Tag Archives: Reviews

Brother Sewing Machine

My Favorite of the Cheap Modern Sewing Machines

You can spend truly large sums of money buying fancy machines like Bernina, but most people don’t need all the functions of those machines (which really are incredible, but that’s another post). Most people who want to do some quilting or sewing for fun or as a hobby, or even as a small home-based business, are fine with a cheaper machine that still has some of the nicer functions. My favorite of the cheap machines is a discontinued model from Brother. I purchased it on Amazon as a “renewed” product, which means it was returned, but it was obvious that this had never been used. The plastic and tape was still all over it. So I saved about 60 bucks by purchasing the renewed version.

Brother Sewing Machine
A great little sewing machine with several very nice features

The machine has some nice features, such as MANY built-in stitches. The arm and bed make a nice circle in case you want to quilt on a smallish quilt–you just have to roll it up as you go. It has a single-button needle up/down control, so if you want the needle to stop in the down position, you can just push the button and it will switch from up to down, and vice-versa. You can also program the machine to stop in your preferred position, up or down. It has an automatic needle threader (that of course takes a little bit of practice/getting used to). It has 130 stitches, including some “fancy” stitches, plus 55 letters, number, and other embroidery stitches. It has a free arm in case you actually need to sew shirt sleeves or something like that (I never do). It has over 10 different sewing feet with snap-on attachment. And, best of all, it comes with an extended table to give you a better sewing surface. I’m not an experienced sewer or quilter, but this machine does everything I could want in a basic machine, and more.

Pure For Men Is Not a Scam, but It IS a Rip-off—Save Your Money!

If you have opened Grindr or spent much time looking at the gay press lately, you have probably seen some ads pop up for a new product called “Pure for Men”. It is a product that promises to “Keep your runway clear for landing” (a clever tag line—these guys are great at marketing—which is good, since the success of their product is mostly due to that marketing). Pure for Men is basically a bulking laxative that promises to make your bowel movements more easily and completely eliminated from your body, leaving your lower colon “clean”—and ready for bottoming. No more enemas or shower wands—several customers have said they just shower and they are good to go without any additional preparation.

Psyllium, Ground Flaxseed, and Ground Chia

Psyllium, Ground Flaxseed, and Ground Chia

Does Pure for Men work? Yes. It’s as simple as that. It is made from three natural and readily available products, Psyllium Husk (the main ingredient in many popular constipation remedies—Metamucil, for example), Chia Powder, and Flaxseed Powder. The product’s recommended dosage is 2 or 3 capsules, TWICE a day. The product has glowing reviews on Amazon, as well as on their own website.

So, I believe the product is effective, and I know that many people are happy with it (I can also personally attest that it has been effective for me), so it is definitely NOT a scam. But at the prices they are charging, I would say that it definitely qualifies as a rip-off, and I’m going to explain why, as well as explain how you can save yourself some money.

The amount of the “proprietary blend” of psyllium, chia, and flaxseed in each of the capsules is 750 mg. This makes the total amount of the product taken at one time 1500 or 2250 mg, depending on whether the customer chooses to take two or three capsules (and remember, you have to take these capsules twice each day). As of the date I am writing this, and for at least the last month or so, the price on Amazon has been $24.99 for 120 capsules, and $14.99 for 60 capsules. Taken at the rate of two capsules twice a day, the bottle of 120 would last for 30 days, and would cost 83 cents per day. If you opt for the 6 capsules per day route, that goes down to 20 days, or $1.25 per day. The smaller bottle has an even higher daily average cost ($1.00 per day at 4 capsules, $1.50 per day at 6 capsules). Given the amount of product in these capsules, and the actual cost of those readily-available products, this price is outrageous, and you can save yourself a ton of money and get the same results by simply mixing your own batch at home!

As mentioned previously, the main component of Pure for Men is plain old psyllium husk. I was able to purchase a very affordable 1.5 pound bag of ORGANIC psyllium husk on Amazon for $13.99. You can find it here (prices on Amazon update regularly in order for them to stay competitive, so the pricing may differ).  I also purchased a 3 pound bag of ground flaxseed for $13.65, and 10 ounces of organic ground chia seed for $7.84 (again, current pricing may differ).

At this point, I had to make some assumptions about the nature of Pure for Men’s “proprietary blend”. We know the three products they use, but we can use some educated guesses about their proportions. Because psyllium husk is the product most commonly used for this type of laxative/constipation product, and because it is listed first on the ingredients, it is safe to assume that the bulk of the blend is made up of psyllium husk. I assumed 60% psyllium husk, and 20% each for the other two items. If you are wondering what the reason is for including chia and flaxseed powders, we can actually look to the “questions and answers” section of the reviews on Amazon to see the answers that were posted directly by the makers of Pure for Men. They say, “Pure for Men also contains Chia and Flaxseed which are great sources of insoluble fiber – very important for the physical scrubbing-like cleaning that occurs as the supplement passes through your digestive tract.” In any case, both chia and flaxseed are known to be good for your body, with high levels of Omega-3s, so their inclusion here can only benefit you. I can also tell you that I have tried my formulation (instructions at the end) and that of Pure for Men, and the results seem identical to me.

Here comes the math! At my chosen 60/20/20 ratio, I mixed 1.5 pounds of psyllium husk ($13.99), .5 pounds of ground flaxseed ($2.28), and .5 pounds of ground chia seed ($6.27). The total cost of my batch of Pure for Men knockoff? $22.54. So, I now have 2.5 pounds of blended psyllium/chia/flaxseed. What do I do with it, and how does the cost compare to Pure for Men? Two point five pounds is equivalent to 1,134,980 milligrams. We know the dosage is two or three 750 mg capsules, so if we assume two capsules (1500 mg), the cost of the

1/4 teaspoon on the micro-scale

1/4 teaspoon on the micro-scale

same dose when you blend your own batch is 3 cents per dose or a total of 6 cents per day! At three capsules (2250 mg), the cost is 4.5 cents per dose, or 9 cents per day. That means the Pure for Men is charging you 14 or 15 TIMES what you would pay by mixing these ingredients yourself! For less than the cost of a single month of Pure for Men, you can mix up a batch of your own that will last you LONGER THAN A YEAR!

If you want to save yourself some money, here is how you can do it. Go to Amazon and buy the three products linked above (or smaller sizes, if you wish—there are plenty of options on amazon). I measured the ingredients two different ways, using sophisticated and accurate scales: by VOLUME and by WEIGHT, and I found that the density is practically negligible in this case—meaning you do not need a fancy scale, you can simply measure by volume. The easiest way to do this is to use an identical scoop for each of the items in the blend, and put three scoops of the psyllium, one scoop of the chia powder, and one scoop of the flaxseed powder, to achieve our desired 60/20/20 ratio. Once you have put the ingredients together, blend them thoroughly! I would stir them with a whisk for at least a minute to insure even distribution of all ingredients. I would freeze any leftover chia or flaxseed in an airproof container (they both have fats that will go rancid over time, especially if exposed to high temperatures or air or light). Once mixed, I put my blend into an airtight container, and I store it in the fridge.

3/4 teaspoon in the bottom of a pint glass

3/4 teaspoon in the bottom of a pint glass

The final hurdle is deciding how much to take. I have a very accurate scale that measures in 1 mg increments. However, we know that we do not have to be precise in this instance—it is not like this is actual medicine, where a tiny difference in dosage can have disastrous consequences. The makers themselves recommend anywhere between 1500 mg and 2250 mg per dose—quite a wide range! I used my scale to weigh the ingredients many different ways, and I came up with measurements that were very close by using the following method: for each capsule, assume that 750 mg is equal to a level ¼ teaspoon. I measured this multiple times, and every single time the weight of ¼ teaspoon fell between 717 mg and 789 mg. This is a 4.4% to 5 % margin of error, and in the case of psyllium (which in the case of Metamucil, for example, is dosed as “rounded teaspoons”—a completely, wildly inaccurate type of measurement!), this margin of error is entirely negligible. For the chia seed and flaxseed, which are often used as supplements in smoothies, and which make up only 20% of the total mixture, the variation is also completely negligible.

My blend mixed with small amount of water

My blend mixed with small amount of water

So: How to take this, since it is not in the admittedly handy capsules? I prefer to measure the mixture into a pint glass, add a small amount of water, stir quickly, and then down it like a shot. I then fill the glass with water, stir again to dislodge any leftover ingredients, and drink the remaining water (psyllium works by absorbing water and swelling up, so you should drink plenty of water after taking the supplement). Note: DO NOT LET THE MIXTURE SIT IN WATER! Psyllium absorbs the water quickly, and it turns into a thick, pasty, gooey, gel, and nobody wants to try to choke that down! Seriously, add the water, stir, and then down it within a few seconds! You can always avoid the gel effect by adding more water, but it will still be somewhat slimy in texture if you let it sit for long—I prefer to get it down quickly! Then follow up right after with more water to rinse it down.

Slimy Psyllium after sitting for two minutes--nobody wants this!

Slimy Psyllium after sitting for two minutes–nobody wants this! Please note–this should NEVER HAPPEN. This is why I say you should drink it QUICKLY, like a shot!

To measure the proper amount of the powder, you have several options you could use a ¼ teaspoon measuring spoon and measure two or three scoops, depending on your preference (remembering that one scoop is equivalent to one capsule). To make it easier, though, you can use a single ½ teaspoon measuring spoon to estimate two capsules, or you can buy a special measuring spoon set that includes a ¾ teaspoon measuring spoon (a rather uncommon size), and use a single scoop of that as an equivalent to 3 capsules (I use the ¾ teaspoon measurement myself, before breakfast and again before dinner.

I hope I have helped to save you some money, as well as helped to keep your runway clear 😉





The Best Dishwasher for a Small Apartment–I Love this Thing!

When Idishwasher showing perfect fit on cart was looking for a new apartment in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago, I saw many options at many different price points, based primarily on size and amenities. I consider a dishwasher a non-negotiable, must-have item, though, because I absolutely hate to do the dishes, and I hate having them clutter up the sink or counter. I had previously rented a beautiful vintage apartment that came without a dishwasher, and on that occasion, I solved the problem by purchasing a full-size roll-away dishwasher. I later sold it on Craiglist for almost what I had paid for it, when I moved to an apartment that came with a built-in dishwasher.

My favorite apartment, and the one I ended up renting, was not only the largest apartment I looked at, it was also the cheapest, mainly because it was vintage. Although it had an updated kitchen and bath, it did NOT have a diswasher. However, it was approximately $400 per month CHEAPER than the other options I had viewed, and I knew from previous experience that roll-away dishwashers work very well. Because the kitchen was somewhat small, though, I decided to go with a smaller, counter-top dishwasher. I chose the white SPT Countertop Dishwasher from Amazon (I paid the very cheap price of $219–it was definitely worth it to save $400 per month in rent)!  I had a few doubts about the thing, related to its quality and its size, but I have had it for six months now, and I can say without a doubt that I am very happy with it. The wash function works perfectly, just like a full-size dishwasher. It is about half the size of a normal dishwasher because it has only one level instead of two, but I live alone, so I really don’t need a full-size dishwasher (and if you have the space and think you would need a larger dishwasher, I still recommend the larger one that I had before).

faucet fitting

The Fitting on the Faucet

host attachment

The hose attachment

collar pushed down

The collar pushed down

If you are unfamiliar with this type of dishwasher, it works by attaching to the faucet in your kitchen sink. There are two attached hoses, one that takes clean water from your faucet, and one that drains the dirty dishwater into the sink so that it can go down the drain. There is an included faucet attachment that fits any standard faucet–simply screw off the aerator on the faucet, and screw on the fitting, and when you are  ready to wash the dishes, it is as simple as pushing down a small collar to secure the water supply/drain line onto the fitting.  There are four tension bearings in the collar, and when you release it, the tension creates a watertight seal to the fitting. After you have attached the hose, just turn on the water and you are ready to go!


It did take some practice to learn how to load the dishwasher most efficiently, but the instructions include a handy guide that does work if you follow it. The only thing this dishwasher cannot handle is a very large charger plate or platter. I regularly wash my 13″ by 9″ baking dish in it.dishwasher on cart

The one thing that I discovered after getting the dishwasher is that I did not like using it on my countertop. I hated giving up that space permanently. I searched around and found a cart that works perfectly with the size and shape of the base of this dishwasher (most carts are too narrow to support it levelly, which is important for the drainage)! The cart I chose is the Seville Classics Stainless Steel cart. It works perfectly with the SPT dishwasher, and I am very happy with having my counter back. The cart also comes in a sturdier medium size version with a bamboo top, and that would have been my choice if my kitchen were just a little bit bigger, since it has solid shelves and looks nicer.

NOTE: Please be aware that Amazon sells a “silver” version of this same item. It does NOT have a Stainless Steel finish–it is simply silver in color, in the same way that this one is white.