Dos Equis Pavilion: Worth It Or Not?

Hello, hello!  A couple of Fridays ago, Dad and I went out like normal people.  It’s rare for us to leave the house on Fridays and Saturdays, let alone venture into Dallas, but we did it.  We went to a concert at the Dos Equis Pavilion in Fair Park.  Heart was playing along with Joan Jett and Elle King.  I haven’t been to this venue in years (since Edgefest stopped being held there), so I was hoping it had improved some.  It hasn’t.  So, I thought I’d share our experience with you all.

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First and foremost, the concert itself was wonderful.  I didn’t know Elle King and didn’t really care one way or the other for her set, which is normal for me and opening bands.  Joan Jett and the Blackhearts were pretty good.  Not my favorite kind of music, but I knew more songs than I expected to know.  Heart was impressive.  I knew four of their songs and most of the covers they did.  It’s incredible to realize that Ann is 69 and Nancy is 65 and they’re still putting on such wonderful shows.  Not to mention they can still do a mean Led Zeppelin cover.

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View from the lawn borrowed from the Dos Equis Pavilion Facebook page.

Now, onto the venue itself.  It’s nice enough if you’re not a wheelchair user.  But we’ll get to that in a minute.  First, I want to point out that the website is mostly useless.  They take forever to post the gate times, then refuse to give you an actual time for when the parking lots open.  Sure, they give an estimate, but I don’t want to show up early only to discover the lots aren’t opened yet.  I even Facebook messaged them and couldn’t get a straight answer.  So, your best guess is as good as theirs if you have questions.

Then, there’s the fiasco that is the parking lots.  They make out like they have plenty of handicap parking (and they do), but they block the spots off with cones so you have to have someone move the cone, plus they actually tell people to park in the loading zones.  What good is a handicap parking space if I have no loading zone to unload in?  What the actual hell, people?  Use your brains.  And that’s not even the worst.  The parking lot attendants don’t know their asses from their elbows.  We went in Gate 11 (like the Facebook messenger person said to) and asked the attendants for help (again, like we were told to do).  Instead of getting out of their chairs and actually helping us, they pointed vaguely toward a row without handicap spaces that turned out to be a dead end, so turning around was a joke.  Thank god for the T-Mobile booth guy.  He’s the only one who actually helped us in the parking lot by finding us a space and telling us how to get there, then moving the cone for us.  Everyone but him were useless as teats on a bull.

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Wheelchair seating in red.

Inside, it was much easier to navigate and the staff was much more friendly and helpful.  My only real complaint is that there is a noticeable lack of wheelchair friendly seating.  We get one row each at the back of sections 100 and 102, plus a couple of small areas in the lawn seats.  Nothing with a straight on view of the stage, which is ridiculous.  We never get seating any closer than this (an issue at every large venue I’ve been to), but to be pushed off to the sides with no direct line of sight options?  It’s kind of insulting.  Just because I’m in a wheelchair doesn’t mean I don’t want good seats.  Either stop charging ridiculous prices for less than optimal seats or start offering wheelchair users better seating options.  Easy peasy.

Like I said, Dos Equis Pavilion is a decent venue if you’re not confined to a wheelchair, but unless one of my favorite bands come through, I’m not planning a trip back any time soon.  Better training for the parking lot staff would go a long way towards making this a decent venue for everyone.  And better seating options for cripples in wheelchairs would make it a great venue.  As it is, I’d rather go back to the Toyota Music Factory than here.

So That Happened…

Hello, hello!  Back in May, I posted about the upcoming Charmed reboot.  I had my doubts based on the advertising tactics and the push for the whole “feminist reboot” thing.  It all just felt over the top to me, but I said I would give it a try.  And I did.  The first episode aired this past Sunday, so I DVRed it and we (Dad and I) watched it on Monday.  I thought I would share my thoughts on it since I have nothing writerly to ramble about this week.

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The sisters.

First off, my description of it based on the preview was pretty spot on.  The premise is basically the same as the original.  Three sisters find out they’re witches after their mother dies and they have to fight evil!  Okay, it’s Mom instead of Grams who dies and the long lost sister (Macy) shows up in the first episode instead of after killing off one of the others to bring her in, so I suppose it’s not entirely the same.  Also, their Giles (wait, wrong show)… I mean their Leo (known as Harry) appears and explains that they’re witches, which is kind of new.   Then it gets twisty and turny from there.

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Skip the following paragraph if you haven’t watched the episode.

The plot was a fairly standard Charmed plot.  Bad things happen, the girls go after the suspected baddie who turns out to be just kind of a bitch, then they get attacked by a real baddie who is actually a red herring, then they find the big baddie and kill him.  But wait!  With his dying breath, the big baddie insinuates that he isn’t the BIG big baddie.  Dun dun dun… but that’s for the next episode or whatever.  Then there’s the whole thing with the Ouija board at the end that throws doubt on how legit Harry is.  Again, a story for the next episode.  And there’s a sprinkle of romance or something akin to it through the whole episode.

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Of the spoiler alert.

The episode did nothing to assuage my fears, though.  It was super heavy-handed with the whole feminist message stuff, which made the show groan worthy and not in a fun way.  I get it.  The writers are woke (or whatever the kids are calling it this week).  But there’s a difference between sharing your opinions with people and annoyingly shoving those opinions onto people.  There were a few spots where this episode did the latter.  Whether I agree with those opinions or not doesn’t matter.  It’s still annoying either way.  And it makes me wary going forward.

On the other hand, there was some of the good old-fashioned corniness.  I had a few chuckles.  I was able to sympathize with Maggie who just wanted to join a sorority and make friends and be normal.  Macy and her need to scientifically explain everything is someone I can get behind.  Even Mel was okay because she reminded me of people I know (people who will probably yell at me about my vague comments on feminism here, but I love them anyway).  And that’s why I said I was going forward with this show.

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Overall, I still have doubts, but it was cute enough that I set it to record again next Sunday.  It’s one of those shows that could go either way.  I’ll either get fed up with the heavy-handedness after a couple of episodes and give up on it or things will even out and I’ll get into it.

What about you?  Did you watch the premier?  Are you going to keep watching?  Why or why not?  Feel free to share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

Toyota Music Factory: State-Of-The-Art Experience Or Not?

Hello, hello!  On Monday, Dad surprised me with a trip out to Irving to see the Moody Blues.  They’re a band that Dad and I both enjoy.  I was raised on them.  They played a lot of songs I knew and a few I didn’t.  Of course, Dad sang along to all of them.  We both had a lot of fun, though Dad couldn’t figure out how all the other fans had gotten so old while he stayed young.  But I wanted to talk about the venue, the Toyota Music Factory, and our experience there.

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Still love their music!

According to their FAQ section, “Toyota Music Factory is an experience – with 25 restaurants and entertainment concepts, an Alamo Drafthouse Theater, and the Pavilion – an 8,000 capacity indoor/outdoor, state-of-the-art concert venue, Toyota Music Factory is the new soul of the DFW Metroplex. From power lunches to happy hours, date nights to show time, it’s sure to satisfy any taste in food, music, movies, and more.”  But is it really?

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a fabulous concept.  Being able to arrive a couple of hours early and stop for dinner at one of the on-site restaurants is great, especially for people who don’t know the area well (like us).  And since it’s not even a year old (it officially opened in September of 2017), minor problems are to be expected.  Case in point, the security people on parking duty had absolutely no clue about handicap parking.  Even the valet people seemed confused, but there was one cripple spot left up front, so they told us to go ahead and park there instead of in one of the garages.  And that was once we were there.  The signage to get to the place was absolutely horrible.  But I don’t know if that’s a venue issue or a city of Irving issue.

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Borrowed from TMF’s website.

The Pavilion (the music venue itself) was a nice place, but I wouldn’t call it state-of-the-art by any means.  It was stark, all concrete and wood.  It actually reminded me of some of the small venues I’ve been to, only ten times the size.  There wasn’t an actual elevator.  Instead, they have a “lift,” which is a base with a wall on either side, but the front and back are exposed to the concrete/doors of the shaft.  So, while it’s moving, you better keep yourself away from the front and back.  Then there was the seating.  Handicap seating was fairly close (second section) with a barrier that didn’t obstruct the view.  We were in the center.  There was also some handicap seating up in the third section.  But even though the floor seating was the same as the companion seats in the cripple sections, easily removed folding chairs (seemed kind of chintzy for “state-of-the-art”), there weren’t any handicap tickets available down there.  It wasn’t a bad venue by any means, but it certainly wasn’t what they advertise it to be.

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The lift was something like this, encased in concrete.

Overall, it’s a venue I wouldn’t mind going back to if a band worth seeing comes through.  All of the staff were friendly and helpful, which goes a long way to balancing out the not-so-good aspects of the place.  However, it’s definitely not going to be the “new soul” of DFW unless they make some significant improvements.  Plus, it’s all the way over in Irving, so the bands will have to be really good to make me go back.

And Now For Something Completely Different

Hello, hello!  Today, we have a guest blogger (kind of… technically, I wrote it, but I did so from someone else’s point of view at their request).  Normally, I wouldn’t post something so far outside of the realm of writing or crippleness, but it’s for my dad, Gary.  Say hi to Dad!  Anyway, he enlisted me to write a review of the heart monitor and exercise app he recently started using.  So, here are his issues, written out by me.

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Dad and I at a Christmas party a couple of years ago.

The Polar H10 and Polar Beat App

The Polar H10 heart rate monitor paired with the Polar Beat training app is a fabulous combination if you’re a technophile and exercising/training is a major part of your life, but what about everyone else?  What about the people who just want to track their exercise because their doctor said to lose a few pounds and to work some cardio into their schedules?  What about the people who aren’t techno-savvy and just want to jump on the treadmill without having to mess with an app on their phone both before AND after a workout, but still want to track their progress?  Honestly, the Polar H10 and Beat App aren’t designed with everyday people in mind, so if you’re not interested in becoming a hardcore workout enthusiast, save your money.  They aren’t worth the $100.

One of the features of the H10 that Polar touts on its website is the ability to connect to gym equipment (treadmills, ellipticals, etc.) via bluetooth.  As someone who admittedly doesn’t know much about computers and data transfer, I mistakenly believed that this meant the heart monitor and my treadmill would share information in order to provide me with the best exercise summation possible.  Unfortunately, after my first workout, I noticed that the Beat App didn’t track my distance or my pace (both things that my treadmill tracks).  I learned from Polar’s customer service that the H10 doesn’t sync data from the treadmill to the Beat App and the app can’t track distance and pace without the phone’s GPS (which is useless for indoor exercise).  In other words, the H10 gave me the same information my H1 gave me.  It was an extremely disappointing revelation.

At first, I thought maybe I had just pulled my own ideas of what the H10 should do out of thin air.  But then I reviewed Polar’s advertisements for the H10 and Beat App.  While they don’t technically say they can track distance and speed, the advertisements do imply that they can.  On the website, there’s a picture of the open app nestled behind the H10 strap.  The app is set to “running” and the one visible completed exercise routine lists duration and, underneath that, kilometers traveled.  Granted, the completed exercise is “mountain biking,” but a quick glance (which is what ads rely on) implies distance tracking.  Then, there’s the video of the “crossfit” training that gives you a glimpse of the Beat App in action.  There’s a spot for distance on the screen, which I picked up as I watched the video, but the screen disappears before the brain can register that the distance is 0, unless you pause it and really study the screen.  It’s not technically false advertising, but it is highly misleading.

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The picture I mentioned.

Because of the lack of distance and pace information, my daughter (she’s the techno-savvy one in the family) has to manually input my information.  This would be fine, but once she inputs a new training result, she has to delete the entry from the heart monitor so that I don’t have multiple workouts listed and skewing my data.  That means I lose the actual tracking of my heartbeat anyway.  If it were possible to edit/add data to a completed session, it would make life much easier.

Along with all of these issues, there’s also the fact that the connection between the Beat App and the H10 is iffy at best.  I’ve used the strap and app six times now and twice the app informed me that I had no training sessions stored on the monitor after I finished my cardio workout.  The first time, I chalked it up to me making a mistake during the startup, but then it worked fine for a few days before saying that I had no sessions once again.  I know I did everything properly that second time.  Needless to say, I was more than a little peeved that day.

Speaking of the H10’s session storing capabilities, I find it really odd that the strap supposedly holds up to 30 hours of information, but will only store one training session.  I don’t know anyone who trains for 30 hours.  Maybe in future incarnations of the heart monitor Polar could replace some of that useless storage power by figuring out how to transfer data from gym equipment to the Beat App instead.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not someone who buys something without doing as much research as possible, then complains when things don’t meet my unrealistic expectations.  I tried to find out everything I could about the H10 before I bought it, but there is very little information available.  I’m a larger man, so I didn’t want to buy it only to find out the strap didn’t fit me.  It took me three different Google searches to find something as simple as measurements for the strap.  Finding reliable information about the actual abilities and limitations of the H10 and Beat App was virtually impossible.

Despite the lack of information, I went ahead and purchased the H10 and downloaded the Beat App.  Why?  Because I’ve owned three Polar watches as well as the H1 and have never had issues with the brand in the past.  I trusted that the H10 was an improvement over the H1 and that it would do what the advertisements implied.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t meet my needs or my expectations.

Like I said, if you’re super into working out and you want to keep track of your heartbeat and burned calories (but nothing else), the H10 and Beat App are perfect for you.  If you’re just looking for an easy way to track your exercise while you lose a few pounds, I suggest just sticking with a fitness watch or something like that.

Thoughts On KUSHIEL’S DART

Hello, hello!  Welcome to August.  Where has the year gone?  Recently, I’ve been trying to read Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey, which was on my short summer reading list.  While it’s a relatively long book (900ish pages), the fact that I’m still stuck around page 100 doesn’t bode well for me finishing it.  In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that I won’t be reading the rest of it.  I feel bad, because a good friend recommended the book, but I just can’t get into it.  So, I thought I would give my thoughts on it thus far before I stash it away, deep in my bookcase, and grab something else to read.

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“Sophisticated” = too mature for me, I guess.

First, I want to say that I had high hopes for this novel.  The plot sounds really interesting and the way the main character, Phedre, was described to me made her sound amazing.  I’m sure when she grows up (she’s currently 16 where I stopped), she’ll be a badass.  But there’re a lot of things that I just can’t get past about this world.

For starters, the Court of Night Blooming Flowers.  It’s basically a bunch of high-end brothels, which I am totally fine with and was intrigued by.  At least until it started getting into the details where the children that the houses take in, either because the parents can’t care for them or they’re born into the house, are coerced (they make it sound like it’s a choice, but the kids are groomed for it from day one) into learning the “ways of Naamah” (sex) when they hit the age of 14 in order to pay back the debt they incurred by being raised in the specific houses.  Granted, Phedre escapes this by being purchased by someone who puts off her actual training until she’s older (she’s 16 and still a virgin when I stopped reading).  If it were a normal bodily exploration thing, I wouldn’t think twice about it, but these are kids being used to make money. I can’t get over the icky feeling I get from it, even though I understand that this is the norm in that world.

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This is me trying to read this book.

There’s also the background story about how an angel, Elua, decided to go on a walkabout to find people who would accept him and was followed around by some companions because even other angels worshipped him.  While on this walkabout, Naamah prostitutes herself to get the stuff Elua needs (from his freedom when he’s imprisoned to his food).  Because that’s what women do, apparently: they sell themselves to take care of a perfectly able man.  Thus, prostitution became a holy act and that’s why the Night Court exists.  Which is actually a pretty cool story (except the whole doing it for a guy part).  And no one is supposed to be forced into prostitution lest it sully the act.  But, like I said, when a kid is groomed for it their entire life, it certainly feels like coercion to me.

Despite all of that, I would probably keep reading for the main storyline, but the writing style is what’s really stopping me.  There’s a lot of flowery, purple prose.  It seems like every sentence contains at least one adverb.  Most of the time, I feel like the author is just trying to show off how big her vocabulary is.  And that’s a huge turn off for me.

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It’s true.

I apologize to my friend and anyone else who loves this book, but it’s not for me.  Maybe it gets better.  Perhaps in a few years, I’ll be mature enough to appreciate it for the “sophisticated fantasy” it’s claimed to be.  But for now, I’m putting it away and turning my attention elsewhere.

Thoughts on Gaiman’s Norse Mythology

Howdy, howdy!  I recently finished reading Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman and thought I would share some of my feelings about it.  Let me start by explaining that it’s the first book I’ve really sat down and read in a long time.  I’ve started others, but nothing has held my attention beyond the first few pages lately (not that they were bad, I just haven’t been in a mood that’s good for reading).  So, I thought maybe a book of short stories by one of my favorite authors would get me back into a reading rhythm.  It worked and here we are.

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You have to admit it’s a pretty book.

If I’m being honest, I can’t think of a single Neil Gaiman book I’ve read that I don’t have mixed feelings about.  Norse Mythology is no exception.  Yet his stories hold a special place in my heart despite everything I question (or even hate) about them.  Why?  Usually because there’s something memorable about the worlds or because I can relate to the characters.  Not to mention that I simply enjoy his writing style, which is clear and simple and easy to get lost in.

But Norse Mythology is different, because this isn’t one of Gaiman’s worlds and these aren’t his characters.  These stories have been around for centuries.  This collection is just those stories written with his voice.   These are the tales of the gods of Asgard.  We start with a brief introduction to the main players, then get into the creation myth and work our way through a number of notable moments until we get all the way to Ragnarok.  These are tales many of us have heard before in one form or another.  It makes it really difficult for me to figure out if I liked the stories because I’m familiar with a lot of them already or because of the way Gaiman tells them.  I like to think it’s a little bit of both.

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If you read it, don’t go into these stories expecting the Marvel version.

As I mentioned, though, I had some mixed feelings about Norse Mythology.  While I loved the stories, I kept running across moments that I wanted to see better, rather than just being told about.  Don’t get me wrong, I know that this collection was written more in the vein of oral storytelling, which is vastly different from the written story in that it needs to be quick and easy to understand and entertaining, whereas you could spend ten pages of a written story describing a flower (you shouldn’t, but you could).  I get that, but one of the golden rules of writing is to show, not tell.  It’s really hard for me to ignore that rule.  There were just a few parts that I thought would’ve benefited from a little more action.

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Because Loki’s kids were awesome and got the short end of the stick.

Ultimately, I enjoyed Norse Mythology.  It’s definitely a book I would recommend to people, especially if they’re new to the mythology and want to get a quick, but fairly in depth introduction to it.  What about you?  If you’ve read the collection, feel free to share your thoughts here or on my social media pages!

Date With A Dentist

Hello, hello!  I have nothing to ramble about, so this is probably going to be shorter than usual.  I suppose I should say that I have been writing again the past couple of weeks (only four days a week so far, but that’s better than nothing).  I’ve been trying to socialize a little.  Had a movie date on Monday with a friend.  Go watch Kinky Boots if you haven’t already!  Anyway, yesterday I had a dentist appointment, which is pretty much the only thing I have to talk about (sad, I know).

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It’s on Netflix.  You have no excuse.

 

I go to Forney Wellness for my dental hygiene needs.  I totally recommend them.  At least one of the dentists and one of the hygienists have experience working with people in wheelchairs, which is pretty important to me.  Everyone is nice.  It’s a little expensive (though not the worst I’ve come across by far) and they have a tendency to tell me a different price each time.  But they’re generally great, at least for cleanings (I haven’t had to have any other procedures done *knocks on wood*), and I only see them twice a year, so it’s really not that bad moneywise.

Now, I fully admit that I hate going to the dentist.  You can probably tell by the fact that dentists are demons in pretty much all of my stories when they pop up.  I even bit one as a child (yeah, I was that kid, but she totally deserved it).  Despite all that, my dad and I have a running joke about going to Forney Wellness, which is totally worth the usual anxiety.  First, realize that they have this water pick scraper tool called a Lil Beaver 2.0.

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Oh, Internet.  You always know what I need.

 

So, being the perverts we are, we giggle like little schoolgirls a the prospect of me having a beaver in my mouth.  It’s even better when the fact that it’s wet comes up.  And that it’s expensive and never as pleasant as one would hope.  But we can’t be too loud.  There are usually children around, after all.  Yeah, going to the dentist as an adult is definitely more entertaining.

Anyway!  Not that anyone really wants to know, but I’m still cavity free.  There are spots to watch, but there always are.  What does this mean?  I can eat all the things guilt free!

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Like that.  Only without the makeup.

 

Wow, I almost managed to ramble the usual amount.  Awesome!  But, in conclusion, go check out Forney Wellness if you’re in the area and looking for a dentist.  Also, feel free to share your funniest/scariest/whateverest dentist story!  Do you have running jokes about your dental hygiene?  Share those too!

Tremont St. Bath and Body: A Review

Hello, hello!  Since I haven’t been anywhere new to eat in a while, and I have no writerly topics to ramble about, I thought I would try my hand at a different kind of review.  Recently, one of my mentors/friends, Nina Schwartz, from SMU started selling her homemade soap.  You can find her story and products at her website, Tremont St. Bath and Body.  You can also keep up with her latest news by liking the shop’s Facebook page.

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All pictures are borrowed from the links above.

Back before Christmas, I messaged Nina to find out how her soaps worked on sensitive skin (before I bought some and had an unexpected allergic reaction or something).  Not only did she answer my questions, but she also sent me four bars to sample.  A Honey, Oatmeal, and Milk bar (currently not listed on the site), one called Perseverance (listed), an unscented/uncolored molded soap (see the picture of Clouds, Waves, Chrysanthemums below as an example), and one named Purple Zebra (also not currently listed).  As of today, I’ve only had a chance to try the first two, so I will be focusing on them.

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Clouds, Waves, and Chrysanthemums.

 

Aside from the beautiful designs, one of the first things I noticed about these soaps were the scents.  They range from no scent to a very mild aroma to more intense smells.  As I’ve said, I’ve only used the Honey, Oatmeal, and Milk bar, which had a subtly sweet smell, and the Perseverance, which is flavored with peppermint and rosemary, so it has a strong, in your face, kind of scent as you can imagine.  Personally, I enjoy the more intense aromas, but if you don’t, you might want to ask about bars that you aren’t sure of.

Another thing I tend to notice about soaps is whether they leave behind a greasy residue (I hate feeling slimy after a shower or after using a lotion).  I have dry skin, so I have to use moisturizing soaps, and it’s really difficult to find one that doesn’t leave me feeling gross.  Nina’s soaps didn’t have that problem.  In fact, most of them contain cocoa butter, shea butter, kokum butter, or some combination thereof to act as a moisturizer.  I was a little wary my first couple of uses, but to my surprise, the soap rinsed off easily and left me feeling moisturized, but not greasy.

I suppose my only complaints would be that the soaps dissolve much faster than the ones you buy at the store, and that the edges can be a little sharp in the beginning, especially on the large bars.  I got about seven uses out of the Honey, Oatmeal, and Milk bar, which is one of her medium sized bars, but I’m on my fourth or fifth use of Perseverance (one of her largest bars) and still have more than half left.  So, I guess the former complaint really depends on which soap you get and how often you use it (I use it once a week), and the latter simply requires a little user awareness.

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Perseverance.

 

Overall, I’m loving the soaps so far and plan on buying some when I come close to running out.  Check out the links above and see if you fall in love with any of the bars!  It’s totally worth it.