and more. You can accept phone calls on your wrist. You can control the music on your phone while it’s in your pocket. It can play (limited) games. It’s also fitness tracker (including heart rate monitor). It works with Apple Pay, so you can buy a coffee or whatever with your watch . . . but all that said; why do I feel like I’m testing an unfinished product?

You see, the Apple Watch is running Watch OS 1.0. It relies on Bluetooth to send information between your phone and the watch. This means that if I want to load the weather or track the shipping on a package using my favorite app, I have to wait on the app to load. Spinning circles are the most common sight on the watch when using it for more than glancing at notifications. Not just that; once the apps load, they’re slow and choppy. This is because Bluetooth isn’t fast. It lags and painfully so.

So. Here’s my list of Pros and Cons on this device:

PROS

Haptic Engine
Haptic is the fancy word for vibrations – similar to vibrate on your phone but more precise. The watch can vibrate but it can also simulate a tap on your wrist. This is a really cool feature. When I get an email, the watch taps me a couple times on the wrist to let me know. Every couple hours, I get a tap to remind me that I’ve been sitting too long and to stand up and move around. Best of all, I can be notified silently so I’m not disturbing anyone nearby.

Glances
Each app that’s installed has it’s own interface and typically include a smaller app called a “glance.” Think of it like a widget. It can deliver information from an app at a glance. When I want to change the song on my phone, I swipe from the bottom of the screen and open the glances for Music and pick my song. It’s meant to save time. It’s at least faster than opening an app (I guess).

Heart Rate Monitor
The Apple Watch has a heart rate monitor built in. On top of the regular fitness things you’d expect, there are sensors on the bottom that read your heart rate. You don’t see this in Fitbit or Nike Flex or any other fitness tracker that I’m aware of.

CONS

Information Overload!
Double edged sword here. The Apple Watch is meant to notify you of events happening on your phone. By default, most every app has notifications. You know that game that buzzes at you because you haven’t played it in a while? Now imagine that on your wrist. Dinging. Tapping. All of that. Every IM = TAP. Every e-mail (even spam!) = TAP. You can control which apps notify you and which don’t. Remember to do that!

Is it an App? Notification? Glance?
There are too many options here. Notifications? Swipe from the top. Apps? Press the crown button on the side. Glances? Swipe from the bottom. Which is which? What’s the difference between this glance and the full app? Why don’t I just pull my phone out of my pocket?

Sweaty!
I live in the south. It’s hot outside right now. The watch is a rubber band around my wrist with a piece of glass smooshed against my skin (for the heart rate monitor). When you get hot and start sweating, it starts to get uncomfortable. This may be better with a new band but I don’t have one to test it with.

Battery Life
I haven’t had a bad time with the battery life. But I barely use the thing at this point. Others have complained about it, so I’m mentioning it here. You will need to charge this daily. Recharge time is quick though, so put it on the charger while you’re taking a shower or getting ready in the morning and it’ll be ready to go when you are.
Apple2
Overall, the Apple Watch is a strong first-generation product. It’s got a lot of potential but I feel like it’s a beta test. In fact, Apple Watch OS 2.0 has already been announced and is being tested. It brings with it a bunch of new features, most importantly NATIVE apps, meaning apps can run on the watch itself without the phone. Honestly though, this should have been in the initial release. Once the new software rolls out, I may revisit this review. We’ll see.

Bottom line: wait for the next one. Battery will be better, I’m sure, and the software sure as hell will be.

Saturday Review: YSL Volume Effet Faux Cils Mascara

mascara

Yves Saint Laurent Volume Effet Faux Cils Mascara
Retail: $32

I received this mascara for free through Influenster and have been using it for a couple of months now.

Pro: Great black color and very long-lasting. The sparkly gold tube doesn’t hurt either – I love that prestige cosmetics like to take the packaging up a non-tacky notch.

Neutral: The brush appears clumpy. Although I haven’t had this translate to my eyelashes, I have accidentally touched a hidden clump to my eyelid and had to perform spur-of-the-moment makeup reconstructive surgery. And it tends to get clumps around the top that will stick out the sides when you put the lid on if not careful. This isn’t really a big deal, but is disappointing when you are talking about $32 mascara.

Here is a photo of the clumps at their worst. I don’t know about you, but I’m not thrilled with a mascara that requires extra maintenance.
ysl
Con: It takes way too long to dry. Now, it isn’t unusual for high-end brands to take longer to dry than your typical drugstore variety, but this one just takes a really long time. I feel like I have to walk around not blinking for an eternity and I’ve often arrived at work and found a bit of a mess. One time in particular, I forgot about the mascara and used my setting spray a couple of minutes after putting the mascara on. Whoa. Raccoon disaster.

Verdict: No, not at this price point.

Saturday Review: Japan Crate, May 2015

JapanCrateMay2015

Umashi Oasi Cheetos
Japan Crate description: Not as intense as your typical Cheetos, these Umashi Cheetos have a mellow, sweet and salty corn taste. The more you eat them, the more you’ll love them!

Playfullytacky opinion: These are strangely sweet, but it works.

Yaokin Maple Hot Cakes
Japan Crate description: A complete pancake experience without the mess. Thick, delicious maple filling sandwiched between two perfectly moist pancakes.

Playfullytacky opinion: Oh my gosh, I want to eat these every day. The little cookies tasted like the last couple of bits of a plate of diner pancakes – you know, the bits that have been soaking in syrup. So delicious.

Ginbisu Chocolate Bar Z
Japan Crate description: A light wafer stick that has been soaked in rich, chocolatey goodness. A unique texture between smooth and chocolatey and crunchy. It’s a whole new experience!

Playfullytacky opinion: Kind of like a churro mixed with a melted chocolate bar. Difficult to explain, but the Tacky husband loved it.

Chocolate in Disguise
Japan Crate description: Chocolate is a lot like us – when it gets bored, it puts on a costume. . . well at least these chocolates! Each character has unique fortunes for each color.

Playfullytacky opinion: These kind of tasted like harder Sixlets and were fine. They were less like candy I would want to buy for a treat and more like something I would add to goody bags.

Saturday Review: 3B, May 2015

3BMay2015
The Products:
Skinfood False Lashes ($5.50)
TonyMoly LovelyEyebrow Pencil ($5)
Etude House Baking Powder BB Deep Cleansing Foam ($1.50)
TonyMoly Tangerine Whitening Hand Cream ($12)

Total Cost: $12
Total Value: $24

I’ve been on the waiting list for the 3b Beauty Beyond Borders monthly box for a few months now and was thrilled to finally get my first bag of goodies. I was particularly interested in 3b to replace the whole left in my life by Memebox (since they changed up their style, the boxes just aren’t made for me anymore).

From the 3b website: “Each box contains a collection of deluxe samples that are new or popular in Asia but hard to get your hands on. The products will change each month, and you’ll get to try new skincare, haircare, nailcare, and cosmetic products. Sample products range from go-to brands such as Lioele, Etude House and Skinfood to high-end premium brands like SK-II, Kanebo, and Sulwhasoo. Don’t worry about not being able to read Japanese or Korean – we’ve got you covered with English translations of descriptions in each box.”

Verdict: I love the products, although I don’t agree they are particularly hard to get your hands on. I couldn’t walk into a store locally and pick up one of these, but could easily get them online. In English and everything. That being said, this is a perfect monthly sub for me and it will be hanging around for sure. Yay!