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Solar Powered LED String Lights

Solar powered LED lights are ideal at Christmas and backyard parties.

Solar powered LED lights are an eco-friendly way to decorate the front of your house for Christmas and your backyard for summer parties.

 

Wouldn’t it be great not to remember to switch your decorative exterior lights on every night? If you are like many other people you may sometimes also forget to switch them off just to realize the next morning that the lights have been on all night long. INST have come up with a great and energy efficient solution: Solar Powered LED lights that automatically switch on at sunset and switch off at sunrise.

Zero maintenance lights

These innovative LED lights from INST can be used indoors or outdoors as they are waterproof. The LEDs run on solar power and come with a neat little solar panel and spike to put in the ground. There is zero maintenance – all you need to do is put the lights where you want them and put the spike with the solar panel in the ground. It is a set and forget system, so you don’t have to worry about replacing batteries or bulbs.

Steady or flashing lights

The LED lights are also available in this beautiful soft blue.

The kit comes with 100 lights. The string of lights measures 55 ft (17 m). The distance from the solar panel to the first LED bulb on the robe of lights is approximately 6 feet. There is a switch that allows you to enjoy a steady or a flashing light. The lights have an ON/OFF switch, so you can switch the lights off when you don’t need them. If you want the lights to go on automatically at dusk, just leave the switch in the ON-position.

Nice soft glow

The solar led lighting from INST is great for a garden party, wedding, or an outdoor Christmas tree or wreath. The lights are not super bright LEDs, so they give a nice soft glow. The lights are fairly dim and only supposed to be for an ambience setting. If you are looking for something to light up a dark pathway, these lights would not be ideal. Check out the Mr. Beam Motion Sensor LED lights instead.

Installation

When you first get your lights allow the solar panel to charge in the sun for six hours. You do not need to install any batteries as these lights are solar powered. All you need to do is put the spike with the solar panel in the ground and put the robe of LED lights where you want it.

Conclusion

These LED lights are an easy and inexpensive way to make the exterior of your house look festive. Whether you plan to use them as Christmas lights, patio lighting or for party ambience, you will love that there are no batteries or light bulbs to replace. The lights take a moment to install – just make sure you give the solar panel six hours to charge and you will enjoy hours of warm ambience light from these decorative LED lights.

Click here to have a closer look at the LED Solar Powered LED String Lights on Amazon.com

 

Bamboo Pillow Review

Bamboo pillows

The best pillow ever! Shredded memory foam with a bamboo-blend fabric. Made in the USA.

I initially saw these bamboo pillows with shredded memory foam filling at a home show. I was very impressed with the quality and how soft they felt. We were heading out for dinner after the show and I didn’t want to carry two pillows all over town, so I was pleased to find out from the representative that they are available on Amazon.com.

We had been looking for new pillows for a little while and these bamboo pillows by Coop Home Goods (Amazon.com link) really fit the bill. I am a side sleeper and my husband is a back sleeper and the rep assured us that the pillow would work for both of us. I liked that the fabric was partly made of bamboo, which I know has a wicking effect and will help you stay cool while you sleep. The pillow are made in the USA and that made me a lot more comfortable buying these pillows.

Product Specifications:

  • Certipur-US certified foam 
  • The pillow cover is made of 60% polyester and 40% bamboo
  • The filling consists of shredded memory foam
  • Machine Washable
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Dust mite resistant
  • PBDE free
  • Pillow case size for Queen: 30″ x 20″ and King: 38″ x 20″
  • Made in USA
  • 5 Year limited warranty

Clever design

It is obvious that a lot of thought has been put into designing a breathable pillow that keeps you cool at night. The fabric is made of 60% polyester and 40% bamboo that has a cooling effect. It feels like a down pillow but the inside is made up of shredded memory foam. The little pieces of memory foam makes for a much more breathable pillow than a regular memory foam pillow where the molded piece inside seems to be a magnet for heat. In the past I would have to flip the pillow a few times every night but this one keeps my head cool the entire night.

You can fluff up the pillow and make it bigger or thinner – just like a down pillow. The pillow is quite tall, approximately 7 inches, but the filling can be adjusted any way you like it. The memory foam is of high quality and will not go flat over time. We have had our for over three months now and they still feel like the day we got them.

Made in USA

I try to buy products that are made in North America to support local manufacturers and this was actually one of the main reasons why I bought these particular pillows. I love the fact this is a product that is made in the USA. The pillows are manufactured in California that has some of the strictest bedding laws in the entire country.

Bamboopillows

Improve your beauty sleep with bamboo pillows.

Great for people with allergies

If you or your spouse suffers from dust mite allergies or are hyperallergic and this causes you problems at night then you should have a closer look at this pillow. It is both hyperallergic and dust mite resistant helping you sleep a lot better.

Adjustable to your style of comfort

I am a side sleeper and this pillow is just made for me. You’d think that they measured my head and made a pillow from these measurements. It is perfect for sleeping on your side and gives you great support. My husband on the other hand sleeps on his back. At first he thought the pillow would be too tall but then he just pushed some of the filling to the side. Now he says it is the best pillow for back sleepers and that it is the best pillow he has ever had. If you happen to be a stomach sleeper then just flatten the pillow to your liking. It is very adjustable, just push the filling aside.

Machine washable

I just washed our pillows for the first time. You are supposed to wash your pillows every three to six months, so it was about time I got it done. I used the gentle cycle, hot water (instructions say to use cold water, but I am freaked out about dust mites, so I always use hot water for bedding) and eco nuts instead of laundry detergent. Then I put the pillows in the dryer at medium heat with a couple of dryer balls. It was easy and they didn’t get flat or anything after the wash.

Drawbacks

When I first opening the bags up and pulled out the first pillow, I thought it had just arrived from a farm. It smelled like hay. I quickly put both pillows in the dryer before the whole bedroom smelled like a petting zoo. After a few minutes in the dryer I checked to see if the smell was gone. There was still a tiny hay scent, but nothing like when I first opening the bag. I took my chances and made the bed with my bamboo sheets and my new pillows. When we went to bed that night I had forgotten all about the smell and didn’t notice any smells at all.

Conclusion

I am very pleased with my purchase. This is by far the best pillow I have ever slept on. It is comfortable no matter if you prefer to sleep on you back, side or stomach. It does not get thin and is machine washable. And the best part is that it is made in the USA! I did a lot of comparison shopping before I ended up buying two of these bamboo pillows with shredded memory foam. You will not get better value for your money.

Click here for the price on Amazon.com on the Shredded Memory Foam Pillow with Bamboo Cover By Coop Home Goods

 

 

 

 

TaoTronics TT-GL20 LED Grow Light Bulb

The TaoTronics Hydroponic TT-GL20 LED light bulb is ideal for anyone that enjoys growing plants indoors but do not have the sufficient day light to do so.

 

Taotronics TT-GL20 light bulb

Give your indoor herbs and plans a boost with the Taotronics light bulb.

Whether you live in an apartment or want to winter grow in your basement then using grow lights will greatly improve the results of your crop. The beauty of LED grow lights is that they do not get hot and they do not use a lot of electricity. They also have a long lifespan (more than 50,000 hours), so you don’t have to replace them that frequently.

It is a very environmentally friendly way of ensuring that your plants get the proper amount of light. There are many options grow lights available for individual plants, but if you want to get the most bang for your buck then you should buy the TaoTronics TT-GL20 LED light bulbs.

TaoTronics TT-GL20 Product Specifications:

Output: 12 W

Input voltage: AC85~264V

Input current: 300mA

Frequency: 50/60 Hz

Works in temperatures: -20-40C

Lifespan: More than 50,000 Hours

Light Bulb Size: Diameter: 4.84″, Height: 5.44″

Package size: 4.92″ x 4.92″ x 5.99″

Gross Weight: 0.37kg

Fits standard E27 fittings

CE & RoHS approved

12 LEDs – three blue (460nm) and nine red (6×620-630nm and 3x660nm)

Floodlight fixture

The bulb is well made and can be screwed into a regular hanging light fixture. Amazon has some great options for light fixtures with a standard E27 socket that the hydroponic light bulb will fit into. It is recommended that you use a hanging light fixture such as the Woods Lamp with 6-foot cord to give your plants an even amount of light from above. If the space does not allow a hanging light fixture then another great solution is to use a Boston Harbor Desk Lamp.

Does not generate heat

The light does not generate heat, so you can place it very close to your lights. Even if you forget to raise the light as your plants grow, they will not get burnt by the LED light bulb. The light is extremely light and bright but because it is LED it hardly uses any electricity. Most users leave the light on for 8-10 hours a day without heating up the light or the surrounding area.

Growing seedlings

The TaoTronics hydroponic light will help your seeds to sprout a lot faster. A lot of gardeners use this light in a combination with the Hydrofarm Seedling Mat for maximum germination results.

Drawbacks

The TaoTronics bulb is great for a single plant, but despite what it looks like in the picture, it will not be sufficient for several plants and does not cover more than a couple of s.f. if you place the light 1′ above the plant. It is a great product but it will not be able to provide enough light for a whole basement room full of herbs. Many users ending up buying more than a single light bulb after they realize how effective they are. If two square feet of light is not enough, then the TaoTronics UFO LED Grow Light TT-GL21 is a much better option for you.

Conclusion

Whether you are growing tomatoes, basil or arugula, the TaoTronics LED light will help boost the growth of your plants. The bulb is also ideal for plants that do not like the short days in the winter. The red and blue color spectrum from the bulb puts your plant in a pink hue that results in strong, vibrant dark green leaves and exponential growth. The pink light may look at bit funny at first, but it really does the trick to give your plants the light they need.

Click here for the TaoTronics grow light price and to read more reviews on Amazon.com

How to save gas with these simple tips

Roof carrier

Roof bags can be very convenient on road trips but will have a negative effect on your fuel economy, so remove them when not in use.

I recently had my car in for a new muffler and I got chatting with the mechanic. We ended up talking about how expensive gas has become and the mechanic gave me some tips on how to save gas regardless of which type of vehicle you drive. I did some research when on gas savings tips when I got home and decided to share my findings.

Become a smoother driver. Slowing down can save you up to 25%. Speeding will save you a few minutes here and there but it means that you will fuel up a lot sooner. Accelerate and brake more smoothly. A thing I learned when I took my motorcycle license is to always look 12 seconds ahead. This way you see a traffic light switching to red or red brake lights from cars way ahead of you and you can slow down more smoothly. Being a smoother driver also increases the life of your tires and your brakes.

Turn your air conditioning off. Your air conditioner is the most gas guzzling device in your car, so try to get used to driving without turning it on. Be aware that if you instead open the windows and sunroof the drag at high speeds can actually lower your fuel economy. So only open your windows at low speeds and use your air conditioner on the highway. This can save you up to 15% on your gas usage.

The mechanic told me this tip and it is something I have never though about before. When you are done filling up your tank, turn the hose upside down in your tank and get all the drops out that are stuck in the hose. You just paid for them. The drops may as well go into your tank than evaporate into thin air.

Remove your roof rack when you don’t use it. If your car has a rooftop carrier then make sure to remove it when you don’t need it. Having something on top of your vehicle’s roof will increase wind resistance and increase your gas cost by as much as 5%.

Make sure that your tires are properly inflated. Check the Tire Decal to learn what the level should be at for your tires. Keep a tire gauge in your car, so you always have it on hand to check your tire pressure.

If it is time for you to buy new tires then buy radial tires (Amazon.com link). Making a switch to radial tires can improve your gas mileage by 2-3%.

When you driving on even stretches on the highway then use your cruise control as much as possible. This can save you up to 7% on your gas usage. It may also prevent you from getting a speeding ticket – as long as you set the speed under the legal limit.

Try to stay in one lane as much as possible. Weaving in and out of lanes and constantly increasing and decreasing your speed may save you time, but it will cost you more at the gas pump.

Turn off all electronics and climate controls (fans) before you turn the engine off. When you start your car up again, the engine will not have to strain so hard as all the extras are switched off.

Skip the drive thru. Yep, it is convenient to get your morning java without having to get out of your vehicle, but drive thrus are terrible for the environment as well as your pocket book.

Get rid of the junk in your trunk. Open your trunk and empty it for all the heavy items you don’t need. The extra weight in a trunk means that the engine has to work that much harder and using extra gas.

These are my local mechanics’ tips on how to save gas no matter what type of car you drive. I hope you found his tips on how to achieve best mpg useful. if you have any other tips to save on gas then please add them to the comment section below.

Eco-friendly Baking with Silicone Cupcake Molds

Silicone Cupcake Molds

These funky reusable cupcake cups come in four fun colours. Best price is on Amazon.com.

It is no secret that I love baking. My friends, family and neighbours all love the baked goods I share with them.  Some of my favourite things to bake are muffins and cupcakes. My husband is crazy about blueberries, so I like to spoil him with blueberry muffins on weekends when we have a cheat day.

The only problem is that I always forget when I run out of cupcake paper. Then I have to rush to the supermarket to pick some up before I can start baking. My husband came across silicone cupcake molds on Amazon and decided to include them with his last order. And I am so glad he did!

I already have quite a few things in my kitchen that are made of silicone and I just love the material.  My favourites are the silicone spatulas (Amazon link) – nothing is going to waste when I use them to scoop the muffin mixture into the molds.

When I received the silicone baking cups from Amazon, I gave them a good wash and left them to dry on the drying rack. Then I had a closer look at the instructions and it turns out that they are actually dishwasher safe (just fold them inside out and pop them in the top rack of the dishwasher), so that’s how I have been cleaning them since. The pack of 24 cupcake liners came in a nice storage container, so they are easy to stove away in a drawer or in a cupboard.

Product Details:

  • Dimensions: 2.9 x 2.5 x 2.8 inches
  • Weight: 0.3 ounces
  • 100% food grade
  • BPA-free
  • FDA-approved
  • Standard size Silicone Cupcake Cups. The liners are 2 3/4 inch diameter x 1.1/4 inch tall.
  • Heat Resistant to 446°F
  • Nonporous and stain proof silicone
  • 24-pack comes with a storage container
  • Oven, microwave and freezer safe
  • Lifetime Guarantee!



I love that I no longer need to use a muffin pan or even spray the silicone cups. Just preheat your oven to the temperature you need, fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full, place them on a baking sheet and bake. The muffins and cupcakes bake evenly and are easy to pop out of the mold once they have cooled down.

Now I have muffin cups on hand at all times and no longer need to rush out to pick up paper. Since I now just place the silicone cups on a baking sheet I no longer have a need for the muffin pan, so I donated that to our local Salvation Army store. I sure don’t miss cleaning that pan for cupcake spills, that’s for sure. The best part is that I am no longer throwing cupcake paper away every time I bake muffins. And with the lifetime guarantee that the manufacturer offers I never have to buy paper cups ever again. Less stuff in the landfills makes me a happy girl!

The only problem I see with these cupcake liners is that you wouldn’t want to send someone home with a batch. If you do, then make sure to get your molds back! Or better, tell whoever you give the batch to, to give them back with freshly baked cupcakes.

Click here to check the price on the silicone cupcake molds on Amazon.com.

Slow Cooking with the Wonderbag

Would you like to save time in the kitchen and save energy at the same time? The Wonderbag is a portable slow cooker that does not require any electricity or any other energy source. It is the perfect kitchen assistant that will finish cooking the meal for you.

WonderbagInAction

Buy a Wonderbag and a Wonderbag will automatically be donated to a family in need.

How does the Wonderbag work?

With the use of heat retention the hot food you place inside the Wonderbag will continue to cook. It is a time saver for anyone with a busy schedule because you don’t have to watch a stew or chili for hours.

Thermal cooking

If you own a thermal cooking pot then you are familiar with this energy efficient way of cooking as it is the same principle behind it. My mom would always tell me about a haybox they used when she was growing up on the farm to keep the meals warm. This was especially used at Christmas when there were many dishes and many mouths to feed. I use the microwave a lot to keep food warm when I cook for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I hardly ever use the microwave other than to clean my kitchen sponge, so it does not get much use.

Background

The Wonderbag was invented by Sarah Collins in South Africa. After a series of power outages, she was frustrated with eating half-cooked meals and wanted to come up with a solution. She remembered that her grandmother had taught her a cooking technique to save on power. She would remove the hot food from the stovetop and let it continue to cook inside a homemade polystyrene cover. Sarah Collins experimented a bit and finally developed the Wonderbag with her friend that is a seamstress.

Wonderbag design

The Wonderbag is made of an inner layer of insulation that consists of recycled polystyrene balls. The fabric on the outside is made of a mix of poly-cotton.

Wonderbag specs

Dimensions: 13.9 x 5.7 x 12 inches
Weight: 2.8 pounds
Volume: Bottom is 14 inches across. 2-9 quarts pots with short handles fit inside the Wonderbag (pot not included).
Cookbook included with purchase
Country of origin: South Africa

Wonderbag

For every Wonderbag purchased in the USA one is donated to a family in Africa.

Buy-one-give-one program

Just like Tom’s Shoes’ One-for-One program, every time a Wonderbag is bought, a Wonderbag is donated to a family in need in Africa. Fuel is scarce in Africa, so most meals are cooked using wood and charcoal. This results in poor health due to smoke inhalation. Poor families cut down trees to get wood for cooking which leads to deforestation in many parts of the world. A single Wonderbag saves 1.7 trees, 1,000 liters of water, 1,248 hours not spent collecting firewood for cooking each year.

Ideal for many situations

The portable non-electric insulated thermal cooker is ideal for BBQs, the holidays, potlucks, camping, or just busy lives where you don’t have time to cook. You can keep food warm or cold for hours without the need of any electricity, batteries or solar power. Just imagine coming back to the ski cabin after a couple of hours of skiing and serving dinner just by opening the Wonderbag? How cool is that?

How do I use the Wonderbag?

Cut the ingredients into smaller pieces to help speed up the cooking time. Heat up the ingredients in a 2-9 quarts pot with a short handle (metal and cast iron are the best). Put a lid on and bring the pot to a boil to allow the food to heat through. The general guidelines are to boil rice for five minutes and root vegetables and meat for 15 minutes on the stove top.

You shouldn’t put a pot that is hotter than 350 degrees F into the Wonderbag. To be on the safe side, place a silicone potholder (sold separately on Amazon.com) at the bottom of the thermal bag to protect it. Close the bag tightly and place on top of a potholder or trivet.

Leave the pot in the Wonderbag for at least as long as you would let the dish simmer and no longer than 12 hours. You can’t overcook the dish because it is indirect heat. For best results keep the bag closed the entire time so you don’t let the heat out. The temperature should not drop below 135 degrees F for more than 2 hours before you eat or refrigerate the meal. If you are in doubt, just use a thermometer to check that the food is hotter than 135 degrees F.

How do you keep it clean?

The bag cleans easily with a wet cloth. To protect the inside from spills a lot of people place a tea towel in the base. If you have a big spill you can machine wash your bag on delicate setting and hang it to dry.

Conclusion

I do love our slow cooker, but what I think is even better with the Wonderbag is does not require electricity. Not only is is energy efficient but it also means that you do not have to have something plugged in the entire day. I never like to have the slow cooker on while I am out of the house, so the Wonderbag is ideal for people like me.

Click here to learn more about the Wonderbag slow cooking bag on Amazon.com.

Freezing Hot Peppers for the Winter

My husband and I love spicy food and go through a fair amount of chili peppers each year. However, during the winter months it can sometimes be hard to find fresh chili peppers at our local vegetable market. So what do we do? We simply freeze hot peppers, so they are always on hand.

 

FreezingChiliPeppers

Freezing hot peppers is easy to do and is a great way to spice up your meals.

The past couple of years, I have experimented with freezing chili peppers to preserve them for winter use.  Neither the flavour or heat get compromised when you freeze them. In fact, some people find that they get even hotter with time. Below are my tips to how you can enjoy “fresh” chilis year round as well.

Be picky when picking hot peppers

The most important thing is to pick quality product (duh!). I only freeze chili peppers that are firm, have a bright colour and don’t have any blemishes on them. What I particularly look at is where the chili peppers meet the stem. If the stem has any mildew on it or if the skin of the chili pepper has started to dry out I will not freeze it.

How to freeze hot peppers

Here is the short version of my way of freezing chili peppers:

  • Wash chili peppers
  • Dry them completely
  • Freeze whole peppers on cookie tray
  • Transfer to labelled Ziploc bag

Here is the detailed version of how I freeze hot peppers:

I will then soak them in a vinegar wash for five minutes and give them a gentle scrub with a cloth. Then I rinse with water and pat them dry. I always put them out in a single layer on a tea towel or paper towel to dry out completely. This will take a few hours, but it is crucial that the hot peppers are bone dry before freezing them to prevent freezer burn. Some people remove the stem before freezing, I just leave it on.

Once the hot peppers are completely dry, I put them whole in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Then I put the cookie sheet in the freezer until the chili peppers are frozen solid. This is a method my mother-in-law taught me to freeze blueberries and I like it so much that I now use it for all fruit and vegetables that I freeze.

Transfer the frozen chili peppers over to a Ziploc bag and press out the air. I always write on the bag what type of chili pepper it is as I always forget and there are so many chili varieties. I also note the date I freeze them and make sure to use them up within six months. You will be opening a closing the Ziploc bag many times over the winter, so do yourself a favour and use Ziploc bags with double zippers (Amazon.com link). I used the bags with the single zipper the first year and it was frustrating trying to close the bag again when I was in the middle of dinner. So no more single zipper Ziploc bags for me.

Frozen hot peppers that are ready to use

I use the jalapeño and habanero peppers on a need be basis. There is no longer a need to stop by the Indian supermarket and pick up one or two – I have them on hand year round now. When I cook up some food and want to add some heat it is just a matter of opening the freezer and grabbing one or two hot peppers out of the bag. I also love chopping them up and sprinkle them as a garnish on top of Thai and Mexican dishes. My favourite at the moment is to sprinkle it on top of fresh jicama as a delicious appetizer when friends come over.

Chop chili peppers when they are frozen

My top tip is to chop or grate the hot pepper while they are still frozen. Once they start to thaw they get mushy and harder to handle. I recommend using a Microplane grater (Amazon link) when you need fine pieces of chili peppers. It does a perfect job when you grate frozen peppers.

If your hands are sensitive to chili peppers make sure to wear gloves when you handle them and always wash your hands after. I have accidentally rubbed my eyes after handling chili in the past. Not a fun experience, so I would definitely recommend wearing gloves or washing your hands when you have chopped hot peppers.

I hope these tips helped you to start freezing hot peppers. Let me know how it goes and if you have any tips to share.