Sunday, May 24, 2020

Masks - Coronavirus - Review | Jill Of All Trades

The lockdown is easing out in certain states and orange/green zones, and even otherwise, we know that the near future is going to need us to wear a face (nose and mouth) mask for sometime. Hence it's only sensible to get your hands on some good one's - for yourself and your family members. We are 6 people in my family, including my kiddo, and hence I tried 3-4 different masks and thought I should write a short review about it, also include how I store it/wash it, where did I buy them from and overall what do I think of them.

FIRST of all. Wearing a mask DOES NOT make you immune to coronavirus or gives you 100% protection. So, masks are not to wear and forget all other rules like social distancing, hand washing and so on. The mask is simply supposed to give you some extra protection in crowded/enclosed spaces - so that there is a lower chance of the respiratory droplets infecting you.

SECOND of all, YOU'RE not supposed to wear the mask for prolonged periods of time. When I have to go get groceries for a fortnight, I am wearing the mask in the humid/tropical Mumbai weather for about an hour to two hours - and believe me, it's a struggle, it's really suffocating. I can feel the struggle to breathe and I know that there is less oxygen entering my body. So, masks to be worn only for short spans guys! Do not wear a mask and walk/jog/run or do anything that requires you to inhale more oxygen.

Now that we have covered this, let's get to the review. I was really afraid to buy N95 masks as I had read a lot about how they're meant for healthcare professionals and there is a certain way/protocol of wearing it. I also did not wanted to buy masks off Amazon as I was afraid of copies/duplicates.

Mask # 1
Wildcraft - SUPERMASK W95 Reusable 6-Layer Outdoor Masks

The description and brand convinced me to buy these. 6 layers with proper filters and anti-bacterial cloth and a wire to adjust mask shape at nose. When I purchased though there was only one size available, so I ordered it (L) and that is big - suitable for someone with a large face. But they now have S and M as well - so do measure your face and then buy. They're available in packs of 3,5,7 and they clearly mention the number of times recommended to use it for i.e. 30 washes or 30 times. They come in a single black colour option and are comfortable if you're ordered the right size.

Breathability - 4/5
Quality/Durability - 5/5
Fit - 3/5
Price - 4/5

Mask # 2
3M Folded Dust/Mist Respirator 9004IN Mask Pack of 2

In the beginning of the lockdown there were talks and online news of shortage of masks, PPE and face shields for the health professionals. So when launched their whole section of COVID-19 protection gear - all kinds of cloth, 3M, N95 masks, face shields, PPE, sanitisers and so on - I felt confident and happy! And they also have cloth masks for kids! I placed an order for a pack of 3 cloth masks - lot of fancy designs to choose from, a set of 2 3M masks and a pack of 2 sanitiser bottles and a set of 3 cloth masks for kids. The mask for kids has not yet arrived even after weeks, so this review does not cover that, may update later if/when they deliver.

The 3M masks look fragile in reality as compared to the pictures. They're made of really thin paper-like cloth material, but from everyone I have heard, they're quite reliable, so I got them. I love how they have 2 straps, one you wear and support with your neck and other behind your ears/head. So the grip is really study and secure. And it also has the metal bending at nose to give a more secure fit. And because of the thin material, it is really breathable and comfortable! My only issue regarding the one's I bought from is that they came in a plastic packaging, I was expecting in some 3M branded packaging or instructions on wearing/washing etc. There were none. These masks are more expensive as compared to the others.

Breathability - 5/5
Quality/Durability - 3/5
Fit - 4/5
Price - 3/5

Mask #3
2-Layer Everyday Protective Masks - Pack of 3

These are the cheapest, cost wise and have the most variety of designs available (thought they come in one adult size only - separate range for children). I found them to be smaller than what the picture looks like, and not very comfortable or breathable or protective also. Not sure, but I think it's fine for things like going down to collect parcels or groceries. This one comes with a 30 wash wearing limit as well.

Breathability - 2/5
Quality/Durability - 4/5
Fit - 3/5
Price - 5/5

After wearing, I remove the masks using the straps and wash them with detergent and Dettol and dry and store them back in my bag/cupboard. Always remember to put them on or off only holding the straps and don't touch the mask around your mouth with your bare hands.

I'm sure there are lots of more brands and varieties out there, but these are the one's I have got for my family. One-time use surgical masks are a good choice if you don't want to get into washing/cleaning of masks - but that's a lot of wastage in my opinion.

Take care, stay home as far as possible and stay safe guys!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

What will happen when the pandemic ends? #Coronavirus #Covid19

What will we do once the pandemic gets over? Will we go back to shutting our eyes to what is going on around us? Will we start taking everything and everyone for granted, again?

Will we start being apathetic towards others? Will be start arguing with our helpers again and demand to deduct from their salaries?

Will we go back to saying "I don't have any time for this" to our kids, families and loved ones? Will be stop maintaining cleanliness and start throwing thrash around again?

Will the world go back to it's cross-border fights and competitiveness instead of being united as it currently is? Will the skies and oceans that are currently blue and clear turn grey again?

Will we stop praying again? Will we stop appreciating being alive, having a roof/home to protect us and being able to work remotely thanks to technology?

The choice will be ours, or will there be a chance to choose?

Promise to change. Promise to remember these times.
Etch the memories in your minds.
Let's not forget and go back to how things were earlier.
Let's remember, learn and grow.

I promise to appreciate life more. I promise to love more. I promise to smile more. I promise to help more. I promise to live more.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Day trek to Matheran with Senior Citizens & Kids

I cannot believe that being born in Mumbai and spending all my 30 years here, I had never been to Matheran till now! Had thought about it many times, visited hotel websites to check prices too - but there was so much confusion around how to go, till where are cars allowed, where does the toy train begin, how much is too much walking and so on. Finally my family made an impromptu plan on Saturday night to go to Matheran the next day!

Our original plan was to take a Karjat train from Bhandup station that would drop us at Neral. But then we decided to take our own car - and I am glad we did so! Because the toy train does not start from Neral, it starts from Aman Lodge/Dasturi Car Park and goes till Matheran station/market area. Which basically means - if you take a train - then you have to take a share cab from Neral station till Aman Lodge/Dasturi Naka. And the cab drivers - they drive like crazy people! The roads/ghats are quite steep and you definitely need a powerful car and good driver to manage that. If you are not confident of covering the ghat area on your own, interesting fact - there are drivers at the start of the ghat whom you can rent at Rs.200 for driving you up till the ghat. I am not sure how reliable or comfortable that is though.

So Mulund to Aman Lodge took us around 2 hours - good roads, no traffic. There was a lot of crowd - being a Sunday I guess. We parked the car (You have to pay Rs.30+Rs.50 tax=Rs.80) and then had to take entry tickets. Entry tickets is Rs.50 per adult and Rs.25 per kid (They take this to maintain the hill station). We soon started hiking (around 12 noon). There are horses at the starting point which you can take to go up as well. They charge around Rs.350 per horse (there is scope of negotiation). If you are in time for the toy train, you can take that as well. Even though it was 12noon and relatively hot - because the whole path is covered with trees and lush greenery, the hike was not tough and we managed to climb the 3-odd kilometers in an hour. 

4 senior citizens and one 5 year old kid with me. Both my mom and aunt could not walk all the way and took a cart-ride (2 men carrying people in a hand-cart) till the market. My father and uncle and kiddo managed well. There are places where you can stop to rest as well. One you reach the main market/station area you will see crowd, monkeys and joints/restaurants to eat. Food options were okay - not so great. My advise is to book a hotel/lodge incase you want to explore every nook and corner of the hill station - all the points etc. We were only here for a day, so had made peace with the fact that we may not get to see all of it - after all, there should be something to see when you come again, right?

There are 2 points nearby the market-area from where you can see good views of the Sahyadri range - Madhav Point (It's inside a kid's park) and Khandala Point. Beware of monkeys everywhere - they spot you with food or drinks in the open, they are going to come and grab it! They are not scared at all. I held kiddo's pack of chocolates and literally threw it away when the monkey came towards us - you should have seen my kiddo cry at this. ROFL.

Since kiddo is a train-enthusiast I absolutely did not want to leave without making him experience the Toy Train. So while the others headed for a late lunch, I headed to the station to book the tickets. You cannot pre-book tickets or book them online - you have to simply stand in a long queue. Unless you are booking first class tickets - so if the 6x cost does not bother you and you don't want to spend an hour waiting in the queue, then ask for 1st class tickets before they're gone.

The toy train is a narrow gauge train that slowly makes it way back to Aman Lodge/Dasturi Car Park. The scenery is nice, and it's a good experience - but not as great as the claims were online. Maybe it's enchanting in peak winters when there is fog. We wanted to be back to the car point before sunset as we did not want to drive the steep ghats in darkness, and we were back home by 7pm! I will definitely be back during a better season to visit the points we missed out - specially Echo point. And try the horses this time.

Friday, February 21, 2020

LEGO® Fire Helicopter Response 60248 - Review #JillOfAllTrades

I do not know why, but small boys are REALLY obsessed with fire-fighters, fire-station and so on. In-fact kiddo's school even recently took them to see the local fire-station. So, it's only natural that when a new Lego City set with a FLYING HELICOPTER (LEGO® Fire Helicopter Response) arrived, kiddo was thrilled. Forget kiddo, I was thrilled!

Building the parts was quick - 93 piece set with 3 mini-figures, a small construction part, fire fighter vehicle and helicopter. I really LOVE how Lego introduces women in roles that are dominated/stereotyped by males. We have fire chief Freya McCloud from the fire-fighting squad - go girl!

As always the details of each part continues to impress me and blow my mind - the worker with his flame-machine and helmet, intact the helmets for all three action figures are different!

Now coming to the main highlight of this product - the flying helicopter. The helicopter looks really cool with space for a mini-figure pilot to sit. To make it light-weight the tail is made of cardboard paper - which I feel can tear/wear-out over time. It comes with a rip-cord (think bey-blade) and a lego buildable device to fit the chopper in and pull. Rather genius I must say. Now if you are going to imagine that the helicopter will fly high and you can navigate or control it, no that's not how it is. But for a 5 year old (This set is for 5-8 year olds) the whole idea of pulling the rip cord to make the helicopter fly out and land a few feet away - that is what it does and as long as the kiddo is happy, I am happy!

We were a little unsure of how to fly the helicopter, and I am so happy that Lego has all the detailed instructions in text as well as video format on their website. After a take at their video, I understood clearly what is to be done.

Also, this set is compatible with any other Lego City set - so you can build and expand! Kiddo had received a fire-fighter truck earlier, you can read it's review too. Overall, I am loving how Lego keeps innovating and coming up with new toys! Maybe we will see a flying car (Think: Harry Potter) soon!

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Amazon Echo Input Portable Smart Speaker Edition - Product Review

I had earlier purchased an Echo Dot for my parents, and after being super-impressed by Alexa (as compared to Siri), when there was a deal on the new portable version, I placed an order. During the deal the Echo Input Portable edition was available for Rs.3399 instead of Rs.5999 which was almost 50% off.

Delivery was smooth, came in a couple of days, though the packaging was questionable. But everything was intact inside. Setting up the speaker is basically installing an app on your smartphone, connecting speaker to WiFi via your phone and that's about it. You can keep adding more routines and modifying settings on the go - with usage.

Here is what I liked -

1. Smart Assistant Alexa

Alexa is really smart, keeps learning on the go and understands your behaviour and routine and keeps making suggestions. Being an iPhone user, I feel Siri has a lot to  improve on. Plus Alexa can also speak in Hindi, that's a plus!

2. Portable

This speaker need not always be connected to a power socket, and can be kept anywhere or carried anywhere. Though I have not used this privilege, since I prefer keeping it in one place. But it's good to have the option - incase I want to carry it to the kitchen or balcony and so on.

3. Price 

When you buy during a deal, it is totally value for money and nothing to fret about. Not sure if it's value for money at Rs.5999 though, tbh.

Here is what could be better -

1. Battery Backup

It takes a couple of hours for the battery to get fully charged, but it drains in about 10 hours, whether you use it or not. Probably because it is always connected and always ready to listen. I found this a bit frustrating, when I put alarms for the morning and it never rang because the battery had drained. Basically for smooth functioning you keep it off charge all day but keep it on charge all night - which means you need a dedicated socket for it. It should have not drained if it was not in use as in not playing anything.

2. Dust catching and heat up

I am not sure if it's on all devices or only mine, but the top part of the speaker heats up while in use. Not extremely hot, but certainly warm. Also the device has a lot of dust settling on it on the top as well as bottom ( bottom is rubber like for good grip, so picks up more dust).

3. Volume

If you are in a noisy environment, or have windows open with outside sound or are in a large room, you will find the top volume also not high enough. Volume is okay in a smaller room with windows closed - so basically it's more of a smart assistant device and less of a speaker - don't judge it on it's bass quality etc.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Ikea Haul Under Rs.1000 - Small Upgrades To My Home

Most of you must know that apart from the physical store in Hyderabad and one more coming up at Navi Mumbai, Ikea also sells online in Mumbai. I have been stalking their amazing range and to try out their quality, bought 5 things that costed me a total of less than Rs.1000 (yes, a TOTAL of Rs.1000 for 5 products) that helped me in small or not so small ways!

1. BENĂ– Chair pad Rs.149

I have a cane stool at home that had some parts poking out, making it uncomfortable to sit. This chair pad easily got tied to the stool, and a cheap but very comfortable option to make the stool usable! It's been a couple of weeks since we're using it, so far so good!


2. SCHOTTIS Pleated blind, white, 90x190 cm Rs.199

Perfect to block out view without giving up on the sunlight. Needed a temporary option for the bathroom till we figure out what to do. Also, you can cut it to whatever size required. And it's a no-drill option. It's not very durable though - it's very paper like (though made of polyester) so not sure how long it will last. But serves my purpose wonderfully for the price.


3. PRESSA - Hanging dryer 16 clothes pegs, turquoise Rs.299

I guess this is not unique or innovative and you may get similar things elsewhere, but I love both the colour and the quality - it's very sturdy and clip quality is great too. Something every house needs for drying smaller items like socks, undies, hankies and so on.


4. BOLMEN Toilet brush/holder, white Rs.79

A toilet brush, with a stand - that looks stylish, just for Rs.79. What more should I say.


5. RINNIG Dish-washing brush, green Rs.89

Really cute looking small brushes to clean dishes - available in three colours - mint green, black and pink. They can be kept standing too. Infact I think it can be used anywhere, not just for the utensils. My only worry is that the bristles are too coarse and I am scared it may scratch the crockery. Yet to try it on expensive kitchen utensils.

So 5 things for a total of Rs.815 and Rs.99 delivery it costed me Rs.914 for these tiny upgrades to my home. I have so many things wishlited on their website, things are really thought through and you will be amazed at the solutions they have for all your home related problems, if you want to call it that.

P.S. This post is not sponsored by Ikea in any way, and is just a review I wanted to share with you all.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Things to keep in mind when looking for rental apartment & while shifting!

If you are renting out a house and need to shift once lease/agreement of the old one got over, or you've shifted to a new city or locality and have rented out an apartment then you will know what a headache shifting is. Specially if it's with the family! If you are going to be moving soon, then I have some pointers for you that you should know, and you won't necessarily read these on the usual websites.

1. Check if all electric connections/plumbing work.
When you are looking for houses, you will make decisions in a hurry, and you may take note of major things like whether fan and light is working, windows and doors close, bathrooms function and so on. But it's a good idea to literally check each and every thing like the fan's regulator, all electrical plugs etc before hand - so that you can ask the owner to fix things rather than having to pay for it yourself. It would be a good idea to have an electrician/plumber visit and repair things before you move in so that you can go back to day to day functioning at the soonest.

2. Take pictures/evidence of any existing damage to property
Owners will blame you for damaging their property and deduct the amount from the deposit when you move out, so it is best you take evidence when you are moving in. Actual images of the house when you move in, plus more images of any wall/tile/appliance etc that is already in a damaged condition so that when there is a discussion, you have your evidence! With a mobile and ample storage these days, it is easy to quickly take pictures/videos and use them if required.

3. Check network reception
There was a time when vaastu, nearby amenities, floor rise etc were the only important things while looking for a home to rent out. But with changing times and the internet era, you have to make sure you are getting good reception on your phones and get WiFi connection asap too. I actually know a society where they don't get any network on a couple of service providers, at all. I would definitely not rent a flat there! Make a call from the site, check data download/upload via speed test apps and check if you get network in all rooms (and bathrooms).

4. Nearest bus stop, auto stand, grocery store, medical etc
Bus stops are redundant in many places thanks to uber/ola etc, but if you still travel by bus/auto make sure you have a stand nearby so that daily commute is easy. Also find out if daily necessities are nearby - medical, general store, 1-2 food joints and so on. After all, you cannot rely on online orders all the time!

5. Packers & Movers
If you're shifting somewhere in the same locality, you can rely on a local packer and mover, for out of city transfers better to go for someone more recognized and branded/professional. Make sure to read a couple of reviews for whoever you choose, there will be many on justdial/google business etc.

6. Label boxes properly!
When the packer and movers come to do their work, all hell usually breaks loose as they start dumping all your stuff in carton boxes etc. Make sure you ask them to only work at your comfort and pace - and keep labelling every box that gets packed - to the minutest details. For eg. don't just write the person's name who's stuff is kept inside, but also which cupboard/drawer it was taken from. This will make it a lot easier for you to put them back in place.

7. Keep an overnighter handy
Once your stuff has been moved to the new place, you will probably not have the energy to unpack anything the same day and will be searching for things like toothbrush, undergarments, medicines the next day and may not find them. Best to keep an overnighter packed with all essentials like clothes for 2 days, under garments, socks, medicines, toiletries etc so that while you keep unpacking, you can start functioning normally. This point is even more important for working couples who have to get back to work the very next day.

8. Keep record of all expenses, bills etc
Take bills from electricians, plumber, carpenter, mover and packer etc. One - it will help you understand how much it overall costs you to move houses. Two - if you have to ask the owner to pay for anything, owner will surely ask you for a receipt of payment made. Three - if any repair done was not done properly, having the bill handy totally helps.

9. Move in/Move out formalities
This one is something I was not aware of. The person renting the house has to pay society moving in/moving out charges and also give an intimation at-least 2 days before hand that they're going to move in/out. Society then gives an approval letter for the same to happen. The charges are taken so that incase there is any damage to the lift/society's property, that is covered. This process/who pays the charge etc may different from city to city but best to make sure what it is, in advance.

10. Agreement
Whether you get a notarized agreement or registered agreement, very important to have one in place with all clauses, deposit amount, rent amount etc mentioned. Make copies of the agreement and also have a soft copy on your email, so that even if you loose the copies, it's not a big thing.

Hope this helps, specially when there is no broker to mediate, you have to do a lot more research on your own. If there are any more things that we can add to this list, do comment with the same and I will update on the blog article. Happy moving!