Friday, January 29, 2010


Have you ever actually tried these things? I don’t know exactly what compelled this purchase, but clearly something did. Maybe it was my fascination with blackheads, maybe it was the fact that this particular package had some promotional orange scented strips in it, I can’t say for certain but clearly something compelled me.

It’s an interesting concept really. Yanking out blackheads from the root. It’s almost like the Pimple Epilady of skin care. Sort of a gross concept if you really think about it. I recommend you don’t think about it. OK, think about for another minute or two while I provide you with this little Bioré Strip factoid “You could drive from New York to LA and back on a path paved in pore strips sold so far!” (I actually got this quote from the Official Bioré Skincare Products website. How’s that for a completely gross thought. Driving from NY to LA over billions of blackheads.

Being cursed with mediocre skin as an adult has really screwed me up. As an adolescent my skin was crystal clear. Of course I got the occasional zip, but for the most part it was pretty damn good. And then I turned 30 and lucky me, I got bad skin. It was, naturally, at this time that I began to completely obsess over the quality of my skin, something I had never really given a second thought to. Sucks that at 30 I had to start worrying about crap I should have gotten over at 17. So not fair. But nonetheless, bad skin meant I had to try every skin cleansing product out there, at least once. After all, something had to work. I still am not certain what momentary lapse caused me to believe that a paper maché strip would clean my pores, but I gave it the old college try. Having been out of college for over a decade didn’t make that particularly easy, but I tried anyway.

I also learned from the Official Bioré Skincare Products website that the strips “…instantly remove pore-clogging dirt, oil and blackheads from all your problem areas. In just one use, these strips are twice as effective as the leading pore cleanser at getting rid of pore-clogging build-up and blackheads. Helps reduce the appearance of pores with regular use.” I’m not entirely certain what “the leading pore cleanser” is so I can’t for certain if the strips are “twice as effective,” but I tend to doubt it.

Do you remember the commercial? There’s a little cartoon-y looking image of a strip after it has been removed from someone’s face, looking a little like a porcupine with, what I imagine is supposed to be the blackheads sticking out of it. I guess from this artist rendering, we are all to assume that the blackheads yanked from the deepest recesses of our pores will curse the little paper maché strip with their presence instead of our delicate skin. At least that’s what I assumed. And of course, that is what I was expecting to see.

There are two different sized and shaped strips that you can choose from. One for your face and another for your nose. The nose one is shaped a little like a Butterfly Bandage and it’s supposed to fit over the bridge of your nose. (It does.) The face one is more rectangular and apparently is supposed to fit anywhere larger. When you open the package, the strips sit on plastic sheeting which you must peel off before application. You are to then apply the strip to the appropriate location and wait 10 minutes. In these next 10 minutes the strip (which really is like paper maché) dries and tightens. This is apparently how you are to know that this product is working. After the allotted timeframe you are to then peel the strip off of your face and this process instantly removes the offending pore-clogging dirt, oil and blackheads. Ummm, can you say, I don’t think so?

Ok, so they are fun to use, and I admit that I tried to put one on the tail of my Sphinx Samson, just to see if they would work on skin with more obvious blackheads than mine, but to no avail. He did have a bit of a blackhead problem on his tail, but he wasn’t as vain as I, and would have nothing of it. I can’t say as I blame him really. But the end result is that I saw no difference on my face, and did not feel any less oily or less blackhead-y. Perhaps if I used them consistently I would experience some result that would change my mind, but I’m one of those instant gratification kind of people. If I spend money on a product that is supposed to do something, I want it to do that something when I first use it. I mean it’s not like it’s changing the texture of my skin, or getting rid of wrinkles or anything, it’s supposed to remove blackheads which I can do with my fingers so clearly they do come out, they just need the right motivation. That said, I don’t really think that it is too much to ask that a product that claims to be the best at “instantly remove pore-clogging dirt, oil and blackheads” actually deliver on said promise. Maybe it is too much to ask. It certainly is for this particular product.

Maybe if I used them every week, three times per week I would see some stupendous result, but they need much better marketing material if they are going to convince me that I need to spend that kind of money consistently until I start seeing a difference. I mean how long do I wait? A week, a month, a year? I’d like to know. At least the wrinkle creams tell you that results vary and that you should start seeing those results in 10-14 days (or whatever line they are trying to sell you for whatever product it is). At least you have some frame of reference. With Bioré strips, no frame of reference and no results. Seems like I’d have been better off with actual paper maché, at least then I could have made myself a nice mask if my skin got too unsightly.

Friday, January 22, 2010


I love the commercials for this product. All the happy, playful animals rolling around on the couch. It’s great. It’s fun. It makes me smile. Having two cats and two dogs myself, I love watching animals do their animal thing. It makes the crappiness of a bad day go away and it makes me think (if even for a second) that I really am the kind of person that I want to be. After all I have four rescued animals. I must be filled with something like ,compassion.

Despite all of the compassion oozing out of my pores, a clear and present fur issue permeates the house, the furniture and of course most of the clothes. I have short-haired dogs, but moderately-haired cats, and although I keep the closet doors closed, somehow or other, the cats manage to set up camp in there, and the fur just ends up everywhere. I am still not certain how this occurs, but it does. In fact I’m still finding fur from the cat that died 6 months ago on my sweaters. And this is not from lack of washing them. It’s just the way it is with fur. There is no getting away from it once it has taken hold of your life. The many and varied rolls of packing tape and lint removers scattered hither and yon throughout the house not withstanding, there is a constant fur problem.

All this said, of course upon seeing the happy, playful commercial with the happy, playful animals rolling all over the couch followed by the Scotch Fur Fighter (made my 3M) erasing the presence of the fur with ease, I felt I needed to give it a whirl. After all no harm, no foul. If the Fur Fighter did not in fact fight fur, then I would be in no worse shape than I was when I started. Less a few dollars perhaps, but nothing I couldn’t handle. We’re not talking about hermetically sealing the house or any sort of craziness like that. Since the $800 vacuum doesn’t quite fix the problem, and all the packing tape in the world wouldn’t be quite enough, I thought the little handheld job with the little removable “fur magnet” of sorts (3M calls them “Microtrap™ Grippers”) would do the trick.
I was unclear as to what the “fur magnet” actually was until I opened the package and discovered that it was a removable, flexible, clothy-rubbery item with cat-tongue-like-prongs. After a moment’s consideration, I thought this made perfect sense, after all, the feline is a perfectly designed animal. It has remained relatively unchanged for somewhere around 6 million years. Since millions of years of evolutions didn’t bother to change the cat tongue, why not use it for what it’s good for, removing fur.
The Fur Fighter is an ingenious device which fits perfectly in the palm of the hand of what I imagine to be an average sized American female. Since the ads never show an average sized American male using it, perhaps the fit just isn’t right?

The instructions claim that you can use the Fur Fighter in all directions. Meaning that you can move it back and forth over the material you are trying to fight the fur from and all will be well. This is in fact not the case. The reality is that if the fur goes into the Microtrap™ Grippers in one direction, it comes out of the Microtrap™ Grippers in the other direction, thus if you push the Fur Fighter forward on a fur covered pillow it will remove the fur and if you pull the Fur Fighter backward over that same fur covered pillow, it will put the fur right back where it started. Actually it will take all of the fur that you removed from all over said pillow and deposit it in one place back on the pillow. This makes it easier to remove for the second time, but, given that the instructions say that such an activity shouldn’t be necessary, one must not be thrilled about the fact that a second removal is easier than the first. Although in defense of the instruction writers, I suppose you probably can use the Fur Fighter in all directions only you must choose a single direction for each usage. Forward on Mondays and backward on Fridays, or something like that.

The upshot is that for the most part the Fur Fighter does actually work. It does not work quite as well as I hoped it would, but it definitely works. It says it gets “embedded pet hair that vacuums leave behind” and it also says it “picks up 3 times more pet hair than a lint roller.” Since I didn’t vacuum the burgundy duvet cover (seen below) before using the Fur Fighter, I can’t say one way or another whether the first statement is true. I can however, with absolute certainty say that it does remove 3 times more pet hair than a lint roller. This however isn’t saying much and if I were the 3M Scotch Fur Fighter Marketing Team, I would up that number significantly. Since the simple dimensions of the lint roller makes it fall short to the capacity of the Fur Fighter.
So all the happy, playful animals can continue to happily and playfully roll around on the couch, the bed, the chairs, the carpet or any other piece of furniture you may have. And the best part is that with only a few strokes in any direction (but not all directions) you too can be mostly fur free.

Friday, January 15, 2010


I was travelling to a client site, a client I had never actually met before and of course I wanted to put my best foot forward and look snappy. I grabbed the L’Oréal Double Extend Beauty Tubes mascara to toss into my zip lock baggie of travel sized items, and hit the road. This particular product states that it can lengthen your lashes up to 80%. 80%, that’s quite a claim. In fact 80% more length in some cases could just be frightening, but since the average length of an adult female eyelash is 9-11mm I guess 80% isn’t really that terrifying. Nonetheless, since I have average length, relatively light lashes, I thought that using the product would be relatively safe in a business environment and would not make me look like a tricked out drag queen.

I woke in my hotel room the following morning, and grabbed the tube of Double Extend Beauty Tubes. Now I am not a good make-up applier. In fact my entire itinerary of makeup application techniques most often revolves around an unusually old mascara and an equally old lipstick. No one ever taught me how to apply makeup so I just defaulted to what seemed easiest and least likely to look ridiculous. I did read Kevyn Aucoin’s books and even experimented with his techniques, but the level of commitment required to look that good was just far too extensive for my taste and timeframe. So I took the easy way out and stuck with single application mascaras and lipsticks that made my lips look awesome using tricks other than just color. So imagine my shock and awe when I discovered that Beauty Tube application was a 3-step process. That was just not right. But then I looked closer and realized that it was really only a 2-step process with a step thrown in for removal.

Step 1: Nourish and prepare lashes for tubes
Step 2: Tubes extend lashes
Step 3: Smudge-free removal with warm water
I have seen a lot of products and never before have seen the removal of a product as a definable portion of the actual steps of use of the product but I was willing to overlook that oddity. Of course this comment does not apply to products specifically designed to remove something such as Goof-Off or turpentine.

With some amount of trepidation I began my application process. Two steps is a lot for me. But I did as I was told and nourished my lashes to prepare them for the tubes. I noticed then that the nourishing Step 1 product was white.

I suppose the first step would have to vary in color from the second step of actual Tube-Application, otherwise who could tell it wasn’t the same product being applied twice? Then I applied the tubes. They didn’t really look like tubes going on, and they didn’t really look like tubes after they dried, but I suppose all things considered my lashes still looked pretty good. I stood in front of the mirror blinking and I think I even turned sideways to try to see if my lashes really were 80% longer. I know, it’s a flawed test, but it was early and I’d only had one cup of coffee.

So off I went to meet the new client being led by my stupendous 80% longer lashes. I don’t know exactly what I expected, but with an additional 80% length I was sure expecting at least some reaction. I mean let’s consider for a moment how we would react to 80% more length of some other familiar objects. Ok, on second thought, let’s not.

The day went on as usual with a new client. I worked and then when I was done working, I went back to my hotel room and began removing the work related items from my body, all the while wondering why no one commented on my long, luxurious lashes. I mean aren’t people supposed to notice those things? They always do in the ads. No heads whipped around as I was walking down the hall, no one fell madly in love with me and I was completely unable to convince anyone to do anything for me just by the presence of my lashes. Not that I was particularly looking for any of those reactions, but still it’s the principle of it. I have feelings you know.

But then, there I was washing my face when I looked down on the wash cloth and there they were. Little squiggles. I had to look again to make certain I saw what I thought I was seeing, but low and behold, I had finally seen the tubes. Perhaps the easiest mascara removal process ever. No rubbing, no separate product needed, no raccoon eyes, no nothing. Just warm water and a washcloth and off they came. I was astounded, thrilled and 100% sold (20% more than they promised me). If this is what Beauty Tubes are about I’m all in. The whole 80% longer lashes thing, I’m not convinced, but the removal, well that made it all worth while.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Winter of 2004-2005 rolled around and somehow or other I had managed to do $4000 worth of damage to the engine in the car I was driving, which at the time was only worth about $7000. I was unemployed and didn’t really want to spend the money to fix a car I bought used 3 years prior, which had always been a little bit of a problem child anyway. So what did I do, of course I bought a new car. Sensible, no, but I thought it was necessary. I figured if I was going to spend the money, I may as well spend it on something whos problems were my very own. I had already invested enough in my current vehicle which had been bestowed upon me complete with someone else’s problems. There was that, and the fact that I bought the vehicle while living in Texas, and thinking I would never leave southern climates, did not care about the fact that this particular SUV did not have 4 wheel drive. In New Hampshire however, this seemingly minor factor can be a pretty significant problem. Thus I opted to purchase a new vehicle which would have a fully functioning engine and the ability to tote me around relatively safely in the snow. (I say relatively because my driving is the primary concern in this particular equation).

I did not want to, nor did I have the means to spend $40,000 on a new mode of transport, so despite the fact that I wanted something in the SUV ilk, I didn’t have the large financial wherewithal to support that. And I wanted to buy something no one else would ever want. So at around $20,000 fully loaded (and there wasn’t really much in the way of fully loaded), I went for the Honda Element. Having had a Honda save my life once, I was rather enamored by them. I thought I should repay the favor to the company that assured that the rear end collision that totaled a different car years back, not only allowed me to walk away with nothing but shaking hands and a few moments without my glasses, but also spared the $300 worth of groceries and liquor in the trunk (minus the homemade cookies which just turned to dust). And when I say totaled, I mean totalled. Somehow or other the trunk of that Honda Accord just accordioned around the stuff in it and although the car, which completed its lifecycle in the middle of 93 South somewhere just north of Braintree, MA was half the size it should have been, I was fine, my cat was fine, and the bottles of vodka and juice were all fine. So suffice it to say, I sort of felt like I owed the Honda company, and in my opinion they made the ugliest car on the market. The Element.

I decided on the Element less for the price than for the fact that I was sure that no one else would ever buy one. OK, some people would buy one, but not that many people and then I would be part of some sort of freaky brotherhood (sisterhood) of people who buy insanely ugly cars. There was that, and then the secondary and tertiary factors of price and all-wheel drive. I still wouldn’t have 4 wheel drive, but I would have something that would at least play a small role in my not colliding into a tree in the snow.

So off to the dealership I went to buy what I was sure was the most unpopular car on the planet. And in orange no less. The ugliest of ugly vehicles. But then this strange thing happened as I was driving back from the dealership. I started to notice all of the Elements on the road. Not so many orange ones, but still a lot of the make and model. Too many. So many in fact that I almost wanted to return mine. I was part of a somethinghood alright, but it was far too large for my liking. After all, I’m not much of a joiner, and I was terribly disappointed to learn that I was really just common. Bummer.

But I kept the Element and discovered that it was fabulous in other ways. For example, a 50 gal trashcan can fit upright in the back. You may not think that this is a valuable asset, but I can tell you as someone who brings her own garbage and recycling to the dump, this feature is invaluable. In fact you can fit pretty much anything in the back of an Element. I have flipped the back seats up and travelled for 800 miles with two dogs and three cats in relative comfort.

For another example, all four seats fold all the way back to allow one to sleep in said vehicle with three others. I have not yet used this function, but should I ever need to, I am certain I will be glad for it. I did notice however in playing with the seats and other features of this wondrous people mover, that the moon roof is set too far back from the driver’s seat to adjust while driving. I know what you are thinking, the driver shouldn’t be doing anything but driving so that’s probably a good thing, Well, yeah, but it’s still really inconvenient and you sort of have to climb in the back seat to adjust it which I personally think is a giant pain in the ass. Well several years after making this purchase I had the distinct pleasure of working with one of the original designers of the Element and was told that the Japanese individuals from the parent company were so into moon gazing that they wanted the “moon roof” to be an actual moon roof. Thus the odd placement of the moon roof is designed so when all four seats are reclined everyone can see the moon. Cool, huh?

Another, but not final, example of the fabulousness of this vehicle, shortly after I bought it I was pulling out of a hotel parking lot only to find that I missed the road and ended up in a ditch. Apparently I was not the first person to do this since the sign indicating where the road ended and the ditch began had already been run over and was smashed to the ground. The Element bottomed out and made a ghastly scraping sound, followed by a very abrupt rebounding bounce. I looked at my darling wife sitting in the seat next to me, and only one word came to mind. Mind you we were in the middle of Oklahoma trying to get to Arizona and at that time had three cats and one dog along on our travels. Oh what to do if we had just bashed a hole in the underside of the Element. But alas and alack it was not so. This fabulous vehicle took the hit, remained completely unscathed and was able to continue on for what was left of the 1600 mile journey.

The rear seats are elevated so passengers can see through the windshield (which could be either a good thing or a bad thing depending on who is driving). My in-laws love this feature since we often stick them in the back with the two dogs and three cats. The rear seats also are removable so you could probably fit another dog or two in there – why we didn’t just take the seats out, I can’t tell you, but the past is the past. There are tire chocks for bicycles which can be used with the rear seats flipped up or taken out, it warms up amazingly quickly in the winter, and the gas mileage is great considering it’s a giant box on wheels and quite possibly the least aerodynamic shape ever. The only thing that is really irritating about the Element is that the floor, which is rubber, has no drain holes, so hosing it out is not as easy a task as you would initially imagine. I suppose if you washed it on a 60º slope you’d be all set, but most of us don’t have one of those available at all times.

Recently one of the LED lights in my dash burned out. I know this is not supposed to happen and I’m quite certain it doesn’t happen very often, because in order to fix it, it would cost me $800 to rebuild all of the dashboard wiring. $800 to change a dashboard light? No thanks I’ll pass on paradise.

Other than that small fluke, which I’m certain is a one-off failure, the Honda Element is really the most functional vehicle I have ever seen. It is safe, easy to drive, comfortable, and can fit absolutely anything. It handles in well in the rain, great in the snow, pretty good in the mud and excellent over unpaved roads, which I know since I live in the country and drive over many unpaved roads every day. It is relatively easy to clean and has plenty of space for “stuff”. It’s not super wide or super long so driving in the city isn’t a problem and neither is parking.

The new Elements don’t have the nice, durable rubber on the bumpers which I always liked so I’m not too crazy about that “upgrade,” but there is now a Dog Friendly version of the vehicle which comes equipped with numerous dog accessories. This, I must say is awesome. Given the odd shape of the back of the Element I have been unable to find a dog cage that fits it well enough to keep the dogs from jumping into the front seat. Apparently I wasn’t the only one with this issue, because the dog friendly Element comes with a really nice, cushy looking car kennel. Not only does Honda make a great vehicle, but clearly they listen to their consumers.

As with anything else purchased, people buy what they buy to fill a specific need. I know the Element is not a luxury vehicle by any stretch of the imagination, but it is quite possibly only of the most utilitarian vehicles on the market. I am frequently asked how I like it, and I always say the same thing. I love it. Even if I’m not the only one on the road driving it.

Friday, January 1, 2010


I was all prepared to say that the secret is that it doesn’t work…but in good conscience, I just can’t do that.

I live in the boondocks. OK, not really the boondocks, but there are a total of 2600 people in my town and it takes more than 6 minutes to get to a dry cleaner’s so I thought that I would give the at-home product a whirl. I figured it may not work, but it couldn’t hurt, and if it did hurt, I was either doing something seriously wrong, or about to get a new outfit courtesy of Woolite®. Needless to say, given no extenuating circumstances involving banned chemicals or toxic fumes, I was safe.

I can safely state that Dry Cleaner’s Secret® contains no banned chemicals and gives off no toxic fumes. The oil based formula is contained on what they call a Cleaning Cloth which looks strangely like a dryer sheet. The Cleaning Cloth has a dual purpose. You can use it to remove stains on your clothes by applying it directly to the material and/or you can toss it into the dryer with your clothes to dry clean all of them. It is a rapid, 20 minute process to get your clothes clean and refreshed and although there is a warning against giving the Cleaning Cloths to children or pets, putting them in your eye or eating them, it is a non-toxic formula that at least claims environmental safety.

As cynical as I am, I did not expect this particular product to work. Part of my skepticism was that I have tried other at home dry leaning products in the past and have had little luck. My jackets still smelled like an arm pit-deodorant hybrid and my pants still smelled oddly like crotch. I wasn’t impressed. So when I removed my jackets and sweaters this time and they did not have the lingering smell of Gillette, you could have blown me over with a feather. Alas, a product that lives up to its claims. Imagine such a thing…

There are two downsides to Dry Cleaner’s Secret® as far as I can see. The first is that you can only clean four items at once, so if you are like me and wait until you have a bag full of clothes to clean before you get around to addressing the problem, you could be standing at the dryer all day in 20 minute increments getting the job done, The other is that it does not iron for you. When one gets clothes back form the dry cleaner, not only are they (dry) clean, but they are also pressed. I don’t iron, so this is a major bonus for me. I can iron, but I don’t do it because I’m really not very good at it, and ironing is one of those activities that if you don’t excel at it, you should just let someone else do it. The repercussions otherwise can be both humiliating and extremely uncomfortable. So, for me the fact that I still needed to iron the items that came out of the dryer was a little bit of a deterrent, but not enough of one to prevent me from using the product again.