NEWS: What The Hell is Nectresse?

Nectresse Packets

So, you know how Equal comes in the blue packets, Splenda comes in the yellow packets, and Sweet’n Low comes in pink packets? Well, there a new no-calorie sweetener that’s going to claim orange packets. That’s sweetener my friends is Nectresse.

I know what you’re thinking. It totally sounds like a brand of citrus shampoo, but it’s not. Also, I think Nectresse would make a great stripper name.

This new natural no-calorie sweetener is made by the folks who make Splenda and, according to those folks, a packet of Nectresse provides the same sweetness as two teaspoons of sugar. The sweetener is made with erythritol, sugar, monk fruit extract, and molasses.

Yeah, I don’t know what monk fruit is either, so I AltaVistaed it, after I Googled to see if AltaVista still existed. Google led me to Wikipedia, which said it’s a small gourd-like fruit that’s native to China.

The Wikipedia entry didn’t specifically say why it’s called monk fruit, but after seeing pictures of it, I can only guess it got its name because the fruit looks like the bald head of a monk.

Nectresse Container

Pictures taken at Target.

REVIEW: Harajuku Lovers Fragrance G

I hate change.

Yes, I know change can be a good thing, but I hate when the things I grew up with morph into something so unrecognizable that I have to question whether or not I’m in an alternate universe where Taylor Swift is regarded as talented.

Gwen Stefani is on that list. She was a source of inspiration for myself and many girls of my generation who were too young to remember Joan Jett, but still wanted to rock out with their non-cock out. Now, she’s the source of me questioning, “What the fuck?” Sure, she has popped out a couple of kids and no longer does pushups on stage, but she has gotten stranger and stranger over the years. Compared to Lady Gaga, Gwen is a mild mannered soccer mom, but her odd obsession with Japan and Harajuku Girls is just too hard to not question whether this chick is playing with a full deck.

Her obsession started five years ago when she accessorized with four Japanese girls, claiming they were her “backup singers,” but I’m sure they aren’t even allowed to say a peep when Gwen is in earshot. Her second fashion line (Remember when celebrities had one fashion line and that was cutting edge), Harajuku Lovers makes anything by Sanrio seem like it’s appropriate for Hells Angels to wear when they go road tripping.

Harajuku Lovers Fragrance G is no different. Basically, the bottle isn’t a bottle at all, but rather a massive cap that looks like a cartoon version of Ms. Stefani. G is her signature scent, but there’s also Love, Lil’ Angel, Music and Baby to represent her “backup singers.”

Despite the child-like packaging, the perfume has a wonderful scent of coconut, jasmine and some sandalwood. I will admit to looking at the notes for this fragrance on Sephora’s website, but I could identify a coconutty smell right off the bat. Coconut perfumes can be a gamble, because if there’s too much fruit going on, you might smell like a stripper, but G doesn’t do that. Some fragrances fade away after a few hours of wear, but G has some stamina and I can still smell it after a long day.

When I purchased it, it came with a compact of solid perfume, so for the price it’s pretty good, but the bottle is pretty pathetic. I know you’re not supposed to bathe in perfume like your great aunt does, but having only one ounce won’t last you very long if you use it as your daily scent.

To sum it up, Ms. Stefani is making you pay for packaging. Extremely cute weird packaging that would only appeal to little girls, or twenty-something professionals who still decorate their work binders with Lisa Frank stickers. But if you look beyond the bottle and how strange Gwen has gotten over the years, then you have a wonderful perfume that would smell good on anyone — including strippers.

Item: Harajuku Lovers Fragrance G
Price: $50.00 (with solid perfume)
Size: 1 ounce
Purchased at: Macy’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Long lasting scent. Coconut isn’t too overpowering. Rocking out with your non-cock out. Gwen Stefani circa 1996. Lisa Frank being cool when you were six. Hells Angels wearing Hello Kitty leather jackets. Strippers that smell like sweet coconut.
Cons: Packaging is way too gimmicky. Small quantity for the price. Gwen Stefani post-No Doubt. Thinking Lisa Frank is still cool past the age of six. Price isn’t budget friendly. Strippers that smell like Marlboros and cheap whiskey.

REVIEW: Mr. Coffee Cafe Frappe

Mr. Coffee Cafe Frappe

It seems like the holiday season came and went faster than an unsuspecting family who hoped to pick up a pet rabbit at the infamous Nevada establishment known as the Moonlite BunnyRanch. After trying to find a proper place to dispose of your Christmas tree or Hanukkah bush, it’s time to go through your loot and decide what you’re going to keep, what you’re going to regift and what is heading back to store.

When I received the Mr. Coffee Cafe Frappe, I was happy. However, I wasn’t as excited as I was Christmas 1993 when I received an amazing 16-bit gaming console known as the Sega Genesis. But needless to say, over the years I’ve become jaded, bitter and a crotchety woman. That is, of course, if I don’t have my coffee. Once I have at least one cup in my system I’m ready for the day.

The Mr. Coffee Cafe Frappe seemed like it was the perfect countertop machine for me because I love the icy treats from Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, but I’m cheaper than an elderly man who insists on getting senior citizen discounts at the Moonlite BunnyRanch. In fact, I’m so cheap that when I found out Dunkin’ Donuts gives senior discounts, I was tempted to buy a Wilfred Brimley mask and go to the nearest location so that I could get my coffee fix for 50 cents cheaper. But I didn’t because I’m too cheap to buy the mask.

The Cafe Frappe is pretty easy to operate; after the coffee brews, you add two cups of ice, milk and whatever else your caffeine-powered heart desires. The pitcher makes one large serving or two smaller servings, but that is if the unit works. After making my first frappe (a coffee and mint concoction with chocolate soy milk) and cleaning the pitcher, the machine would not turn on again.

Nothing that a trip to Bed Bath & Beyond couldn’t fix, right?

Wrong.

Apparently this smoothie coffee maker hybrid was the hot item this year for people who buy random kitchen appliances and use them once. So a gift turned into a hunt to find a Mr. Coffee Cafe Frappe within a 50-mile radius. After finally finding one, I was able to make unique and sinful frappes like The Lady Godiva, which is tiramisu flavored coffee and a few shots of Godiva chocolate liqueur. The Cafe Frappe is a great machine to impress party guests, but it would take a lot of time to make enough for a group of people, like all of the women one can choose from at the Moonlite BunnyRanch.

Just like that Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine I had when I was just a wee little girl, I’m sure the novelty of the Mr. Coffee Cafe Frappe will wear off and become the coffee lover’s version of the Margaritaville Margarita Maker, Power Juicer and every As Seen on TV appliance.

Item: Mr. Coffee Cafe Frappe
Price: Received as gift but retails for $79.95
Purchased at: Bed Bath & Beyond
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Easy to set up. Easy to make. Coming up with your own recipes that Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts can’t make due to legal reasons. Wilfred Brimley Masks. Sega Genesis.
Cons: Quality of the machine isn’t the best. Doesn’t make a large quantity of frozen delicious beverages. No College Student Discount at Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts. Driving around to return gifts.

REVIEW: TerraCycle/Fashionation M&M’s Candy Wrapper Speakers

The company TerraCycle is much like a music producer who has to deal with Britney Spears’ recording sessions, they both take trash and turn it into something that can be marketed and sold. TerraCycle calls what they’re doing “upcycling,” while Britney’s music producers probably like to describe what they do as “panning in a river of diarrhea for gold.”

Some examples of what TerraCycle has done include: Taking discarded Capri Sun drink pouches and turning them into backpacks, using old circuit boards to make picture frames, making pencils out of newspapers and creating pencil cases out of Chips Ahoy packages. One of the company’s latest products is their M&M’s Candy Wrapper Speakers, which they created with a company called Fashionation and can also be found made with potato chip bags.

According to the packaging, these speakers are made with up to 80 percent of recycled materials, which is a lot, but significantly less than what can be found on an album by the cover band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. The speaker’s box is made out of a big M&M’s Fun Size package and cardboard that looks like it’s been made out of recycled paper. However, I’m not sure how much of the cables and speaker components are made out of reused metals and plastics.

The speakers fold into 3.25-inch cubes and can be unfolded flat again for easy storage and transportation, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it often because I found it difficult to reinsert the tabs into the slots needed to turn them into cubes. The uncooperative tabs and slots caused me to do a little digging, which caused me to accidental peel some of the M&M’s wrapper. When in cube form, they’re front-heavy, like Morganna The Kissing Bandit, so if you put them on an uneven surface, they might topple forward.

The speakers are attached to a standard 3.5 mm headphone plug, so you can connect it into your iPod, laptop, desktop computer or auto-reverse Walkman cassette player. Because the speakers don’t run on batteries, the plug also powers them.

If you’re an audiophile, or an audiophile poser, these candy wrapper speakers won’t come close to satisfying your hoity-toity tastes. They don’t come with a subwoofer made out of recycled candy wrappers and they aren’t very hi-fi, so they sound as good and treble-y as a cheap AM/FM radio alarm clock.

I connected them to my iPod and they have the ability to fill a small room, but in order to do so I had to turn up the volume on my iPod to at least 75 percent to get a decent amount of decibels, which can be a problem if you don’t remember to turn it down before you plug in your earbuds for some personal listening.

I thought the TerraCycle M&M’s Candy Wrapper Speakers would be a useless novelty, like glow-in-the-dark condoms. But they weren’t bad, considering they’re mostly made out of recycled candy wrappers and cost less than $20. At that price, I don’t feel bad if I have to destroy the speakers when a Britney Spears song comes out of them.

(NOTE: Below is a video demonstrating the speaker’s audio quality.)

(NOTE: Grub Grade has a couple of posts about turning potato chip bags and Capri Sun containers into purses and handbags.)

Item: TerraCycle/Fashionation M&M’s Candy Wrapper Speakers
Price: $16.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Radio Shack (or The Shack, if you want to be lame)
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Decent sound for something made partly out of candy wrappers. Sound from them can fill a small room. Made from mostly recycled materials. Foldable and portable. No batteries required. Has a standard 3.5 mm headphone plug.
Cons: Not for audiophiles or audiophile posers. Can be difficult to repeatedly put together. May topple forward on uneven surfaces. Have to turn up the volume on your device in order to get a loud enough sound from the speakers. Using references that are older than some of your readers. Britney Spears.

REVIEW: Little Trees Black Ice Car-Freshener

Just like fuzzy dice, the beaded seat cushion (can you even call that a cushion?) and Calvin taking a wiz on the Ford/Chevy/Dodge symbol, the Little Tree Car-Freshener is an iconic symbol for the American driver, just like the middle finger.

I don’t have the fuzzy dice, because it’s not 1952; I don’t have a beaded seat cushion because I don’t drive a NYC taxi; and I don’t have a Calvin sticker, because I do have some dignity, but I recently bought a Little Tree for Baxter.

Who’s Baxter you ask? Baxter is my black Volkswagen Golf who has been my trusty pal since I was sixteen. If Baxter were a person, he would be in his late twenties, probably working in a professional setting where he has a cubicle. He’s up on current fashion, wears black-framed glasses and speaks eloquently. Women tend to come to him for advice, because they think he’s gay, but little do they know he’s trying to get to second base while they cry on his shoulder about how they were humiliated at a Weight Watchers meeting. That’s my ride.

I was curious as to why one would call something for your car “Black Ice” since it’s a winter driver’s nightmare to skid on the stuff, but I figured the marketing people at Little Trees thinks it just sounds pretty damn cool, and yeah it does. It sort of sounds like a nickname for either a rapper, WWE wrestler, porn star, or a male stripper you would hire for a bachelorette party; all of which I thought were also possible scents for this tree prior to opening the package.

You’ve probably had a Little Tree in your car, and you know that you can’t take the entire tree out of the package, because your car will be engulfed with a scent more powerful than a hundred old ladies wearing Jean Naté and you could pass out at the wheel, especially if your car is tiny as hell.

Well, after doing what the directions told me to do (Cut two slits on the top and gradually raise the tree from the package after every week), I was greeted with a very pleasing scent. After driving around, becoming immune, and then opening my window to pay a toll, my nose got another whiff. It made me smile.

The scent is a little masculine with hints of musky yet refreshing notes, but it’s pleasant and doesn’t go overboard like a lot of car fresheners do. So far, this is my favorite of The Little Trees (plus it goes well with Baxter’s black interior). I call it “Sexy Man Scent.” However, when a friend of mine came in my car she said it smelled like “Generic Man Scent.”

Hey, it’s better than “Guy who tans to a bright orange hue, wears Armani Exchange/Ed Hardy shirts three sizes too small and calls every one bro Scent.” Although, Black Ice probably would be the later if you don’t follow Little Tree’s handy directions of gradually slipping it out of the package.

If you’re a man going out on a date with a really hot girl and she gets in your ride equipped with a brand new Black Ice Little Tree out of the package, she might think you lead a life on the down low and have Guido orgies in your car on the days you have off. If you are a girl going out with your girlfriends, they will think you have Guido orgies in your car and will have to do an intervention. Unless you are from the Jersey Shore and/or Staten Island where your girlfriends would be pissed at you for not inviting them.

Item: Little Trees Black Ice Car Freshener
Price: $2.49
Size: 3 pack
Purchased at: AutoZone
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Nice crisp scent. Black Ice is a cool name if you want to be a male exotic dancer or porn star. Better than any product by Axe. Inexpensive way to make your car smell nice.
Cons: Follow directions or your car will smell like a Guido orgy. Old ladies wearing strong perfume. A lot of effort for an air freshener. A guy wearing a t-shirt way too tight. Tanning to look like an Oompa-Loompa.