Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Review of Dollar City & More Store

Another dollar and above type store has opened in the place of what I believe was a store called Dollarman. I saw the signs a while back announcing it's grand opening and later got around to visiting the store to see what it's like.

The store reminds me of a Family Dollar store. I has stuff for a dollar and, it has stuff that costs more than dollar. As far as I could tell, if there isn't any price tag on it, it's a dollar otherwise there should be a price tag saying how much the item is. There is a chiller unit in the store offering cold drinks that don't have prices on them BUT, there is a price list for the drinks at the top of the unit (I bought an Arizona Orangeade out of it).

Appearance wise, the store is well kept up. I've seen Dollar Tree stores with stuff strewn all over the place. This store is neat and items were kept in good order by its staff.

The store's staff was courteous and, I believe they would've been helpful if I had any questions about items or their prices.

Brand wise, I did notice the store carries a lot of stuff from the Forelli brand which I've never heard of. I tried some of their honey and lemon flavored black tea and found it decent. For a $1, I got a box with 20 tea bags in it which I thought a good price.

Parking wise, there's plenty as it's part of the Laurel Plaza (next to Laurel Centre) complex in Laurel, Maryland. If you're using a Global Positioning System (GPS), it's address is 361 Montrose Avenue, Laurel, Maryland 20707.

Overall, I think it's a decent store. This was my second visit to it and, I found it nice. It did seem a little small compared to other dollar type stores I've visited but, the staff does try to offer a good selection of items in the space they have. I'd give it at least 1 thumbs up. If you're in the area and want to find some cheaply priced stuff, you may want to check it out.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Review of Maryland Lottery's Betty Boop Scratch Off Game

I've been meaning to write a review on this game for a while. I've played it a number of times myself. I find the game noteworthy because in my opinion, it's second chance prize is actually better than it's top prize. I'll explain.

Maryland Lottery's $2 Betty Boop scratch off game is one of the few games it offers that has a second chance drawing. In this case, they're having 4 separate drawings where the winner can win a 8 day/7 night stay in Belmont Towers (condominiums that can sleep 8) in Ocean City, Maryland. The winner also gets a $1,000 Visa gift card for spending money.

2 of the drawings have already been done with the next one happening on July 24th. The winner will get to stay at Belmont Towers from August 26th to September 2nd. The final drawing will be on August 21st with the winner staying at Belmont Towers from September 23rd to September 30th (the end of the season at Ocean City). Considering what it can cost to stay at Ocean City, in my opinion, this is a very nice second chance prize.

How would be players get entered in the drawings is by entering their losing tickets with Maryland Lottery Rewards. Every losing ticket gets 1 entry for 1 particular drawing (whichever one you get the ticket entered by). Entries don't carry over as far as I know.

Top prizes for the game are: $10,000 (4 remaining), $1,000 (9 remaining), $500 (93 remaining), $200 (214 remaining) and $100 (670 remaining) at the time of this post.

You get 2 winning numbers and, you get 10 chances to match those numbers. The game does have an instant win feature. If you discover a BB symbol, you automatically win double the prize shown.

Overall odds of winning are (to be filled in later by me as I forgot to write this down from one of my tickets, sorry about that).

I've found this game to be very easy and quick to play. As I've stated, I really like the second chance prize. I visited Ocean City once during the off season and found it nice though I'm really not a beach person and that is largely what Ocean City is about though they do have a very nice boardwalk. If you want a cheap and easy game to play with a really nice second chance prize, this might be the game for you. Good luck and please remember to gamble responsibly. Remember, the odds ultimately are in the Maryland Lottery's favor.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Review of National Harbor Cariloha Store

I'm a big fan of Cariloha. I think they make some neat stuff out of bamboo. Also, I have found their t-shirts softer and cooler than cotton t-shirts. Recently, I decided to visit their National Harbor store to get some more of their t-shirts. I'd visited the store a few years back though I couldn't remember exactly when. Because of that, I was somewhat familiar with the parking near the store.

If you're lucky, you can find a parking spot right on American Way Street which makes it really easy to visit the Cariloha store. They have parking meters by the spots and, they charge $3 an hour with a maximum of 2 hours at a time. If you can't find a spot on American Way, they do have multi-level garages where you can park your car though I don't know how much they charge.

The store is the usual Cariloha store. It isn't particularly big and is right next to and part of a Del Sol store. It has a decent selection of their stuff. T-shirts were selling for $34 each and their white crew socks were selling for $12 a pair. They had other items but, these were the ones I was interested in and actually bought.

I found the store staff helpful though there was only 1 lady running both shops at the time of the visit. I feel she could've used some help. Still, she did the best she could and, I was able to get the items I wanted. I lucked out in that I visited the day after July 4th and, they were still having their 25% off July 4th sale.

Store hours are Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. The store's address is 160 American Way. I have seen 2 different town locations for the store. One is National Harbor, Maryland and the other is Oxon Hill, Maryland. If you use a Global Positioning System (GPS), you may have to see which town your system will take.

Overall, I was very pleased with the store. I've since worn the t-shirts and socks and, they've performed fine. I do wish they had more t-shirts that said National Harbor on them (they only had 1 in my size). I may go back there some time in the future as I'd like to get one of their bathrobes. If you like Cariloha stuff and live in the Washington D.C. area, I think you'd like this store. Plus, as far as I know, it's the only one in Maryland. At one time, they had one in Annapolis but apparently that one closed. Happy shopping all!

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Review of Springfield, Virginia Trader Joe's Store

The church I go to is located in Springfield, Virginia. While down there, I've taken advantage of some of the stores they have in Springfield. One of them is their Trader Joe's store (store number 651) located at 6394 Springfield Plaza.

The store is open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. It has plenty of parking and really good staff. The thing I really like about it is it's outstanding deals on various wines and beers. I live in Maryland and due to the state's liquor laws, Trader Joe's stores in Maryland can't sell anything alcoholic. In Virginia, thankfully, that isn't the case.

One particular stellar buy they have at this store is Charles Shaw wines. The wines come in 750 milliliter (ml) bottles. Apparently, they've earned awards at a wine tasting in San Francisco, California. I've tried their Pinot Grigio and found it pretty good though I'm definitely not any kind of wine connoisseur. The thing I particularly like about these wines is the price. A 750 ml bottle at this Trader Joe's store will cost you just $3.29. This price is good as of this post on their Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and White Zinfandel (I bought a bottle of each and have a receipt to prove this price is valid at the time of this post). Give them a gold star for these deals.

Another plus about this store is their staff on how they keep the check out lines short. This store does get a fair amount of business but, I found the staff did an excellent job of keeping the check out lines short so, you don't spend a lot of time waiting to pay for the stuff you want to buy. I don't know about others but, when I go shopping, I want to get what I want to buy, pay for it and leave. I don't want to spend a lot of time waiting at check out. So, they get another gold star for this.

Overall, I'm very pleased with this store and plan to shop here again. I give it 2 thumbs up and definitely recommend it to others who are fans of Trader Joe's stores. If you're nearby, you might want to give this excellent store a look. Happy shopping all!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Review of Royal Caribbean's Blue Diamonds Scratch Off Game

Last week, I flew back from Seattle, Washington where I did a 7 night Alaska cruise on Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas. While on the ship, I discovered Royal Caribbean has come out with 3 of its own scratch off lottery games. The ship had one in stock called Blue Diamonds. This is a review on that game.

One of the profit centers for Royal Caribbean is the casinos on their ships. With lottery scratch off games being so numerous and wide spread, it wasn't in some ways surprising that Royal Caribbean decided to get in the act. They're a very easy game to run compared to other games in their ship's casinos. The tickets are sold at the cashier's cage, cost $5 each in the Blue Diamond game (I don't know if the other games cost more), offer a top prize of $25,000 (I don't know about the other 2 games as the ship I was on didn't offer them).

Overall odds of winning in Royal Caribbean's Blue Diamond game are 1 in 4.37 (Source: 1 of the tickets I bought). The ticket doesn't show what the prize range is and, I didn't ask the cashier. From scratching off the prize amounts on my losing tickets I have (5 of them) and comparing them, the prize range is as follows:


I don't know at this time if Royal Caribbean has released how many prizes there are total or what their range (how many different ones there are) is.

The game does have 2 interesting conditions: 1) you must claim any prize before midnight on the last day of the cruise (probably the night before you get off the ship) and 2) you must be at least 18 years or older UNLESS you're on an Alaska cruise like I was in which case you must be at 21 years of age (probably to comply with Alaska gambling laws) to play. I don't know if they offer the games on ship's that sail in other waters like around Australia or the Mediterranean.

The Blue Diamonds game is pretty dull in my opinion because there aren't any instant win chances in the game. You get 5 winning numbers in the middle of the ticket and, you have to match 1 or more of them to the 15 numbers below the winning numbers to win whatever prize. Still, if you want some quick gambling action and, you're not into pulling the arm or pushing the buttons on the slot machines, they might be for you. They're definitely an easy game to play in the casino.

Overall, I wasn't wowed by Royal Caribbean's Blue Diamonds game. To me, it's ok. I did find it interesting to play as I've played a number of scratch off games in Maryland (more reviews coming on those games, stay tuned). If you happen to be on a Royal Caribbean cruise line ship and, you've got to scratch, you might head over to the ship's casino and try one of their 3 scratch off games including this one. Good luck.

Disclaimer: I don't work for Royal Caribbean, I didn't receive any compensation from them for this review and any information cited in this review came from the tickets I bought with my own money. Please remember to gamble responsibly. I doubt you want to go home broke or worse from your fun cruise.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Review of Maryland Lottery's Ultimate Riches Scratch Off Game

On April 24, 2017, the Maryland Lottery came out with it's latest $1,000,000 prize scratch off game called Ultimate Riches. Like all $1,000,000 prize games, the tickets sell for $20 each. The game features 5 so called games with 25 chances to win a prize though the thing that really matters in my opinion is the overall odds of winning which are 1 in 2.96 (Source: one of the tickets I bought with my own money i.e. I don't get paid any compensation from the Maryland Lottery and I don't have any connection with them) which is average for this kind of scratch off game. Most games of this sort tend to have an overall odds of winning of 1 in 3.

The tickets resemble Maryland Lottery's previous game called Instant Millionaire with a winning number at the top of 5 columns and 5 numbers below each winning number. You try to make the winning number with 1 of the numbers below in 1 or more of the columns/games. There is 1 big difference in the Ultimate Riches tickets vice the previous Instant Millionaire game - there isn't any chance of an instant win. In the Instant Millionaire game, Maryland Lottery offered the player a chance at instantly winning either $100 or $50. In the Ultimate Riches game, there isn't ANY instant win feature which is a surprise to me. It's common to have one in the games I've seen.

Top prizes for the game are $1,000,000; $50,000; and $10,000. Interestingly, the Maryland Lottery continues its trend of offering more top prizes in the $1,000,000 prize games. It used to be standard that there would be 3 such prizes. In this game, the Maryland Lottery offers 7! Also, they offer 13 $50,000 prizes and offered 59 $10,000 prizes (there are 57 left at the time of this post). Keep in mind, that with more top prizes, there will be more tickets put out overall for the game (based on the increased number of prizes I've seen and the overall odds of winning anything). One nice thing for those who like this game is that it also means the game will be out longer because of the increased number of tickets.

Overall, the only thing I was impressed with concerning this game was the increase in $1,000,000 prizes. Otherwise, this is a pretty boring game though if you want a game where you'll find out quickly if you won or not, this might be the game for you. This game doesn't take a lot of time to play unlike other games like Maryland Lottery's $2,000,0000 Fortune game where you have to check 40 numbers to see if you matched. Due to the high number of tickets, this game should be very easy to find throughout Maryland. Good luck to all players out there!

Ben Ami Chardonnay Review

While on a champagne buying trip at Total Wine & More in Laurel, Maryland, I stumbled upon some Ben Ami Chardonnay. I tend to prefer white wines to red though I've heard the reds are better for you health wise. Another thing that appealed to me about this wine is it's made in Israel. I haven't forgotten the Globus tour I did of Israel and some of my incredible adventures there then like looking down from Masada or floating in the Dead Sea. So, I bought a 750 milliliter bottle of the wine to try it.

I found it a nice chardonnay. I can't tell you what flavors it might hint of or what it might rate to a wine connoisseur. I'm definitely not a wine connoisseur myself. I just know if I like a wine or not. In this case, I did like it. Also, I felt it was reasonably priced at $14.99. Total Wine offers the wine through Winery Direct which means you get an extra 5 reward points per dollar i.e. 15 reward points per dollar spent on this wine vice the normal 10 point per dollar.

In regards to finding the wine in the Total Wine stores, you may have to look in the Kosher section (they have one) to find it. The wine is certified Kosher (it has the circle with a K in it on the bottle).

Overall, I was very pleased with this wine and would buy it again. If you want to try a nice Israeli chardonnay, you might want to try this one. It's a nice wine at a good price. Happy drinking all!

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).