Showing posts with label Gifts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gifts. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Special Days in May ~ A Gift Review

 While all of us are desperately waiting for Spring to bring forth it's flowers and warmer weather, May is coming along fast and furious with many "special days" to look forward to.  

Of course everyone knows it's Mother's Day on the 8th of May, but did you also know that we celebrate Nurses Day and Teachers Appreciation Week in the same month?


Mother's Day can be a time to give her something that she can really use to pamper herself just a little bit!  Instead of the usual chocolates, flowers or cards, give her the gift of Color Street and let mom indulge herself with a little self-care.

Teachers can be undone with all the coffee mugs and chocolates as well.  Why not think outside the box and give them some fun for their fingertips.  I can just see the little eyes wanting to check out the fancy nails on their favorite teacher.  

Nurses who are run off their feet with caring for others, could also use a nice little pick me up.  Color Street Nail Strips are perfect!  While your favorite nurse is on a coffee break, she can do up her nails in less than ten minutes.  A little self care help for the ones who care for everyone else before themselves.  

Your hands are always visible to everyone and when your nails are nice and polished they make a statement without having to say anything out loud.  It says, " I care about myself too!"

If you are anything like me, I don't like to sit waiting for things to be ready.  Color Strips Nail Strips are ready and done in less than 10 minutes.  Once applied, you can continue on your day and accomplish all the things that need doing.  No waiting for nail polish to dry and once applied, they last for at least 2 weeks.  No cracking, peeling, smudging is going to happen, unlike liquid nail polish!

Until I found these Color Strips, I hated doing my nails.  I just could not seem to get a good application happening.  One coat would go on great and the second coat would get all smudged.  Frustration was the name of the game in my case.  NOT anymore! 

What I really like is that with these Nail Strips you can mix and match or mix and contrast as you like.  One set of strips are enough to do a full manicure if you have long nails, or two if your nails are kept on the shorter side.  Just make sure that you seal the package after you are finished with the Strips.  A curling iron will seal the package nicely until you need them again.  

https://www.colorstreet.com/Olivia72/nailbar/3523400


Color Street Nail Strips are only available through a Stylist and they are not hard to find. So if your Teacher, Nurse or Mom really likes this gift, she can order for herself after having used your gift!  They are affordable and a really nice gift that says so much.

If you are a little bit artistic, you can do so much with these Nail Strips by thinking outside the box (so to speak).  

When you have a great product, people begin to notice and the awards for excellence start to roll in.  So it is with Color Street!  They have been awarded the Best in Nail Care!  Check this out:
 



Needless to say, I'm pleased to have joined this company as a Stylist and also appreciate that this company gives back to their communities.  You will find that they support causes like Epilepsy, Birth Defects, March of Dimes, Breast Cancer Awareness and so much more.  

If you want to see for yourself just how easy Color Street Nail Strips are to apply you can watch this You Tube video!

I hope you get a chance to try these out for yourself and I would love to know what you think!  Don't hesitate to leave a message!   For those of you who look after "Elders" these Color Strips also make a wonderful way to spend some time spoiling them with a little bit of fun!  




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Saturday, April 2, 2022

Rick Mercer Talking to Canadians Book Review

Rick Mercer Talking to Canadians A Memoir is a fun read for anyone who appreciates Mercer's comedic genius.

Rick Mercer's autobiographical book appeared under many a Christmas tree in 2021. I myself gifted it to a number of family members after watching a program on which the 
Ottawa International Writers Festival featured Canadian journalist Linden MacIntyre interviewing Mercer and reviewing Mercer's life so far as depicted between the covers of this book. 

For those who might not know, Rick Mercer is a Canadian celebrity. He is a comedian who had great success on television on shows that included This Hour Has 22 MinutesMade in Canada, Talking to Americans and his biggest success and the program with which my family was most familiar, the Rick Mercer Report. When he eventually ended the Rick Mercer Report after 15 seasons, a question arose. What was Rick Mercer going to do now? 

The answer? He went back to stand up comedy, performing to packed shows wherever he went. That is, until the pandemic arrived. 

CELEBRITY REVIEWS


Mercer had to pivot again and this time his pivot found him writing this book, Rick Mercer Talking to Canadians: A Memoir. For once, Mercer was talking about his own life instead of about the lives of others.  It is an interesting tale, telling the story of his development from that of an unsuccessful student to that of a very successful comedian. 

On Twitter, Canadian author Margaret Atwood, said that the book is a "funny, pitfall-strewn, no-holds-barred memoir from the ranting TV uproarist, edge-walker, envelope-pusher and pot-stirrer who once talked me (Atwood) into impersonating a goalie!" On the Rick Mercer Report, Mercer talked many people into doing things out of their comfort zone.

Policy Magazine called the book "alternately funny, moving and always heartfelt." Touché!

Jann Arden, another Canadian comedian and songwriter, endorsed the book when she said "I laughed so much reading this, I kept waking up my dog in bed. Rick is a determined writer - he never stops pulling you into his stories and he never stops looking for the punchlines in everyday life. He made me realize how funny ordinary things are, how funny and how incredibly interesting. It's heartfelt and honest and generous and edgy - just like Mercer himself. Read it! It's fabulous!" I agree.

My only quibble with the book is that it isn't finished but then again, Mercer isn't finished. Who knows what the next book will have to share.

WHO SHOULD READ RICK MERCER'S MEMOIR? 


For one, anyone who is familiar with Mercer's television programs and comedic abilities will love this book. If you know his work, you will particularly enjoy learning about his background. If you enjoy true stories and autobiographies you will likely enjoy this book. If you have a Canadian connection in particular with Newfoundland and Labrador, you will enjoy it. It is an easy to read, funny book and I do find funny books hard to come by.  They say that writing humor is difficult. Obviously, Rick Mercer does not have that problem. Apparently, the audiobook is particularly enjoyable because Mercer himself reads it. With the audiobook, you will not only 'hear' his way of speaking in the words on the written page but you will literally hear them. Find your copy Rick Mercer's Talking to Canadians of the book on Amazon here

See you
at the book store!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

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Friday, April 1, 2022

12" Baking Pans & Casserole Dish that Fit Calphalon Countertop Ovens

Countertop Oven Cookware
Last year I purchased a new Calphalon Performance Cool Touch Countertop Oven, which I still love and use often.  The biggest challenge I had when I purchased my countertop oven was finding baking dishes that were large enough for meals, but small enough to fit inside the oven.  

The interior rack is approximately 13" x 11" which is misleading because it sounds like most standard baking pans would fit, however most do not fit due to handles or depth size.  Therefore, I needed new cake pans, pizza pans and a casserole dish that didn't slant at the top or have handles.  Surprisingly, the casserole dish was not easy to find.

Most cookware is measured at the bottom.  A standard cake pan bottom will be 12" x 8½", but the top measurement is closer to 15" x 10" and will not fit in a 13" (interior measurement) countertop oven.

In addition to handles, casserole dishes often have rolled edges or "lips", which means the lovely top of the casserole dish ends up making that dish to big for a countertop oven.  Needless to say, when I found a plain, flat sided 12½" casserole dish, I was thrilled. 


My 12½" White Casserole Dish that Fits My Countertop Oven

 HIC Oblong Rectangular Baking Dish Roasting Lasagna Pan,
Fine White Porcelain
Check Price
During my search, I found I had to rely on customer reviews by individuals who actually measured the cookware.  Ironically, in most cases, they were complaining that the dish was slightly smaller than advertised.  For me, that half-inch made all the difference.  I assume the seller measured the outside of the box instead of the actual dish, which is actually a pretty common mistake when writing a listing online. 

Not only does this awesome casserole dish fit my countertop oven, it is also dishwasher safe

I have used this casserole dish for lasagna, lemon chicken, pork chop casserole and more.  All of these dinners easily fit inside the dish and cook splendidly. I have not cooked a cake yet, but other reviews indicate that it is also great for a cake or brownies. 

This is a must-have casserole dish for 13" (interior) countertop ovens!


12" Pizza Pans & Other Bakeware

 Pizza Baking Pan Pizza Tray - Deedro 12 inch Stainless Steel Pizza Pan Round Pizza Baking Sheet Oven Tray Pizza Crisper Pan, Healthy Pizza Cooking Pan for Oven, 2 PackCheck PricePizza pans were another challenge.  I had never considered the size of a pizza pan before.  It simply isn't an issue in a regular oven.  However, all of my pizza pans have handle grips and are over 14" wide, which is too large for the countertop oven.  Therefore, the pizza pan search began and it was just as hard as the casserole dish.

My Calphalon Countertop Oven included one pizza pan.  Since my husband and I do not like the same toppings, I always prepare two pizzas for dinner.  Therefore, I needed a second pizza pan.

I was very excited to find the pizza pans featured on the right.  They come in a set of two, which is actually great.  That means I now have 3 pizza pans that will fit in my countertop oven.  That is pretty awesome when our son is here for dinner too.

I have also used these pizza pans as baking trays under pies.

In addition to the casserole dish and pizza pans above, I bought a set of small baking trays & pans for cookies, toast, cobblers, etc. A separate bread pan is not necessary since loaf pans already fit the countertop oven.





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Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The Best Bone-Conduction Bluetooth Headphones Review: Shokz OpenRun Pro

If you enjoy listening to music, radio, podcasts or audiobooks, watching TV, movies, YouTube, etc., Bluetooth headphones are a must-have — especially if you don't live (or work) alone. If you want to be able to hear ambient noises, such as a phone call, someone speaking to you or an approaching car as you're crossing the street, you'll want to choose open-ear headphones, rather than on-ear or in-ear styles, such as earbuds. And if you care about sound quality and comfort, I highly recommend investing in a good pair of lightweight bone-conduction Bluetooth headphones.

Shokz, which changed its name from Aftershokz in 2021, is the leading brand of bone-conduction Bluetooth heaphones, for good reason. I have owned several pairs over the years and the company's products just keep getting better. 

I recently purchased the new, top-of-the-line (as of this writing) Shokz OpenRun Pro premium bone conduction Bluetooth headphones, which were launched in January 2022 and are significantly superior to my older models. In this product review, I'll share what I love most about my new Shokz OpenRun Pro on-ear headphones and why I think they are worth their premium price tag. I will also recommend some less expensive models of Shokz bone conduction headphones that are also well worth considering, depending on your needs and your budget.

Main image: Shokz OpenRun Pro Bone Conduction Open-Ear Bluetooth Headphones

Bone Conduction Headphones

I first learned about bone conduction headphone technology in 2015 from my husband, who researched and purchased his first pair of Shokz (then called Aftershokz) bone-conduction headphones after his primary care doctor advised him to stop wearing earbuds, over-ear or on-ear headphones because of his ear eczema. When his new 'phones arrived, he invited me to try them and I became a fan almost immediately (it did take a couple of minutes to get used to the mild vibration against my outer cheekbones the first time I put them on).

Unlike traditional wired and wireless types, Bluetooth headphones with bone conduction technology bypass the eardrum entirely! Instead of sending vibrations through the air to your eardrum, bone-conduction headphones use transducers to transmit those vibrations through your cranial bones (mainly cheekbones and jawbone) directly to your inner ear, causing the cochlea to send signals to the brain, which processes those vibrations into the sound coming through the headphones.

Interesting fact: Since bone conduction technology bypasses the eardrum, it is also used in certain types of hearing impairment tests and hearing aids.

Advantages of Open-Ear Bluetooth Headphones

We continue to move inexorably from wired to wireless technology. We have become accustomed to the freedom and convenience of no longer being tethered to our devices or having limited mobility while using them because they need to be plugged in. This is especially true when it comes to headphones. Most wireless headphones and the devices we use them with, such as laptops, tablets and smartphones,  have built-in Bluetooth technology. So, for example, when I'm out taking a walk, I can listen to an audiobook through my wireless Bluetooth headphones while the iPhone I'm playing it on is safely zipped inside my purse, backpack or belt bag.

Types of wireless Bluetooth headphones include:

  • Earbuds that fit inside your ears.
  • In-ear monitors (IEMs). These are often the choice of serious audiophiles, professional musicians, band members and sound engineers.
  • Over-ear headphones with cushioned ear cups that enclose your ears completely to isolate whatever you are listening to from ambient noise. Again, if you are a serious audiophile, professional musician or sound engineer, or if you are a frequent traveler, these definitely have their uses.
  • On-ear headphones, where the cushioning rests against your ears, rather than enclosing them, so there is less sound isolation (i.e., you can hear some ambient sounds and others may be able to hear what you are listening to, i.e., sound leakage).
  • Open-ear headphones, which have a slim, wrap-around headband that goes behind the head and above the ears, with the ends resting on your cheekbones just in front of the ears. Most open-ear headphones, including the Shokz OpenRun Pro headphones, use bone conduction technology.
Here are some of the key benefits of open-ear Bluetooth headphones:

  • Comfort. Open-ear headphones tend to be significantly more lightweight than other types that have bands. In addition, some people (including me) find earbuds and IEMs painful. In my case, I can't get earbuds to stay in my ears, and I have tried many different types including those designed specifically for people with hard-to-fit ears!
  • Safety. Open-ear headphones allow you to hear what's going on around you while you're listening to music, audiobooks, podcasts, videos or TV, taking phone calls, etc. So, if you're out for a run in the park and a cyclist is bearing down on you from behind, you won't be caught off-guard. Similarly, if you're vacuuming and an important call comes in, you can not only hear the phone ring but also pick it up and talk with the caller without having to pull out your cell phone or walk over to a land line.
  • Hygiene. When you cover your ears with earbuds, over-ear or on-ear headphones, you're creating an enclosed, warm, moist environment that bacteria thrive in. Earbuds and IEMs are especially non-hygienic, since you are repeatedly inserting them inside your ear, where they become covered with bacteria that can continue to grow after they have been removed. Ick!

    In addition, some people (including my husband and me) have ear eczema, which makes the skin in and on our ears dry, flaky and itchy. Wearing headphones that cover our ears, and especially earbuds or IEMs that fit inside them, exacerbates this condition, whereas open-ear bone conduction Bluetooth headphones allow the skin in and on our ears to "breathe."
  • Unobtrusive appearance. The band on most open-ear Bluetooth headphones is narrow and can be worn under your hair, if desired (unless it's extremely short), so that the only visible part is the small ends containing the transducers, which sit just in front of your ears.
Photo of man wearing Shokz OpenRun Pro Bluetooth bone conduction headphones
The Shokz OpenRun Pro wrap-around band is extremely thin, lightweight and comfortable.

It can easily be hidden underneath your hair, if you wish, so that only the small transducers are visible in front of the ears.

Why I Highly Recommend Shokz OpenRun Pro Premium Bone Conduction Open-Ear Bluetooth Headphones

In addition to the pros of open-ear, bone-conduction Bluetooth headphones I've already covered, here are some features and benefits specific to the Shokz OpenRun Pro model I own:

  • close-up of Shokz OpenRun Pro bone conduction headphones control buttons
    Simple power & volume control buttons
     on the right side (above magnetic charging port

    Shokz's newest, most advanced bone conduction technology. Bass tends to be an issue with open-ear headphones, but the new OpenRun Pro 'phones feature Shokz TurboPitch 9th Generation Bone Conduction Technology with CoreCushion bass enhancers inside the transducers for full, rich sound.
  • Multi-point pairing lets you pair with two devices at the same time. I have my Shokz bone-conduction Bluetooth headphones paired with my laptop and my iPhone by default, so I don't have to disconnect and re-pair my Shokz each time I switch from one electronics device to the other multiple times a day.
  • Simple, intuitive controls. The buttons have been enlarged, which makes it much easier to avoid pressing the wrong button.
    • On the right side, there is a large Power/Volume+ button and  Volume- button. Press and hold the Power/Volume+ button for two seconds to power up the headphones, then press and hold it for three seconds to turn them off.
    • Close-up of multifunction button on Shokz OpenRun Pro headphones
      The multifunction button on the
      left side is context-aware.
      On the left side, there is a single, large, context-sensitive multifunction button. Phone calls: Click it once to answer or end a call. Music: Click once to play/pause, double-click while the music is playing to skip to the next song, or triple-click while the music is playing to go to the previous song.
  • Up to 10-hour of music and phone calls on a full charge. Note: With any Bluetooth or other wireless headphones, your actual battery life will depend on the type of audio you're listening to, the volume, the ambient temperature and the output of the USB port used to charge your headphones.  
  • Full charge time: 1 hour. That's pretty fast for 10 hours of use!
  • 5-minute quick charge = 1.5 hours of use. Since these are so lightweight and comfortable, I sometimes forget I'm wearing them and don't remember to turn them off when I'm through listening to my music, audiobook, etc. So, being able to quick-charge them for 5 minutes and immediately use them for another 1.5 hours is an awesome feature!
  • close-up of magnetic induction charging cable and headphone jack
    Magnetic induction charging =
    no fumbling to align the
    charging cable with the charging port!
    Magnetic induction charging cable. The magnetic charging pad on the Shokz OpenRun Pro charging cable firmly snaps into place automatically as soon as it gets near the magnetic charging pad next to the power and volume buttons. Fast and effortless! The location of the charging pad on the headphones has also been moved to make it more easily accessible.
  • Audio battery level notifications. There's no need to guess how much charge you have left, because each time you power on your headphones, a voice will say "Battery High," "Battery Medium," "Battery Low" or "Charge Me." How cool is that?
  • LED charging/charged indicator glows red when charging, then turns blue when fully charged.
  • 20% smaller than previous models. My new Shokz OpenRun Pro headphones are not only more unobtrusive than the older models I have owned, they are also much more lightweight and fit my small-ish head much better, while stil fitting my husband's much larger head equally comfortably.
  • IP55 certified water-resistant. Wear your Shokz OpenRun Pros during a sweaty workout or outdoors in the freezing rain, snow, or blistering heat—they can take it! Just remember that they're water-resistant, not waterproof, so take them off if it starts to pour.
  • Moisture detection alerts. Shokz OpenRun Pro headphones will beep to let you know if it detects water, perspiration or other moisture on the charging pads, so you can stop charging and allow the area to dry completely before charging. 
  • Dual noise-canceling built-in microphone. Perfect for making or taking phone calls or participating in Zoom meetings without annoying electronic feedback.
  • 33 ft. wireless range lets my phone be in one room while I listen to music or audiobooks playing on it in another room.
  • Lightweight nylon fitted zippered hard shell storage and travel case makes it harder for me to lose my new headphones, charging cable, sports headband, warranty card or user guide and protects my investment when I throw them into my purse or suitcase.
  • Optional elasticized headband (included). I have never used mine, but I gather it is to make sure your headphones can't come off while you are running or doing other forms of strenuous exercise.
  • New color option: blue! While I wouldn't sacrifice quality for appearance when choosing an electronics product, I admit I was delighted to see that these superb Shokz OpenRun Pro headphones are available in a pretty aqua blue as well as in black.
  • 2-year warranty. The manufacturer's warranty covers product defects. If you order your Shokz headphones on Amazon you can also purchase an ASURION 2- or 3-Year Portable Electronic Accident Protection Plan with Tech Support for a small additional fee, if you wish.
Photo of aqua blue Shokz OpenRun Pro Bluetooth headphones in black nylon zippered case.
My aqua blue Shokz OpenRun Pro headphones in their
black nylon fitted case (with a loop for the charging cable

The only real "con" is the premium price tag. As of this writing, Shokz OpenRun Pro premium bone conduction open-ear headphones retail for $175.95, much more than I would normally consider spending on this type of product. However, for all the reasons I've listed, uncluding the unmatched comfort, great sound quality, magnetic induction charging and quick charge feature, I consider them a worthwhile investment. 

They are marketed as sports headphones, but I consider them top-of-the-line, open-ear Bluetooth bone conduction headphones for all-around use.

Other Shokz Bone-Conduction Open-Ear Bluetooth Headphones Worth Considering

Shokz open-ear Bluetooth headphones are consistently top-rated by expert technology product review sites such as TechRadar, which named Shokz OpenRun Pro their top pick of The Best Bone Conduction Headphones of 2022. Given their steep price tag, however, there are other, less expensive Shokz models as well as some specialty models that also merit consideration.

Shokz OpenRun have the 8th (vs. 9th) generation of the company's bone conduction technology (with PremiumPitch 2.0 vs. Shokz TurboPitch) and have an 8-hour battery life (vs. 10-hour), a 1.5 hour charge time (vs. 1 hour), a 10-minute quick-charge time for 1.5 hours of usage (vs. 5-minute quick-charge time for 1.5 hours of usage), compared to the Shokz OpenRun Pro. However, they also are IP67-certified waterproof (vs. IP55-certified water-resistant), priced $50 lower than the OpenRun Pro model ($129.95) at the time of publication, and are available in a choice of four colors: Black, bright blue, grey or red. 

Shokz OpenRun Mini headphones are the same model but with a smaller band to fit smaller heads. They only come in black.

Shokz OpenMove have the 7th generation of the company's bone conduction technology with PremiumPitch 2.0, a 6-hour battery life and are IP55-certified water-resistant. They have a partial titanium frame (vs. a full wrap-around titanium frame), use a USB-C charging cable (vs. magnetic induction charging), and don't have a quick-charge feature. On the other hand, they retail for only $79.95 as of this writing, $100 less than the OpenRun Pro model. They come in a choice of blue, grey, pink or white.

Shokz Bone-Conduction Bluetooth Headphones Make a Great Gift

Most people I know own at least one and, for the most part, multiple Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as laptops, mobile phones, tablets, TVs, smart watches and fitness trackers. From college students to seniors, there's a Shokz bone-conduction open-ear Bluetooth headphones model to suit their needs and your budget.


The Best Bone-Conduction Bluetooth Headphones Review: Shokz OpenRun Pro by Margaret Schindel


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Friday, March 18, 2022

Adorable 15 Piece Kids Toy Tin Tea Set & Carrying Case Reviewed

Tin Tea Set
My parents have a new family that just moved in next door. There are two little girls in the family and my mother wanted to give them a special gift for Christmas this year. Plus, it was the perfect way to welcome them to the neighborhood. 

She selected a tin tea set and asked my opinion. I loved the idea!  After all, I still have pieces of a small tin tea set that I had as a child.  The little plates and cups certainly evoke wonderful memories and I wish I still had the full set. 

The tea set my mom chose came with a carrying case. How awesome is that! I couldn't help but think how I wish my set had come with a carrying case.  Perhaps, I would still have the full set if the case was included.  I carried my set around in a brown paper lunch bag, which is most likely why some of the pieces are missing.  

I also loved the design on the set my mom gave the girls. It has kitties on it.  My set has a sweet floral design, but the kitties are adorable.

This leaves me wondering, am I too old to start a collection of delightfully decorated children's tin tea sets?  Nope! I am not.  My husband better prepare to participate in my upcoming tea parties.  I think we will ask our dog, Merlin, to attend too if he promises not eat all of the teacakes.


15 Piece Kids Tin Tea Set & Carrying Case
Several Designs Available

 Jewelkeeper 15 Piece Kids Tin Tea Set & Carrying Case - Cat DesignCheck PriceThe tea sets include a lidded teapot, tray, 4 plates, 4 tea cups, 4 saucers, and the fabulous matching carrying case.  The tea set can be washed by hand and used for many delightful tea parties.  

The tea pot and the cups will hold a small amount of liquid, which is perfect for young children who wish to entertain.

The real benefit to using a tin tea set is that they will not break. 

I am featuring a few of my favorite designs below, but there are others also available.  You can choose the kitties, dogs, unicorns, llamas, horses, or even a ballerina.  There are also jungle and safari sets.  The designs and colors are all awesome!  Now you understand why I said I would like to start my own collection of tin tea sets.  It is hard to choose just one.



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Saturday, March 12, 2022

The Best High Security Micro-Cut Shredder for Documents, Media and Credit Cards

To protect yourself against identity theft and identity fraud, including tax identity theft and medical identity theft, the FTC recommends shredding your financial records, Social Security and Medicare cards, and any other documents that have personal information before you throw them out.

In December, I replaced the Amazon Basics 12-Sheet High-Security Micro-Cut Paper, CD, and Credit Card Shredder with Pullout Basket in our home offfice with an Aurora AU1210MA Professional Grade High Security 12-Sheet Micro-Cut Paper/ CD and Credit Card/ 60 Minutes Continuous Run Time Shredder.  

In this product review, I'll share my tips for choosing the best high-security micro-cut shredder for personal and home office use and why my husband and I consider our new Aurora AU1210MA P-4 security level shredder superior to the Amazon Basics unit it replaced, despite their very similar features, specifications and price tags. 

Photo of Aurora AU1210MA shredder - Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft With This High Security Micro-Cut Shredder

Why You Need a High Security Multi-Media Micro-Cut Shredder

Identity theft is a huge, very serious and growing problem in the US. In 2021, the Federal Trade Commission received 1.4 million reports of identity theft from consumers, according to newly published data from the FTC Consumer Sentinel Network.

Unfortunately, our personal information seems to plastered everywhere these days. So, to protect your privacy and security as well as your identity, in addition to storing materials with identifiable personal information safely until you no longer need them, you should destroy or mutilate them beyond recognition before you discard them in your trash or recycling bins. 

In addition to financial documents you no longer need to keep, such as old bank statements and canceled checks—either printed on paper or stored digitally on CDs—you should also be shredding junk mail, duplicate or expired credit cards, photo IDs, travel itineraries, boarding passes, shipping labels and sticky notes with access codes, account numbers, passwords, etc. 

Thieves will stop at nothing to get their hands on your personal information and can easily cobble together bits and pieces of your identity simply by going through your trash or recycling and then searching online to fill in any missing pieces they need. Once they do, they can wreak havoc with your finances and your life!

They can use your stolen identity not only to charge purchases to your credit cards but also to open new credit card accounts in your name, with purchases billed to you, and even obtain a driver’s license in your name with their photo. Depending on how much information they can acquire and how sophisticated they are at this cruel game, these identity thieves can also steal your tax refunds, social security checks and other benefits. 

Worse yet, proving that you (rather than the perpetrator of the identity theft) are who you claim to be and recovering/reestablishing your personal identity is a nightmare that can take years, especially if you are in a profession such as medicine or finance that makes your stolen identity especially valuable. 

Buying a reliable, high security micro-cut document shredder is the best and cheapest insurance you can invest in to protect your privacy, financial security and identity and give you peace of mind. 

Shopping Tips for Choosing a Personal or Home Office Document Shredder

If you don't yet own a shredder, or if yours has a P1, P2 or P3 security level rating, I strongly recommend that you make buying or upgrading to a high-security, micro-cut shredder for your personal or home office use a high priority. 

There are many document and credit card shredder models and brands, and trying to compare them can be confusing and time-consuming. To make it easier, here are the key features to look to help you choose the best shredder for your personal or professional needs. 

Micro-Cut

The first step in choosing the best shredder for your needs is to decide whether you want a strip-cut, cross-cut or micro-cut type. Your choice of cut type depends on different speed, security and cost trade-offs and priorities.  

As their name suggests, strip-cut shredders cut paper and other materials into long, thin strips. Although they are the fastest and, usually, the least expensive of these three types, they also provide the least security, since the long strips are fairly easy for a thief to piece back together to view your personal information. 

Cross-cut shredders cut paper and other materials into thinner, shorter strips that require more time and effort for a thief to reassemble. They also are somewhat slower and tend to be more expensive than strip-cut units.

Micro-cut shredders cut paper and other materials into tiny diamond- or confetti-shaped bits that make recovery of shredded paper documents and other media nearly impossible to reassemble manually. They also are quite a bit slower and usually cost more than strip-cut and cross-cut models. However, those tradeoffs in speed and price are far outweighed by the much higher level of protection that micro-cut shredders provide.against identity theft and other types of impersonation fraud.

DIN P-4 Security Level / Protection Class 2

Many document shredder manufacturers and retailers include the DIN 66399 security level (P-1 through P-7) in the product information for most or all of the models they offer. These security levels are part of the DIN 66399 standard for secure destruction of physical confidential material stored on paper, film or digital storage devices, which was developed by the Deutsches Institut für Normung (DIN) or (English translation) German Institute for Standardization

DIN P-1 security level shredders are suitable for destroying physical materials containing general information that is not personal or confidential, such as junk mail. Security levels P-2 through P-7 are standards suitable for destroying physical materials with increasingly sensitive information, with level P-6 and P-7 shredders reserved for destroying highly confidential, classified and top-secret information, such as national security and military documents.

The seven security levels fall under three categories called protection classes, with protection classes 1-3 indicating low, high and very high levels of security, respectively. Protection class 2 represents a high level of security and includes DIN P-3, P-4 and P-5 security levels. Some security levels fall under two protection classes: a shredder with a P-3 security level could fall into either protection class 1 or protection class, and a P-4 or P-5 shredder may fall under protection classes 2 or 3. 

Different shredder models that share the same DIN "P" security level don't necessarily provide the same level of protection, and product information for shredders designed for home and home office use rarely includes the model's protection class. So, if you need to destroy documents with confidential or sensitive information on a regular basis, you may want to contact the manufacturers, if necessary, to find out the DIN protection class (and security level, if it's not on the product page) for each model you are seriously considering.

A shredder with a protection class 2, P-4 security level rating is an excellent choice for most personal or home office use, providing a good balance of identity theft protection, speed and price. 

Note: If you are an accountant, tax preparer or someone who handles other confidential or sensitive information (such as HIPAA-protected health information) and work in a home office, you may want or need to consider a shredder with a P-5 security level shredder.

A Higher Sheet Capacity Than Your Anticipated Needs

Sheet capacity means how many sheets of paper can be fed through the shredder in a single pass. Consider the volume and thickness of the documents and data storage media you need to shred on a regular basis. Here again, you will need to weigh the convenience and efficiency of a model with a higher sheet capacity against its higher cost. 

That said, based on both my product research and personal experience, micro-cut shredders rarely live up to their manufacturer's sheet capacity claims in the less-than-optimal conditions of real-life, day-to-day use, so I recommend choosing a model with a higher sheet capacity than you think you will need. 

Also, sheet capacities are dependent on a variety of factors including Paper Type and Weight.  Most offices typically use 20 Lb Bond Letter size sheets. Consider a higher volume shredder if you need to shred glossy or heavier paper.

Ability to Shred Credit Cards, Paper With Staples/Small Paper Clips, and CDs/DVDs Used for Data Storage (If You Use Them)

Many years ago, simply cutting up expired or unwanted credit cards with scissors before throwing them in the trash was common practice. Now that credit cards have built-in magnetic strips that store valuable data digitally, scissors no longer "cut it" as a way to protect yourself against identity theft and other types of impersonation fraud. 

I highly recommend choosing a model that can shred plastic credit cards, as well as papers held together with metal staples or small paper clips, without jamming. If you use CDs or DVDs to store or back up personal or professional data, look for one designed to destroy those optical storage media as well.

Close-up photo showing where to insert plastic credit cards, CDs and DVDs into the Aurora AU1210MA high security micro-cut shredder
This clearly-marked section of the Aurora AU1210MA high security micro-cut shredder's feed slot shows where to insert plastic credit cards, CDs or DVDs.

Always Follow the Manufacturer's Guidelines and Restrictions on Shredding Materials

For example, most models should not be used to shred window envelopes or insulated envelopes, large paper clips, bound materials, such as checkbooks or magazines, transparency film, laminated documents, cardboard, or materials with adhesives, such as self-stick labels.

Never Use a Shredder to Destroy a Metal Credit Card!

Increasingly, financial institutions are issuing premium credit cards being made from titanium and other metals. Metal credit cards are considered status symbols and frequently have high credit limits, so they are especially sought after by people who commit identity theft.

Unfortunately, even document shredders designed to work as credit card shredders cannot process these sturdy metal cards. If you try to feed a metal credit card into your document shredder, you are much more likely to destroy your equipment than your card! 

Instead, check out Experian's excellent post on "How to Destroy a Metal Credit Card."

Lightweight Bin With a Window and Wheels or Casters

Paper is heavy, so it's a good idea to choose a shredder with a lightweight bin or wastebasket that allows you to easily monitor the volume of shredded paper and other materials and empty it when it is no more than three-quarters full. 

If you allow your bin to fill up to the top, some of the shreds can be pulled back up into the shredder and cause it to jam. In addition, the fuller the bin, the heavier and more difficult it will be to maneuver, lift and upend when you empty it and the greater the volume of escaped shredded paper "confetti" you will likely have to sweep up afterward. 

Also look for models with a bin that slides in and out easily and has wheels or casters, which also will make it easier to move to another location and back, if necessary, when you need to empty it. 

5- To 10-Gallon Bin Capacity (For Personal or Home Office Use)

Unless you do a lot of shredding, a bin with a 5-gallon capacity should be fine. It's also likely to be able to fit under a work table or desk for storage when you are not working. If you typically need to destroy a larger volume of information, a bin with a 10-gallon capacity may be more suitable for your home office.

Acceptable Throughput Speed

Manufacturers often do not include the throughput speed in the product information, and feeding more sheets into the shredder per pass can slow down the speed considerably. Reading product reviews from customers who have owned multiple document shredder models can be helpful when comparing the throughput speeds of models with similar features and specifications.

Longer Continuous Run Time / Shorter Cool-Down Time

If you typically need to destroy only a handful of documents, junk mail, etc., at a time and can feed them all through your machine in just a few minutes, then comparing the continuous run times and cool-down times of different models isn't that important. However, if frequently need to destroy a large volume of paper documents, plastic credit cards or data stored on CDs or DVDs, look for models with a longer continuous run time and a shorter cool-down time, so you can shred materials for longer stretches without having to stop for an overheated motor and wait for it to cool down before you can resume. 

Note: When looking at any model's continuous run time, keep in mind that the continuous run time claimed by the manufacturer is probably based on feeding single pages of 20-lb. or lighter weight (i.e., thinner) paper without staples or paper clips. When you shred thicker or harder material (such as cardboard, plastic credit cards, CDs or DVDs), the continuous run time will likely be considerably shorter than what is stated in the product description or specifications.

Reliable Performance Over Time

A shredder that works great for a year and then has a significant malfunction can cost much more in the long run than one with a higher price tag that continues to perform well and reliably for many years. When comparing different paper shredder models, take the time to read product reviews, especially the negative or critical reviews, to get a feel for how often the products customers received turned out to be short-lived "lemons."

Highly Recommended: The Aurora AU1210MA Professional Grade High Security 12-Sheet Micro-Cut Paper, CD and Credit Card Shredder

Before I replaced it with an Aurora AU1210MA, my husband and I were using an Amazon Basics 12-Sheet High-Security Micro-Cut Paper, CD, and Credit Card Shredder with Pullout Basket in our home office. We may have gotten a lemon, but our 12-sheet unit routinely jammed if we fed it more than four sheets of paper at a time. The one we received also was fairly loud. Other than those two issues, it performed pretty well for a year or so. Unfortunately, despite our light usage, additional problems developed over time. The biggest issue was that both the power/function switch and the auto on/off sensors that detect the presence or absence of paper malfunctioned, causing the motor to remain on continuously. This meant the only way to turn the unit off was to plug it in whenever we wanted to shred something and then unplug it again until the next time we needed it, which was inconvenient and annoying. When I read some of the more recent product reviews while shopping for a replacement, I discovered that quite a few other customers who purchased this Amazon Basics micro-cut shredder also experienced sensor malfunction issues after a relatively short time. 

Close-up photo of the Aurora AU1210MA shredder's 4-mode switch
The 4-mode switch on our Aurora high security micro-cut shredder 

The Aurora AU1210MA Professional Grade High Security 12-Sheet Micro-Cut Paper, CD and Credit Card Shredder has comparable features and specification to those of its Amazon Basics counterpart:

  • Both are P-4 security level micro-cut shredders that their respective manufacturers claim can shred 12 sheets of 20-pound-thickness paper in a single pass into confetti-like particles measuring just 5/32" x 15/32" (4 mm x 11.9 mm) and destroy plastic credit cards, CDs and DVDs, staples and small paper clips. 
  • Both have switches with 4 modes: Auto, Off, Reverse, and Forward (for unclogging or removing jams).
  • They have very similar dimensions and weights. 

However, our Aurota AU1210MA has delivered superior performance during the three months we have owned it so far. 

  • Although we haven't yet tried to feed 12 sheets at a time, our Aurora AU1210MA has successfully shredded stacks of 10 sheets without jamming, compared to the 4-sheet maximum we could feed through our Amazon Basics unit in one pass. 
  • Our Aurora is also noticeably quieter than its Amazon Basics predecessor, which we definitely appreciate.
  • The Aurora AU1210MA's 5-gallon capacity bin is much easier to remove and put back than our Amazon Basics' slightly larger, 5.7-gallon capacity bin.
  • The Aurora shredder claims a 60-minute continuous run time, compared to the 10-minute continuous run time for its Amazon Basics counterpart.

Time will tell whether it continues to perform reliably for the next several years. 

Photo of the author's Aurora AU1210MA high security micro-cut shredder
We have put our Aurora AU1210MA P-4 security level micro-cut document shredder through its paces for three months so far. It has delivered reliable performance and is much quieter than its predecessor.

Key Features and Benefits

Here are some of the reasons I recommend the Aurora AU1210MA Professional Grade High Security 12-Sheet Micro-Cut Paper, CD and Credit Card Shredder for personal and home office use (and prefer it to the Amazon Basics 12-Sheet High-Security Micro-Cut Paper, CD, and Credit Card Shredder with Pullout Basket):

  • P-4 security level micro-cuts documents and other media into 5/32" x 15/32" (4 mm x 11.9 mm) pieces, rendering confidential personal information or business data printed at its original size nearly impossible to recover in a readable form.
  • Can shred 12 sheets of 20-lb. paper in a single pass.
  • Can destroy CDs, DVDs, plastic credit cards, staples and small paper clips.
  • Long, 60-minute continuous run time (6x longer than the comparable Amazon Basics model).
  • 6 feet per minute shred speed (slower when feeding multiple sheets per pass).
  • Quiet operation.
  • Lightweight yet sturdy 5-gallon capacity bin with wheeled casters is easy to move and maneuver.
  • Large viewing window.
  • Bright LED status indicators: Bin Full, Door Open, Overload, Overheat, Power On
LED status indicators on the Aurora AU1210MA
These LED status indicators on our Aurora AU1210MA micro-cut shredder are brightly lit and clearly visible when they're on.

Protect Your Loved Ones With the Gift of a High Security Micro-Cut Shredder

A high-security micro-cut document shredder may not be the most obvious choice for gift giving, but it can be a thoughtful and valuable present, especially for young adults, seniors, and people who work from home or run a home-based business. 

Giving a friend or loved one an Aurora AU1210MA Professional Grade High Security 12-Sheet Micro-Cut Paper, CD and Credit Card Shredder can help you protect the recipient against identity theft and other types of impersonation fraud. It can also mean giving the gift of greater peace of mind.


The Best High Security Micro-Cut Shredder For Documents, Media and Credit Cards by Margaret Schindel


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Sunday, March 6, 2022

Five Stars For This Cozy Warm Micromink Sherpa Blanket



I've ordered two of these blankets for my friend over the past three years.

Her very loved kitty-kat claimed the first blanket I sent. Apparently, her sweet furbaby loved the softness and warmth of the blanket.

Unfortunately, my friend's loved pet reached the end of her life not too long ago. Since her kitty loved the blanket so much, my friend buried her with it. Awe, so hard.

As most of us know, the passing of a loved pet isn't easy to get over, and my friend is no exception. She's still grieving. 

To help her a little, I decided to send her this exact blanket again so she could wrap herself up and remember her missed furbaby.

Features of the Mircomink Sherpa Throw Blanket

  • Available in 34 different colors or patterns
  • Comes in many sizes; Throw, King, Queen, and Twin
  • It's durable, is 100% Polyester
  • It's reversible - Fur white on one side, soft Mircomink on the other
  • It's wrinkle-resistant, so it always looks nice, even after washing
  • Yes, you can wash it in the laundry machine
  • Use it as a lovely bedspread!
The Best Gift When You Don't Know What to Buy

Blankets are one of my favorite go-to gifts. A throw blanket can be used just about anywhere. Here are some ideas:
  • As a throw for the family room
  • A warm bedspread for the cottage
  • A throw for an outdoor sporting event
  • Keep one in the car for added warmth when traveling
  • In your home office for those long cold nights of endless work
  • Over a chair for quick access to a throw
  • To add warmth, color, and texture to a basement recreation room
  • In baby's room on the rocking chair for those nights, baby needs extra soothing
  • For the back patio swing and outdoor furniture
My friend has attested that she loves this blanket, so I confidently recommend it.

I've purchased this purple (plum) sherpa blanket twice, available on Amazon here.



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Wednesday, February 23, 2022

The Best Affordable Microfiber Cloths for Cleaning Eyeglasses, Screens & Lenses

Many of us wear prescription eyeglasses, magnifying readers or sunglasses to help us see clearly and protect our precious vision from UV rays. More and more of us rely on our mobile phones, smart phones, tablets, laptops, Kindle or Nook e-readers, smart watches, fitness trackers, digital cameras and other electronics and mobile devices with screens or lenses for working, staying in touch, virtual visits, news, entertainment, hobbies, banking and other important activities. The best and safest way to clean those lenses and screens, especially if they have any type of coating, is with a soft, smooth, tightly-woven, lint-free microfiber cloth, either dry or moistened with water or a good quality cleaning solution designed for that purpose, depending on the type of lens or screen.

This is my product review of the Care Touch microfiber cleaning cloths I purchased recently to replace our older, worn cloths that were no longer cleaning effectively. I highly recommend these excellent, lint-free microfiber cloths for cleaning all types of optic lenses and electronics display screens gently and safely.

Main image: Care Touch Microfiber Cleaning Cloths Safe for Any Lens or Screen!

Both my husband's single-vision glasses and my progressive, no-line bifocals have were expensive, with Transitions lenses and anti-reflective coatings. Each of us also has a pair with single-vision prescription lenses and an anti-glare coating (John's are very dark sunglasses, while mine are for doing close-up work, such as making jewelry, crafting, sewing or pulling out a splinter). We also have a collection of smartphones, tablets and other devices with built-in cameras and displays. Together, they represent a  significant investment that we need to protect with proper care, cleaning and maintenance.

Frequent washing of the cloths you use to clean your optic lenses and display screens is important, since even tiny dust particles or your fingerprints can scratch or smear the delicate surfaces and coatings. So, when I started researching the best microfiber eyeglasses, lens and screen cleaning cloths for our needs, I not only looked for ones that could safely and effectively clean our expensive prescription eyeglasses as well as the camera lenses and display screens on our phones and other devices, I also decided to buy enough so we could swap in clean cloths for dirty ones that needed to be laundered.

As I was comparing products and reading Amazon customer product reviews, the Care Touch microfiber cleaning cloths really stood out. However, since I hadn't heard of this brand before and they don't sell the individually, was a bit hesitant to order a bulk pack of 12 sight unseen. (There was also a pack of six, but the difference in price between the 6-pack and the 12-pack was negligible.) 

I'm very glad I decided to go with my gut and take a chance on them.

Package of 12 Care Touch microfiber cleaning cloths
Inside the bag are 12 microfiber lens and screen cleaning cloths, each folded and individually wrapped in its own cellophane envelope/pouch

What We Love About Care Touch Microfiber Cleaning Cloths

Here are some of the key features, benefits and other considerations that impressed me enough to choose the Care Touch Microfiber Cleaning Cloths 12-pack over other, better known and much more expensive brands, such as Zeiss or Nikon.

  • Safe to use on all lenses and display screens, even single- or multi-coated prescription eyeglasses, camera lenses and filters!
  • Machine washable and air dry quickly when laid flat (I recommend a clean cotton terrycloth towel).
  • Durable fabric and construction including pinked, heat-treated edges that resist fraying, so they hold up well through frequent machine washing cycles.
  • Smooth, silky, very finely woven, lint-free microfiber that cleans lenses and screens gently and thoroughly without scratching, smearing or leaving any residue, either with or without water or a cleaning solution, as long as the cloths are kept clean and free from any dust.
  • A generous 6" x 7" size, identical to the lens cleaning cloths we get from our optometrist, which is ideal for eyeglasses, camera lenses, mobile devices and other portable electronics. (Although I prefer a larger size for large-screen TVs and monitors, these work great for those, too, in a pinch.)
  • Individually wrapped in cellophane envelope pouches. 
    • Even though these cellophane pouches were designed to be discarded after opening and removing the cloths, I have been refolding and carefully placing the cloths (except the ones I keep inside my hard eyeglasses cases) back inside the pouches to keep them clean and dust-free between uses. When the cellophane pouches tear, as I'm sure they will at some point, I'll probably store the cloths in sandwich-size food storage bags or make some small drawstring bags from scrap fabric.
  • Great for removing fingerprints from other surfaces, such as crystal glassware, watch crystals and smooth or brushed metal surfaces.
  • A terrific value! When I purchased them on Amazon last month, the price was less than nine dollars for a pack of 12 individually wrapped microfiber cleaning cloths. That's less than 75 cents each! And a dozen gives you enough for multiple pairs of eyeglasses, phones, tablets and other devices, with a couple of extras to swap out for laundering, and you'll still have a couple leftover to share with a friend or family member. 
    • Note: Although a few Amazon reviewers have complained that they received only 10 cloths instead of 12 that was not my experience.
  • Excellent reviews from Amazon customers.
  • Responsive customer support including monitoring and responding to many customer questions on Amazon and a 30-day satisfaction guarantee (return the cloths in their original condition within 30 days or for a full refund or replacement).
My Care Touch Microfiber Cleaning Cloths 12-Pack with five of the individually wrapped cloths

Care Touch Lens Care Products Make Affordable, Thoughtful and Practical Gifts

I can't think of anyone who wouldn't appreciate receiving some new, high quality, durable, gentle and effective microfiber cloths, pre-moistened wipes or spray lens cleaner for keeping their eyeglasses, camera lenses and device screens clean and free of fingerprints, smudges or streaks. Here are my top picks for both personal use and gift giving.

  • Care Touch Microfiber Cleaning Cloths
    • Instead of giving the entire 12-pack to someone who may only have use for a few, consider breaking it up into several smaller stocking stuffers for multiple recipients. At less than 75 cents apiece, tucking a few of these individually wrapped, lint-free microfiber cloths into someone's Christmas stocking will only set you back a couple of bucks. It's rare to find such an inexpensive product that is also well made, truly useful and nice enough to be gift worthy.
  • Single-use Care Touch Pre-Moistened Lens Cleaning Wipes
    • Care Touch Pre-Moistened Lens Cleaning Wipes are gentle alcohol prep pads saturated with a 39.5% isopropyl alcohol solution that is milder and safter for cleaning coated or special lenses than the 70% concentration of isopropyl alcohol in the solutions used with typical alsohol prep pads that can damage these types of lenses.
    • Generous 5" x 6" size for cleaning larger as well as smaller lenses and screens.
    • Convenient, compact, and individually sealed so you can easily tuck a couple into your purse or briefcase for quick, streak-free cleaning of fingerprints and smudges on your eyeglasses, phone or tablet screens on the go.
  • Care Touch Lens and Screen Cleaning Set
    • 200 of the pre-moistened lens cleaning wipes
    • 6 of the microfiber cloths
  • Care Touch Eyeglass Cleaner Spray Kit 
    • This kit has everything you or your gift recipient needs for lens and screen care, which makes it a wonderful gift idea for family members and friends, from school-age kids to seniors:
      • Two Care Touch microfiber cleaning cloths
      • Two 8-oz. bottles and one 2-oz. TSA-friendly travel size bottle of Care Touch Eyeglass Cleaner Spray, a gentle yet effective alcohol-free and ammonia-free formula designed to be used with the microfiber cloths for cleaning all lenses, screens, and glass surfaces, even those with anti-reflective, transition, anti-fog or other special coatings.
      • 26 Care Touch Pre-Moistened Lens Cleaning Wipes
    • At publication time, this kit was selling on Amazon for only $9.99—45% off the list price of $17.99. That's a terrific deal!

The Best Affordable Microfiber Cloths for Cleaning Eyeglasses, Screens & Lenses by Margaret Schindel

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