Thursday, February 25, 2016

Beware of Return Shipping

Buyer beware.  Isn't that what we're supposed to remember?!  I appreciate that Amazon is so easy to work with when it comes to returns.  But, when it comes to third party sellers who offer free shipping, I'm discovering that it is a different matter.

My girls are in a gym class and I wanted to get them some biketards--leotards with legs for class.  I went online and found one that I liked the look of.  The picture and the leotards we received were slightly different.  The arm holes didn't fit securely, but stretched lower, showing their bras.  There was no picture of the backs of the leotards, so I assumed, it would be modest like the front.  Nope!  They were very low (mid-back) so that their bras completely showed (not just a little).  I was so disappointed.

But, that was where the disappointment began.  I discovered that in order to return them, I had to pay the return shipping--$8.  Then, when the credit finally showed up, a $6 restocking fee was deducted though nothing was wrong with the leotards.  Basically, when all is said and done, I had to pay for a leotard that I returned and can't use.  I contacted the seller and they informed me about the restocking fee.

Okay.  That's my mistake.  But, their mistake was not showing a picture of the back of the leotard.

In the future, I'm going to try and stay away from "free shipping" sellers on Amazon, unless I'm absolutely certain I'm not going to have to return the product!

Just to let you know, the seller was Miss Belly Dance--in case you ever consider purchasing from them on Amazon.  Purchasing is fine--as long as you do not think there is a chance you will need to return your item.  Then, financially I've learned it isn't a good choice.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Wood Pulp = Cellulose, More about Parmesan Cheese

Like most things, the matter of the cellulose in parmesan cheese is actually a little more complicated. On my last post, a friend commented and explained that wood pulp is cellulose. (Thanks my friend!)  I looked it up and it is!  It acts as fiber in our digestive system that moves things a lot because it isn't digestible by human bodies.  Hmm...  I gathered from what I read online that it hasn't been determined whether it is dangerous for human consumption.  The FDA has approved it as a food additive.  That's why the article is funny to me.  I suspect there are probably limits of how much cellulose is added (though I'm not sure) and it is very important that food is correctly labeled.  I suspect that is one of the larger issues.  The article makes it seem like the wood pulp is dangerous.

Sifting through what I read a little more from the article I linked to and other sources I found online, I believe the issue is more with false labeling.  A cheese seems like it couldn't be 100% Parmesan Cheese if 3-4% of it is cellulose, aka wood pulp.  It is also disconcerting that Target's store brand grated Parmesan isn't at all parmesan.  The cellulose does keep it from clumping and sticking together.

Here's a link to a second article:

This article explains that 2-4% is allowed.  The cheese in question was tested at 7.8%, far higher than the allowable limit.  Kraft's cheese is within that limit.

Here's the FDA's statement about cellulose on their website:

I still think it's funny.  "Wood Pulp" is used to alarm us.  "Cellulose" is used to make us think it's just something else added to food.  It's all about the spin!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Parmesan Cheese: Beware!

In the Baltimore Sun this morning, there was an article about Parmesan Cheese that has been making the rounds the past few days.  Here's a LINK to it.  I thought it was very interesting and helpful. Basically, the grated Parmesan Cheese that we buy in the store has varying degrees of fillers in it. It's pretty horrifying to think that there might be wood pulp in some of the cheese we've eaten.  It's also sad to think that Target's store brand of Parmesan cheese didn't even have any parmesan cheese in it (it was a combination of other cheeses)!

Every once in a while I find a grocery item that I'm willing to spend more money on because it really matters (like real butter instead of margarine).  Parmesan cheese just moved onto that list this morning.  I'm sure the companies that sell grated parmesan are now going to scramble to decrease the percentage of their fillers and show that they're doing so--or at least I hope so.  But, until I'm sure, I think I'm going to get the shredded parmesan at Aldi from the refrigerated section instead of the grated parmesan that I've been buying for a while.

Friday, February 12, 2016

No longer free...

For several years now, I've traveled over to Donna Young's website for various calendars and organization forms.  But, today I discovered that none of the forms are free on her site anymore.  She has switched to subscription based access which costs $25 or $40 per year.

If you're interested in calendar forms of this type, I'd recommend Mom's Tool Belt instead, though. What I like about her site better is that it's a lifetime membership.  She adds new yearly calendars each year.  I've always been able to find the organization forms that I need.  This doesn't give you access to the notebooking pages she has done which are on (lifetime membership on that site is $97).   So far, I've always been able to find free notebooking pages for what I need on other sites. Notebooking isn't our primary approach to homeschooling, so I only use pages like these on rare occasions.

I have to admit that I'm bummed Donna Young's site isn't free at all anymore...

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Making Soap

I enjoy crafting.  Lately, I've been getting into hand lettering and decorative knots.  They've been fun for me because I can pick up whatever I'm working on for five minutes and get something done.  But, I'm always intrigued by other crafts I hear about.  Two that I've always wondered about picking up are candle making and soap making.  If I ever were to try soap making, I found the book I'd use.

Pure Soapmaking by Anne-Marie Faiola

The author of this book put everything you need to know in one book.  This book is an awesome resource because she explains to the crafter how to be safe and emphasizes the importance of this safety!  I would not have realized how important safety would be in the craft of making soap.  The author begins by describing the soapmaking process, equipment needed, how to make soap, about oils/additives/scent, and designing recipes.  She then includes a wide variety of recipes.

I learned several things from this book.
#1  You must have separate equipment for making soap.  So, this craft requires a significant investment up front.  You CANNOT use your own kitchen equipment to make soap.  She explains the specific dangers of doing so.
#2  The interaction of the ingredients combined to make soap is very complex.  I had mistakenly thought before reading this book that soap was a very simple thing.  Not so!
#3  Read the bulk of this book thoroughly before starting out.  There's a lot to understand before one can start the journey of making soap.  This is not a hobby that someone can pick up for a half hour and then put down.  Rather, it is a hobby for people that have half a day to spend on it, or at least a few uninterrupted hours until they get the hang of making soap.

I have a new respect for people who make homemade soap after reading this book.  If you've ever seriously considered making soap, I'd highly recommend this book!  It's a great all-in-one resource!

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Storey Books.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Dishwasher Soap

For years, I've bought dishwasher soap at Costco.  But, I realized earlier this year that the Costco near me stopped carrying the Kirkland brand of dishwasher soap.  I had two choices:  buy the more expensive bottle of Cascade or find another alternative...  I was concerned about 2 things-- price and how well they the soap would clean my dishes!

So, I started trying to figure out the best deal.  I watched the target ads and local grocery store ads.  I checked Wegman's store brand and Aldi's.  I didn't want to deal with coupons if I could help it.  I discovered as I searched that Wegman's store brand cost $3.50 for 75 oz. and Aldi cost $2.50 for 75 oz.

I started by using the Aldi bottle and it has worked great.  I wish I had switched a long time ago!  I do use Finish rinse with the soap, but I always had to use it with the Kirkland brand in order for my dishes to get cleaned without spots.

Comparative savings:
Costco brand:  2 bottles of 116 oz. each
I remember paying $11 or $12 for the 2 bottles.

Aldi:  $2.50 for 75 oz.
Smaller bottle, easier to store under the sink

For $10, I could purchase 300 oz. Aldi dishwasher soap or 232 oz. Costco brand.

I'm so thankful to have found a solution that cleans my dishes that is less expensive--without coupons!