Author: Managing Reviewer


I Choose Bank of America

I am a Bank of America customer, and I have been for 8 years. Before that, I have been a customer of Barnett Bank of Florida – another bank which I did not dislike. For a time I was a customer of Washington Mutual when we lived on the West Coast. Wells Fargo for mortgages (twice). No complaints on either of these companies.  But for the last 2 years, all primary personal “traditional” banking services have been provided by Bank of America.

Marketers have a lot of opinions on what makes you select a bank, I kind of fell into the relationship.  First came a credit card from Fleet Bank in Boston. At the time, it was one of the top rated Platinum MasterCard’s in the industry. Bank of America (BOA) bought Fleet and did not change credit terms, interest rate or add a fee.

So it began.

A move required a change in banks. I picked BOA solely based on the fact that they had a good online banking product. While the branches were not convenient for me, there were a couple close to my husband’s office. Their online banking linked all of my accounts without me having to enter them myself. Funds could be easily transferred between accounts and the bill pay was free of charge. Since then, the site continues to upgrade and add new features that make it even more user friendly. The coolest upgrade they have is a check deposit at the ATM, where you just scan the check and your receipt has a copy of the check on it. Whoop! It gives you confidence that there is will be no missed dollars when you have a picture!

But the site and the ATM deposit are not the reasons why I stay. I stay because when, and if, I have an issue, there is always someone to call. And if the answer you get doesn’t sound right, there is always someone else to call.  Here’s an example:

Over a year ago we decided to downsize. Our big house sold before we had a new place to move to, meaning we needed to deposit the equity dollars. I took the mid-six figure check to the local branch where the teller guided me to an assistant manager who took me through the steps. We opened new accounts, changed my account status, received all kinds of literature, his card and cell number. I left happy.

When it was time to move into our new home, we made a decision not to pay cash. I wanted to put a mortgage on the new place to have a third party appraiser establish the value. To do that these days you need to get a pre-approval.  While I have had my mortgages at Wells Fargo for many years, I wanted to be a good BOA customer. I go online and go through the steps to get pre-approved. The system response gave me an 800 number to call for they could not approve me. A nice young man at the local office who took me through the steps and informed me that we could not get a mortgage because we did not have a recurring fixed monthly payment. I was stunned. We did have a history of a fixed monthly payment in a recent mortgage – we had rent payments on temporary housing. I asked to be referred to a supervisors and he politely informed me that the supervisor had already reviewed our information and we did not qualify he hung up. I was still stunned, more than a little miffed – wondering if we do not qualify for a loan, who does?

Continuing on the path of loan-discovery, I had the name and number of my friendly local branch person. So I sent him an email and he called within the hour. Clearly he understood my issue and I could hear in his voice that he was not sure he could fix it, but he knew who to call. Within an hour he called me back with a member of the mortgage center based in Texas on the line. I had my pre-approval in my hand by the end of business that day.  Now there were issues along the way (it was a mortgage after all) but nothing that we couldn’t fix by making a call.

I do not hate Bank of America. They give me the tools to do as much as I can for myself and then give me access to people who can make it happen for me.  Win-win. Maybe one day, I will not have not make that second call.

The King of Jura’s (coffee anyone?)

My coffee maker can tell you how many cups of coffee it has produced in its life time, can yours? Calling this machine a “coffee maker” could very well be an insult.  Perhaps coffee machine or the far more sexy literal French translation of machine à expresso.  Bottom line is that my coffee machine rocks.

We first came across this marvel of modern science, AKA a Capresso now branded as Jura coffee machine, while traveling in Europe.  We were staying with friends in  Switzerland.  Each morning we would push the button and out came one glorious cup of espresso just the way each one of us like it.  Mine not quite espresso strength and his a double.  We had to have one for ourselves.  This single machine ended years of marital l strife over AM coffee.  This moment of clarity was 15 years ago.  Since then we have owned a base model and after an issue with a water seal we traded in (yes traded in) for the Impressa E8 model we currently have.  This is the machine one has made the over 9,000 cups of coffee.

What is great about these machines is that it grinds the beans for each cup.  You can make two cups at a time or one large one or one small one.  Just pick the number of ounces you want to make.  You can steam milk and heat hot water.  It’s like having a personal barista.  I often joke that the only thing it does not do is mulch the lawn.

Other features that have endeared this machine to me is the fact that it is quick to heat up, flashes a message when it needs to be cleaned and turns itself off after an hour after it made it last cup of java.

I do not think they make my model any longer but they have plenty of models to choose from.  Some can be attached to water sources, some keep milk chilled until you need it.  I can go on and on.  My advice is it to pick features that you actually think you will need.  For instance do you make so many cappuccinos so frequently that you need to have a milk chiller?

For any coffee person these machines are one of life’s great pleasures,

What you will like best about this is that brews so fast.  It does everything pretty fast.  What you will make you take a step back is the price.  These are expensive by some standards.  It has been a great investment and one of those things that makes me happy!

What Time is it?

File this under things that make me happy. Isn’t it always the little things that make you the happiest? While I love jewelry, spa days, and new cars as well as the next girl, one of my favorite things is a clock. Not just any clock, mind you, but the super-duper atomic Oregon Scientific projection clock. When I did a web search on the term “projection clocks,” Amazon shot back a 5-star rating with over 5,300 consumer ratings. While all these comments were not about my model, they were all about a CLOCK. It is nice to know that I am not alone in my singular devotion to this type of clock. It’s loyal, consistent, needs little to no attention as long as it is dusted periodically.  In my opinion everyone needs one.

I love this clock because I never have to turn over to figure out what time it is. Instead of tossing and turning over to verify that it is 3AM. I just look up. And there, slightly off to the right of my bedroom ceiling is the time. It has all sorts of ways to adjust the projection display to get it in just the right position based on your personal preferences. Mine is positioned so I need only move my eyes.

I love this clock because it updates the time automatically. I really hate resetting clocks when the electricity goes out or when the time changes due to daylight savings. Remember when it was it was easier to put tape over the LCD light on the microwave than to reset it? My version of the projection clock has a feature that auto updates. I no longer have to press down one button with one hand while pressing on the appropriate hour or minute button with the other to reset the time. I no longer have to fear going past my target time only having to repeat the process while holding down those little buttons.  Freedom from time resets, I think this should be classified as a small miracle.

I love this clock because it was a gift – actually to my husband. Thanks Larry and Sherri.

5,300 plus Amazon buyers cannot be wrong. I thought I was nuts that I was so attached to this devise.  Once I mentioned this clock in casual cocktail conversation… the next two hours were spent with people commenting on how much they hated the clock currently gracing their bed side. It is just a clock for God’s sake, still every time I use it I smile, it makes me happy.

For all you people out there that need some good gift ideas, a signature gift or a go to gift… try this one. Do not worry if the gift recipient looks at you oddly; once they use it they will be hooked.

Keep My Face Smooth

My face is important to me. Looking for the best way to care for it has become a major line item in my shopping budget. I have used various and vast numbers of products they over the last 5 plus years.  While I have liked a lot of them, not everything was worth a second try or sticking with it for over a year.   The Daily Microfoliant® was one product that stuck to stick and Dermalogica is a great brand.

I first was exposed to the Daily Microfoliant® product while getting a facial.  I have sensitive skin due to a mild case of roscea and allergies. At the same time my skin can dry out easily and have lots of light flaking. Fortunately I ran into an esthetician that recognized my issues and chose the Microfoliant® instead of a harsher exfoliate as part of the facial she was giving me. The end results were more than good. It smoothed my face and neck and thus made my skin look brighter.

You have to love products where you can see the results and the results meet your expectations. This product is easy to use.  You can apply it wet with your fingers or with a cloth. Fingers are my applicator of choice. It rinses off easily, leaving softer, smoother skin. I use it weekly more often in the winter if needed.

Like most products of this type it has a large professional following. You can buy it through an esthetician, on line or at better beauty supply stores. What this also means is that it never goes on sale and is exempt from most store coupon discounts. It appears that Dermalogica is so proud of it that the word microfoliant® is a registered trademark. I do not think you would confuse this product for any other.   I guess the trademark makes it a little more exclusive looking. I would buy it with or without the trademark.

What you will like about it is the results, what you may not like about it is the fact it comes as a powder that you have to mix in your palm but do not let that stop you from giving it a try.

A Fresh Cutting Board

Over ten years ago, I had finished a big house remodel that included a new and improved kitchen. After the construction was over and it was time to break in the new counter tops, I went shopping for some new accoutrements to go along with my new cooking space. Before making my way to the mall I prioritized my list of what I needed and what I wanted. At the top of that list was a new cutting board; arguably the biggest necessity in every kitchen.

I enjoy cooking and have had many different styles of cutting boards through the years. This new kitchen was designed to minimize counter top clutter, meaning I needed to store my cutting boards. This storage issue led me to look for an alternative form of cutting board technology. In my ventures to find such new technology, I stumbled across a package of “flexible cutting mats” in Crate & Barrel.

These mats are large rectangles of durable plastic that are light and flexible. Being light means they are easily stored and take up little space, but don’t let that fool you. These mats are sound despite their demeanor. Dishwasher proof and easily rinsed, these mats have an impressive life span. But even if you do manage to destroy one, they easy to replace with their inexpensive price tag. Overall, the best feature of these mats is that they are flexible. When you are done chopping, just pick up the sides, walk it over to the pan and easily angle the food into the pan without dropping a thing. It is so much easier than my years of moving onions from a regular cutting board to the stove by the side of my knife.

These cutting boards have so much utility for such a low price. I go through three a year, sometimes more. The first time I bought them, they were on sale for about $5.00. Now they can be purchased in a pack of three for $13. I buy them for all wedding showers, house-warming gifts, and as a “just because” present if a friend had commented on mine. This year, I bought them for Christmas baskets.

The one thing you might not like about them is that you can cut through them with ease with the right knife and pressure. They have also made some changes to the design this year, including a hole in the corner so you could potentially hang the mats to dry. While I still like them, I wish they had thoroughly thought about the changes before they made them. Note to Crate & Barrel design team: call me first.

Lines are Gone!

I have been through so many face creams that I am uncertain of which products I haven’t tired. During your search for the perfect face cream, I readily admit that you should try items recommended in magazine and websites; that is how I found the No.7 cosmetic line. Low and behold it has worked out really well for me.

I first read about No7’s beauty serum in a much worn copy of Good Housekeeping at the doctor’s office. The review was so compelling that I stopped at Target on my way home to pick up a bottle.

My neck was the first place I tested this serum because it was showing deepening lines. After two weeks I saw a difference and after a month I saw a significant change. We all know that there are no products that can turn back time and no product can really make the lines go away. However, there are products that can decrease the appearance of lines and No7 delivers. For best results, I recommend that you use it with your favorite face cream. After you do that, write me and let me know what that cream is, because I am still looking for one that I like.

I use it both in the morning and at night with other beauty products. I have recommended this product to just about anyone who will listen and I keep two bottles in the house at all times. Like a lot of good products, it seldom goes on sale. It is sold exclusively at Target (supposedly) but I have found it at ULTA once before.

You will like everything about it; the only downside is that it doesn’t come in a bigger bottle.

No More Dry Skin

I have skin issues and I know I’m not alone. All you need to do is look at the shelves in the drug store and you’ll see that you have a multitude of options. For me, my go-to skin cream is Aquaphor. The odd part of this is that I actually never purchased my initial jar; I inherited it from my mother. After she had passed away, I took it as an afterthought when we cleared out her personal. In my mind this was the stuff you used to cover a badly chapped baby bottom, or my chafing thighs. If my Mom had used, then it must have miraculous powers. Yet it sat on my shelf for over a year.

During winter my feet and heels tend to crack and after trying a myriad of products, I was inspired to try the Aquaphor out of the blue. So I put some on my feet and went off to exercise. Later that day, while getting ready to shower, I looked at my feet and saw a visible difference; surely a sign from my mother telling me to keep using this stuff.  Feet led to legs, legs led to hips, hips led to arms.  Within a month, I was using this everywhere that needed to be moisturized, including my face and neck.

We expect everything that we purchase to work, which they all do – to an extent. Yet Aquaphor exceeded my expectations. In the winter, when my skin is extra dry, it keeps it soft and supple. In the summer it keeps fine lines to a minimum. I also like the fact that it is fragrance free. But never would I have thought that I would use it on my face as a part of my nightly beauty regimen.

I keep small tubes in my purse and have a large jar in the bathroom. A small jar (3.5oz) will last about three months if you use it on multiple body parts daily. I have dry skin in general and I understand that people with oily skin may not appreciate it. But if you have really dry feet or elbow issues especially, use it.

What you will like about this product is that after just two days, you can really see a difference. What you might not like about it is that it has a slightly greasy feel for a few minutes after applied. It will possibly bother some people, but it only lasts a short time and does not bother me. The highest compliment I can pay to this product is if I were to have only one skin product it would be Aquaphor.