Product Review: Jamberry Nail Wraps

I was recently sent a sample of Jamberry Nail Wraps from a distributor/seller/nail artist that was hoping to make a sale and recruit me to her team.

Jamberry operates on your basic multi-level marketing system. It costs $99 to join as a seller and you get a kit full of items including: catalogs, brochures, instruction sheets, application tools, 3 months of a website, 1 sheet of nail wraps and credit to buy 3 more sheets of nail wraps.

After spending 15 minutes looking at their website, I still can’t tell you how much you make from Jamberry. There are approximately 5,385 levels of managers and consultants and team leaders and whatever title you can think of. Each has a set of ridiculous requirements and payouts. It looks like Jamberry puts more emphasis on the “downline” than the individual sales, but I could be reading this completely wrong.

But what about the product? How well does Jamberry work? I tried it myself, and I’ve got to say – I wasn’t terribly impressed.

Here’s a peek at how my at-home Jamberry manicure turned out:

jamberry

As you can see, I did the pinky finger. I followed the directions and adhered the wrap to my nail, then cut away the excess. It is nearly impossible to do that neatly unless you’ve spent years working in a nail salon. I don’t paint my nails all that regularly (as you can tell), because I spend my day typing, taking care of 3 young kids, doing housework, taking care of the animals, cooking and gardening. None of those things are manicure-friendly.

To be fair, my consultant/seller/Jammer told me that using cuticle scissors is the easiest way to cut the wrap to fit. I don’t have cuticle scissors (surprise), so I had to use the regular tiny scissors that come in manicure sets. They weren’t that sharp, despite being new. Or maybe making precision cuts in adhesive-backed vinyl with my non-dominate hand is just tough?

I did the manicure (Jamicure?) last night and as of this morning, the wraps are still in place. They seem to be holding up better in areas where they are nowhere near the edge of my fingernail. Near the cuticle at the top is where they adhered the least – even though I pushed back the cuticle like the instructions said.

Overall, I found it challenging to adhere the wraps and get them trimmed into a shape that somewhat resembled my actual fingernail. They seem durable enough, and I liked that there was no dry time like with nail polish. I’m sure this is one of those things you’d get better at with time, but at $15 a sheet, that’s a pretty pricy learning curve.

I wouldn’t mind receiving Jamberry wraps as a gift, but I don’t think they’re something I’d buy on a regular basis. Because of that (and my apparent ineptness at applying them), I don’t see myself becoming a Jamberry consultant. Maybe in the future when I have a couple more applications under my belt I’ll feel differently, but for now, I’ll stick with my regular polish.

Why I’m Leaving Textbroker

You may remember a post I did a while ago about a site called Textbroker. In a nutshell, Textbroker is a site that connects freelance writers that are willing to work for pennies (literally) with clients that need content. The clients outline their needs, the writers write and the site handles the transfer of funds.

Seems simple enough, and you can write in your spare time, making money from home over the internet. Sounds great, right?

Wrong.

After using Textbroker for a couple of months, I can tell you what’s wrong with the system (aside from the absurdly low pay): the reviewers.

You see, with Textbroker, every time you write an article, it goes into a review queue. The folks at Textbroker review your article and give you a “rating”. The average of your most current ratings determines your rating on the site and in turn, how much you get paid per word.

I’m a professional writer. I know what my strengths are, and I know what my weaknesses are. I should be at a 4 or 5-star level. When I first signed on, I was rated at 4 stars. From what I understand, NOBODY starts at 5 stars. You have to request that and submit 10 articles to open orders to be considered. No big deal.

I did my 10 articles and I waited. I just got a slew of emails from Textbroker today. Each and every single article that I wrote and submitted was rated at 3 stars, many of which had no explanation attached. The ones that did have an explanation were at times just wrong (telling me to include commas where there shouldn’t be any, poor grammar because the 5-word keyword phrases the clients requested didn’t make any sense, etc.). Now, I can see if 1 or 2 articles were rated at 3 stars, but for them ALL to be rated at 3 stars and for them ALL to be rated in less than 5 minutes is really pushing it. There’s no way someone could have read all 10 articles in 5 minutes, let alone edited them and rated them fairly.

I have a theory that Textbroker simply alternates you between 3 and 4 stars in order to keep you from reaching 5-star status, which has a realistic (though still low) pay scale. At the 3-star pay level, it’s not worth me even logging into the site. I can see how someone who’s inexperienced might still think that it’s an okay deal and that something is better than nothing. Not me. I’m turning work away. I can afford to be picky at this point and working for the ridiculously low pay of a 3-star writer on some 2-bit site run by fools is not on my agenda.

So, if anyone accidentally signed up for Textbroker after reading my last review – I’m sorry. Cash out and leave now. Those idiots don’t deserve to build a reputation on the backs of starving writers.

The Complete Guide to Lowering Your Cable Bill

Guys, I’m going to be honest with you for a minute – I don’t pay full price for cable. Actually, I don’t pay anything for cable, since I have satellite, but for the purpose of this post, we’re going to say satellite = cable.

Are you still with me? Good. Forget about the whole satellite = cable thing for a minute and focus on the point of this post – lowering the cable bill. That got your attention? I thought so.

It turns out, getting your bill lowered really isn’t all that hard. In fact, you can even get it lowered even if you’re under contract if you just know what to say. Follow along and soon you’ll be negotiating your cable prices like a pro.

Step 1.) Know the competition. If you live in an area with more than one cable service available, know what the other guys are offering. If there’s any deals or promos going on, get those handy. I live in an area where cable companies are routinely offering gift cards for the amount of the early termination fee you’ll pay your current provider if you cancel your contract to switch cable companies. Knowledge is power, so see what’s out there before you begin? 

If you live in the boonies, you’re not out of luck! Satellite is cable’s competitor too and satellite is available pretty much anywhere. Look up the deals available in your town.

Step 2.) Name drop. When you call, tell the operator you’re thinking of switching to X company because they have a promotion going that can save you money. Ask if they can match the price for you so you don’t have to go through the hassle of switching. Often times, they will. If that works, you’re done. If it doesn’t work…

Step 3.) Threaten to quit. Tell them you want to speak with someone in the cancellation or retention department regarding terminating your services. Often, people in these departments have access to way better deals than the level 1 customer service reps. Don’t give up your quest for cheaper cable if your first attempt isn’t successful.

When you get on the phone with the person in the cancellation or retention department, tell them you’re thinking about canceling your cable if you can’t get a lower monthly bill. Make sure you tell them you don’t want to lower any of your services either. Usually, you’ll get a loyalty discount or something at this point.

Step 4.) Follow-Up. Ask the person when your discount ends and how you can renew it at that point. They’ll probably tell you to call back in 6 months or however long and ask for the ___ discount again. Write that down. Cable companies keep the names of these discounts under lock and key. Knowing that you want a “customer loyalty” discount versus a “$10 off discount” can make your next call go a lot smoother.

Step 5.) Cancel the cable. If you can’t get a lower bill, go ahead and cancel your service, as long as you’re not charged a fee. Most cable companies will call you within a week with a follow-up and try to get you to go back to their service. They usually offer you a good promotional discount to get you back as a customer.

Of course, if you’re just sick of getting jerked around, you can always switch providers at this point and take advantage of whatever other deals there are available to you.

You don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for cable. Negotiating for a better rate isn’t difficult, but it does take time and a little bit of perseverance. Call your cable provider today and see if you can lower your bill $5, $10 or even more.

Pinterest Oven Cleaner, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

For Easter, I went the traditional route and made Ham, scalloped potatoes and asparagus. Seems simple enough, right?

When the potatoes were about halfway cooked, they boiled over. Molten milk and cheese cascaded all over the oven. (Yes, I put cheese on my scalloped potatoes, spare me the lecture about how they’re au gratin if you use cheese.) Given the range of the burned milk-mixture on the bottom of my oven and the sides, I’d have to say it probably exploded before cascading. Either way, the results were the same – smoke, and lots of it!

The smoke detectors went off and had to literally be ripped off the ceiling, because apparently just killing the power to them doesn’t work because those shits have battery-backup. You know what would really be helpful? A button to shut them off in the event that you just (badly) burned dinner and aren’t in fact standing amidst a raging inferno completely oblivious to the smoke billowing around you. Bonus points if the button can be large and colored, because NOBODY can read the raised size 8-point text on a white background while standing 4 feet below the smoke detectors with their heads craned at an unnatural angle. NOBODY.

Once we managed to pull all the smoke detectors off the ceiling and brake off the battery compartments (mental note: buy new smoke detectors), the hellish sound finally stopped. I popped open some windows to air the place out and immediately got on Pinterest to figure out how to remove the burned-on badness from my stove. Before you ask – no, I couldn’t go buy oven cleaner. It was Easter and I live in a blue-law state, meaning NOTHING is open. Nada.

During my Pinterest search, I found this link:

http://www.chachingqueen.com/how-to-clean-your-oven-without-chemicals/#_a5y_p=3592898

I’ll spare you the work of clicking on it and summarize. Baking soda, vinegar and salt are supposed to work together to clean your oven. Ok, sounds legit. I had all 3 ingredients, which was a necessary part of the process, so I said why not.

WHY IS THE INTERNET FULL OF LIES!??!

I should know by now that Pinterest is basically an online community of housewives and wannabes bullshitting their way through life. It’s like those #NoMakeUp selfies – total lies. Nothing you see on Pinterest is real and any idea you get from Pinterest should be completely discarded. It’s like the “what not to do” of homemaking.

Do you want to know – honestly – what happens when you smear baking soda, vinegar and salt on burned food in your oven?

You wind up with a smelly layer of baking soda, vinegar and salt on top of burned food in your oven. Seriously, this stuff does NOT clean anything. It just makes the mess gritty and worse than before.

Despite the festering pile of terrible in my oven, I managed to not buy oven cleaner again over the next couple of days. I have 3 kids and remembering something as mundane as cleaning the oven just wasn’t high on my priority list. So last night, when I needed to use the oven, I swore silently, killed the power to the smoke detectors, opened the windows and got out the ladder in preparation of ripping them off the ceiling again.

Fortunately, the smoke was minimal. At least the baking soda concoction kept the smoke at bay – even though it didn’t really stop the burning at all. I will say that baking soda, vinegar, salt and burned milk/cheese does have a rather awful smell when heated though.

So, lesson learned. I need to just suck it up and go buy oven cleaner like an adult. The thought of dragging my 3 kids out to Walmart and listening to an endless deluge of “buy me a toy!!” is really unappealing, though. I wonder if I can make casserole in the crock pot instead…

Summer Pasta Salad Recipe

Tonight I had a moment in the kitchen and came up with this pasta salad recipe that I have to share. It’s so good. No, seriously – even my husband had seconds and he hates pasta salad, macaroni salad and foods that include mayo in general. I’ll stop rambling and just get to the good stuff so you can enjoy the deliciousness that is this pasta salad.

pastasalad

Ingredients:

1/2 box of tri color rotini (or shells, or macaroni or whatever kind of pasta you like)
1/2 small onion, diced small1 stick of celery, halved lengthwise and sliced
1/2 tomato, diced small
1/4 cup green peas, cooked and cooled
3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 hard boiled eggs
1/8 cup mayo (1 large spoonful)
1/8 cup sour cream
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp vinegar
1/2 tsp celery salt
salt & pepper to taste

Directions:
1.) Cook pasta according to directions on box. Cool by running cold water over it for several minutes. Place in large bowl.

2.) Add onion, celery, peas and bacon to pasta.

3.) In a small bowl, mix mayo, sour cream, dijon mustard, vinegar, celery salt, salt and pepper to make the dressing.

4.) Pour the dressing over the pasta and mix thoroughly.

5.) Using a grater, grate the hard boiled eggs into the pasta salad. Mix gently.

6.) Taste. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Earning Opportunity: Textbroker

It’s the beginning of April, which means it’s time to review another earning opportunity. Sorry this one is a few days late – the month started at a weird time. Plus, it was Easter.

Anyway, this month I’m going to review a little site called Textbroker. If you don’t already know, making money online generally involves writing or taking surveys. Unfortunately, neither pay very well – at least not at first.

Textbroker is a site where writers (authors) can sign up to write articles for buyers on almost any topic. When you sign up, you’ll be asked to submit a sample of your writing. The “grade” you earn determines how much you get paid. For example, a very bad writer that makes a lot of errors may only get rated at 1-star. They will get paid less (we’re talking like a fraction of a cent per word) than a writer that gets rated at 4 stars. However, even a 4-star author makes less than 2 cents per word.

In order to make any amount of money on Textbroker, you need to get rated at 5 stars. To do that, you’ll need to first be rated at 4 stars and then pass the proofreading test. Next, you’ll get an email telling you to write 10 (open) articles of 250 words or more that are essentially error-free. Why did I mention that they had to be “open” articles? Well, on Textbroker, you can find work one of 2 ways: choose a job from the pool of “open” orders, or join a team and do a team job. Open orders pay less than team jobs do, which is probably why they require you to do open orders before being evaluated – it’s the only way to get a 4-star author to do an open order since they pay so poorly.

So my final conclusion? It’s simply not worth the time. I’ve been on Textbroker for a couple of months now and haven’t even broken $100 yet. Heck, I haven’t even done my 10 articles for the 5-star evaluation yet. The reason I don’t like Textbroker is because clients can put some pretty crazy demands out there. You’ll see a lot of jobs that look like this:

Title: 10 Ways Quantum Physics can be Applied to Behavioral Reconditioning Exercises at Maximum Security Prisons
Word count: 250
Deadline: 1 day
Keywords: Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pink tights, Organic gardening in Canada
Directions: Write a detailed and thorough article about the above subject. Use subheadings and cite your resources. I want something well researched and I WILL REJECT ARTICLES I COULD HAVE WRITTEN MYSELF with little to no knowledge on the subject!!!

This isn’t even an exaggeration. You see some really crazy stuff like that posted. Even if you’re not initially turned off by the title, many buyers post insanely low word counts for what they want. Why? Because the author can go over the desired word count, but they won’t receive any extra compensation for it. So, even though a job like this is going to be at least 600 words or the most concise writer, they’ll only get paid for 250 words – which if you recall, is less than $5. Furthermore, the buyer can reject the article if it’s not researched well enough or doesn’t contain the crazy keywords that have absolutely nothing to do with the subject and will require additional words to work in. Somehow.

So typically jobs like this aren’t picked up right away (ever) and you wind up having to sort through a lot of junk to find anything worthwhile. I’ve logged on multiple times only to find nothing worth writing for the compensation level being offered. Wasting time searching open jobs is really not my thing and that turns me off from Textbroker more than anything else.

The bottom line is that Textbroker is great if you’re the client, but crap if you’re the author. I’m sure the client feels completely justified asking for so much because there’s no doubt in my mind that Textbroker charges them an arm and a leg, throwing the authors peanuts, but hey – this isn’t a post about why you shouldn’t feel bad putting absurd requests up on Textbroker.

5 Easter Clearance Bargains that are Too Good to Pass Up

Easter is almost here and that means it’s time to start thinking about the post-holiday clearance sales. Easter is one of my favorite holidays when it comes to clearance shopping. Why? Because there’s not a lot of “branded” items out there that can’t do double-duty as a springtime goodie. If you love a good deal, read on for 5 Easter clearance bargains you can’t pass up.

1.) Chocolate. This is probably a no-brainer, but clearance holiday candy of any variety is a good thing. Head to your local supermarket, Walmart or Target to get some clearance candy for a fraction of the price. M&Ms, Reeses and other favorites are made pastel for the holiday. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really care what color my chocolate is before I eat it. If you’re hitting up the holiday sales, go for name brand candy and stay away from the oddball Easter bunnies. For some reason, off-brand chocolate doesn’t taste as good to me.

2.) Outdoor toys. At Easter, stores put water guns, sidewalk chalk, bubbles and other outdoor goodies on sale. Stock up after Easter and make sure to get plenty to keep the summer fun going strong. With any luck, you’ll never have to buy another stick of sidewalk chalk at full price.

3.) Plastic dishes. I don’t know why, but for some reason almost every store has a spring themed plastic dish selection around Easter time. If you can find a pattern without a bunny or a chick on it, you’ll have yourself some break-proof and affordable dishes for summer barbecues and outdoor entertaining. Keep an eye out for unusual pieces, like egg trays, silverware holders and more.

4.) Toys. Stores get extra supplies of small toys during Easter because they’re a common addition to Easter baskets. After the holiday, they frequently clearance out the toys for pennies on the dollar. Stock up now and keep them in a closet until Christmas, when you can use them as stocking stuffers.

5.) Food. My local grocery stores almost always put their Easter foods on special after the holidays. If you wait until the day after Easter, you can score a leftover ham at a rock bottom price. Pick up any bargain foods you can find that can be frozen and save them for later. I try and pick up an extra ham at Easter to freeze until Christmas. Depending on where you live, you may not want to wait. Grab an extra ham or other Easter bargain to keep on hand for later.

Carefree Fresh & Fierce Panty Liners Review

carefree

I was recently given a free package of Carefree Fresh & Fierce panty liners** to try and review. I’m not being paid to review the product and all opinions are my own.

When I first opened the panty liners, I immediately thought they looked just like every other panty liner I’ve ever seen. The packaging was “discreet”, so that was a plus. However, they used an obscene amount of glue to get the liners to stick to the wrapper. Once I peeled all of the wrapper off, I was a little surprised to find that the back of the liner wasn’t very sticky. Confusing indeed.

Anyway, I was curious what made these liners so special. The package said unscented, so I gave them the sniff test. I didn’t smell anything really, just a faint hint of plastic wrapper. Not bad. Definitely not the overpowering perfume smell you find on some feminine products.

next, I decided to see how much they could hold. Most people use panty liners for heavy discharge days, in conjunction with a tampon, to give protection when they’re expecting their period or as minor protection against bladder leakage. The point is – most of the time it needs to hold at least a little bit.

Using some really unscientific methods, I began by pouring 1 TBSP of liquid directly onto the liner. WHAT A MESS! Total fail! I was shocked when more than half of the liquid just repelled instantly and went all over my counter. This seemed like a bad omen.

I decided to try again, this time using less liquid. I wanted to know how much these puppies could hold. It took 8 teaspoons before I noticed any leakage, though some liquid did come out before that point when the liner was folded and compressed. I also noticed that if liquid was added slower, the liner had time to absorb it. If it’s added too quicky (like I did with the first test), it pretty much just repelled it. That makes me think these would be NO GOOD for minor bladder leakage, but great for other applications.

It’s also important to note that the top of these panty liners always felt dry to the touch, which was nice. The top is made of a rather durable cotton-y material that is soft and stays remarkably dry.

Conclusion: Carefree Fresh & Fierce panty liners performed better than I expected. I’d say they did better than my usual panty liner (Kotex) in terms of absorbancy, and the stay-dry top material was a real bonus.

**I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.

7 Ways to Go Green and Save

Going green is something a lot of people are interested in these days. Besides helping the environment, going green gives a sense of contentment and peace since many green practices are simple and help remove people from the hustle and bustle of a technology and convenience packed world. Read on for 7 ways you can go green and save money at the same time.

1.) Learn how to use your blinds.

You’d be surprised how many people don’t know how to use their blinds or just don’t have them in their windows to begin with. If you really don’t like the way blinds look, you can put curtains over them and raise the blinds all the way up when not in use, but I definitely wouldn’t skip them.

When it’s hot or cold, you can use your blinds to help create a comfortable atmosphere in your home and reduce your energy costs. During hot days, lower and close the blinds when sun is coming through the window to prevent it from heating up the room. You can use light filtering blinds to still get the brightness you crave without the excess heat. When the window is in the shade, open the blinds to let natural light in. Sure you’ll have to adjust your windows throughout the day as the sun moves, but that gives you an excuse to get up and get moving.

When it’s cold you can also use your blinds to save on energy. Just keeping them down and closed at night will add another layer of insulation to the windows to block drafts and keep air from escaping. Pair them with insulated curtains and you’ll really reduce your heating costs.

2.) Use a clothesline

Your grandmother used a clothesline and had the benefit of having the sun dry her clothes without using any excess energy. Bring this frugal practice back to dry blankets, towels and sheets each week without running the dryer. Not only will you save money on electricity, you’ll also have fresher smelling linens.

You can also hang pillows on the line to kill dust mites using the sun. If it’s a particularly bright day, bring out your whites for some all-natural sun bleaching.

3.) Use vinegar more often

Use vinegar instead of expensive fabric softener to get soft clothes without the cost. Don’t worry about the smell – it goes away on the line or in the dryer. As a bonus, if you’re line drying your clothes, vinegar helps prevent them from getting as stiff.

You can also use diluted vinegar to clean countertops or in your carpet shampooer instead of expensive specialty formulas to clean pet stains on the carpet. Buy it by the gallon for the best price.

4.) Make your own iced coffee

I say that when the weather warms up, it’s time to put the Keurig away and bring back the classic coffee pot. Every morning make a full pot and refrigerate whatever you don’t drink for cheap DIY iced coffee. If you grab a reusable cup, you can bring your iced coffee with you when you leave the house rather than stopping at the coffee shop.

This same principle works for iced tea as well. Make a big batch whenever you’re having the hot variety and refrigerate the rest for later use.

5.) Grow some food

You don’t need to have a full garden to enjoy the benefits of growing your own food. Even if you just plant a small bed of strawberries, you’ll get plenty of fruit to last you a while. As a bonus, you won’t have to spend money on the pesticide-laden variety at the grocery store. Strawberries, lavender, rosemary, oregano and mint are all perennials. Lettuce and tomatoes can be grown in containers on your deck and several types of potted herbs are known to repel mosquitoes.

6.) Compost

When you start growing vegetables, you’ll have some waste from the plants and unusable parts of the vegetables. Compost the bits along with anything else you find in your kitchen like coffee grounds, egg shells and peels to get rich soil to use in your home garden. Get a handy lidded compost bin like the one shown above (I purchased it at Whole Foods several years ago) to easily dispose of scraps in the kitchen. Then, simply empty the bin when it’s full into a larger compost bin in your yard. Turn it regularly and you’ll have soil in no time.

7.) Release your inner farmer

 Raising livestock isn’t for everyone, but if you have the time, space and energy, raising a small flock of backyard chickens can be a great hobby with an excellent yield. Pictured above is our young rooster, Elvis and a brown Easter Egger. Backyard chickens require very little care – give them a coop to sleep in, some chicken feed and water and they’ll be happy. Chickens are known for eating bugs, including mosquitoes and ticks. They also lay eggs and are quite entertaining to watch.

A word for the wise – chicken feed is expensive, so don’t think you’ll be saving a ton of money by raising your own flock. However, fresh, free range eggs and a significant bug reduction is definitely worth the time and expense in my opinion.

By the way, chicken sexing is only accurate about 93% of the time, so even if you buy all pullets, you may get a cockrel. That’s what happened to us! We picked up 6 chicks and one wound up being a rooster. That’s ok though, we’re embracing it and we are thankful the rooster was one of the buff orpingtons which are known for being friendly (and slow).