Category Archives: Random Thoughts

This section is reserved for when I have an opinion on current events/rarely used.

Heading into Christmas, a consumer report…and a few gift ideas

I feel that testing products gives me a chance to see some new and unusual products, as well as check in on how some old favorite brands are doing.
Here’s a few tidbits I wanted to share.

Dashboard cams are starting to ‘race to the bottom’ in prices. Motion sensing and recording cameras are starting to flood the market from China. While dashboard cams are still often priced in the $150 range, I am starting to see some decent cams enter the market lower and lower. Tonight I saw one just listed for $48 that I’ll be testing soon. Many are coming with storage disks, adding to their value. I project that by the end of this quarter, there will be some amazing deals on them. The same holds true for IP cams and surveillance cameras in general, though ‘big’ corporate brands with more user-friendly software will continued to be priced high. If you are technically proficient, look for no-brand clones to become very affordable.

With online shopping, be very careful of sizing issues with Asian sellers. While many are starting to get “Small” and “Medium” sizes correct, larger sizes still elude their ability to properly denote. Be very careful with purchases on discount sites for plus size clothing unless you are already familiar with the site. Many ‘dress’ sites are popping up on social media featuring very inexpensive dresses that are often stylish and cute, but many of these are from the same lots that I’ve tested and found to be way off in size and cut for the American market.

Some really good deals do exist coming from Asian vendors- I have been overall impressed with the quality and value of knit goods for instance, and there’s some very nice messenger bags, backpacks, and tablet portfolios on the market.

Some eco-friendly products that I’ve liked have included wool dryer balls and fragrance diffusers. The dryer balls help speed clothes drying time, soften clothes naturally, and can be used to scent laundry by applying essential oils to them. I’ve had a set for months now and they work great. The diffusers help scent a home naturally.

The citrus essential oils, such as orange, lemon, lime, and grapefruit, are usually a good bet for quality. are generally inexpensive, and most people enjoy these scents.

I am NOT having much luck with heated electric linens, such as electric throws, blankets and underpads. I’ll write more on this later but for now my advice for now would be to steer clear of these items for gift giving. Too many are failing, even from brands most Americans have come to know and trust.

For the PREPPERS and multi-purpose gadget lovers – There is one product whose brand I will mention by name, though other sellers also offer similiar lights and it might pay to shop around. They did send me a free copy to test, but this is NOT an affiliate link. It is NEVER my policy to make income from third-party vendor product tests.


This light is really very unusual. It functions as a light, AND a charger for USB powered items, like smartphones and tablets. The solar panel is a good size and works well, and it took me 3 full days to run this light down after one sunny day’s sunlight charge. It also works like a regular light bulb, if you prefer to use it like that. I’ve found it practical, unusual, and “delightful.”

There are some very unusual (to me at least) LED lights coming out of the Asian markets. I was contacted about one that is a regular screw in LED lightbulb, but it’s ALSO a Bluetooth speaker. I look forward to testing that one!

That’s all for now. If I can ever be of assistance with ideas, clarification, or recommendations, feel free to contact me. As long as I have a bit of time, I’ll try to help.

Simple things I learned this week…

Old Lady Gif

I learned a few simple random things this week that I thought I’d share.

  1. Kroger’s bottled brand generic Ranch Dressing tastes like Hidden Valley Ranch & it is a lot less expensive.
  2. Aldi’s hot sauce tastes like Franks to me, and is in the same size bottle at a fraction of the cost.  It makes good hotwings. Aldi’s has great prices on produce. Also, their generic brand Dill Pickles are good.
  3. Red’s all natural burritos are much more 2-3x more expensive than El Monterey’s, but they are worth it.
  4. Avocado oil is as good as argan oil to me for my hair, and it is GREAT on skin. It is also less expensive.
  5. It’s definitely worth it to upgrade the Android version on a smartphone. My battery is lasting a lot longer and the camera now works better.

I’ve been participating in Bzzagent’s Kroger’s Store Brands campaign, so I have been trying new generic foods and paying more attention to them. The salad dressing mentioned in this post though, was provided free directly by Kroger via digital coupon. If you’ve not signed up for Kroger’s Digital coupons yet, I do recommend it- they usually have a Friday freeby and occasionally freebies just show up in my account as well.Kroger.com I find it pays to always check the items under their SAVINGS tab.

The Great Firewall of China Constrains Like a Too-Small Bra

Bras are so constraining- sometimes you just wanna take em off
The Great Firewall of China constrains their businesses like a too-tight bra, and one day, I expect everything’s going to spill over, or the whole thing will pop off.  I think it will have to.  It does not fit their ambitions to compete in the global market.

I only know the fake names they use in their emails to me- Suki, Charlie, Mandy- for some reason, there’s a lot of Chinese workers that take the name of Mandy.

The reasons they write me vary, but primarily it is to ask for my opinion of a product that they are either hoping to sell, or  are actively trying to sell to the American market. Usually they are all business, but occasionally our communication will continue and I’ll get a glimpse of the person I’m communicating with. For instance, last week Suki wrote me about being excited over Chinese New Year, and going home for a long vacation.

I can’t help but wonder about their lives. One Mandy in particular was hoping to sell undergarments to US women on Amazon, and confided to me that she would like to see her garments have the perfect sizing and quality to maybe be sold at ‘Nordstrom’ and big US stores ‘on the street.’

Sizes really confused her though. I had sold lingerie myself as a hobby business for years on-line, and, really hoping to help the American consumer get better merchandise, I thought I’d try to help.

There are, of course, obvious and constant issues, at least to most women, of the Chinese underestimating the size of Americans. They often consider their largest size, a 3x, as being actually smaller than our average woman, or about a US size 12! She seemed to have no concept of a cup size past a D being anything that might sell. Of course all this was easy to advise her on. She was really confused about how our 34B bras are not really 34 inches on the under-band, and that’s pretty hard to explain. (There’s some old convention still widely used in which they’d add 3, sometimes 4 inches to the measurement, but then elastic content matters too.)

I sent size charts, and found a wonderful blog that explained all this. I sent her the link.

I got an email back from her, and if it is really possible to see a face fall across the world though an email, I did. She wasn’t able to access the content. It was blocked.

I asked her if I could send her the information in the charts, but she said it might be a problem and probably best not to since it was blocked. She wanted to stay within the set limits.

Really, what an awful shame, though. The information was strictly about the bra market and industry standards here in the US for bra sizing- just the information she needed. The Chinese want to compete in a global market, and we often see the business advantages of them doing so- they often have cheap labor, and locally sourced materials, and subsidized shipping. But it is also clear to me that they have a very large disadvantage when it comes to competitive intelligence and product development. They can’t get the information they NEED to research what US customers expect, or to research quality improvement.

A free and open Internet brings the best of information with it. Yes, there’s lots of drivel that can be found on-line too, even accidentally, but at least Americans are empowered to decide for ourselves, and really, that’s what open access to information is – it’s empowerment to anyone that takes advantage of it. Watching her struggle to understand something so vital to her business as sizing has made me feel even more committed to an open and free Internet.

Creativity and Messiness – On Visiting a Messy, Artistic Household

I would consider everyone in my family to be extremely creative, and we have creative friends that are also artists.  In my family, we all paint, build, write, draw, sew,  ect.  Sometimes we work as a family on projects.

We really NEED a workshop, but haven’t been able to afford that luxury up to this point. We do have one room that is dedicated to sewing. It’s a total mess.

A lot of art projects happen at the kitchen table. Every couple of weeks I clean it off. It will have piles 2 feet high of ‘stuff’ on it. No one likes for it to be touched if there is an active project going on.

It makes me think about messiness and creativity. You see, I don’t know a single creative, artistic person that is not messy, or that minds a mess. I’m sure they do exist, but I don’t know any personally. I noticed this in college too – the art room would be a total mess, and when my family discusses it, all our art teachers’ offices looked like they’d been hit with bombs.

We all agree that we never mind a mess. That in fact, we THRIVE in messiness. Not nastiness, mind you – we don’t like filth, though perhaps stand even that better than some.

Why does our society favor neat, tidy homes, with little clutter? I will admit, they do look nice. But I wonder what they produce. We value our productiveness. How much learning, experimentation, and art really go on in a neat, tidy house?

I wouldn’t know, because I never had one. At one time I hired a team of housekeepers, but we found ourselves feeling like foreigners in our own home, and we were leaving instructions to leave our messes in project areas alone. Every week we gave instructions for more and more areas to be left alone. We soon figured this was not working for us.

There’s actually been several studies that consistently confirm that messy environments foster creativity.

What does this mean? Well, perhaps if you have a very artistic child, it might be worth keeping in mind these tendencies. I know that I CRINGE when I see “CLEAN HOUSE” (the TV show) come in and organize some artists’ materials. Other than that, I love the show, but when I see a messy art room all neat and organized, I think “Why would you DO that to an artist?” To me it’s like cutting the wings off a butterfly. Perhaps you should explore the possibility of ‘clean zones’ and ‘messy zones.’

For instance, my husband’s friend wins awards left and right for sculpture. His wife has thrown him out of the house more or less. He has a workshop, where he tends to stay, working or not. When you visit, he has to clean you off a chair, and you step over things to get to it. It’s not hoarding. If you look closely, you realize the open books on the floor are turned to pages he’s referencing, there are project bases drying or ready for build, a radio he’s been listening to, boxes of paints, or even cleaning supplies that are causing the mess. There are empty shelves all around, but he prefers stuff on the floor and table so he can see them and get to them.

I enjoy being able to go into his workshop- when he complains about the mess, I ask to see his latest projects. I know what wonderful little works of cuteness come out of it. I feel honored –  to see his abode is to see into a very busy, inspired mind.

That’s the way I’d prefer to be treated. When visitors focus on what we’ve been doing, instead of not doing (cleaning) it helps put me at ease, and gives me a chance to shift my mindset from ‘worried about the mess because visitors are here’ to pride and joy in the visit. We’ve designed and built some beautiful large homes. Our home is adorned with original paintings and photographs. We’ve got paper sculptures, costumes, handmade clothes, and little fairy houses being painted and built. The books you see out probably have not been released yet; perhaps pick one up and ask about it.

I would SO rather visitors focus on what we’re making than the big pile of mess.  And please, whatever you do, don’t touch the oil painting on the table. It’s probably wet.

chip_painting

Chip Gilleland “Starry Night Dragon”

Chip Gilleland - Ice Wolves (Shown unfinished)

Chip Gilleland – Ice Wolves (Shown unfinished)

Sage_Gunner_2013_awa_2013

Sage Gilleland – The Gunner (CosPlay, handmade costume)

Connected- by Kristi A. Gilleland

Connected- by Kristi A. Gilleland

Having Fun with Cheap, Easy Nail Art

Learning nail art

I’ve been having fun learning to do my nail art. I’ve found lots of tutorials on youtube. You know, it’s really a great source of information for all sorts of beauty purposes. I’ve learned hair styles, makeup tips -you name it!

The ladies that put out the really good nail art tutorials always manage to do some really fabulous looking nails. I’m not quite there yet, but I find it is fun. I thought it would be more expensive than it is, but it’s actually very affordable. Amazon has an amazing selection of tools and accessories that are really inexpensive.

After my first attempt at dots, I became aware that I really should invest in a few tools.

This is my favorite purchase- I love everything about it except it did take a couple of weeks to arrive. I can get a lot of looks with just this $2.11 (Shipped!) set:

Here’s the tutorial I did my best to go by. If I’d been smarter I would have done my nails as I watched it, but instead I watched it hours before I decided to give it a try from memory. Though I didn’t exactly achieve this look, I’m still pretty pleased with how my nails ended up, and it was fun to do.

Remember when nails were always either plain, “French Tipped” or just colored? I love that people are getting so creative with hair and nails. It’s so much fun.

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