Monday, February 8, 2021

Pandemic Discoveries: Dryer Balls Actually Work

What does a travel writer do during a travel-inhibiting pandemic? Well, lots of things can be done at home… solo! All of a sudden, I found myself looking forward to such mundane tasks as folding laundry. But my laundry came out of the dryer with sheets of Kleenex sticking to jeans and dog hair decorating my boring grey sweatpants. Folding laundry wasn’t as satisfying as I hoped it would be.


Advice Ignored

Over the years I heard that you should put tennis balls in the dryer to keep wrinkles down. I ignored that and tried dryer sheets. While dryer sheets were great to reduce static, it was recommended that you not use them for man-made fabrics, and, thanks to their low cost and easy care, I had plenty of these synthetic wonders. And, besides, the scents were overwhelming. (I can smell my neighbors’ dryer sheets when I sit outside on my patio and they live two houses away!)


And then I started hearing more and more about wool dryer balls. The claims were endless. They:

  • Cut drying time by a third
  • Clothing came out with less wrinkles
  • Things like Kleenex and dog hair wouldn’t stick to the fabrics
  • Laundry doesn’t stick together
  • They were inexpensive and could be used for about 1,000 loads before needing to be replaced
  • They are not harmful to the environment or your skin


So how do they work and why didn’t I try them before? Dryer balls tumble between the layers of your washing and separate the fabrics. This action allows warm air to circulate better which can even help reduce drying time. This bouncing around in the dryer also helps fight wrinkles, prevents static and softens clothes.


Testing, Testing

So, since I wasn’t traveling, I decided to add a bag of wool dryer balls to my Amazon order. After all, if they didn’t work, I could return them. Amazon has been good about that. Since I am an Amazon Prime member, they arrived the next day.


Into the washer went jeans, t-shirts, towels, cloth napkins and socks. The cute cotton bag the balls came in directed that I should use 5-6 balls for large loads. I opted for 4, as a test. It took me a few minutes to get used to the soft sound of the balls bouncing around but when I checked the load…. It was already dry!


I pulled out each item and noticed that Kleenex sheets fell away from the jeans (I have a life-long problem remembering to check pockets before I do laundry), there was very little dog hair, all fabrics were less wrinkled and the static was pretty much gone. I was sold!


The Down Side of Dryer Balls

In an attempt to continue as an ethical journalist, I have to share both sides of the dryer ball story. There are a few things to know:

  • You will want to order new dryer balls after about 1,000 loads and if they start fraying.
  • Be super careful adding essential oils to the balls for a scent. One drop is OK and you will be instructed to use the oils when the load is on low heat, and almost done. If you douse your dryer balls with essential oils, you may just start a dryer fire!


Buy quality wool balls that are tightly made. Mine are made with wool from New Zealand and constructed in Nepal. I’m linking to my Amazon find and, yes, I get a teeny percentage if you purchase them through my page here (Thank you!).

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Favorite 2019 Instagram Travel Posts

2019 was a year of traveling the west. Many of these photographs have been used to illustrate articles on Wander With Wonder.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Head to Fairbanks to See the Aurora Borealis Now

Fairbanks is one of the best places on earth to experience the magic and beauty of the Northern Lights. Fairbanks’ renowned aurora viewing lures people from all over the world during the Aurora Season from August 21 to April 21. The community’s location is ideal for northern lights viewing because it is directly under the “Auroral Oval”—a ring-shaped zone over the far north where aurora activity is concentrated. Additionally, low precipitation in Fairbanks contributes to consistently clear nights. All combined these variables make the Fairbanks region an outstanding destination for possible aurora viewing.


The Aurora Tracker

Due to the fact that Fairbanks is an obvious choice for northern lights viewing, Explore Fairbanks has built the Aurora Tracker for the website to assist visiting chasers. The Aurora Tracker correlates three individual streams of data in order to predict northern lights viewing opportunities for six locations in the Fairbanks region. Data streams include aurora forecast data from the Geophysical Institute, weather forecast data for specific northern lights viewing locations, and the number of daylight hours. The aurora will be visible in Fairbanks an average of four out of five nights when the sky is clear and dark enough. Visitors who stay a minimum of three nights and are actively out during the late evening hours increase their chance of seeing the aurora by more than 90 percent.

The solar wind occurs daily and is the wellspring of most aurora activity. Additionally, there are occasional solar storms, correlated with sunspots and the 11-year solar cycle, that also create auroras. Because of our far north position under the “Auroral Oval,” Fairbanks is not impacted by the 11-year solar cycle that affects aurora viewing in other parts of the world. “Since any auroral activity, even at the lowest level, is visible from Fairbanks, observing is not affected by the solar cycle,” said Don Hampton, Research Assistant Professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute.

Seeing the Aurora Borealis

There are many intriguing ways for visitors to chase the aurora in Fairbanks. They can drive to a nearby vantage point and wait for them to appear, view them from a heated “aurorium” cabin or lodge away from the city, see them on a dog sled adventure, or even on a tour farther north above the Arctic Circle. Many lodging properties in Fairbanks offer a wake-up call to alert guests when the lights are out. Once visitors have witnessed the aurora, they can stop by the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in downtown Fairbanks for a free, personalized aurora certificate from Explore Fairbanks. There are no guarantees, but the longer visitors are here, the better their chances of seeing a great light show.

Information and photo courtesy: Explore Fairbanks

Friday, August 9, 2019

Santa Fe Music Week: Jazz, Mariachis, Opera, and More

Music lovers can look forward to a week of music in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Jazz, pop, mariachi, opera, country, classical, folk, Latin rock and more! Tunes of all styles and genres will be drifting through the air later this month with Santa Fe Music Week, which returns August 23 through September 2, 2019. 

Attendees will experience 10 days of live music from national headlining artists and local favorites in venues like the Santa Fe Opera, The Lensic Performing Arts Center, the Santa Fe Plaza bandstand, Santa Fe Railyard, restaurants, and bars. Entertainment will be a combination of free and paid performances.

New for 2019, music lovers can pick up a free Santa Fe Music Week lanyard that gets you drink discounts at many of the music venues around town. It also waves any cover charge for live music and has a calendar of events on the back where the lanyard is valid. You can get a free lanyard at any of the Santa Fe Visitor Centers or participating lanyard locations. The lanyard discounts are only valid during Santa Fe Music Week at participating locations.
Lanyard partner locations include Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery, Meow Wolf, Cowgirl BBQ, Santa Fe Brewing Co., Bar Alto, Eloisa Restaurant, Mine Shaft Tavern, and Violet Crown.

Highlights of Santa Fe Music Week 2019 will include appearances by Grammy Award-winning artists, Ringo Starr, Boz Scaggs and Kacey Musgraves at the Santa Fe Opera. Free mariachi performances will bring culture to life weekdays on the Plaza from 3-4 p.m. and groups including The Red Elvises, Shake Alert, Baracutanga, Stephanie Hatfield and Sim Balkey will take the stage free on the plaza from 5:30-7 p.m. nightly. Additional Music Week highlights include The Platinum Music Awards, the final two performances of the Santa Fe Opera 2019 season, AMP Railyard concerts and the Mariachi Extravaganza.

Additional performers, dates, and ticket pricing information for Santa Fe Music Week is available on the event website