BraceletStreet offers accessible necklace manageable by arthritic hands

I like to wear a little jewelry even when I’m “only” visible to my household. The pandemic hasn’t affected my daily wardrobe at all!

Rings, watches, and most bracelets feel to me as if they interfere with my daily activities, but earrings and necklaces make me happy. Adding a little sparkle—and even more color—to an outfit is something I do for myself, not to show off or impress others.NZ capsule wardrobe jewelry - 1

Yet another annoying side effect of systemic arthritis is the sometimes unpredictable stiffness in my fingers that makes tiny clasps difficult to manage. It’s no accident that all the earrings in my photo above are hooks that don’t require attaching itty bitty backs!

Add slightly paranoid tendencies to even mild physical disability, and I can end up feeling frantic* about a necklace that I can’t get off when I want it gone. This scenario triggers my claustrophobia, in fact.

For this reason—and because my only simple, black vinyl? pendant cord c. 1994? recently broke, leaving me with no aesthetically pleasing option for wearing a favorite amber bead—I went looking for a replacement with an easier to manipulate clasp. I wanted to upgrade to a thin, genuine leather strap with a magnetic fastener.

Et voilà!

Bracelet Street 15" black leather 3mm necklace with magnetic claspI turned to Etsy, though I often struggle on that site to identify actual self-employed artisans vs. foreign outfits with unknowable labor practices. I ended up buying two leather necklaces with magnetic fasteners made by Bracelet Street USA, a woman-owned business in Kentucky if I’m reading their About page right. I’ve had no personal contact with this company aside from making the single online purchase.

First, allow me to admit that I feel like an utter fool for having waited this long to seek out more manageable jewelry clasps. Obviously, it could be costly or impossible to retrofit a large collection of mostly inexpensive, costume jewelry, but there was nothing preventing me from making this useful discovery except my own lack of attention.

Sometimes, the steady barrage of failures that come from living with autoimmune disease can prevent me from even trying new solutions that turn out to be easy fixes.

When everyday life confronts you constantly with “trivial” activities you can no longer manage for yourself, it is easy to become disheartened and just give up on stuff. This sometimes applies to things you love. Even silly little victories—like wearing a favorite pendant—enhance the texture of life’s fabric, and are worth pursuing.Pendant necklaces: amber bead on black cord, ammonite fossil pendant on brown cord, blue stone on bronze cord

For those with fully able bodies, some of the visible manifestations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can seem excessive or superfluous—“too many” empty handicapped spots in an otherwise packed lot, or the lift at the public pool that a healthy observer never sees used—but the reality is that, for those who have been cut off from so many common daily tasks, accommodations like these make the difference between feeling welcome to participate in the world at large…or not.

My new necklaces aren’t going to suddenly empower the disenfranchised or fundamentally change the world, but they do look nice, work precisely as they should, and offer me the dignity of doing one more thing for myself. That makes the purchase money well spent.Etsy order confirmation for two 3mm round leather necklaces with magnetic clasps

I ordered two magnetic clasp, 3mm diameter necklaces, one a #25 Natural Black (15 inch) and the other a #3 Bronze Metallic (18 inch), paying $26.56 including tax. I was sent a third (18 inch Metallic Tamba) for free as an unexpected “gift with purchase.”Bracelet Street 18" leather cord, magnetic clasp necklace with 3mm diameter in Metallic Tamba color

I’m assuming such little additions are par for the course with this company. Bracelet Street could have had no way of knowing I am a blogger** who might write about the purchase. I didn’t even login to my existing Etsy account since I was accessing the site from my phone instead of my desktop and I couldn’t remember the password. I wouldn’t have seemed like a special customer of any sort.

Bracelet Street USA shipped their products in sufficient, simple packaging that protected what was inside without creating too much superfluous waste. Each necklace came in a labeled mini zip top plastic pouch. I save these for use to keep earrings separate and chains untangled when I travel, so they will be re-used.

The inclusion of a hand-written thank you note made an impression on me, and very much increased my desire to share my positive experience with the company. I appreciate a human touch to my purchases, especially when I’m buying hand-crafted items online. I always hope I’m supporting small businesses with satisfied employees, but it can be so hard to tell who you’re doing business with on the web.

If you plan to wear an existing pendant with one of these magnetic clasp necklaces, be aware that I had to have a larger ring added to my amber bead in order for it to fit over either end of the Bracelet Street USA 3 mm leather necklace. The non-opening end of the simple metal “springring” clasp on my old vinyl cord was smaller.

Fortunately for me, my mother-in-law is a hobbyist jewelry maker, so it was easy for her to add a larger link to my pendant. Actually, I believe she gifted me all three of the pendants featured above on my new Bracelet Street necklaces. If, like me, you are buying magnetic clasp necklaces due to a lack of dexterity, you may need a friend or loved one to help you attach a larger bail to some of your own pieces to make them compatible with these thicker fasteners.Close up of Bracelet Street magnetic necklace clasp slot end

I would also like to add that the little bump or nubbin on the insertion side of the fastener is not a button requiring fine manipulation. I wasn’t sure how it worked when I first looked at it. The two ends of the magnetic closure will “snap” together on their own due to the magnet’s attraction, but you aren’t quite done when it does! A slight twisting motion slides the nubbin into the slot on the other side. This seems to provide extra security to what could otherwise be a “breakaway” clasp.

Breakaway jewelry might be ideal protection if you’re operating a lathe, but it’s kind of a bummer when you’re wearing the pendant great-grandma carried with her from the Old Country.

With a lightweight charm, I believe you could get away without the gentle twisting required to get the clasp fully closed, but I did have a heavier pendant (the ammonite fossil visible in my photo above) fall off into my lap before I’d quite mastered the fastening process. Since I learned to fully secure the clasps by twisting, this hasn’t happened again. To be clear, though, I rarely wear heavy jewelry as it exacerbates the discomfort from my systemic arthritis.

If you’re looking for a simple necklace that can be put on and taken off in spite of mild- to moderate-dexterity issues in your hands, I recommend those sold on Etsy by Bracelet Street USA. They are fairly priced, functional, and the company really seems to care about pleasing its customers. Each has a clean, simple aesthetic—appropriate for anyone, masculine or feminine—with 36 colors available in lengths ranging from 12 to 26 inches. I can’t speak to longevity after just a couple of weeks, but my initial impression of the three necklaces in my order is that they offer good quality for the price.

* Even my kids have been subject to my sudden demand to “help, help, help me get this off before I have to start yanking on it!” Since some of my jewelry was my departed mother’s finer stuff, ripping it apart would be less than ideal…

FYI, “Metallic Tamba” as a color name doesn’t mean much to me. I’d describe the shade as a multi-hued, warm-toned, mostly dark brown metallic melange

** Frankly, I’m also not a very significant blogger, so I’m not sure “knowing who I am” would have any effect on the way any merchant would treat me!

I had to look up the proper name for the round, metal circular fastener with the tiny lever you have to pull with a fingernail to open it, pulling an itsy bitsy wire out of the center of the hollow hoop. The internet told me it is a springring clasp, invented around 1921.

Trampoline exercise to ease chronic pain & stiffness

A mini trampoline probably won’t solve your chronic pain issues. My JumpSport 550fi rebounder* has not cured my autoimmune disease, nor did I expect it to. What it has done is offer me is an opportunity to rise up from my seat and move in a way that doesn’t aggravate my sensitive joints.Hardback library book on JumpSport fitness trampoline to show relative size

JumpSport 550fi specs

I ordered my fitness trampoline from Costco.com and received it in mid-July, 2020. I believe the JumpSport 550fi model sold by Costco is simply the manufacturer’s 550f model with the optional Handlebar accessory included.

Here are the specs if you’re interested in the same rebounder I have:JumpSport 550f/fi specs including price, size, weight

My JumpSport 550fi came with two workout DVDs and a one year subscription for additional streaming content. The former was at an intensity too high for someone with my health issues, and I never attempted to access the latter. Watching the instructor led exercises on the disc was helpful for getting ideas about how I might adapt moves to my own level, however.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m “bouncing my way to fitness,” but I am getting up off my backside and moving vigorously more often than I did without the trampoline. When even common, everyday tasks present you with physical challenges, this feels like a big win!

Recent studies suggest that even very sedentary people gain massive improvements in health and longevity from fairly small amounts of exercise. My personal goal is to always—every day, no matter how bad I feel—get my blood pumping on purpose for at least ten minutes. During pandemic lockdown, my fitness trampoline has become a key component in achieving that.

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One viciously toothed object is key to conquering the kitchen with arthritis

If my parents hadn’t bought a dowdy condo with an out of date kitchen configured for an elderly lady, I never would have discovered the single most useful object that empowers me to help myself to prepare food with my arthritic hands.

V shaped wooden jar opener screwed to bottom of upper cabinetIt’s a jar opener with a double row of teeth that might put a very small shark to shame. I found a modern one called a Gator Gripper online at SMC Woodworking in 2018. At $16.95 + shipping, I rate it a great bargain after many months of use.

There’s no brand name on my parents’ original jar opener, but it was screwed into dark brown stained cabinetry circa 1970. It could have been made by a friend or it might be a commercially manufactured object. The previous owner of the condo lived there for decades and the unit wasn’t sold until after her death. I’m just grateful that the lady bought this magic gripper because it makes any screw top a breeze to open, regardless of hand strength or manual dexterity.

Unless weakness of the hand makes it necessary for one to hold a jar with both, most people can easily open jars single-handedly with the Gator Gripper. Better yet, its design makes tiny lids as easy as large ones to grip. I’ve opened vitamin and nail polish bottles with this thing as well as water bottles, sauce jars, and home-canned mason jars. It works equally well gripping plastic and metal tops.

Opening bottles and jars safely before I remembered the probable burst of pain with which my hands would react was one of the longest lessons it took me to learn* when I developed autoimmune arthritis. I might be feeling fairly well, but the grip and squeeze and twist of a sealed jar almost always leads to lightening bolts of shock up multiple fingers.

Coffee bottle, Chameleon Cold Brew brand

Coffee trapped inside a glass prison!

Coffee bottle with screw top wedged into jar opener’s gripping teeth

The fight for liquid freedom!

Coffee bottle with lid off

Success for coffee lovers everywhere… in my kitchen

My husband has a more equivocal relationship with the jar opener than I do, though he’s the one that actually ordered the Gator Gripper for me. Now that one lives in our kitchen, he has trust issues. DH recognizes that I prefer being able do things for myself, and that being unable to get past a step as trivial as “open the jar” when cooking is demoralizing.

Then again, the jar opener does employ very sharp teeth to do its job, and DH is something of a pessimist. The design of the product is an open, inviting v-shape. It hangs, welcoming, beneath the upper cupboard near the fridge where I usually stand when I’m preparing food.

I see the jar opener as welcoming my tightly shut twist-off; DH sees it as welcoming unsuspecting fingers, hungry for human blood.

“Someone could cut himself,” my husband says doubtfully. “There’s nothing to prevent you from sticking your hand in there and slicing open a finger.”

It’s true. This is a grown up’s kitchen implement. Then again, I see very few of my visitors patting or probing the undersides of my upper cabinets when in my kitchen.

The Gator Gripper’s position more than four feet above the floor and over a countertop workbench is enough to ease my mind that visiting toddlers are unlikely victims. My own kids are plenty tall enough to reach it, but also plenty mature enough to understand that sawtoothed blades and phalanges don’t mix.

Large knife block full of Cutco knives

Warning: Knives are not toys

I figure, in a kitchen with a knife rack in plain sight, the jar opener represents only a minimal additional risk.

My parents sold their condo and moved back into a house when my mother couldn’t make the adjustment to a downsized life. They unscrewed that jar opener and brought it with them to their new home, however, and I’m grateful that they did.

There are minor renovations I would enjoy making in my own kitchen, but I can’t imagine any scenario in which I’d live without my jar opener going forward, save, perhaps, for the abolishment of all screwtops by executive order.

And, even then, I’d probably keep my trusty Gator Gripper tucked away under that cabinet just in case. After all, someone could show up with contraband. Prohibition taught us that plenty of bottles make their way around even after the most teetotaling fiat.

*The other contender for “why can’t I make this adjustment?” was opening heavy commercial doors. I’ve gotten much, much better and trained myself to always use the power/disabled access button where available, and I almost always remember to turn around and push doors with my back instead of using my hands and wrists now, but making this a habit took several years.

Children, First Class, disability & who “deserves” to sit where in an airplane

Because I at least try to be a considerate and thoughtful traveler, I regularly look up phrases to suggest “the best way” of doing things. One such example? Parents traveling in First Class whilst their children trail along in steerage a lesser service category.

What I find most fascinating about the search results is the concurrent expression of two opinions that lead inexorably to parent shaming without a solution:

  1. Children don’t belong in First Class unilaterally!, while
  2. Parents who “abandon” their kids in Economy while riding up front themselves are monstrous jerks who should be drawn and quartered (or at least shot.)

Essentially, the sum of those two arguments leads to the conclusion that parents ought never travel in First Class while their children are under age.

Here’s where I’ll swing back around to a point I’ve stressed on this blog before: I often purchase tickets in premium cabins because of my health. Chronic autoimmune illness makes that option more comfortable—but also safer and healthier—for me.

I live with chronic pain.

Every day, I probably ache in at least a few joints. Travel—otherwise one of my great joys—can make my symptoms worse. A larger, more adaptable seat does help. More room, easier access to a lavatory, and the simple comfort of a foot rest or extensible leg support makes the difference between a successful trip and a multi-hour torture chamber.

Note that the acquisition of a more comfortable seat is something I do in addition to taking the most powerful opioid painkillers I’ve got. In transit, I will still suffer more pain than my daily average with these interventions. I choose the world-expanding possibilities of travel in spite of the cost, but the calculus for any given trip can be complex.

If there were legal protections on a minimum amount of space per passenger on a plane, the actionable facts in this argument could be different. If I were guaranteed a seat in Coach that provided enough room to shift position and freedom from being kicked and elbowed by even a plus-sized seat mate, I’d be open to debating the courtesies of keeping younger travelers out of the pointy end of the plane.

Since that is a pipe dream, however, the traveling public is going to have to tolerate my presence in Premium Economy and better, when I can afford it. And, where I go, there also will travel my children when I deem it desirable that they join me.

Given these facts, which option is preferable to the segment of society that objects to children in First Class and kids seated away from their folks?

My own choice is usually dictated by my finances.

When I score an awesome cheap fare up front, I typically book my little guy (middle school aged, so not so terribly tiny) in the seat next to me. He is delighted by the idea of a luxury trip, though modern domestic First Class is a far cry from gold-plated splendor. I prefer having his company to sitting alone.

Then again, I do actively discourage any sense of entitlement to this, my more peer-influenceable child. He has also known the joys of sleeping in a cramped Economy seat on a too-long/too-short transatlantic flight, and he knows full well how to wait his turn in the interminable queue to board, settle quickly into his seat and stow his own carry on, and then keep himself to himself en route to make the uncomfortable as tolerable as possible for everyone else aboard the jet.

The older teen would rather sit on his own regardless because he’s way too cool to be seen with me, so he’s stowed in steerage unless a really high Coach fare is actually a poor value compared with the mileage earning and family togetherness opportunities of a bargain up front.

Don’t gasp–it does happen! Leisure travelers who covet rock bottom fares and business travelers whose companies pay top dollar tend to prefer flights on different days and times.

Always check fares in all classes before booking! You may find First Class for less than Coach. It’s rare, but I have seen it* myself.

This summer, I’m accompanying my husband to a conference in the UK and we’re bringing the little guy along. On the way out, his ticket, purchased with frequent flier miles, is in Comfort+ (i.e., Premium Economy) while his father will be four rows ahead but behind the magic curtain in Delta One.

My own flight, also bought with miles, will be on a different date, itinerary, and airline entirely. We don’t have that many miles on any given airline at one time. Also, I often depart ahead of time to allow a day (or more) of recovery before entering full “tourist mode” and because I enjoy travel so much more than DH does. He rarely takes even a single day off concurrent with his business trips.

It’s a transatlantic redeye, so the kid is expected to sit, settle, and sleep. His “solo” presence is unlikely be a bother to anyone at all under these circumstances, even offering his adjacent seatmate a bit more space due to his small stature. Purchasing the equivalent to his dad’s company-paid Business Class seat was simply out of our reach.

To be clear: I, personally, am not talking about abandoning a toddler 40 rows back from his responsible adult companion. Perhaps non-parents need to be told, too, that there is no single age when every child will be ready to sit alone. As with staying home alone without direct supervision, I’d judge the right age to be over six years at a minimum and by the age of 13 for almost everyone.

Our return to the US presents a completely different set of circumstances. The lo-o-o-ong nonstop flight from Ireland to the Pacific Northwest should see the boy wide awake and therefore more likely to want or need something from a parent, if only to ask if my usual strict limit of one sweet drink per flight could be adjusted, “just this once.” I also found a relatively low fare in a premium cabin whereas Economy on the direct flight I wanted was rather high. In this scenario, I’m opting to pay to seat my child up front next to me.

It’s been argued that children don’t appreciate the “best parts” of the premium cabin experience. For many travelers, that appears to be getting drunk! True, my son won’t be sipping champagne, and he isn’t overly inconvenienced by the cramped conditions in the cheapest seats so the extra room is “wasted” on him.

Both of us will enjoy easier access to the lavatory, however, and the better service offered by less harried flight attendants. My younger son is outgoing and friendly; he will appreciate plenty about traveling with a more gracious level of service. The fact that different elements of Business Class will tickle his pre-teen fancy doesn’t make his experience count for less.

Where will my teen be during this jaunt? Well, he would rather fly alone to visit his grandparents sooner and leave the UK to the rest of us. Somehow, I’ve produced offspring that aren’t as interested in foreign travel as I am. After a bit of practice sitting in Coach 20 rows behind me, he graduated to a solo flight with Unaccompanied Minor service around age 12. Now, though still in high school and underage, he’s old enough to manage his own passage through the security gauntlet and onto a direct flight without paying for the airline’s hand-holding.

My solo teen might also annoy those who like to complain, but he’s not an intrusive passenger with his slim build and quiet habits. On his last trip to visit Grandma, he texted me joyfully upon landing from his ultra cheap middle seat that the guy by the window didn’t need to pee even once. Never having to get up once makes a great flight by his metrics.

Glasses of wine and water on airplane tray tableFeel free to compare that behavior to the tipsy adult who spills his third drink all over you and your laptop. The guy may offer to pay for your dry cleaning, but you’ll be wearing stained and sticky pants for the next half a day regardless.

*This actually seems to be most likely around holidays when families travel to be together. What a great way to treat yourself if clan gatherings are a source of great stress as well as joy for you.

If there were a way to get him booked into a hotel without an adult in the event of delays or flight cancellations, I would trust him to make connections, too. The boy is downright competent!

Key Straps save my stuff: how Tom Bihn’s bags keep arthritic fumblefingers from ruining my day

In other posts, I’ve referred to the way Tom Bihn bags often make my life better. I want to expand upon that point lest I sound like a mere company shill.

Tom Bihn PCSB and Cafe Bag with Sunday Afternoons hat on hotel desk

Tom Bihn bags and Sunday Afternoons hat

Today I’ll talk about how one “key” feature of this particular brand helps me stay organized and deal with the ongoing issues of a chronic medical condition. I’m talking about removable Key Straps that can be attached to O-rings integral to Tom Bihn bags and many other anchors on luggage or in hotel rooms.Tom Bihn Clear 3D Organizer attached with Key Strap to handicapped rail in hotel bathroom

Key Straps are the “key” feature

I carry a Cafe Bag ($70, size: Medium, color: Original/black Halcyon with Wasabi lining) almost every day, sometimes swapping it out for a Travel Cubelet ($40) or my Packing Cube Shoulder Bag (PCSB, $34) when I travel light. My Cafe Bag is generally fitted out with six separate Key Straps at once, each serving a unique function.

Tom Bihn yellow Key Strap on Cafe BagKey Straps ($5) come in 8-inch and 16-inch lengths, and are currently offered in seven colors. Many of mine are the older style, sewn from folded Dyneema/Halcyon nylon fabric. Newer Key Straps are made of webbing instead. Key Straps come in two varieties: with a snap hook on both ends, or a snap hook on one end with an O-ring on the other.

Additional Tom Bihn accessories that go virtually everywhere with me include:

  • Clear Organizer Wallet ($17) for cash on Wasabi TB Key Strap
  • Coach purple leather card wallet on Steel/grey TB Key Strap
  • Solar/yellow TB Key Strap left empty for… my keys!
  • Pocket Pouch ($10) in Aubergine with Wasabi lining for lip balm attached with its own integrated clip
  • Eagle Creek pouch on Ultraviolet TB Key Strap
  • Aubergine Small Q-Kit ($18) on Iberian/red TB Key Strap for medication
  • Wasabi Mini Q-Kit ($15) on Wasabi TB Key Strap for electronic charging cables and earbuds
  • Clear pouch with red back for paper and longer objects I want to carry, often including a checkbook, a full length emery board (nail file), or a passport

I attach non-Bihn items by various methods. You can see the Key Strap snap hooks attached to a key ring on my card wallet and a fabric loop on my Eagle Creek purple pouch in my detail photos. The integrated O-rings and detachable Key Straps are tiny things that make a tremendous functional difference in my Tom Bihn satchel, but these accessories play very nicely with other brands.

By designing modular pockets, pouches, and parts for the end user to attach or not with separate Key Straps, every bag can be customized precisely for its specific purpose. This works really well for me.

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