Staying Snug In the Freezing Fall

I’m going to have to face facts.  Summer is over.  Those sweltering days and warm nights have already been replaced with near-freezing mornings, cold days, and nights that turn toes numb.  So how does one stay toasty warm without raising your thermostat (and thus your heating bill) through the roof?

Last year, I would wrap myself in a blanket on the couch while working on my laptop, but this had many problems.  First of all, I could get all snug in the blanket, but then I couldn’t type.  If I pulled my arms out to type, my shoulders, arms and neck became exposed to the cold air.  Secondly, the blanket never seemed long enough to cover my feet properly.  Lastly, the blanket would never quite cover my back, allowing cold air to work it’s way behind me, freezing me out.

I have heard of the Slanket before, but initially dismissed it.  At first, I thought "Why not just use a robe facing backwards or use a regular blanket?"  Well, after trying it out for the first time, I had my answer.  A Slanket is much longer than a robe and while it might seem thinner, the material it is made of is designed for maximum warmth.  It’s so warm, in fact, that I needed to push part of it off of me from time to time as I got too warm!

As far as Slanket versus my previous blanket solution, the Slanket covered my entire arms, shoulders, and neck easily while allowing me to use my laptop (or operate the TV remote).  Cold air was easily thwarted there.  The Slanket is also long.  Extremely long.  So chances are, the Slanket will not only cover your feet, but wrap around them giving you double-Slanket foot protection.  It was so long, in fact, that I was able to stay covered on the couch while JSL used the bottom of the Slanket as a blanket.

Obviously, the Slanket has sleeves so arms are fully covered.  In fact, arms are extra covered.  The sleeves are so long, I was able to stick my head inside one of them.  While you might think that this would mean open sleeve ends letting cold air in, the sleeves tend to collapse on themselves.  The extra fabric adds to the general warmth of the Slanket.

Finally, the back.  The Slanket is quite wide.  It was wide enough to either cover my sides or to wrap around me.  Either method was sufficient to prevent cold air from seeping in.  My back was quite warm thanks to the Slanket.

Overall, I love my Slanket.  Thanks to it, I’m feeling a little less dread about the upcoming freezing winter weather.

Disclaimer: I received a free Slanket to review.  This did not change my opinion of the Slanket, however.  All of the opinions expressed above are my own.

Review: Sid the Science Kid

Hey Sid, What do you say! What do you want to learn today? I want to know what things happen and how, and I wanna know everything now. How does this thing work? Why does that stuff change? How’d it do what it just did. What’s up with the sky do you think i can fly The world is big and I wanna know why Got a lot of questions and big ideas, I’m Sid the Science Kid.


Those words begin one of NHL’s favorite shows: Sid the Science Kid. Sid constantly tries to figure out the big questions in life like: Why does a banana turn mushy? Or why does it need to rain when you have an outdoors activity planned? Those might not seem like big questions to adults, but to kids questions like these are huge. And for good reason too. Children are just figuring out how the world works and questions like these are key.

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Freeware Review: Quoth the Raven, Blog It More!

I’ll admit that, as much as I love blogging, part of me hated writing blog posts. It was filled with annoyances. First I had to go into WordPress’ admin panel. For some reason, I’d always wind up logged out, so I’d have to load up PasswordSafe to retrieve my password and log in. Once in, I’d have to navigate to the New Post page. When I was there, I’d need to type in my post, remembering to hit Save every so often lest my browser crash and I lose it all. (Somehow, auto-save never works when you need it to.) When I wanted to put images in my post, I had to upload them then add them to my blog using a variety of tactics.

All of these little annoyances meant that it was hard to write a blog post. At least harder than it should have been. All I wanted was a local version of WordPress’ admin panel (so I wouldn’t need to log in) with more of an application’s feel to it. After some Google searching, I found Zoundry Raven. Zoundry Raven gives you a local copy of your blog to work on. It uploads changes (posts, photos, etc) via XML-RPC. What this means is that you load up Raven, select a blog post (or create a new one), add images via dragging and dropping and then hit Publish to send it all to your blog. No messing around with a separate FTP tool. No stopping writing to upload some files.

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Freeware Review: Shape Collage

B likes putting photos together into collages for her blog. They help save space when she wants to display a series of related photos. However, her usual tools for making collages weren’t working out well so I went hunting for a new one. Something that can arrange a series of photos in a layout and allow her to decide how (or if) the photos are cropped. Unfortunately, I didn’t find such a tool. (If you know of one like this, tell me about it in the comments section below.)

What I did find was Shape Collage 2.5. Shape Collage will take a set of photos that you specify and toss them together into a shaped photo collage. It comes with 3 preset shapes: Rectangle, Heart, and Circle. You can also enter some text to use as the shape. The real strength of the program, however, is the “More” category. Here, you get to draw your own shape or load one from a file. The photos will take on the shape of whatever you draw.

The first use I thought of for it was making a poster of our nearly 3,000 Disney World photos. I loaded the directory with the photos and decided on a shape. After a quick experiment drawing a “Mickey Ears” shape (turned out well enough, but my drawing skills are lacking), I decided to take it to the next level. First, I found a PNG image of Mickey online. (Shape collage uses PNG and I figured this would be the best format to modify into a shape.)


I tossed this into a photo editor (Paint.NET), gave it a white background (instead of transparent) and turned Mickey completely black so that the image turned into this shape:


I loaded this shape into Shape Collage, changed a few settings around (e.g. I told it to only use 1,000 photos) and clicked Preview. After a short processing screen, I was treated to a sequence of photos appearing and rearranging. They quickly formed the Mickey Mouse shape. Once this was done, I clicked Create and got my image:

Mickey Mouse Photo Collage 1000_web.jpg

Trust me, the original photo is huge. Almost 100 megapixels huge! That would be big enough to make into a poster (which isn’t a bad idea for displaying your vacation photos). Here’s a crop from the original:

Mickey Mouse Photo Collage 1000_Crop.jpg

The only caveat is that it puts a “” watermark on the resulting image. You can pay $25 for the Pro version which doesn’t add watermarks and adds a few other features like exporting the image into Photoshop/GIMP formats (complete with each photo on its own layer).

Even if you stick with the freeware version, I’d highly recommend this piece of software. I know I’ll be having fun putting together some shaped photo collages in the near future!

Little Debbie 100 Calorie Snack Review

I recently won the Little Debbie 100 Calorie Giveaway from  When I got the box, I first marvelled at the nice array of snacks in front of me.  Then another thought occurred.  Why not review these?  There they were, sitting right in front of me.  All I had to do was type up my thoughts as I ate each one.  And that’s just what I did.  (NOTE: I did not do this all in one sitting.  Little Debbie 100 Calorie snacks are not good for any weight loss plan if you eat eight of them at once!)

Nutty Bar PB Stix (100 calories, 6g fat):

I happen to love sugar wafer cookies. Of course, they are diet no-no’s so I’ve gone without for awhile. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this was basically a sugar wafer cookie. It wasn’t any old sugar wafer cookie. This one was filled with peanut butter, another food love of mine. Sugar wafer cookie meets peanut butter? How can you go wrong?

Nutty Bar (90 calories, 5g fat):

Of course, if there’s another food love I have, it’s chocolate. So I was really excited about this cookie. It’s just like the last cookie, but dipped in milk chocolate. By far, this was my favorite cookie.

Gingerbread Cookies (100 calories, 3g fat):

The first thing I noticed about these as I opened their package was the lovely gingerbread smell.  For some reason, I was expecting them to be hard, but they were soft and chewy.  Quite tasty.  Unfortunately, NHL and JSL caught me eating these and demanded their own so I lost two cookies to my kids.

Snow Puffs (100 calories, 2g fat):

This is the one I was dreading the most and it had nothing to do with Little Debbie.  I have had an aversion to coconut since I was very young.  In the interests of overcoming my aversion, however, I tried this cookie.  It was actually pretty good.  The coconut flavor doesn’t overwhelm the cookie and the marshmallow fluff gives it a nice, chewy consistency.  It’s something like a cross between a Moon Pie and a Whoopie Pie with some coconut added.

Triple Fudge Brownies (100 calories, 4g fat):

I’ll admit that this one disappointed me at first.  The brownie is quite tiny.  I guess I shouldn’t have expected more for 100 calories.  (The person who figures out how to make a decent sized brownie that only has 100 calories and actually tastes good will be my personal hero.)  Despite the small size, the brownie was quite tasty.  Nice chocolate flavor and texture.

Yellow Cakes (100 calories, 3g fat):

A small piece of cake.  Like the Gingerbread Cookies, this cake had a pleasant aroma.  Biting into it revealed that the cake was quite sweet and moist.  It was very tasty.

Chocolate Cakes (100 calories, 3g fat):

This one is basically like the Yellow Cakes, only made of chocolate.  As I mentioned before, I love chocolate.  So having a chocolate care with chocolate icing?  How could you go wrong?  It was very chocolatey, very moist, very delicious!  This cake was definitely one of my favorites.

Marshmallow Treats (100 calories, 2.5g fat):

This one’s pretty straightforward.  It’s basically a rice krispy treat.  I found this one too chewy for my tastes.  It wasn’t bad, mind you.  I’m just used to the original Rice Krispy treats.

Overall, I liked the Little Debbie 100 Calories treats.  You shouldn’t expect any of them to fill you up if you are hungry, but they are a good way to calm down a craving that would otherwise result in a high calorie/fat binge.

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