Friday, September 15, 2017

Ben & Jerry's vs Halo Top Ice Cream Taste Test – Mint Chocolate Cookie vs Mint Chip

Recently I was doing some grocery shopping and saw the Halo Top brand of ice cream which had some flavors that looked interesting. I did a little research on it and it seemed to be getting pretty good reviews. I also read that it had become the top selling pint ice cream brand in the US. This is pretty impressive considering it is a relatively new company, so I decided to try it out to see how it compares to another well known ice cream brand, Ben & Jerry's.

I don't eat as much ice cream as I used to, but my favorite flavor of all time is Ben & Jerry's Mint Chocolate Cookie. I saw it was on sale recently so I decided to pick up a pint of the Mint Chocolate Cookie as well as the Halo Top Mint Chip so see how they compare. The prices for the pint were pretty similar with Halo Top being a little more expensive.

Comparing the nutrition facts, Ben and Jerry's has a lot more calories and fat per ½ cup serving. It is also more dense, for example a serving of Ben and Jerry's is 106g while a serving of Halo Top is 64g. So in terms of calories, you are getting more for your money with Ben and Jerry's but if you are looking for something lower in calories and fat, Halo Top would be the way to go.

Upon scooping them out, the Halo Top has a more icy consistency compared to the Ben & Jerry's which has more of a smooth, squishy texture. In fact the first scoop of the Halo Top went flying out of the pint while the scoop of Ben & Jerry's sticks to the spoon. I found it interesting the Halo Top packaging has a light green color often associated with mint chip, but the ice cream inside is actually more of an off white color. The Ben & Jerry's has more of a pure white with the cookie speckles mixed in.

So how do they taste? The Halo Top tasted ok. The mint ice cream seemed to dissolve fast in mouth. The mint flavor was ok but not great. The chocolate chips tasted pretty standard compared to chocolate chips in other ice creams. After eating a few spoonfuls, I was a little unimpressed with the flavor. Maybe I went in with expectations too high. But considering how it is so low in calories, fat, and sugar, it is actually not too bad.
In comparison to the Halo Top, the Ben & Jerry's just has a much better taste as can be expected since it has more fat and sugar. It is more creamy, savory, and sweet and is something you want to eat more of where as with the Halo Top, after a few bites, I didn't really want to eat any more. For me, with this comparison, the Ben & Jerry's still comes out well ahead in terms of taste and flavor.

I can see the appeal of the Halo Top though. If you are someone who really likes ice cream, but you do not want the high calories, fat, and sugar, Halo Top is a good alternative. It gives an ok experience and you don't have to worry about the nutrition. For me, I don't mind the extra calories, in fact, I have been trying to eat more calories so the Ben & Jerry's takes the win in this case. It would be nice if it was lower in fat, but in small servings, it is ok to have as a treat once in a while.

What are your thoughts on these ice cream brands? Do you have another favorite brand besides Ben & Jerry's or Halo Top?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Pogo 18oz Water Bottle Review

I have been using the Bobble water bottle for some time now and while it is great for home use, I find it to be a little too big to take on the go so I started looking for some smaller options. After doing some research, I found the Pogo water bottle in an 18oz size which looked to be perfect! It was about $6 which was quite reasonable compared to some of the other brands so I decided to pick one up.

The Pogo water bottle has a flip up top which protects and seals the drinking spout. They call it a "chug lid" which allows you to drink the water quickly without restriction. This bottle does not have a built in filter like the Bobble, but I have been using it in combination with my  Pur water filter to fill it with fresh water from the tap.

I got the grey color bottle but it is also available in other colors like blue, pink, and purple. Upon trying it out, the size works out pretty well. It is able to fit in the cup holder in my car and fits well into a reusable lunch bag.

The top unscrews to fill it up and allows for easy cleaning. The flip up top snaps down to seal the opening to prevent it from leaking. I found it did a good job at keeping it water tight and it does not leak when turned upside down. The cap also has a rubber loop in case you want to hook it on to something to make it easy to carry.

So far it has been working out well. I especially like the cap design which covers and seals the drinking part. It is also dishwasher safe which make it easy to clean as well. I will update this article with a long term update once I have used it for several months. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Don't stick a key or metal in 12v car outlet - Blown cigarette lighter fuse

The other day I was cleaning my car and I noticed it was dirty inside the cigarette lighter 12v electricity port. Without thinking I took my car key and started scraping the inside to try to clean it up a bit. Immediately there were sparks! I didn't even think about the fact that even though the car was off, there is still power supplied to this port and the metal key managed to trigger an electrical flow.

Luckily the key I was holding had a plastic rubber base so I did not get electrocuted but it still surprised me! I was hoping I did not damage anything serious. The car started up fine and other power features such as the power windows were working fine.

Then the next day I went to plug in my car charger for the phone and it did not work. So apparently the sparks did cause a problem. I did a little research and found out it was most likely a blown fuse. A fuse is a little thing that will break if it is overloaded with electricity which is what happened when I put the key in the outlet.

I looked them up and they are pretty cheap, only a few dollars. Also, it looked like it was easy to replace them which was nice. So I headed over to the auto parts store. I popped the hood to find the fuse box and the blown fuse. Sure enough, the fuse was clearly broken right in the middle.

I was thinking I would have to buy a new one but right in the lid of the fuse box, there were a bunch of spare fuses! The one I needed was there so I was able to swap it out right away without even having to buy a new fuse. I'm not sure if all cars have spare fuses like this, but in case you are going to change a fuse, check the lid in case there are any extras provided with the car.

So I put in the new fuse, plugged in the car charger and it was good as new! It was nice to have an easy car repair that did not cost any money for a change. Lesson learned, don't stick a key or anything metal in the cigarette lighter / 12v port even if the car is off.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Spectrum Walnut Oil Review

I try to incorporate healthy oils into my diet on a daily basis in order to get calories from healthy fats. Not surprisingly, my go-to oil is olive oil which is very common and fairly affordable as well. I usually get extra virgin olive oil in the bold or robust variety for the best flavor.

While olive oil is great and can be added to many dishes, I started to become a bit tired of it so I started to look for some alternatives. There are several olive oil alternatives out there such as peanut oil, canola oil, and safflower oil. I was looking for something that would have a good taste so when I saw there was an option for walnut oil, I decided to give it a try.

I found Spectrum Walnut Oil at Target. It is also available at other retailers. It was about $7 for a 16 oz bottle which is not exactly cheap especially compared to olive oil, but I decided it was worth a try.

Upon trying it out, I found the taste to be quite good! It definitely has a subtle taste of walnut. The oil itself is light in texture and light in color. I found it went very well with things like bread or dishes such as rice or pasta.

The nutrition facts are very similar in comparison to olive oil and it also has omega 3s so I would consider it a good alternative to olive oil. I would probably get it again, but I might try out some of the other oils as well to see how they compare. If you are looking for a good alternative to olive oil, I recommend trying out walnut oil.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Google Maps vs Apple Maps vs Waze – Which is the Best Navigation App?

Recently I started a new job that requires a lot of driving to different locations so I have been trying to find the best navigation app to use. So far I have tried Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Waze. Here I will recap the positives and negatives of each of these navigators to help determine which is the best one to use.

Google Maps
If you have ever looked up directions on the computer, you have probably used Google maps, so it will be a natural transition to use it for navigation. Google Maps is very detailed especially when it comes down to building and structures. It has visual representations of businesses and residences and has most of the stores labeled so you can see exactly what they are.

Google Maps has the power of Google search behind it so it is very good at looking up addresses. In terms of options, I would say it is in the middle of Apple Maps which is more simple and Waze which has a lot of customization and extra features. The map is pretty easy to use but takes a little while to learn what everything does.

Navigation tends to be pretty good for the most part but I did notice some issues, for example in several cases where you would want to make a left to turn into the destination, it will tell you to go up to the next intersection and make a U-turn. It could definitely use some improvement in this area.

Overall it is a solid choice for navigation but could still use a little improvement in some areas.


Apple Maps
If you have an iPhone, Apple Maps comes pre-installed and ready to go. I found it to have the most pleasing look of the 3 options. Also it is the most simplified and easy to use. The buttons are big and there are not a lot of distractions. This can be good if you just want something easy, but for those looking for more options and customization, you may like Google Maps or Waze better.

Although the map is very easy to read, it is not as detailed as Google Maps. For example it does not have the structures of businesses and residences on the map. Navigation is clear and I like that the audio navigation is loud so you can hear it when you are driving without having to turn up the volume. I noticed on Google Maps and Waze, even on the loud setting they can barely be heard in the car.

For accuracy, I found it to be similar to Google Maps in that sometimes it takes you a bit out of the way or tells you to make a U-turn when there is no reason to do so. I did have one issue where a destination was actually not in the right place on the map so I was not able to find it when I got there. I had to open Google Maps to find the correct location in this case.

Overall if you are looking for an occasional navigation and something that is the most simple and easy to use without all the bells and whistles, Apple Maps is the way to go.

Waze
Waze takes a bit of a different approach by making the experience more interactive and social. It allows drivers to contribute a lot of information such as where there are police, road hazards, or construction. Waze has a lot of customization settings but because if this, it can seem a little busy with too much going on.

One thing I didn't really like was it has a lot of extra stuff on the map that you don't really need. For example it has icons for restaurants and even advertisements for products. I'm guessing they are getting money for those which helps keep the app free, but personally I don't want ads on my map when I am just trying to get from point A to point B.

One other thing I don't really like is that you have to set the app to use your location “Always” even when you are not using the app. There is a sleep mode you can put it in, but again, you should not have to manually put it in sleep mode when you are not using it.

As for navigation, I actually found it to be a little more accurate than Google Maps and Apple Maps. It took me to the right locations and did not tell me to go out of the way or take unnecessary U-turns. On the other hand, I found it was a little more difficult to get the app to find an address with a search as it would pull up many results and you are not sure which one to pick.

Overall, it has a lot of potential and is a good option if you like the user contribution aspect and are looking for a navigation that is more engaging than just simple directions.

Verdict
After trying out all 3, really there is no clear winner. There are some things I like for each of them, but at the same time, they each have their flaws as well. I like the look and simplicity of Apple Maps. I like the detailed map and search ability of Google Maps. I like the accuracy and user contribution of Waze.

Which one am I going to use? Right now I will probably use Google Maps because it is very detailed and is pretty reliable at finding an address with a search. I do wish it was a bit easier to use like Apple Maps. Also I wish the voice navigation was louder by default without having to manually increase the volume of the phone just to hear it while driving.

These seem to be the big 3 when it comes to navigation apps, but I may continue to look for other options in case there are any other navigation apps that are better. Do you have a favorite navigation app of these 3 or another not mentioned here? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Trying to Gain Weight When Nothing Else Seems to Work

In a world where it seems most people are trying to lose weight or stick to a diet to prevent themselves from gaining weight, it may be odd when someone says they are actually trying to gain weight. But for many people like myself who have always been very skinny, it can be very hard to gain or even maintain weight.

Right now I weight 105 lbs at a height of 5'7''. For a man in his mid 30's, this puts my BMI (body mass index) at 16.4 which is very under weight. My goal is to get to about 120 which will bring it into the "Normal" range.

To accomplish this goal, many people will say, “Just eat more food!”, but to someone like myself, this is easier said than done. I eat 3 meals a day and always look to eat foods that are high in calories yet healthy at the same time. I try to add extra things to each meal not for taste, but to just to get more calories. I rarely feel hungry because I usually eat before I even get to that point.

The trouble is I tend to get full very easily. 500 calories of food in a meal will fill me up to where I do not want to eat anymore. In order to gain weight, I have to get up to about 750 calories or more per meal. To some people this may seem like a piece of cake, but trying to force yourself to eat more than you want to at every meal is not fun. It really become work.

I find, by eating too much, it ends up making me feel physically uncomfortable and sometimes even sick to the point where the food may have trouble getting digested and absorbed properly which becomes counterproductive. Because of this, I will really have to plan meals carefully and try to fit in extra calories here and there without getting over stuffed.

Exercise in combination to eating more is also recommended to help gain weight. Years ago I was very active with cardio exercise but these days, I just walk, lift free weights, and do calisthenics like pull ups, push ups, squats, and sit ups. I try to do these exercises daily but never really do enough where I am sore the next day. I will try to increase the intensity of the workouts to help build muscle which should help with the overall goal of gaining weight.

It seems like it has been about 10 years since I have been wanting to gain weight yet I never made any progress. In fact, I am probably at my lowest weight I have been at in a long time. Every once in a while I would try to keep track of calories for a few days, but never really stuck with it.

Starting now, I have decided to take a more dedicated approach to this issue. I have signed up on a calorie tracking website that makes it easy to keep track of your calorie intake each day. I have done the calculations so I know how much is needed to gain 1 pound per week. If I can stick to the program, I should be able to reach my goal of 120 lbs in about 4 months.

Doing the calculations really puts it into perspective that it is going to be no easy task. It will take hard work, discipline, and planning to achieve this goal, but I am going to try to make it work.

I also took some “before” pictures as extra motivation to compare with the final results that should hopefully show a difference in a few months time. I am also posting about the journey here on the blog and will try to post updates about the progress and final results.

Are you someone who is now or has struggled with gaining weight in the past? Feel free to comment below on your experience or any tips you may have that can help others in the same situation.

2 Week Update:  
I have been keeping track of my food with a calorie tracker aiming for about 2200 calories a day which is supposed to add about 1 pound per week. It is hard to get an exact calculation on most of the food so I have been estimating and for most of the days I have been getting pretty close to the target amount.

At this point I ideally I should be up 2 pounds but I just weighed myself and I am almost the same weight as when I started 2 weeks ago. This is pretty disappointing considering how much work it is to document everything you eat and try to eat more food than you might like just to reach a calorie goal.

It is possible I was over estimating some of the amounts of food or maybe I actually need to eat more like 2400 calories a day in order to start gaining weight. I guess I will try to increase my calorie amount a little more to see if any improvement can be made. It will be tough because I feel like I am already eating a lot as it is. We'll see how it goes.

4 Week Update:
The past 2 weeks I did not keep track of calories but just tried to do a good job of eating enough at each meal. I'm up about 1 pound since the last update which is not bad considering I have not been keeping track of the calories. I will probably try to keep up the calories to see if more increases can be made. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Google Search Results Need Improvement – Top Results Given to Spammy Sites

There's no denying that Google is the number one search engine and is one of the best ways to find things on the internet, but as of late, I have noticed a decline in the quality of search results provided. Often I will do a search on a new topic hoping to find a good site with clear and helpful information only to find the top results give the opposite experience.

I will click on a top recommended site and immediately be bombarded with a pop up to sign up for a newsletter. This is one of my pet peeves and the kind of thing that will make me click the “Back” button immediately to find a better site that is not going to try to spam me with pop ups.

If you manage to get through the pop ups, you may get to the site hoping it will have the information you are looking for only to find out it is a slide show that you have to click through 10 pages when all the information could have easily been listed in the first page.

No one likes these kinds of things so why is Google putting them at the top of their search results? I think some better attention needs to be put into the curating of these results. Sure the websites might be nice looking, but if it is spammy and does not provide the information the visitor is looking for, it is not a helpful result.

I know much effort goes into reviewing search engine results to make sure they are the best possible, but as of right now, somehow sites that are not very good are being given top placement in the results. Has anyone else noticed this trend?