Bouchard Chocolates 72% Cacao Fine Belgian Dark Chocolate

We are unabashed chocolate junkies in this house, and we usually don’t discriminate, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t discerning. There’s some really, really good craft chocolates out there, and some really, really bad stuff you can find at the supermarket checkout lane that shouldn’t (and sometimes even can’t) legally be called chocolate. But, in swoops Bouchard Chocolate to show you what’s good about good chocolate. And, sadly, what’s bad about a company looking to increase their presence in the U.S. but shot itself in the foot.

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To start, it’s a good chocolate, despite arriving during a now-customary California Fall heatwave. We’re talking 100+ temps in late September. I feared the worst, but most of the Napolitains arrived intact. More than a few were melted and toast, but I’ll use those for baking. The bag I received was simple cellophane, understated and all about the product within. It’s a dark chocolate (72% cacao content), but I can’t find a list of ingredients, nor did I get anything listing them, nor does the website list them…you kind of get where I’m going here. So, tastewise it’s pretty good. It’s comparable, favorably, to Green & Blacks, which is a pricey but good chocolate you can find almost anywhere. It’s smooth, not gritty, melts in your mouth without any lingering sugars after, and slightly bitter to the tongue, but in the way a good chocolate should be. The small morsels in the packet I got were good for a light snack when you’re needing that chocolate fix, but don’t want to gorge (yes, it’s happened here. Too often!).

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And that’s it for the good. The bad is that this company is doing a positively lousy job of getting to market. The company name and product has been around in some form or fashion since 1931. It’s roots trace back to the fine chocolatiers  in Ghent, Belgium with an award winning recipe for fine chocolate. But good luck finding a decent web presence, or price point, or e-commerce site for them. I couldn’t, and none was supplied for me to promote with. No ingredient list, no “Where to Buy”, just a lot of pretty pictures and florid prose, but no substance. In this country, we call that “All sizzle and no steak”. It’s a fine product, probably top 5 of all the chocolates I’ve had recently. And while they told me to mention that their product can be found in Costco Warehouses around the country, near weekly visits by Hubby has yet to locate any in the wild. Nothing on Amazon, Costco.com, no way to buy or even price. I can’t even tell you if it’s a value. And that’s a real shame. Since the company was acquired by Halloren Chocolate Group in 2014, they wanted to quickly get the name out there. That’s only a good strategy if you make your product readily available, and as of this writing, they have not. I’d love to recommend the chocolate, because it tastes divine. But I don’t know where to point you other than “Supposedly Costco”, and I can’t tell you how much it costs, what other types of products they have, what they’re made with… Ugh, so frustrating to see a good product doomed by terrible (or non-existent) marketing.

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from Bouchard Chocolate. I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion. I received no other compensation in exchange for my review. My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

William & Douglas 4-Piece Ravioli Maker Set

Few things are as yummy as fresh, home-made ravioli. And while with much practice one can develop the skills to make them at home without specialized tools, many of us, myself included, just don’t have the time to develop that particular skillset. So along comes William & Douglas and their nifty 4-Piece Ravioli Maker Set, looking all cool and begging for me to use them!

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All the tools sport solid hardwood handles and zinc-alloy metal cutting edges. They’re not sharp so they should be safe for the entire family to use! I would have preferred stainless steel, but in the long run unless I use them way too vigorously than I should they should last a good long time. I would advise against dishwashers, because the zinc-alloy can start to oxidize, and the hardwoods can split if that’s where you decide to wash them, but it’s not advisable by me or the company. I love the little rolling pin tool, because a full sized-rolling pin can sometimes be more trouble than it’s worth, and can be overkill for a small batch of ravioli and make a disaster on the counter.

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These tools are easy to use and are ergonomic enough that making large batches won’t cramp your hands or be to taxing on the arms. And William & Douglas offer a 100% money-back guarantee if you’re unsatisfied with your purchase. I liked them well enough and would recommend them for both the experienced user or novice home chef.

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from William & Douglas. I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion. I received no other compensation in exchange for my review. My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

LK Baby’s “Heavy Duty Collapsible Trunk Organizer

If you’re like me you need to make more than a few stops to get groceries. Like, sometime 5 or 6 stops. All in different cities. And the one thing that gets Hubby’s goat more than anything are the “nickle-and-dime tactics” of markets that want you to pay for a bag. So thankfully, LK Baby offered us another car trunk organizer that has made our shopping trips a lot less frustrating.

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See, we both get when a city has decided to ban plastic grocery bags. The reasoning is specious at best and the results are marginal, but hey, it’s pure profit for everyone involved (except the consumer). And charging for paper bags? When they’re made from the cardboard boxes they get their products delivered in? Give me a break! So I’m sure I’m not the only person who had things rolling around in the trunk or back seat because you’ve gotten tired of everyone having their hand in your pocket. And Starling’s is a lifesaver, because their organizer is big, spacious, sturdy and oh-so-helpful getting stuff from the truck to the house. It’s well-built and strong enough that we stuffed all our Costco purchases in it, and could easily carry everything in with no fear of dropping anything or the organizer being strained. It’s covered in water resistant nylon fabric, which means cold things sweating, or light spills, are not a problem. The bottom is unfortunately not rubberized, unlike the Starling’s version I previously tested, and the carry handles on the sides are strong and sturdy. You can customize the divider inside, or only open up half to minimize the space it takes up. I’m in love. And the dividers have done a fantastic job of keeping cold, warm, and non-food items all away from one another. There’s room in the pockets for more stuff, on all sides, and should one feel the need, you could store everything you’d need for any roadside emergency in Starling’s organizer, with room to spare. and when you’re done with it, it folds right back up, nice and flat and takes up practically no space at all.

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We’ve bought cheap-o organizers for the car and truck before. They always fell apart, broke down, or weren’t made to last and got tossed. But for only $19.99, you get a rock-solid trunk organizer that holds way more than you’d think, and does more than you can imagine.

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from LK Baby. I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion. My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

Smarson WIFI HD Digital Action Sports Camera

You know a product is a hit when there are countless imitators and knock-offs of your innovation. Sometimes, it’s a product slapped together to cash in on a craze and it’s junk. Sometimes, it’s about making a quality product that comes in at a fraction of the price to open the market to buyers who’d never have thought about, say, an HD action camera before. Smarson isn’t the former, it’s definitely the latter.

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We got a cheap-o HD action cam this summer to play around in the pool with the dog and record the memories. Sadly, though “Bresser” claimed full HD, the picture quality was poor, with washed out color and grainy video. And that was where Smarson’s camera shined. The picture was crystal-clear in outdoor light and there was no judder with quick “action” scenes (As much action as a 12 year-old dog can muster!). And there was a host of accessories included to make mounting your camera on nearly any surface possible. At 12 mp, and full 1080p (1920 x 1080) recording (30fps), you get all the clarity of high definition recording, or you can downgrade your image to 720p and go up to 60fps for great slo-mo. you get mutiple shooting modes, (treble shot function, time lapse, continuous shooting, self-timer, and driving mode), a 170 degree wide angle lens, and a similar user interface to the industry leader, the GoPro series of cameras. And, at this price point, you also get WiFi capabilities via Smarson’s iSmartDV App (for iOS and Android 4.4 and up), which is a real bonus to me, even if the range for the wifi is pretty limited (around 10-15 feet, line of sight). It’s small but rugged, and the build seems solid, unlike the other bargain brand action cam I tried that felt flimsy and the battery cover would constantly fall off. The included lucite case is dust and dirt proof and water-resistant up to 30 meters. My pool is only 9 feet deep, so I can safely say from experience it’s solid up to 9 feet! The included 3.7v 900mAh battery is rated for as much as 90 minutes of continuous recording, Thought I’ve gotten up to three hours of off-and-on recording in one afternoon with juice left after. But never worry, the camera will run off the included micro-USB cable and wall adapter, so you’re never without juice. I also had good success with up to a 32gb micro-SD card, and on that card you could record and store a few hours of full HD videos.

And while there is plenty of bang for your buck here, a couple of things are not particularly great. At the $50 price point, you get a lot of value, and a cheap 4gb micro SD card should really be included like most action cams do at this price point, so you can go right out of the box. And while almost every GoPro accessory should work perfect with this awesome Smarson HD Action Cam, the battery is non-standard and getting a replacement or spare might prove troublesome. Also, the 1.5″ TFT LCD at the rear is soooo tiny, with the screen to bezel ratio being almost 50-50. But, again, the value here is undeniable and the quality for the price is top-notch. I feel the positives far outweigh the negatives enough that this Smarson camera earns a full 5 stars from me.

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from Samrson. I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion. I received no other compensation in exchange for my review. My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

CVLIFE Two Point Adjustable Rifle Sling


A rifle sling can be a very important, and often overlooked, accessory. Whether it’s a three-gun competition, or a home defense situation, a sling often can mean the difference between keeping your rifle at hand or taking the chance of fumbling it when called upon.

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CVLife’s Two-Point Adjustable Rifle Sling is adequate for all but the professional shooter or professional soldier who’s life or livelihood may depend on it. It is made from study enough braided nylon with “bungee” type ends that have enough give in them to be useful without being restricting or affecting aim. My Husband easily modified his to a single-point sling by clipping one end onto one of the open portions of the other, so that there’s no slide or binding. The clips are strong, if a little on the small-ish side to manipulate with gloves or large fingers, but they easily clip on to the standard sling points on my Husband’s rifle. The srping is strong with no wiggle or give either. There’s no way to simply modify this sling to accept a quick-detach option short of ripping the seams and re-sewing one in, so keep in mind that you’re limited to the clip-on style of attachment with this sling.

As I said, a perfectly adequate harness for the occasional user, or hobby shooter, and the price reflects that as well. At $9.99, it’s a perfect entry-level sling and should fit the needs of almost every casual user.

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from CVLIFE. I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion. I received no other compensation in exchange for my review. My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

AqtivAqua POLARIZED “Poseidon” Swim Goggles

Hubby’s been through more than a few swim goggles from various suppliers, and rarely have a pair been good for more than a couple of uses before they start to leak, or the anti-fog lenses fog, or some plastic piece breaks. These are the first, however, to claim to be polarized.

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Polarized lenses not only reduce glare, they increase contrast and reduce eye strain. Unlike a traditionally tinted lens, they don’t just darken the field of view with various tints or shading in the lens, but block the horizontally polarized beams of sunlight. Generally this makes anything with polarized lenses more expensive than non, but the benefits for some greatly outweigh the costs.  So putting a polarized lens on a set of swim goggles seems like a no-brainer, since there’s rarely more sunlight bouncing around than when you’re in the pool in the summer, right? So far, these AqtivAqua® POLARIZED “Poseidon” Swim Goggles are the sharpest, clearest goggles I’ve ever used. Whether the lenses are truly polarized or just tinted perfectly, I can’t tell. But the sharpness and clarity both in and out of the water was stunning. They fit well around even Hubby’s giant pumpkin head, and there’s no leaks or fogging. They’ve only been used twice in chlorinated water, but both times on both of us they were comfortable, there was no pinching or binding, and they were easily adjusted on the fly to fit either of us. They are a touch on the bulky side and there’s not as much peripheral vision as we’re used to with our swim goggles. But other than that, we have no complaints. The zippered, molded storage case is a nice touch too, a real “value added” bonus. 

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I will revisit this review after a few more uses, because testing and reviewing swim goggles has shown me that the first few uses are always perfect, and with exposure to chlorinated water over a season, the cheaper, poorly made ones tend to start fogging and leaking after about 5 or 6 uses. But as of now, these are Hubby’s go-to for lap swimming. Whether they stay that way, only time will tell, but AqtivAqua states on the Amazon listing: ” If for any reason you are not completely satisfied with your AqtivAqua® Swimming Goggles, contact us and we will provide a no-hassle full refund”. Alrighty, then. I say give them a try!

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from ActivAqua. I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion. I received no other compensation in exchange for my review. My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

Bstean Industrial Syringe applicators w/ Blunted Tips and Caps

How many times have we tried to apply glue, lubricant, water, or alcohol to a very specific place only to have it spill over, dribble, or miss and nearly ruin what we were trying to protect, clean or preserve? It’s happened to me countless times, but it won’t be happening again in the near future thanks to these wonderful Bstean Syringe applicators.

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Content in the past with being inaccurate or buying those cheap, disposable bulb applicators, or even a cotton swab or Q-Tip, these syringe applicators are a crafter’s DREAM! I never again have to worry about slopping glue or oil or even droplets of paint, I can now apply them all with laser accuracy! With blunted tips to keep from accidentally jabbing yourself, you still get pin-point application or whatever viscous liquid you want to apply. Hubby even swiped a few because let’s face it, gun and knife lubes are not cheap, and you don’t want to be slopping oils on parts that absolutely don’t need it or could damage the tool. Need to apply a light grease to a hinge? Problem solved. Need a few drops of that expensive, fancy Benchmade lubricant? Got you covered. Want a single drop of glue for a delicate crafting project? Yup, Bstean’s syringes are up to the task. Single droplets of paint on a project? Done and done!

BStean actually took some of the criticisms to heart and have included rubber caps or stoppers for filling your syringe applicator from the back with particularly viscous fluids. Still lacking, though, is the notice on the Amazon order page that all the syringes come printed with “Single Use” on them. Hubby disregarded that, and stuck his for his knives and guns in a zip top baggie and squirreled them away with his other tools for his “stuff”. No problems to report from re-use, though. The ones used for glue are almost always single use anyways, because the glues will harden in the tubes. But at only $9.89 shipped for a pack or 10, you get four different sizes, too: 1ml x 3, 3ml x 3, 5ml x 2, 10ml x 2  with needle gauges ranging from 1.5” 14Gx2, 1” 18Gx2, 1/2” 16Gx3, 20Gx3, and color coded for your convenience. Really sturdy, industrial grade, really well-made with metal needle syringe applicators, I plan on buying more in the future as my old ones get used up. Great product all around with a multitude of uses, and a fantastic price.

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from BStean. I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion. I received no other compensation for this review. My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

Proxy Lighting 48 FT Weatherproof Outdoor String Lights

In Southern California, we spend an inordinate amount of time outdoors. One of the things that can turn a normal night into a magical one is the right outdoor lighting. Proxy lighting gets it, and made a super-cool set of string lights that look amazing.

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The thick, heavy-duty 14-gauge cord has 15 drop light sockets sporting an 11-watt bulb in each, enough to give that “just right” amount of light. Perfect for a patio, gazebo, or pergola, and made well enough to give you years and years of use. The medium base (E26) will hold and power a bulb up to 40 watts, but I feel that would be just too much light. At 48 feet long and only 15 lights, you have about 3 feet between sockets, so whil eit looks superb it’s markedly different than the previous set I owned, but not so much that it stands out too much. I would have preferred there being closer to 2-2 1/2 feet between bulbs, but these Proxy Lighting lights still get the job done. And the built-in hanging loops make putting them up a cinch.

One thing I need to mention is that wile these are outdoor rated, the plugs are polarized but not a three prong grounded plug, which my older set was, but I’m still a fan. I also love that these are UL listed, which means Underwriter’s Laboratory have tested these and certified them safe, which is a step so many fly-by-night companies tend to skip. I appreciate that Proxy Lighting went that extra mile.

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from Proxy Lighting. I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion. I received no other compensation in exchange for my review. My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

Grizzly Gun Care Non-Toxic CLP

 

One of the most overlooked parts of gun ownership is maintenance. For your weapons to perform as they were designed one must take maintenance seriously. And one of the best ways to do that is a good CLP, which stands for “Clean, Lubricate and Protect”.

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Grizzly Gun Care gets this and has provided a better than average CLP that gets the job done, all without being as toxic as the industry leading CLPs! That’s right, a lot of the big names or CLPs you’ve heard are the best are seriously toxic, like, loaded with carcinogens. The best of the new generation of CLPs recognized this and reformulated to non-toxic mixes that still perform to Mil-Spec standards. Grizzly Gun care is no different. It cleans out the carbon fouling on my Husband’s M&P 15, and doesn’t stink to high heaven either. There’s an almost pleasant scent actually, and it leaves a thin film of protectant that inhibits corrosion well. It is thicker at room temperature than the old Hoppe’s No. 9 he used before, which means it won’t run and dribble everywhere you don’t want it and nowhere you don’t. It didn’t clean as well as the aerosol product Hubby used previously, but got everything respectably clean, just not the “factory new” clean Hubby tends to prefer for almost, well, everything. It seems to work best on fresh fouling, not older build-up.

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If we’re splitting hairs, it’s more expensive than the aerosol stuff Hubby used previously, and you got 6 ounces of that versus 4 ounces of Grizzy’s CLP. But he always finished off with a grease as well, and when you combine the price of the two, if you want a one-and-done solution, Grizzy is on par price and performance wise. So if you want an all-in-one solution that isn’t toxic, doesn’t stink so bad you need to crack open all the windows, and stores well for a fair price, Grizzly Gun Care’s CLP is the product for you.

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from Grizzly Gun Care. I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion. I received no other compensation in exchange for my review. My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

Oak Leaf’s Double Edge Safety Razor

Hubby has been shaving for almost 30 years now, being as he was an early bloomer and started before high school. He’s been through the entire gamut of shaving devices, from manual to electric, and found out what works well for him and what doesn’t. And while he’s been curious to try an single-blade safety razor for while, this one for him kind of missed the mark.

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The shave a was decent enough once he got the hang of the angle of the safety razor. And it seems the refills will be dirt cheap, which for us is another major, major plus. What he didn’t care for was what felt to him like a miniature handle that he found difficult to hold properly, or at least how he’s held his razors for years and years. The handle is so short that he can only hold it with 2 fingers and his thumb. He found the control with that reduced grip lacking and felt the handle needed a couple of inches more for him to feel like he had the control of the blade he’s accustomed to. Another mark in the minus column was that the shave with the provided Dorco blades was not as close as he would like, leading to longer,  very coarse stubble by the evening (I liken his stubble to 40 grit sandpaper, so the shave lasting less than a day no bueno). Lastly, and this may be unique to the handle I was sent, the “butterfly” mechanism didn’t seem to want to “lock” or stay closed, working itself open or loose a couple of times mid-shave.

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On the plus side, the chome-coated handle and head seem to resist water-spotting and rust after a few uses, and again, replacement blades should be a pittance compared to whatever grossly over-priced 5, 6 or 7 blade monstrosity Gillette and Schick are pumping out nowadays. The shave is adequate for a daily shaver that didn’t cause Hubby and noticeable razor burn, and almost no ingrown hairs either, which with his extra-thick rhino-skin is no small feat. In the end I feel the $9.99 price point is a good introduction to safety razors, but you’ll be wanting something a little bigger or better if this is going to be your daily driver.

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from Oak Leaf. I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion. I received no other compensation in exchange for my review. My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

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