There are many benefits of working at a job like mine including, but not limited to, being able to cover special events and concerts (with backstage access!), meeting many people around the community that I would have never allowed myself to before, improving my writing and photography skills, and getting free samples in the mail.

    There are many benefits of working at a job like mine including, but not limited to, being able to cover special events and concerts (with backstage access!), meeting many people around the community that I would have never allowed myself to before, improving my writing and photography skills, and getting free samples in the mail. Wait a minute. What? How could freebies even be listed in the same category as all of those other wonderful attributes? Well, for me, it’s right up there. It has actually been one of the coolest parts of my job because not only do I get to try out new products that might not be available to the general public yet, but I am getting paid to write about them.        

    While sitting at my desk a couple years years ago (now I stand at my newer meticulously-constructed hand-sanded and stained pine wood raised desk built by my loving husband), I was going over some emails in my inbox and I came across one that showcased a variety of new products I had never heard of before. The email gave a brief description of each and asked if I’d be interested in a sample. Sure, I thought, so I replied with all the pertinent information. A couple weeks later a package arrived on my desk. I opened it curiously as I had forgotten all about the sample request and low and behold my sampling days had begun.

    In this column, you will read my reviews of some of the cool products I have had the pleasure of trying out. Maybe once they hit the shelves (or if you’ve already seen them in stores or on TV), you’d be interested in checking them out yourself.

    Samples 1 and 2: Magic Opener and Magic Opener Extreme

    Their description: “You’re probably already in the swing of summer picnics, family gatherings, backyard barbecues and pool parties, which means you’ve opened your fair share of water bottles, beer cans and other beverages. You might have experienced a chipped manicure or other struggles in the process, but I have good news for you. With the Magic Opener, these mishaps are worries of the past!”

    Review: The Magic Opener is a yellow bottle-shaped magnetic contraption that combines three common types of beverage openers in a single product. It can sit on the side of the fridge or be put in your purse or backpack for traveling, though I recommend keeping it away from your cell phone because of the magnet. It can open water and beer bottles, cans with pop tabs and more. It’s kid and elderly friendly, and pretty handy. They even have a larger version available for opening 2 liter bottles and large pull tab food cans for pet food, soups and sauces. I used my first sample at home and continue to keep it on the side of the fridge in case I need it. The second sample I received was the Magic Opener Extreme and I gave that to a coworker who wanted to give it to her elderly parents. She thought it was a really innovative product that is helpful for anyone.

    The Magic Opener retails for $24.99 at can be purchased online at www.magicopener.com.

    Sample 3: Giraffe Razor Extension Handle

    Their description: “Due to challenges in flexibility or mobility that stem from a chronic medical condition, the postoperative phase of hip or knee replacement surgery, or the third-trimester of pregnancy, millions of women each year are unable to shave their legs - often turning to caregivers to carry out this personal duty or giving up on shaving altogether. There is now an option for women of limited mobility to shave their legs independently, with the ease, comfort and safety of the Giraffe Extension Handle Razor - the only shaving accessory of its kind designed to customize the length and angle of your premium disposable or reusable razor.”

    Review: This thing is genius. It eliminates bending at the waist, it’s easy to handle and you don’t feel like you have to be a contortionist in the shower to get your shaving done. It’s perfect for anyone who has Arthritis. I ended up getting two samples of this, so I gave the first one to a coworker. She couldn’t say enough about it.

    The Giraffe Razor Extension Handle is available for $29.99 on Amazon.com and Giraffebathandbody.com, and select Bed Bath and Beyond retailers.

    Sample 4: Kind Notes

    Their description: “Warm their heart and brighten their day with a beautiful glass jar filled with thoughtful and uplifting messages to open anytime they need a pick-me-up. Crafted with love, each jar is filled with 31 unique messages enclosed in decorative miniature envelopes for the recipient to open each day or anytime.”

    Review: These were a really cute idea and the first thing I did when they arrived was walk the jar around to each of my coworkers and told them to pick a note. Some of them opened them in front of me and some didn’t. They messages on the inside of the envelopes were syrupy sweet and, while perhaps corny, it could have made someone’s day.

    Kind Notes are available for purchase at www.kindnotes.com and they come in a variety of styles and for all occasions.

    Sample 5: Fla-Ver Candy

    Their description: “With years of experience in the “kids” candy industry, we set out to create a candy line for the inner kid in all of us “grown-ups.” One made with natural flavors and colors. Small batch, artisan crafted, these Fla-Ver candies are gluten free treats you can enjoy without the guilt. The “Flavers” range from traditional mint to foodie inspired for the more adventurous taste buds.”

    Review: These candies remind of something that would come out of the Jetsons cartoon show. Each candy is a small white round ball-shaped treat with unique flavor choices. They come in rosemary mint, cherry, pineapple jalapeño, popcorn, lime chipotle, and peppermint. The flavors catch you off guard in a good way. My favorite was the pineapple jalapeño.

    The Fla-Ver Candy idea started as a Kickstarter project and they can now be purchased on Amazon or at www.flavermints.com.

    Sample 6: Parchminum

    Their description: “COOKINA’s new product, Parchminum, is a reusable cooking and presentation sheet that combines the things we love about parchment paper and aluminum foil. Given its clean design, Parchminum was created to take you from the oven to the table - just cook directly on Parchminum without using oils or non-stick sprays, and then use to serve on the dinner table without having to dirty any additional dishes. It is 100% non-stick, PFOA-free and heat resistant up to 550 degrees Fahrenheit.”

    Review: First of all, the name is really fun isn’t it? Parchminum. I brought this home to try out and ended up baking a small batch of cookies. It was easy to clean, worked well with what I was using it for and I reused it another time for some other cooking adventure I had going. The only indifferent thing I would say about it was that if you keep it in the ring it comes with, it can be difficult to get it to lie down right away.

    Parchminum can be purchased on Amazon or at cooking.co / products/cookina-parchminum for around $20.

    Sample 7: Fake Bake

    Their description: “Just because the fall season is upon us doesn’t mean you can’t maintain your summer glow! Tan and tailgate with Fake Bake’s newest tanning phenomenon. The Flawless Coconut Tanning Serum is a bronzing hybrid that will give you that highly sought-after glow celebrities rock all year around.”

    Review: I’m always skeptical about bronzers and self-tanners because they either turn my skin orange or a weird brown color. This one turned out to be a nice even faux tan and the serum smelled really good. I would use this again if I ever get the privilege of going somewhere that I needed a quick fix.

    Fake Bake is offered a lot of places online such as Amazon and Ulta.com. and runs for about $31 for the 5 oz can.

    Sample 8: BET Vodka

    Their description: “BET Vodka is distilled entirely from sugar beets - making it a refreshingly unexpected ingredient from the typical potato, wheat and corn varieties. Working with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, two millennial, Ben Brueschoff and Jared Poling, received a grant to pursue their passion, research it and craft a unique luxury drink. The two pioneers sealed the deal on BET, branding the idea from concept to packaging and into the hands of select restaurants, bars and liquor establishments in the Twin Cities. From farm field to local cooperative sugar beets are harvested and processed into granulated beet sugar, then dissolved into water and nutrients, fermented for up to two weeks, distilled no less than three times, blended with filtered water, and passed through active carbon to create a premium-pour. The taste is smooth on the front, with peppered spice on the back, and a hint of vanilla essence: It’s full of heart and made for sharing.”

    Review: First of all, what could be better than getting a free sample of liquor? Am I right? Second, during quitting time at the office when we decided to try this, I was quickly reminded that it had been a while since I had bartended. I mixed them a bit strong, but you could tell right away this product packed a punch. It’s a unique option to the same old shelf vodka and if I were in a bar or restaurant I would ask for it.

    You can learn more about BET Vodka at www.betvodka.com.

    Sample 9: Chalk Ink Markers

    Their description: “Make this holiday bold, festive and colorful with Chalk Ink, the perfect stocking stuffer for those creative artists on your holiday list! Chalk Ink markers are the ideal tool for drawing and blending incredible pieces of art without the mess of traditional chalk. Add a splash of creativity to homemade gift wrapping or spruce up your home and holiday party decor with these bright, decorative Chalk Ink colors!”

    Review: They’re fun on windows. I decided to try one out on the window next to my desk and found it wrote a lot better than some of the other markers I’ve purchased in the past.

    Chalk Ink markers are available at www.chalkink.com with a variety of prices and packages.

    Sample 10: Frogglez Goggles

    Their description: “Now you and your family can put all your focus and energy into your diving and breaststroke because Made By My Dad created Frogglez Goggles, the most comfortable goggles in the world! Other goggles tend to slip off your head and get tangled in your hair, but Frogglez Goggles’ patented soft neoprene strap is far more superior and more comfortable than competitors. Even those with the most sensitive skin can wear them because Frogglez Goggles are always latex free, Phthalates-free, Lead-free and Formaldehyde-free!”

    Review: My daughter absolutely loves these goggles. They’re comfortable, they won’t pinch your ears, their for kids to adults, they float, they’re easy to put on and they come in fun colors.

    Frogglez Goggles are available at all kinds of places like Target or Walmart, or you can get them on www.madebymydad.com for around $20.

    Stay tuned for the second half of my samples column soon!