Sunday, April 02, 2017

Review of Progresso's Southwestern Style Corn With Potatoes and Peppers Soup

A while back, I bought 3 or 4 cans of Progresso's Southwestern Style Corn With Potatoes and Peppers soup at the Jessup, Maryland Dollar Tree. For a $1 a can, the soup was worth trying in my opinion and, Progresso makes some very good and easy to prepare soups (see my previous review on Progresso soup).

As this soup is in the Southwestern United States of America (USA) style, I knew it was going to have some zing i.e. be a little hot. That's typical as far as I know of with foods from the Southwestern USA. This one does though I found it to be a good all vegetable soup. According to the can I opened, you'll get 1/2 a cup of vegetables per serving (2 servings per can). Calorie wise, each serving serves up 110 calories which isn't bad in my opinion. The soup doesn't have any Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) and is low in fat (just 15 calories of fat in a serving per one of the cans I bought). Each serving has 680 milligrams of sodium for those who are watching their salt intake. 2 grams of sugar per serving are also included in each serving for those watching their sugar intake..

Like all Progresso soups, the soup is very each to prepare. You can place it in a covered dish in the microwave and heat it between 2 and 4 minutes or heat it up on a stove.

Each can comes with a 10 cent coupon for Box Tops for Education which you can give to whatever deserving school so, they can get needed school supplies. I sent a bunch of the coupons to St. Joseph's Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota to help them out though you my reader are welcome to send them to whoever you like or throw them out with the can.

Overall, I was pleased with this soup and give it 2 thumbs up. I was particularly pleased with the price I paid at Dollar Tree for it though it can be hit and miss finding this soup there. I visited their store at Springfield, Virginia and didn't see a single can of any of their soups there. If you like a vegetable soup with a little zing in it, this could be the soup for you. Bon Appetit!

Note: the soup does contain milk and wheat ingredients in it for those concerned about such things (Source: one of the cans of the soup I bought).

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Review of Maryland Lottery's Uno Scratch Off Game

Yesterday, while playing some Maryland Lottery scratch off games at a Citgo gas station in Laurel, Maryland, I saw they had a $3 game called Uno after the famous card game. I decided to play it.

The game features 21 hidden Uno cards in 3 rows of 7 with 4 bonus cards to the right for a total of 25 at the top of the ticket. Below the cards are 6 horizontal rows of cards with hidden prize amounts to the right. The rows come in 2 card sets of 5 cards, 6 cards and 7 cards. You scratch off hidden cards at the top and then see if you have a match in any of the horizontal rows. If you do, you scratch that card. When you've scratched all the cards in a horizontal row, you win the prize to the right. As far as I can tell, the prize amounts to the right are random i.e. you won't win a bigger prize for successfully scratching all the cards in a 7 card row vice a 5 card row (I scratched all the prize amounts on 1 ticket I bought to see if there was a difference).

Prizes run from $3 to the top prize of $30,000. There are 4 - $30,000 prizes, 25 - $1,000 prizes, 459 - $500 prizes and 5,029 remaining $100 prizes as of the time of this post (Source: the game's webpage at the Maryland Lottery website) with lesser amounts going down to $3. As the game had just come out yesterday, this is why all the top prizes are still available barring a few $100 prizes.

Overall odds in this game are 1 in 3.83 which isn't very good in my opinion though the cheaper scratch off games tend to have worse odds compared to the $20 games which usually run around 1 in 3. I guess they have to make up the money in the game by not having as many winners.

The game does qualify for Lottery Reward points.

Overall, this game will appeal to people who like the card game Uno or who like to scratch as there is a lot of scratching in this game. The game can be suspenseful in that on repeated tickets I played I had multiple lines where I got down to 1 missing card. So, I kept wondering each time I scratched if the needed missing card was going to show up. On my fourth go at this game, it did (won $3). I found it a nice game though I confess I like Maryland Lottery's Treasure Island $3 game better (see my earlier review on this game). Like the Treasure Island game, I'd recommend you double check your ticket to make sure it's a winner or loser as you might accidentally miss one of the cards in the rows in the lower part of the ticket that would make you a winner. Good luck to you all.

As a reminder, please do remember to play responsibly. The odds aren't in your favor of hitting it big at these scratch off games though they're better than the odds in either Megamillions or Powerball.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Review of Maryland Lottery's Treasure Island Scratch Off Game

My apologies to my readers on this review. I've been meaning to write it for a while and, I didn't get around to it till today. Today, I guess I have a surprise urge to write stuff. Anyway, on to the review.

If you like to scratch a LOT on the scratch off games (I have a co-worker who does), you'll love this game because there is a LOT of scratching involved though not as bad as Maryland Lottery's Lucky Seven Game book they had a while back.

The Treasure Island game was launched by the Maryland Lottery on December 27, 2016 (Source: the Maryland Lottery webpage; http://www.mdlottery.com/games/scratchoffs/ then look for the Treasure Island game). According to the webpage, as of March 18, 2017, the game has five out of eight $30,000 prizes left, fifteen out of twenty-two $1,000 prizes left and seventy-two out of one hundred and four $500 prizes left. Those are the big prize amounts in this game. There are smaller amounts all the way down to $3 which is what the game costs to play.

How the game works: The game has 3 ships at the bottom of the ticket. You start scratching where each ship begins and, you go the direction each arrow points (either up, right or left). Along the way, you'll uncover symbols or prize amounts with arrows directing you which way to go. If you hit a skull & crossed bones with the words Game Over, the game is over for THAT ship. Remember, you have THREE ships paths to follow i.e. you have THREE chances to win a prize.

There are 3 ways you can win in this game:

1) make it all the way to one of the four prize areas - you win the prize you uncover.

2) uncover 3 identical symbols (either a gold bar or key) in all three ship paths, you win $25 for the key, $50 for the gold bar.

3) uncover 3 identical prize amounts in all three ship paths, you win that amount.

At times, even though these directions which I took from the game webpage should be clear enough, I've found I've had to check my ticket with a scanner at the place I bought the ticket or with the Maryland lottery app which will tell you if you have a winning ticket or not (though it won't tell you how much annoyingly). I had one case where I had three $3 winners in a row and didn't know it!

Overall odds of winning in this game are 1 in 3.85. You can do better or worse than that. I've had both happen.

One neat thing the Maryland Lottery did to promote the game is they created a page where you can get your pirate name! I tried this and ended up with the pirate name - Jolly Davy. I have no idea where it came up with this name as my real name is Ron. Guys AND Gals can get their pirate name at:

http://www.mdlottery.com/promotions/treasure-island/

Overall, I've found this a fun game to play vice playing for the $30,000 prize (though I wouldn't turn it down if I hit it to my surprise). I feel this is a cheap game (I usually play the $20 games) to play. It is eligible for Lottery Reward points so save your losing tickets so, you can claim the points on the reward webpage or by using the reward app.

Lastly, please be responsible while playing. The odds aren't in your favor of hitting it big so do play responsibly (i.e. don't play with money you can't afford to lose like your rent or electric bill money). Best of luck to you all!

Review of Old South Pickled Okra

I've been a fan of pickled okra for some time. I've tried various brands of it. My one complaint about the item is that it can be expensive. Talk O' Texas offers a very good okra pickle product but, it costs over $3 for a 16 ounce jar of the stuff. This is why I went in search of a good BUT cheaper pickled okra product. I believe I found one in Old South Pickled Okra. Their 64 ounce jars cost $5.69 on the Walmart website and, Walmart offers free in store pick up or free 2 day shipping on orders of $35 or more ($5.99 if the order is less than $35). As far as I know, Walmart doesn't offer this product in their stores (I don't remember seeing it there though I'll have to check the next time I visit one).

On the product itself, I found it to be pretty good pickled okra. It's crunchy which I like and, they put small or medium okra pods in the jars. One annoyance I've had with Jake & Amos's pickled okra is sometimes they put large pods in their jars. The large pods can be chewy and practically inedible (overall they make a very good product too). Another plus of this product is the price. $5.69 is a good price for 64 ounces of pickled okra as far as I know.

Overall, I've been very pleased with this product and plan to buy more of it from Walmart. I am going to see if they carry it in their stores (stay tuned for an update if they do) as that would save the hassle of having to order it online and then either picking it up at one of their stores or watching for it to arrive via whatever shipping company Walmart offers the free 2 day shipping with. I give this product a 2 thumbs up. Happy munching all!

Review of Wegman's Loose Tea Selection

One of the things Wegmans supermarkets has really impressed me with is their loose tea selection. In some supermarket chains, you'll be lucky if you find any tins of loose tea. For tea aficionados, loose tea is the way to go even though it does create more of mess as you have to clean the diffuser or the tea pot out afterwards depending on how you have the tea steep i.e. does it float loosely like in my Teavana Teaperfect tea pot or does it steep in a diffuser where the tea floats in a holed container (many times of some kind of metal) of some sort. Loose tea supposedly brews a better cup of tea as you can get more of the ingredients in the tea vice ground up bits example: in the Wegman's Masala Chai Black tea blend I tried this morning, one the spices in it is cloves. When I spooned out the tea into tea kettle, I could see entire cloves in the mix.

Wegmans offers an incredible 51 tin selection of loose teas where customers can scoop out what blend they want into seal able bags which you then put on a scale, enter the product code, find out how much your quantity of the tea will cost and if it's agreeable with you, hit the print button to where it prints out a sticker with the name, amount, price per pound, price of the purchase and a bar code that you can scan at the register scanner.

Prices on the loose tea vary depending on how fancy a blend you're buying. Wegmans sells Brazilian roasted mate tea for $14.99 a pound. The chai I tried was $29.99 a pound. They have an organic Assam tea for $35.99 a pound and, I believe they have a Japanese green tea which sells for $99 a pound. Keep in mind a pound of tea will go a long way as you'll only be using one teaspoon or more per 8 ounce cup of tea.

The chai tea I tried this morning had a nice flavor though I did brew it longer than the recommended time as I like a pretty strong cup of tea. I plan to try other blends of theirs and see how they stack up.

I do have one complaint with them though the problem may be with just their Columbia, Maryland store. They can be bad about keeping the stock on the shelves. I visited their Columbia store to get some the mentioned Masala Chai tea and, they were out. A sales assistant told me they should get it back in within a week. They didn't. After repeated visits where they were still out, I went to another Wegmans (their Crofton, Maryland store) where I was finally able to buy some of the tea.

Overall, as I mentioned, I've been really impressed with Wegmans choice of loose teas. They also offer tins of Twinings loose tea which I like. Wegmans in my opinion is one chain that offers one of the best selections of tea among supermarket chains though I understand that folks in the United States of America aren't the biggest tea drinkers. Still, I give them a big 2 thumbs up on them for this. It's one thing I really like about their stores and will keep me coming back to them. Happy tea drinking all!

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Jailbreak Infinity Amber Ale Review

When I visit the Total Wine store in Laurel, Maryland, I'll make it a point to try some beer or ale I haven't had before. Sometimes, it's in preparation for a future trip example: I tried Kingfisher Lager recently because it's sort of Indian. It's brewed in the United States under Indian (India) supervision. As I'll be touring India next year with Globus, I wanted to try some of their beer and see how it is.

In the case of Jailbreak Infinity Amber Ale, what makes this special to me is that it's brewed in Laurel, Maryland. I haven't visited the microbrewery where presumably they brew the stuff but, it is neat to me that it's brewed in the town I live in like National Bohemian is special to those in Baltimore even though that beer isn't brewed there any more.

Anyway, in the case of Jailbreak's amber ale, I found it to be a nice ale though I'll readily admit I'm not any kind of aficionado on ales. If I like it, I say so. If I don't, I say that too.

Total Wine sells Infinity Amber Ale in 12 ounce 6 pack cans for $10.99 which isn't cheap but not exorbitant in my book either. I suspect it's not a bad price for a microbrewery.

Overall, if you like ale, I think you'll like this one. I'll have to check and see if you can buy it at the brewery and if so, at what price. That would be neat to be able to take a 6 pack home with you after trying it at the place it's made. Happy Drinking All!

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Review of Maryland Lottery's $2,000,000 Scratch Off Game

My apologies to any followers I might have. I didn't realize I didn't post anything for February 2017. I have lots of ideas for future posts and have even done some research for a few of them. I just haven't gotten around to making myself sit down and knock out some of them. Fortunately, here's one post I will get done in a timely fashion.

While visiting my friend Larry (retired city mail carrier) at his liquor store in Woodbine, Maryland, I decided to play Maryland Lottery's first ever (as far as I know) $2,000,000 scratch off game. According to the game webpage, the game was launched February 27, 2017. Tickets cost $30 vice $20 for the $1,000,000 prize games (seems like a better deal as you spend an extra $10 and could win twice as much money). It offers five $2,000,000 prizes, sixteen $50,000 prizes, sixteen $5,000 and numerous prizes of $500 to $30 (over 500,000 $30 prizes alone). At the time of this post, none of the big prizes had been claimed yet.

In regards to the game, one of the tickets I bought with MY own money (I don't get anything from Maryland Lottery for doing this and all opinions expressed here are my own and not in any way connected with the Maryland Lottery), states the games OVERALL odds of winning are 1 in 2.82. You can do better and, you can do worse like I did the first time I played this game (I hit a $30 on my 4th try). The ticket states on the front of it that Maryland Lottery is offering over $90,000,000 in total cash prizes. Each ticket offers 40 chances to win (again according to the ticket I bought). There are 6 numbers at the top of the ticket that you try to match and 8 rows of 5 numbers below your winning numbers. Make sure you scratch all 8 rows (I goofed on this and didn't for my first 4 plays on this game). There is an instant win symbol in the game which is a gold bar. You find a gold bar symbol and, you win instantly whatever prize is below it.

Concerning the $2,000,000 prize, the ticket I bought states that the $2,000,000 is paid over 20 years like Maryland Lottery does with its $1,000,000 games. There is a cash option which will be less than the $2,000,000 you would get through a 20 year annuity. According to my ticket, you have 60 days to decide which option you wish to take (20 year annuity or all the cash up front minus taxes).

For your information, the game does qualify for Lottery reward points with the player getting a minimum of 30 points for a ticket.

You must be 18 years old or older in order to play the game (lottery rules).

Overall, I thought this was a nice game with the only thing special about it being the $2,000,000 prize. As far as I know, this is the first scratch off game that the Maryland Lottery has offered with such a large prize. I know the Michigan Lottery has offered such large prizes in scratch offs as I remember seeing a $2,000,000 game and a $4,000,000 game there while visiting my Dad 2 years ago. Good luck to any players out there.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Review of Dollar Tree's Peruvian Hat

I believe this was a very lucky find on my part. I don't remember which Dollar Tree store I found the hat in. One annoying thing about the Dollar Tree chain is the inventory can vary from store to store. I remember this being true with a waiter's cork screw I searched for. You couldn't find one in the Laurel or Jessup, Maryland stores but, they had them at their South Lyon, Michigan store (I was visiting my Dad at the time).

The hat as far as I know, it does have a Peruvian design. A label on the hat says it's made in China. Annoyingly, I can't find a label saying what it's made out of. A true Peruvian (as far as I know) would be made out of baby alpaca or alpaca wool with baby alpaca being softer. I know this from when I did an absolutely awesome tour of the country years ago. I very much doubt the hat is made of alpaca wool though I can't prove that.

The hat does a good job of keeping my head warm and, it has flaps that come over my ears covering them as well. It had cords on the side that if need be, you could tie though you should't have to. The hat looks nice in my opinion.

Overall, I consider this hat to be a great find at whatever Dollar Tree I found it at. Sadly, I've been to 8 or 9 different Dollar Tree stores and, I only found this hat at 1 forgotten store. I wish this hat was more widely available as I think it's a really good deal for folks who want a good hat to keep their head warm during the winter. For a $1, it's an absolute steal. I give this product 2 big thumbs up! Stay warm all!

Review of Dollar Tree's Battery Powered Tooth Brush

I saw one of these at Dollar Tree's Laurel, Maryland store and decided to try it. After all, it only costs a $1 so, if it turned out to be junk, no big deal.

I found out the tooth brush vibrates vice having the brush head swivel. I don't think that'll do as good a job cleaning your teeth vice if the brush head swiveled. I ran into a problem with the battery compartment. It kept coming out while I tried to brush my teeth with the brush causing it stop working. The last straw with this item was when bristles came out of the brush head while I was brushing. To me, this says the item is very poorly made.

Overall, I was very unimpressed with this item and definitely wouldn't recommend it. I give it 2 thumbs DOWN! The only consolation I can take is it cost me just a $1 which is very cheap in my opinion. In this case, I suspect I got what I paid for. Cheers all!

Monday, January 02, 2017

Baltimore Washington International Airport Global Entry Interview Report

My apologies to my readers out there. I've been meaning to write this review for a while and just haven't gotten around to it till today. Hopefully, some of the information I'm going to post is still valid. It was October 2016 when I did the Global Entry interview with a U.S. Customs officer at Baltimore Washington International Airport. The main reason I'm posting this report on the interview is because when I was researching this, I found most of the posts on the interviews covered the New York City airports interviews. I don't remember seeing any for the Baltimore area so, I thought this would cover something that isn't as well known.

For those in the Baltimore, Maryland area, there are 2 airports you can fairly easily reach to do your Global Entry interview. They're Baltimore Washington International Airport and Dulles International Airport outside Washington D.C. Dulles from what I saw has more interview slots but, you have to travel farther to get to it. Also, you will have to pay for parking for your vehicle while doing the interview. I don't know how the parking rates stack up between the 2 airports.

Concerning how soon you can get in for your interview, from what I saw there is a considerable backlog of appointments. Back in October, Baltimore Washington International Airport was already scheduling interviews for February! You can check on the website for unexpected openings which happen sometimes or you can do a walk in like at other airports BUT, they warn you outside the interview office that walk ins are done on a case by case basis i.e. there's no guarantee they'll see you. In my case as well as another lady I met during this experience, we figured trying to do a walk in was worth the gamble. I had a November transatlantic cruise with Royal Caribbean and, I'd read I could use Global Entry at the cruise ship terminal in Fort Lauderdale, Florida so, I wanted to get my application approved before I went on my cruise (see my blog post about the cruise itself). The lady I met had the bad luck of having her tour changed to where the day she was scheduled for her interview was the day she was going to return from her tour.

Office time for the interviews state Sundays 1 to 4 p.m. and Monday to Saturday 1 to 6 p.m. The sign on the door of the interview room said interviews started at 1:15 on all days and, the officers that did the interviews did arrive at 1:15 the day I did mine. To reach the office where the interviews are held, you go to the "E" terminal (International Arrivals), look for the door marked E1716 (I believe it had a Department of Homeland Security seal on it), go down to the first hallway on the right, go down that hallway and, it's the first door on the left. The door number is E1709 and, there's a sign by it stating the hours interviews are given.

The interview itself is very short - no more than 10 minutes. They ask you questions like where do you live, why are you applying for the program, do you have a criminal record - all things you would've informed them of in your application. The officers were very no nonsense. The lady I mentioned and I chatted a little bit in the room and, one of the officers didn't hesitate to tell us to shut up or take it outside the room. We promptly shut up as we wanted to do the interview and get approved. The officer will tell you if your application is approved on the spot. If it is, they take your finger prints and a picture. They let you know when you can expect to receive an email saying you were approved with your trusted traveler number and when you'll get your Global Entry card (I got mine within a week of the interview) and to not lose it.

Overall, I found the interview process pretty painless barring the fact there is a long backlog as far as appointments. If you won't need the Global Entry for a while, you can wait for your scheduled appointment otherwise, you might want to take a gamble on being a walk in like I did. I was delighted I was approved and, I did use it sort of during my cruise. When I went through TSA security for my Baltimore flight, the TSA pre-check section was closed. I mentioned I had Global Entry and, it showed on my airplane ticket (make sure you give the airline your trusted traveler number so they'll automatically give you TSA pre-check) so, I got to do a semi TSA pre-check i.e. I didn't have to take off my shoes or belt BUT, I did have to pull my laptop out and, they told me to take my mobile printer out next time. At the Fort Lauderdale cruise ship terminal I arrived at, they didn't have the kiosks for you to enter your Global Entry information however, the Customs line was so short, it didn't matter. Flying back from Miami, the TSA pre-check line was open which made security an absolute breeze. While I may not have gotten to use my Global Entry much so far, it is good for 5 years and, I'm certain I'll get to use it in the future (India November 2018). I do feel this program is worth it and would absolutely recommend it to any person in the United States of America who travels a good bit (at least 2 or 3 times a year). Happy travels all!

Dollar Tree Four Pack Paring Knife Set Review

One product that Dollar Tree sells that I've been very pleased with is their Four Pack Color Paring Knife Set which they sell for $1. The stainless steel 5.9 inch knives are made by Royal Norfolk Cutlery in China. The blade part of the knives is approximately 2 inches long with the rest being a plastic handle that you may find in black or blue (like the set I bought). Royal Norfolk puts a really good edge on these knives so, they do a fine job of cutting. Being stainless steel, I don't know if you'd be able to sharpen these knives if they get dull. The only thing I can knock about this product is the fact they come in sets of 4. How many paring knives do you think you're going to need? More so since from using the knives, these knives seem to hold up. I've been using one for over a year and, it's still going strong so, the other 3 sit in storage.

Overall, I give this product a thumbs up. These are good knives at a great price. The only problem any of my readers may encounter is that not all Dollar Tree stores may carry them. Each stores inventory can vary as I've seen from personal experience. Still, if you seen them, you might want to pick up a pack of them. For a $1, they're a great deal. Happy shopping all!