How to Clean Sterling Silver if yours is Turning Grey, White, Black!

There’s nothing worse then pulling a cherished piece of silver jewelry out and finding it’s turned black, grey, white or yellow.  Trying to figure out how to clean silver it  can be tough.That colour is called tarnish and it’s the bane of any silver-lover.

I love making sterling silver jewelry in my spare time. Occasionally I take on custom-made jewelry requests. But I recently had a customer write me to say a necklace I’d made for him had turned black after just a couple weeks.  He was surprised and thought something was wrong with the piece. Though it can look unsightly if not cared for properly, tarnish is a normal and natural process with sterling silver. But once tarnish or blackening is there, how can you clean silver?

What causes Tarnish?

A well-used silver polishing cloth.

A well-used silver polishing cloth.

When silver tarnishes, it’s a surface discolouration  caused by the interaction of oxygen (air) with the silver. As the British Assay Office explains it, “silver naturally interacts with oxygen and sulphur-bearing pollutants to create silver sulphide, resulting in a visible discoloration of the metal’s surface. Silver tarnishes in environments containing various sulphuric gases, even in very low concentration. The amount of tarnishing is determined by the relative humidity, ambient temperature, gas concentration, and the length of time the silver is exposed to the gases.”

With sterling silver this process is normal, natural, expected, and yes, it can occur relatively quickly.

Many things can speed tarnish; air pollution, the minerals in your water (and as such, wearing your silver jewelry in the shower can speed this process too), living or working near a chemical, electric or manufacturing plant, or even in proximity to a gas starion are all things that can cause discolouration more quickly.

Recent studies have shown tarnish develops microscopically within hours of being cleaned and exposed to air again.  You may not see it on the piece for several days or weeks, but it’s there, and will show up as a black residue on a polishing cloth.

How to clean silver

A great way to keep seldom worn jewelry clean (and silverware if you have it), is to store sterling silver in a ziplock bag with all the air squeezed or rolled out of it.  You can wrap it in a soft cloth first too.  Oxygen and thus tarnish may still seep in and can still cause blackening especially if the pieces are stores for long periods of time, but it should keep things to a minimum. Another great way to keep jewelry tarnish free?  Wear it!  Constant contact with the silver keeps tarnish from building up.

Chemicals can cause tarnish

Chemically tarnished rings. Oops!Coincidentally at the same time as this customer contacted me,  I had a friend show me some rings I’d made for her.  The shiny sterling silver had turned a deep, dark black (photo at left).  This was no tarnish effect, and she admitted she’d immersed her baubles in some household cleaner (Lysol) to spruce them up.  Instead, they’d become instantly and deeply chemically oxidized.

Now, she actually liked this look and referred to it as ‘edgy’, so she’s leaving them as they are for now.  If she did want them restored it should be a relatively simple process of buffing the chemical scarring off the surface layer, and exposing clean shiny silver beneath.

Don’t experiment with cleaning silver using household cleaners!

But this also serves as a leaning moment; only soap and water, silver polish, or a silver polishing cloth should be used to clean your silver jewelry.  Many household cleaners and chemicals can alter your precious silver.  In fact, I once had a ring turn bronze after accidentally spritzing window cleaner on it, and had other silver turn grey by getting baking soda onto it.  That too buffed out, but you’ll want to be careful with your jewelry.  Chemicals can also permanently damage certain stones like topaz, opal and more, so don’t experiment; you run the risk of really doing permanent damage.

How to Clean Silver and Remove Tarnish-> Get this Inexpensive Polishing ClothSUNSHINE MINI.JPG

If you do find some discolouration of your silver, you can remove it with a silver cloth (brand names include Sunshine Cloth, which is available inexpensively from me,  HERE or HERE). If that won’t work, stop while you’re ahead and take it to a pro for professional help.

A Note about Grocery Store Silver Cleanser

I’ve purchased cleansers from grocery stores that just don’t work.  If you’re going to get a cleanser from somewhere other than a jewelry professional, test it first on a small area.  If the cleaner doesn’t remove tarnish instantly, it’s not working.  Proper liquid silver cleaners will remove all tarnish in about 3 seconds.  Fresh new polishing cloths.If you need to soak, or scrub, stop using it, rinse your silver, and return the cleaner to where you bought it and get your money back. (Keep your receipt!)

For the jewelry ‘geeks’, the Government of Canada has written a helpful article about how to best care for your silver.  Read it here.

 

 

Have you got a horror story – or a home remedy for tarnish?  Post your comments below!

 

Reviewing ASUS Pocket Projector

ASUS Zenbeam E1 2As technology continues shrinking, new categories of home entertainment are also finding ways to make smaller and smaller components. Take home theatre projectors, for instance. They used to require a suitcase and a weight belt to cart them around, but that’s changing with the introduction of pico or pocket projectors from several manufacturers.

ASUS is one of the first to make a consumer-ready mini projector for home theatre or business/portable use.

I had a chance to test and review the ASUS ZenBeam E1 Pocket Projector (coming soon to Best Buy) over several weeks in my home.

What’s a Pico/pocket projector?

Pico projectors are tiny battery powered projectors that are portable. They are often connected to streaming devices, mobile devices, laptops, or other home entertainment components.

They’ve actually been around for several years, but thanks to their costs coming down, they are gaining popularity and familiarity among home theatre enthusiasts.

Getting Started with the ZenBeam E1

It was not easy to learn how to use this device. The small Quick Start Guide provides no help in how to use the device itself, aside from getting it plugged in. The buttons on the back of the projector are not labelled very intuitively, so it’s hard to know what does what.

The Quick Start guide lists Asus.com/support as the place to download e-manuals, but after spending 15 minutes searching the site and Google, I still didn’t have a manual in hand. Frustrating. Similarly, a social media inquiry went unanswered.

The full review of the ASUS ZenBeam E1 was done for Best Buy Canada. Please click here to read the full review. Or watch the video version below. Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel if you like video and technology/gadgets!

Mpowerd inflatable lamp is fun & versatile

img_2756When we’re spending more time outdoors, decorating our outside space can be fun.

img_2755Whether you’re chilling in your backyard, or camping in the wilderness, you can spice up your space with a solar powered space saving lantern, like this one from Mpowerd.
The Luci light comes flat-packed; you blow it up with lung power, then let it get juiced in the sun.  Once it’s ready, you can select any number of colours, and the sparkly skin of the lamp makes for a subtle and interesting glow. I’ve been using it outside on the deck, but it also looks chic inside on a side table or as part of a centrepiece for your next dinner party.  When you need to store it, deflate the lamp and pack it away.

I found the lamp took quite some time to charge up in the sun (Mpowerd’s website says 7-8 hours, or 2 full days if it’s cloudy, which for me is way too long), and it was necessary to keep it anchored to something so it wouldn’t blow away or turn over.  The light is said to last for 12 hours, but I found it was more like 8.luci-color.gif

I wanted to leave this outside, turned on, so that it would come on at night, then recharge in the day, but it doesn’t really work like that.  It really needs to fully charged while turned off, so it’s not so much a dusk-to-dawn option as I might have liked. Nonetheless it’s a fun party light, and it’s waterproof and it floats so it’s also a fun option for the pool, hot tub or koi pond. They retail for $24 USD.

I’ve tried out some more fun garden gadgets too this season. Read about them here.

 

3 amazing volcanic parks in the Pacific Northwest

Parks are more than picnic tables and trees. America is fortunate to have several amazing places where the word ‘park’ just doesn’t do enough to describe the eye candy you’ll find.  The US is home to several preserves with a truly interesting volcanic and geologic pedigree.

The sights you see at volcanic National Parks and Monuments include towering triangular cinder cones, crumbly piles of lava stretching across expansive fields, and even bubbling mudpots and boiling water. I took a two week roadtrip recently through many of these parks and can’t get over all there is to see and do.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

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The leading edge of the lava field.

This amazing park, located in the northeastern corner of California is filled with amazing features.  Start your visit at the charmingly rustic wood and stone cottage that doubles as a visitor centre and get some hints about what to do from a ranger.  While you’re there, you can see archival photographs of an eruption captured in progress, back when taking photographs was a labourious minutes-long process, and check out the tiny outbuilding that houses an old seismograph.

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Can you spot the tiny people climbing the cone?

There are several short hikes and walks where you can check out mountain lakes or more dynamic geological features, but be warned; some of the roads are closed well into June due to snow. One of the big lures here, Bumpass Hell, features “boiling springs and mud pots, hissing steam vents, and roaring fumaroles,” according to tourism California. However snow on the trail to this spot meant it was strictly off limits to tourists the week  I visited.

Instead, we made due with another breathtaking climb.  One of the highlights of this park where I spent a day was hiking through pine forest, paralleling a massive lava field and some painted hills, to climb a volcanic cinder cone, then get down into the inside of the crater.

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This is what the inside of a volcano looks like!

This hike is a long time going up, and a quick ride down.  The trek begins with a walk in shifting volcanic sand, deeply scattered through a tall, wide, and thus bakingly hot pine forest. While it’s just a 4 mile hike, it’ll take you at least a couple hours.  That’s mainly because the forest walk amounts to a beach or dune hike thanks to the soft sand, and because once you start to climb the cone, the black and rocky sand is doubly deep and for every step you take upwards, you slide back half a step.

Once at the top the views are stunning; snow-capped mountains in the distance, rippled hills at the base that look as if they’ve been dotted with pastel colours from an artists palette, plus a craggy charcoal rockfall of lava scattered like jagged marbles as far as the eye can see.

If you want to camp in this park, be warned that even in slower months like June, it’s booked solid during the week.

Another easily accessible site to see is Sulphur Works. Located right off the side of the road, with a parking lot carved out nearby, is a bubbling mud pit and steaming fumaroles. The mud and water mixture tumbles through the mountain valley, and falls under the road as it meanders towards oblivion.

You’ll know you found the right spot when the steamy scent of hot sulphur, not unlike rotten eggs, wafts through the vehicle and assails your nostrils. You can park and walk over to the big mud pot, which is more active in the spring, thanks to lots of runoff.

Newbury National Volcanic  Monument

img_3624-1You’re unlikely to find this park in a lot of the guidebooks.  While this volcanic park takes up a lot of real estate, it flies under the radar, but it’s definitely worth the trip. Located just off US highway 97 in the Deschutes National Forest just south of Bend Oregon, this park is minutes from a major city but feels like a world away.

The park has a visitor center which butts up against a large cinder cone with a winding pathway travellers can stroll.  It’s a good climb, with beautiful views from the top. But the best experience I had was miles away from the crowds.  We asked a ranger for a great off-the-grid (but still vehicle accessible) campsite, and were rewarded with a spot just feet from the remnants of a massive ancient lava flow.

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That’s not a hill; we’re camped at the base of a massive lava fall.

Several miles from the visitor center, up an unmarked dirt road, and in the thick forest, we found a large clearing; the site of an old logging camp, according to the ranger.  Steps from where the trees thinned to form a circle, was a massive wall of haphazardly piled rocks. This was the leading edge of the ‘Newbury Flow’, a massive lava flow that cooled and crumbled even as it was pushed forward, leaving now heaps of crumbled sponge-toffee-looking black rocks. It made quite the spectacular backdrop for our remote camp.

We hiked a couple of times to the top of the pile, which is probably 2-5 storeys tall in various places, and the rocks are loose and sharp. But the views from the top are spectacular; you can only see charcoal coloured lava rock all the way to the horizon. Gnarled trees cling to whatever small dustings of soil have gathered in the pockets in the rock, but otherwise vegetation is nearly non existent across the flow, making it look like an otherworldly landscape.

The Newbury park’s big attraction is a giant lava tube cave, the Lava River Cave, which is one of the longest in the world.  It’s a good couple hours to hike it, so we passed.  But for cavers, it’s a big draw. We did, however, make time to hike the short rocky trail called Big Obsidian Flow. Obsidian is a shiny black rock that’s essentially volcanic glass. (As a hobby silversmith and jeweler, I geeked out on the geology of this, and loved seeing massive obsidian boulders in their natural habitat)

The climb up some steel stairs is easy enough, and the short loop trail has some plaques to help you understand what you’re seeing. Seeing what looks like giant chunks of black diamonds glinting in the sun is surreal.  While it’s tempting, taking souvenirs is verbotten.

Crater Lake National Park

img_3682It’s a massive tourist draw for a reason; Crater Lake National Park may look like a puddle on a map, but the massive sky-high volcanic lake cupped in the Oregon Cascades mountains will have you feeling like you’ve climbed to the top of the world.

The highway is frustratingly slow, clogged with vehicles, RVs and cyclists.  Make peace with that quickly, since your traffic situation won’t improve the entire time you’re in the park. The snowfall remnants along the road are impressive; the drifts and piles tower meters overhead, a testament to just how much snow falls here each winter. (In the Lodge overlooking the crater there are archival photos that show it’s not unusual for the lodge to be entirely buried in the winter, with the roof barely visible.)

In June when I was in the park, much of the road that circumnavigates the crater was shut down because it hasn’t been cleared.  As with the other parks in this list, if it’s important to see certain sites or features, you’ll want to make sure they’ll be accessible when you plan to visit. That’ll likely be July and August, but you will need to compete with the higher volumes of tourists then. We were able to drive about half the road, and had beautiful vistas from several viewpoints along the rim. The photo opps here are stunning.

Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States at 1,943 feet, but for many years before it could be properly plumbed, it was thought to be bottomless. The water is pristine and blue, but don’t get the idea you can dip a toe in it’s glacial coldness; sheer cliffs with a jagged drop mean visitors can’t get close to the water easily.

“Crater Lake rests in the belly of a dormant volcano,” says nps.gov, “The volcano once stood 12,000 feet tall, but it collapsed after a major eruption 7,700 years ago. Later eruptions formed Wizard Island, a cinder cone that rises from the water. The park has an abundance of fascinating volcanic features, including a second rocky island, the Phantom Ship.”

You’ll need a warm coat to spend any time up here even in summer. My best advice is to plan to get here early, and make peace with fighting the hordes through the afternoon, and really take time to enjoy all this volcanic park has to offer. If you don’t have a reservation months in advance, don’t even think you’ll get a camp spot near the crater.

Bonus Park: Craters of the Moon National Monument

I’ve previously written about another amazing volcanic park, Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho.  It’s a staggering landscape, and a mind-bending visit.  Read more about it here.

Have I missed checking out a volcanic National Park that you really enjoyed? Let me know in comments below or on Twitter @ ErinLYYC.

Amazing technology in sports headphones

xs_Red_Jabra_Sport_Coach_Lifestyle_01-970-80They may be just small speakers for your ears, but there’s a dizzying array of headphones out there. From on-ear, to over-ear and ear buds, to wireless, there are all kinds of different specialized headphones available to consumers.

Recently a new category of headphones has emerged: Sports headphones. Let’s take a look at what they’re designed to do and the special features that makes them perfect for athletes and active types.

What are ‘Sports’ headphones?


There’s not much mystery in buying a Sports headphone; for the most part, the word will appear prominently on the package. Sports headphones are made to adapt to many active situations, and often have the following characteristics:

-water/sweat resistance
-cushioned foam holding earbuds in, or clips, loops or bands that can help keep headphones from falling out of/off of your ears
-noise cancellation/sound isolation
-wireless options

But sports headphones also come with some pretty high tech options, like the ability to read your hear rate via your ear canal, in-ear coaching or workout instructions and the ability to block out your gym’s noise. To read about the cool new features, read the full article I wrote for Best Buy’s Plug In blog.

 

Napier Sportz Truck-bed Tent Review

Getting out of the city, away from the job and into the outdoors can really make you feel relaxed. That’s why I love camping. I can turn off my mobile, light a fire, and sit and contemplate the stars.

I’ve been a tenter from the beginning; no fancy RV’s for me! I’ve had a couple different tents over the years, and had a hand in setting up even more for tag-along friends and family, so I was excited to try out a whole new type of tent. The Napier Sportz Two-person Truck Tent was along for the ride as I took a two-week road trip through the northwestern USA.

Napier Truck tent featuresnapier tent poles
The Napier Sportz Truck Tent fits into the box of a pickup truck, and has straps that keep it anchored and in place. The tent is tall enough to stand up in, and has three large, wide windows with both screens and covers, plus a wide door opening at the tailgate. There’s also an included gear loft, plus a rain fly. A couple of pockets on the inside also allow you to stash small items where you can reach them easily.

There are some major considerations with this tent, including some potential limitations, and some trouble I had with the tent poles splitting. As this review was published on the Best Buy Plug In blog, please click here to read the full review, or watch the video review below.

Parrot Minidrones WINNERS!

parrot raceOn CTV Tech Talk  last week I told you how you could win one of two parrot minidrones. PLEASE NOTE THE CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. 

Congratulations to winners Shelley Parry and Jack McCullough.

 

parrot minidrone
The Fine Print:
There are two minidrones to be won, supplied by Parrot Canada/ Casacom. I’ll pick one winner at random from among all the social media and website entries. The contest is open for THREE DAYS – Only 1 entry per person, per day please; duplicate entries will be discarded. Contest closes at 11:59pm MT July 14, 2016. Odds of winning depend on the number of entries received. Not valid in Quebec.
Each winner will receive 1 prize. Prize will be shipped direct to the winner by Parrot Canada/Casacom. ErinLYYC.com bears no responsibility for prizes not delivered, delayed or misdirected, or not claimed after 30 days. This prize has no cash value.
I’ll get in touch with the winner via the email address supplied on entry or at WordPress comment registration. Winner must respond to an email naming them as the winner within 24 hours. Non-response within 24 hours, and I’ll redraw under same  24 hour timeframe until I get a winner’s response.
Winner’s name(s) will be posted to this website and/or social media after the drawing.
If for any reason the Internet portion of the Contest is not capable of running as planned, including infection by computer virus, bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures or any other causes beyond the control of this website which corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity or proper conduct of this Contest, ErinLYYC reserves the right at its sole discretion to disqualify any individual who tampers with the entry process, and to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Contest. Prize may not be exactly as show in accompanying photographs.
By entering this contest you agree you have read and accept the rules and are to abide by them.

3 Lamps and lights perfect for camping

Lighting is important when you’re out in the wilderness. Flashlights are a must, and headlamps are handy, but you need options that aren’t just burning-the-eyes-out bright.

I tested three new lighting gadgets on a recent road trip through the northwestern US and found each of them handy.

Brunton Lightwave Amp Speaker & Lantern

When camping, you need to minimize gear, so it helps if you have gadgets that do double-duty. The Brunton Lightwave Amp is both a lantern and a portable speaker. The lantern part of it has a fully bright or dimmed white light, plus it connects to your smartphone so you can also change its colour to any hue you choose. The free app is also used to connect to the speaker that’s built into the base of the lamp. The audio quality isn’t what you’d call pristine, but for something you’re taking on the road or into the woods, it sounds just fine to my ears.

The lantern part is a good sized device; it’s abut the same size as a ‘standard’ Coleman lantern. I really liked the colour changing abilities of the lantern and often put it on a subtle purple, or red or blue, which seemed not to draw bugs. The brightest setting was enough to cook or even read by, while the dim setting cast a subtle glow.

NiteIze Mini Glowstick

img_3647This tiny light resembling a light sabre from Star Wars is light, portable and provides enough light for tasks that need more subtle illumination.  I found it infinitely handy for taking night photos, as it lights up the camera body well so I can read the buttons, without the bright eye-searing glare of a traditional white flashlight. The Glowstick base twists to turn it on and off and it has a long lasting LED bulb, so it won’t drain the battery too quickly. I used it on a two week roadtrip nightly and it’s still going strong. NiteIze says it’ll run 60 hours on the 4 included AG-3 batteries, which you can replace when they die. They come in several colours and for the whopping $3 they cost, you can get a set and hand them out to the family.img_3926

BONUS! I also was able to use these sticks to do some interesting night photos.  If you’ve ever heard of the steel wool light trick, you can do something similar with the Glowstick; just clip the included caribiner on one of these to a rope and spin it  for some fun photo opportunities!

Biolite NanoGrid multi-light kit

This genius device is two lights on one… well, maybe even three.  The nerve centre of the gadget is the small lantern. It has a soft rounded shape that distributes light evenly and without bright spots.  Then, in the flat base of the lantern, a directional flashlight that casts a bright beam over a good long distance. You can even have both ends of the lantern on at the same time.

The other part of the light that I absolutely love is a pair of overhead lamps that you can string on a clothesline or a tree to provide overhead light easily.  I found this section and its long braided cable very handy for suspending over a picnic table during food prep. It give you more of a flood of light as opposed to narrower glaringly bright areas with some camp lanterns. The NanoGrid is also available from Best Buy .

Biolite Campstove

rsz_biolite_recropBiolite’s super-versatile CampStove lets you cook, generate heat, or create your own portable power all with sticks, twigs and biomass that you can find at any camp spot.  The ultra-portable stove can boil water in about 6 minutes, and with different adaptive pieces (not included) you can even grill on it.  A handy light on a flexible gooseneck shaft helps you see what you’re doing in the dark, and it’s powered by the heat generated by the stove. It’s great for backpackers, or campers who aren’t ready or willing to invest in a big heavy Coleman-type stove yet.

Need to see for yourself how it works? Watch the video!


Do you know of a camping gadget or lighting option I should check out on my next visit to the forest? Let me know in comments below!

Follow Erin on Instagram and Twitter @ErinLYYC

Volcanos, National Parks & world-class cities – a 16-day camping road trip

map trip

85 hours in a vehicle isn’t everyone’s idea of a great vacation.  I spent 15 days driving from Calgary to San Francisco this summer and saw some amazing sights, several national parks and forests, climbed a volcano, ate amazing food in San Fran, hung out with hipsters and saw some baseball. Plus we survived having the sprinklers turned on at our campsite in a local city campground in Washington, and saw stars and the milky way in a night sky devoid of and light bleed from big cities.

Watch the blog for stories about some of these amazing places and experiences over the next weeks; there are some stunningly beautiful, fascinating and interesting places across the US northwest and Canada.

No time for yard work? Get a robot lawnmower

This has to be one of the coolest and most useful gadgets I’ve ever had the pleasure of testing.  Husqvarna’s robotic lawnmower, called the Automower.

The small rectangular device is abut the size of a standard lawn mower, but has no handle. One other key difference? it operates almost completely silently!  The only sound you can hear while it’s running is a soft whir and the clipping of the grass.The Automower benefits from a professional installation; mine was done by local Husqvarna dealers Alberta Forest & Garden. A ‘track’ of rubber-coated copper wire is laid in the grass and spiked in tightly. Then the mower operates within its boundaries.


The robot mower will be mulching my lawn for the next few weeks – watch for a full review here on the blog, and it’ll get demonstrated on an upcoming CTV Tech Talk. I’ll also talk about how you keep it from being stolen, and how you can get it to cut your front lawn AND your back yard, even if the grass doesn’t connect.

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Do you have questions about the mower; how it works, whether it might be right for you? Let me know in comments below!