Category Archives: consumer products

Feel Free To Finally Call Me Bigfeet

It happened this week. My feet got older and bigger.  I went to my favorite local running shoe store (still love Linda, George and all the gang at Tri Bike Run, even after this), and found out that there’s no way around it. I am now a double-digit shoe size.

Turns out this is notsneak unusual: our feet gain as much as a size every decade after age 40. The tendons and ligaments lose elasticity,  lowering the arches and flattening the feet. For the record, I’ve always had flat feet, so how much lower can they possibly go? Am I looking at the possibility of rolling along on concave arches? And if I live to 100, I would be a size 14 foot. That’s NBA player territory, house-building material, floorboards for the Ark. How do I stop this? Do I sit down for the rest of my life, risking a heart attack and growing to the size of an office building, but preventing further foot growth? Do I engage in the ancient Chinese ritual of foot binding, an excruciatingly painful practice involving the breaking of toes and wrapping them to create the small feet deemed desirable and beautiful? No option is a good one, but the idea of showing up at a race among all those prettily shod feminine feet, clad in their racing flats of fluorescent pink, yellow, green, orange, white and lavender makes a person want to start way in the back of the pack and stay there.

Getting older is inevitable, but I hoped I would outrun the signs of aging for awhile. Not this one. So if anyone doubts the existence of Bigfeet, they need only catch a glimpse of my closet, where my size 10 Brooks reside. Unless of course, I am out running. Then just listen for the pitter-patter of some not-so-tiny feet behind you.


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Filed under athletic competition, consumer products, Cycling, Exercise, Running, Triathlons

The (Em)power(ment) of tools


I prevail over the power tools.

I fixed the weed whacker yesterday. I did break it first, so I guess I deserved to figure out how to repair it.

But that’s not the point. I was determined not to come inside for dinner until I had that thing running and eating weeds again. I had to reverse that position temporarily and go to a YouTube video, however. I needed directions for fixing the thing, since none were available on the whacker or in our file. The Husband is usually good about keeping these papers, but somehow, this one never made it to its proper place among the thousands of pieces of paper we have for things we no longer own.

I found a video of an old guy showing his daughter how to fix the threading mechanism on the head. I was trying so hard to figure it out myself, I was losing time and daylight. Watch video, go outside, pick up whacker, press head tabs and off came the plastic casing. Re-thread, replace and mow down those pesky weeds along the fence line.

I understand why power tools mean so much to the (mostly) men who buy them, hang them in the garage or workshop and show the stink eye to anyone who dares touch them. It’s not really about the actual work you do with them. It’s mastering the art of having them and the ability to fix things and make life better, nicer, cleaner and more efficient. I feel the same way about the baking tools and cooking equipment in my kitchen and pantry. I don’t use much of it often, but woe to anyone daring to suggest I could donate or sell any of it. It’s not about actual use; it’s about bragging rights when you have three pasta machines, twelve professional knives (one of them custom), six cutting boards, five cooling racks and an ungodly number of baking pans and sheets. Plus a chinois, mandoline, marble tempering slab, two grinders and three food processors. That’s not overkill, that’s culinary empowerment.

I hoped to continue my power tool prowess today, but at the moment, it’s raining out there. I’ll head to the kitchen to make dinner – stir fry chicken with vegetable and rice (made in a rice cooker…what else?)

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Filed under consumer products, cooking, home improvement, technology

Dear Apple, You’re A Customer Service Zero

To the staff at the local Apple store,

You suck big, slimy rocks covered with sharp objects.

Imagine being such a big moneymaking company that customer service takes second place. A very distant second place.

Someone comes into your store, wanting to do the right thing: turn in a lost and very expensive new iPhone, hoping you can find the owner. And you don’t even allow that person into your store, let alone stoop to performing such an act. “That’s for the police to do,” you say. Really now? The local cops have the time to stop chasing crime, plug in every new phone that comes down the tech pike and hunt down the owner? That must be the twenty-first century version of the fireman showing up at your door to get Fluffy out of the tree.

Must be nice to be able to make a lot of money and diss people. But then, you know it’s a throwaway society. Lose a phone…oh, well. Just go buy a new one. Or get Mom and Dad to buy it. No big deal, right? You know that a certain percentage of people will lose or break phones rather than treat their purchases with care, and be right back in your consumer clutches, begging to be allowed to spend money on a new one.

Call me a Luddite, but at least plugging the phone in would tell you that it’s either locked or the battery needs charging. As I sit and write this, I’m attempting to charge the phone with a power cord from my iPad. If it fails, it goes to the scrap dealer, along with the old iPad. I’ve been looking for a reason to part with that anyway, and you’ve just given me that reason.

I was considering several brands in my quest to buy a smartphone. At least the list just became one brand shorter. My decision won’t make a bit of difference in the Apple juggernaut, I know. But take that, anyway.

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Filed under consumer products, recycling, technology, thought

I Went Over The Shampoo Edge

Had to have it, even at the price of a trip to the grocery store.

Had to have it, even at the price of a trip to the grocery store.

Dear Lord, spare me from the wrath of the frugalistas. I spent $50 for a bottle each of shampoo and conditioner.

And there wasn’t even a salon dude to do the washing included in the price.

Fifty dollars. Holy soapsuds, Batman!

Let’s be fair about this. I have been the stockpiler type for a long time. Bought plenty of toothpaste, soap, shampoo, TP, paper towels and dental floss on sale for just pennies. And don’t get me started on BOGOs, doubling coupons, loyalty club points and free-with-purchase. And I go one step better: I donate a lot of what I buy to shelters and food pantries. So I’m really good.

And you know I’m just trying to use my thrift and thoughtfulness to justify that out-of-bounds purchase, don’t you?

Pampering ourselves is not a bad thing. Pampering to the point of indulgence, assuming all other needs are met, is fine.

But fifty bucks for two products that basically go from bottle to hair to shower drain? Probably just a shade over the edge of sanity on this one. And the sad thing is, I will likely do it again with this product; it’s that good. I’ll take my fifty lashes with the frugal noodle and move on.

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Filed under budget, consumer products, frugality, health and beauty, shampoo, thought

A Joyful Noise? Not To My Ears


CHRISTMAS MUSIC (Photo credit: Zellaby)

Go ahead, say it: “What, more bah humbug?”

Sort of, yes. This is about holiday music. Not the live choruses of cute kids or professional bell-ringing church groups. This is about the canned crap that’s piped into every store, waiting room and commercial establishment you will now enter through January 1.

I hate it. It makes me want to turn Rudolph into dinner, string up the elves and tell Santa to plant one on my posterior.

I like the songs that I heard as a kid. But now it’s overdone, and here’s why:

Holiday music is played too early. Many places have been cranking it out since October, when their holiday decorations went up, also too early. Don’t rush the season. Give Halloween candy a chance to digest and jack o’lanterns a chance to rot first.

Holiday music is played in inappropriate places. The Hallelujah Chorus at the car wash?  O Come All Ye Faithful at the post office? (actually, given the plight of the U.S. Postal Service, that might be the right soundtrack). How about Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer when you are in a doctor’s office – with your grandma? There’s a time and a place for this stuff, and it’s when you’re decorating the tree, wrapping gifts, opening gifts and stuffing your maw with holiday food.

Holiday music played 24/7. This is easier to avoid, thanks to satellite radio, iPods and other devices. But for those people who only have their car radio for the commute, the change in format from rock ‘n roll to Jingle Bell Rock is enough to cause its own special brand of road rage.

Holiday music is played nonstop where you work. Some people have no say in music selection at their job. If you work manufacturing or retail, management decides what gets piped in. And of course, to get folks “in the spirit of the holidays,” it’s usually a nonstop loop of mind-numbing, reworked holiday classics. People have been known to bang their heads in frustration until they bleed, throw themselves into heavy machinery and run screaming through the fire doors after hearing Alvin and the Chipmunks do one Christmas song. Stuff like that can permanently wound the psyche, you know.

To those of you in charge: put an end to the music madness. If you are determined to play the same dozen songs just to turn people into blithering idiots, at least wait until after Thanksgiving. Then turn up the volume and aim the speakers at the people who waited outside in line all night to get into the stores for Black Friday. That’ll teach them.

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Filed under consumer products, mental health, social media, technology, thought

That Grocery Cart Can Be A Killer

Abandoned Shopping Cart

Abandoned Shopping Cart (Photo credit: Big Grey Mare)

I did my holiday grocery shopping last night. Got it done before the masses, and I’m proud of that.

But the trip was not without its interesting moments. Like the mom and two kids at the deli counter. It was a train wreck, I tell you. Hard to watch, yet impossible to quit watching.

The kids, a boy and a girl, were around ages seven, eight or nine. I’m guessing on this, as I am not good with kids or ages. Mom was mid-thirties, athletic-looking. She was trying to order subs at the deli and keep a handle on the kids, who wanted nothing to do with staying put, being controlled or otherwise behaving the way most of us childless people think they should: silent and docile, standing next to their parental unit like they’re tethered to them.

These two young ‘uns had possession of an empty grocery cart. Children and anything on wheels: not always a good combination.

Both of them started out sitting in it, but that got old after about five minutes. Sharing the space turned into a whine-and-slapfest, and both decided cart acrobatics were next up. Who knew a handstand in a grocery cart was possible?

I watched this with both amusement and worry. An accident on their part would likely become an issue on the store’s part, because as a society, that’s how we roll (sorry). I nurtured a hope that the boy would wind up with a stainless steel wedgie, courtesy of one leg out of the cart, one leg in the cart and his bottom hitting dead center on the cart edge. I’m a meanie.

Mom was trying to keep it together, and I give her credit for not yelling or hitting either of them. Then again, I noticed her outfit: baggy white workout pants and a T-shirt from one of our local martial arts/kickboxing schools. No doubt she probably unloads a lot of grief in a small, hot room, pounding her share of inanimate objects.

I pity the kids. The grocery cart can be a killer, but Mom’s got some real danger potential.

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Filed under Children, consumer products, food, thought

‘Tis The Season, Bah Humbug To All

christmas paint

christmas paint (Photo credit: cassie_bedfordgolf)


In case you’ve been living under last year’s Christmas tree and missed it, the holiday hassles have begun.


Don’t judge me based on the post title. I actually like the holidays. I like food, cooking, shopping for other people, wrapping gifts, decorating the house and so on. But there are some traditions and other activities that seem to come up every year that I’d like to see go the way of Blockbuster stores:


  • Secret Santa: I hate this tradition. A five-dollar limit buys nothing. You can’t even get a decent doggie chew toy for that price. And why do workplaces still have this exchange, anyway? Why would you want to spend money better used on people you actually like?
  • Holiday pot luck: These could actually work, if there was some real planning involved. As it stands, most offices/block parties have the same cheapos who grab the “responsibility” of bringing the paper goods and the bargain-basement beverages. I don’t have a problem with store-bought versus homemade, as long as someone steps up and makes sure that lunch does not consist of six bowls of potato salad and a tray of raw unwashed veggies.
  • And the potential bad first cousin to the potluck – the office party: This is one that can cross a fine line. To offer or not offer alcohol? To have it catered at a hall, or take everyone to a restaurant? Open bar, or cocktail hour? Done with class and dignity, a good holiday office party is a thing of beauty, even if there are no raises or bonuses to go with it. Done cheaply, it’s guaranteed to be the main topic of eye-rolling conversation – for a year.
  • The fundraiser hard-sell: Wrapping paper, cookies, candy, popcorn, candles, cards – all of it from the schools, all of it sold in the name of raising money. Remember parents: no means no. Your fellow employees may seem like a captive audience, but the workplace is not a prison; you cannot glare or gossip your fellow employees into buying your kids’ crap.
  • Holiday shopping: I’m good with this, until I hear the siren screech of a small child in a store. It happened yesterday, while in a craft store. The child was about six or seven, and out of control. Running around, pulling things off shelves and facing no discipline from a woman I presumed was her mother, until WHACK across the backside. And that, of course, produced forty-five minutes of nonstop crying and wailing, while mom continued to shop. Parents, don’t be oblivious. Kids like shiny, pretty things. And they know the holidays are coming. Either the kids stay home, or lash them to the shopping cart.
  • Spending time with unlikable relatives: I’m talking about people who wouldn’t care if you suddenly caught fire right in front of them. And frankly, you feel pretty much the same way about them. Yet spending time with wacky Aunt Mary or creepy Uncle Mike is a hill your parents or spouse seem willing to die on, because “it’s the right thing to do.” No, it isn’t. Life is too short to drink eggnog with these outlaws. Or inbred-laws. Or whatever you want to label them. Unless the brandy, whiskey or rum added to the eggnog is really good.
  • Using the holidays to evangelize: As one friend of mine (whose husband’s family insists on acting out the Nativity in full costume) said to me, “They only started doing it when he told them he was an atheist, and we were not bringing up the kids with any particular religion. Now they consider shoving their religion down our throats their life’s mission. It’s like they’re daring us NOT to come to their house.”
  • Holiday music: there is a time and a place for it. Playing it 24/7 beginning the day after Halloween is not the time or the place. It gets older faster  and sticks in your brain longer than It’s A Small World from that idiotic Disney ride.


There are more humbugs, but that’s enough to get started. Happy Holidays, everyone. Or should that generic statement be considered a humbug, too?



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Filed under Children, consumer products, Current news, Holiday, television, thought