Thursday, August 29, 2013

Corte Composite Deck Cleaner Review

Three years ago we built a composite deck (TimberTech).  I guess I thought low maintenance meant no maintenance, so I hadn't done anything to the deck since it was built. It's been nice not having to worry about staining or painting it.  Earlier this spring, I noticed black spots on the deck, which began to grow and multiply until it ended up looking like this:

After doing some research on the internet I discovered many people have had problems with black mold forming on their composite decks. Some have had great difficulty removing it.  I decided to try Corte Composite Cleaner based on the reviews I had seen and the fact that it appears several composite manufacturers recommend it.  

The product got more than its share of negative reviews on, which was made me concerned.  However, I realized the manufacturer says to not use the product beyond its expiration date, otherwise you might not get satisfactory results.  My guess is some gray marketers were putting old product on Amazon.  I decided to buy from the manufacturer's website to ensure I got a fresh batch.  However, with Labor Day weekend coming up and guests coming over, I decided I needed to get the deck done now.  I called the manufacturer and found a retailer fairly close to me.  That retailer said they had just gotten a shipment last week.  The expiration date on the bag I bought is August 2014 one year from this month.  So, the product does not have an extremely long shelf life.  I recommend making sure you get a fresh bag.

To do the project I needed:

  • Mixing bucket- already had
  • 1 gallon pump spray- picked up for $10 at the local hardware store
  • Deck brush- a scrub brush on a handle to save your back. $7 at the local hardware store
  • Corte Cleaner- $30

The product is a white powder that you mix with water.  It reminded me of trying to use Oxi-Clean.  It was not easy to mix.  I tried it first with room temperature tap water. For my second batch, I used warm water.  I stirred and stirred and stirred and could not get all the crystals to dissolve.  I began by hosing down the deck and going over it lightly with my brush to get the loose dirt off.  To my (pleasant) surprise a great deal of the dirt/mold came off with just plain water.  In fact, my wife came out and commented on how great the product was working and I hadn't applied it yet.

I let the deck dry, per the manufacturer's instructions and began spraying the Corte Clean on.  Using the fine sprayer I had, the product was more than enough to cover the recommended square footage.  It went on kind of like dishwater- slightly soapy and as it reacted, began to foam up, reminding me of oven cleaner.  I reapplied the product as necessary to keep it wet while I waited the 20 minutes for it to do its thing. To my surprise I could see the dirt being lifted out of the wood as the suds went from white to brown.

After approximately 20 minutes, I hit the deck with the brush again.  I wanted to be sure I got as much of this gunk off/out as possible.  Then, I began rinsing. As I rinsed, I could see the dirt flowing off with the water. Rinsing took forever.  I rinsed and rinsed and rinsed.  Now it was about 95ยบ the day I was doing this and I did it in full sun.  The manufacturer recommended doing it in the sun, but not at that temperature.  I don't know if that had anything to do with it or not.  Each time it would let it dry completely I'd see a bit of white haze, not horrible, but enough I wanted it off.  However, the deck was completely clean.


  • Easy process
  • "Eco friendly" product.  No bleach.  No harsh chemicals. Safe for plants and animals.
  • Works!
  • Protects?- The manufacturer suggest that doing the cleaning on a regular basis will help prevent mold from coming back and make it easier to remove it if it does


  • Didn't mix well.  The crystals barely seem water soluble
  • Took a long time to rinse- but, the manufacturer says any left on the deck surface will continue to clean until it is thoroughly rinse off.  So, not so bad as long as you don't leave too much on there.
  • Expensive?  I didn't compare the price to other deck cleaners, but at $30 a bag for a bag that does the average size deck, it seemed a little on the high side to me.  Of course, it is far less expensive and far easier than staining or painting the deck.  I think when I try it again, I'll dilute it more than they suggested because it seems the concentration was pretty high anyway.  It was difficult to mix and difficult to rinse.  A lower concentration should be easier to work with.
Overall, I was very pleased with the product and would recommend it.  Now that I know how easy it is to do, I won't wait three years to clean the deck again.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Kirkland (Costco) Organic Lemonade

It goes without saying I am a lover of all things Costco. Well, I just found another great Kirkland product. Kirkland Organic Lemonade. I grew up drinking lemonade, but I hardly ever make it because, well, I'm lazy.  This is pretty close to homemade without the hassle of squeezing your own lemons.

It's not exactly like homemade because the lemon juice is from concentrate.  I like that it has no artificial sweeteners and uses real sugar. What I really love is that it's nice and tart. Surprisingly tart.  I do not like things very sweet and this isn't even close to being overly sweet, not even for me, the guy who likes lemonade that makes you pucker.

I'm not a stickler when it comes to organic, but all of the ingredient listed on the label are organic including the sugar and the lemon flavor which is the last ingredient on the list.  So, if that's important you, there you go.

There are two three quart bottles for $5.99.  I'm sure this is a seasonal product. So, around the end of summer, I plan to stock up.

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Monday, April 29, 2013

ADT Security Monitoring Service

ADT (Photo credit: nadbasher)
We have been an ADT customer for close to 15 years now. We started off paying about $20 a month for them to do basically nothing (monitor our system and call the police or fire department IF there is an alarm). Every year, they send a letter raising the rate another $1.00 or so a month).  Slow drip. Every year, I get annoyed, intend to look at an alternative and end up doing nothing. This year, they were going to take our rate to $37.52 Well, no more.

This year, I called  They have a monitoring system that works over the internet. $17.95/month for the same service ADT is giving me now.  I would have to buy some hardware and install it myself or have it installed. That made me a bit uncomfortable, so before I pulled the trigger and ordered the hardware, I called ADT.  After going through their voicemail maze to reach a real person, I finally was transferred to the customer loyalty department.  I simply told them I was not happy with my rate and was talking with about switching. but before I switched I wanted to know if they could do any better on their price.  They dropped the bill to $19.99/month (didn't say for how long and I didn't ask).  For the extra $2.00 a month and not having to make any changes or install any hardware, I'll  stick with them until they try to raise it again.
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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Draftmark Tap System Review

As part of a BzzAgent campaign I received a Draftmark Tap System to review. The Draftmark Tap System is a beer delivery system that allows you to enjoy cold draft beer from your refrigerator. I've always liked draft beer better, but never understood why.  There are two factors that make draft beer better.  The first is it's unpasteurized.  The second is the delivery system that delivers the beer under pressure making it taste smoother and giving a more dense head.  So, is the Draftmark worth the expense and trouble?  To my surprise, I think so.  I wouldn't have paid $50 to try this.  Offered one for free, I thought "Why not?"  Read on to find out why I think it's worth the investment.

The Draftmark Tap System is a fairly sophisticated but easy-to-use, self-contained system that delivers beer from non-refillable plastic refills you buy at your local beer retailer.  As of this writing, April 2013, the beer is available in 14 markets across the country. So, before you rush out and buy one, check to make sure someone in your area sells the beer.  Draftmark has a list of retailers on their website.  Unfortunately, due to state law in Ohio, they couldn't list the actual retailers where I live and I got my system on the weekend- when the distributor was closed.  I am an impatient man.  So, I took a chance and went to Jungle Jim's.   They had the system and the refills (however, they only had Bass Ale).  You should be able to find Bass Ale, ShockTop, Michelob Amberbock and/or Budweiser (yuck!).  The marketing materials I received also indicated they would have Goose Island, even though their website isn't showing that at the moment.  The refills are 1 gallon plastic jugs that are sealed and non-reusable.  They were $13.99 each at my local retailer- except Goose Island- which they didn't have, but there was a sign saying it was $14.99.  I compared that to a six pack of Bass to see if this system was saving me any money.  A six pack of Bass was on sale for $7.49, normally $8.49.  The price of the beer in the keg and the price in a bottle was almost exactly the same at around $0.10/ounce. The Draftmark system itself is about $50 retail. So, you're not going to buy this to save money.  After the $50 investment in the system, the beer is going to cost you about the same as buying it in bottles.  I'm cheap.  So, this would be a problem for me if the beer didn't taste better.  The good news is the beer does taste better.  Draftmark gives one of the benefits of their system as less packaging.  That's true.  Maybe you're saving the planet, but the cost savings is not being passed along to you.  As I said, it's going to cost you roughly the same as buying a premium quality beer.  I didn't do the pricing for Budweiser, but as far as I can tell the Budweiser refills are the same price, so I would think Budweiser would cost you more than buying Bud in bottles.  Why you'd buy Budweiser draft is beyond me though.

Back to the Draftmark.  The system itself is compact and self-contained. Some of those disposable kegs you buy to put into your refrigerator take up a lot of room (a problem in my house).  The Draftmark Tap System lays horizontally and should fit easily into your refrigerator.  The system has a compressor that senses when it needs to come on. There is no on and off switch.  However, there is a rechargeable battery.  There is no assembly required with the system and the instructions are clear and easy to follow when it comes to inserting the beer keg.  There is practically no cleaning involved because each keg comes with a disposable replacement spout. The keg is supposed to keep for 30 days in your refrigerator.  If you're not drinking ten 12 ounce beers in 30 days, you're probably not going to invest in a Draftmark.   The cost of the spout may be one reason the refills are fairly expensive. The most difficulty I had in setting it up was that the instructions said something about the spout snapping into place and that didn't happen for me in spite of repeatedly installing it. It wasn't really a difficulty.  I now know I had the spout in correctly.  I just wanted to be sure. I did not want beer pouring out all over the inside of my refrigerator.  After you insert the spout, the keg slips into the Draftmark and you twist it to lock it in place.  You swing the door closed and that taps the keg.  You're ready to pour your first beer.

The system comes with clear instructions and there is a technical support line, just in case you have problems. I shot a video of me assembling it, but now I realize Draftmark has one on their website.

If you want draft quality beer at home, don't have the room or the money for a kegator and don't drink enough beer to justify that for your man cave, the Draftmark Tape System is a great alternative that will fit into a normal sized refrigerator and won't cost you an arm and a leg.

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Apple Lightning Connector- poor design?

Apple Lightning Cable Problem (top view)
We have had one Apple Lightning Cable in our home.  My daughter bought a 5th gen iPod Touch in December 2012.  The first cable was defective out of the box.  Fortunately, we live in a city with an Apple store. The exchange process was quick and painless.  We contacted Apple, took the defective cable to the Apple Store and walked out with a new one. OK, sometimes manufacturing defects happen, but a couple of nights ago, my daughter called me into her bedroom and showed me the cable had become worn near the end where it plugs into the iPod (the Lightning connector end). She has not abused it at all even though she is attached to her iPod about 16 hours a day.  I was pretty upset that after only three months of relatively normal, maybe heavy, use the cable had failed. We've had regular iPod usb cables last for years.

The good news is Apple's support was again fantastic.  The cable was covered under warranty.  I had a copy of my receipt and I had registered the iPod with Apple Support.  After a quick chat with a specialist, she set up an appointment for me at the Genius Bar just a couples of hours after our chat.  I took the cable back along with my receipt to show the serial number of the iPod and I walked out with a new one.  I'm wondering though is there a design problem with this cable.  And, like all Apple accessories, it's not cheap listing at $19.00.  My first thought was that we were going to have to buy a new one.  I did find out, before I checked on the warranty that MonoPrice makes one for less than 12.00. As of the time I'm writing this, they are sold out with an ETA of almost 2 months for the 3 ft white version and there is a limit of (5) per customer. That is another indication to me that there might be something wrong with this cable.  Why such a huge demand for something that ships with every new iPhone 5 and iPod Touch?  People might want additional ones, but I suspect a lot of them are failing.  Amazon also has one for $15.

AmazonBasics USB A to Lightning Compatible Cable (3 Feet/0.9 Meter)
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Monday, March 4, 2013

LongHorn Steakhouse SteakHouse Dinner for Two Review

English: LongHorn Steakhouse, 35400 Warren Roa...
I am always looking for a deal.  Since visiting Longhorn Steakhouse a few months ago with a gift certificate from a friend, I have been on their email list.  I got an email with the Steakhouse Dinner for Two and a coupon for a free dessert or appetizer. This was a deal that was too good to pass up.  The Steakhouse Dinner for Two is $25 and includes either an appetizer to share or dessert, two salads and two entrees (with one side dish each).  Included in my mailing was a coupon for a free appetizer or dessert, making this a four course meal for two for $25.

Ty and I went and had the calamari as the appetizer.  It's a ridiculously large portion of calamari and bell pepper strips battered and fried along with a sweet/smoky sauce.  I would have preferred marinara and it's not the best calamari I've ever had, but it is a good starter.  We each had a Caesar salad.  Again, very good, not great.  I had the 6 ounce filet for a $6 upcharge and Ty had the 7 ounce salmon which came on a bed of rice.  We each got "sweet potato bites" which were little chunks of sweet potatoes that were kind of candied.  I'm not sure how they were prepared exactly, but they were very good.  By the time for dessert we were stuffed, but it was free. So, of course, we got the dessert sampler which included small piece of strawberry cheesecake, a piece of chocolate cake, some ice cream and apple pie.

I had two glasses of wine with my meal.  Ty had a beer.  Our total bill, including alcohol and exclusive of tip was $50.  Amazingly inexpensive for what we had.

The service was excellent.  In fact, while we were there the District Manager and his boss were in town visiting the restaurant.  I told them we had come as a result of the deal we got.  We had a nice chat with them and they told us how with their buying power they are able to serve such good food at such low prices.  We had returned to the restaurant because we forgot our leftover sweet potato bites that we wanted to take home.  They made a fresh order for us, to go, no charge.
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Friday, February 15, 2013

Simple Truth Products from Kroger

I was asked to evaluate Kroger's new line of Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organics.  I like eating (somewhat) healthy and I'm always looking for a bargain. So, the idea of better for you foods at a good price is something I was very interested in.  Simple Truth says it is free of 101 "artificial" ingredients.  As a Chemical Engineer by training, I have nothing against chemicals. But, if you can make a product without adding chemicals, make it taste great, give it a good shelf life and can make it at a great price- why not?

I was given the Peanut Chocolate energy bar and the Blackberry Pomegranate soda to try.  The soda is not exactly "health food", still containing a great deal of sugar.  I don't drink a lot of soda.  When I do have one, I prefer sodas like Izze's, which this remind me of.  I only drink Izze's when I can get it on sale because it's so expensive.  I will look for the Kroger Simple Truth soda the next time I shop and, if it's less expensive, as I suspect it is, will get some.

The energy bar was moist and delicious unlike many I've had.

All-in-all, I've got nothing bad to say about Simple Truth.  I live in Cincinnati. So, there is a Kroger right around the corner from me.  I will definitely try more Simple Truth products in the near future.