Learning to Wet Shave

I purchased my first Braun electric razor in 1987 while I was living in Germany. Up until that time I shaved using cheap disposable razors. That’s what I watched my father use, and I figured I’d continue the tradition of blue Gillette razors and gooey aerosol shaving cream.

My father told me I’d eventually want to move to an electric razor because it would be easier to navigate the numerous chin scars with a blade behind an aluminum foil. I found his words to be true after plunking down about $200 for the nifty Braun gadget. Without prepping my face with any oils, lotions or creams, the Braun glided over my face removing the day’s stubble in less than three minutes. No mess. No cleanup. I couldn’t imagine ever going back to a razor of any kind.

And then last year I came across an article from Lex Friedman titled,  The Wet Shave.

I was curious, but it all seemed a bit overwhelming. There was a list of required items to purchase and learn to use. I had upgraded to a third generation Braun unit, but wasn’t happy with the closeness of the shave it delivered, even when I frequently swapped out a new blade and foil. So a couple of months ago, I decided to give wet shaving a try. I began to add an item here or there to my Amazon shopping cart until I had what I needed.

I’ve waited a couple of months to write up my thoughts on wet shaving because, frankly, it’s an ongoing learning process. It reminds me of skiing where the first few times totally suck because you fall down so often you’re constantly cold and wet. I would have given up wet shaving after the first few times had I not read from others that using a safety razor comes with a learning curve.

After the first week of wet shaving, I wondered if I could return everything to Amazon.

After the second week, I was bleeding a bit less after each shave.

But the third week, I was determined to master the art of wet shaving after Kim mentioned how smooth my face felt.

I’m still a long way from mastering the wet shave if that’s even possible. I haven’t yet packed up or sold my Braun, but I haven’t used it in over two months either.

Here is the process and products that are working well for me today. They may also work well for you, but don’t assume that’s the case. Experiment and figure out what works well for you. I shave right after I get out of the shower while my skin is still a bit damp and relaxed.

I rinse my face with warm water before I do anything. While my face is wet, I take a shaving brush and run it under the warm water. I give the brush two shakes and then swirl it around William Mug Shaving Soap in a shaving bowl.  You don’t need a lot of soap.  As for the shaving brush, I’ve tried a few, and prefer the ones with synthetic bristles. You can drop a lot of money here on badger, boar, or horse hair brushes, but the Parker synthetic is just about perfect.

I then swirl the brush with soap around my face until it’s evenly covered. The goal here is to lift the stubble making it easier for the blade to reach and cut. I do this to one side of my face so the soap doesn’t dry out.

You’re now ready for the razor. I really like the Merkur Long Handled Safety Razor because it feels sturdy and stable in my hands. Unlike plastic disposable razors, the Merkur doesn’t require much pressure at all. The weight of the Merkur provides just the right about of pressure against your face to remove the stubble. Press too hard, and you’ll be donating some skin to the sink. I shave one half of my face at a time, and I start with my sideburns before moving to my chin, neck and upper lip areas.

You will need to keep a number of blades on hand. The number of blade options is absurd, but I prefer the Personna Double Edge Razor blades after trying a few brands. I swap out a new blade after every five shaves, but your mileage may vary.

Only shave where you’ve lathered. The quickest way to cut yourself is to run the razor over a dry area of skin. If you miss an area, lather your face before going back to your razor. I use the Williams Mug Shaving soap on the first two passes. It lathers well and is cheap, but it’s unscented and far from indulgent. One reason to wet shave is to pamper your skin, so on the third and final pass, I use a more expensive shaving cream from Taylor of Old Bond Street. I love the grapefruit scent and the rich cream feels wonderful. Like the soap, you only need a small dab of cream to lather your entire face.

Once I’m finished with the razor, I rinse it off and place it back in this stand from Perfecto. It holds both my brush and razor.

While my face is still wet, I run this alum block over my face. It acts as an astringent and closes any razor nicks I inflicted upon my face. It stings a bit and acts as a reminder that running a blade over bare skin is not something to be taken lightly.

I let my face air dry before applying an aftershave lotion. I have never used lotions on my face because I can’t stand the feel of any oily substance on my face. But I’ve found two aftershave lotions I really like. The Neutrogena Post Shave Lotion doesn’t leave my face feeling oily and is affordable.

If you really want to pamper yourself, grab the Aveda aftershave. Kim bought me some of this for Christmas, and I have no idea how she expects me to go back to anything else.

I’m still learning how to best take care of my skin, but I love the close shave that only a real blade can provide. It takes some patience to learn how to maneuver the blade around my face without gouging my skin. I’m learning to ease up on the pressure of the razor as to not nick it up more than it already is around my chin area.

The biggest downside to wet shaving is that it takes now takes me about 10 to 12 minutes to shave compared to 2-3 minutes with my Braun. But I’ve found this is also one of the benefits of wet shaving that I enjoy the most. Shaving used to be as exciting as brushing my teeth. Now I look forward to the days I shave because it slows down my morning and gives me time to indulge my skin.

I find the whole process relaxing and a great way to begin my day.  It might be time to box up the Braun.

Searching for Tortillas

“The time is now 10:50 PM. Fred Meyer will be closing in ten minutes. Please make your way towards one of our checkout stands.”

I heard the woman’s polite sounding voice come over the intercom, but I still had one item on my list, and I wasn’t leaving till I found it: low carb tortillas.

I had no idea how elusive those dang low carb tortillas would be.

Fred Meyer is my preferred grocery store. Not that I believe it’s any better than the Albertson’s or Safeway, each of which are located a few blocks away. No, the reason I shop at Fred Meyer is because I know my way around. I can walk right to the 1% milk, applesauce, and string cheese. And, with a little thought, I’m likely to locate the jars of jet-puffed marshmallow.

“The time is now 10:55 PM. Fred Meyer will be closing in five minutes. Please bring your groceries to one of our open checkout stands.”

Normally there’s a massive shelf full of tortillas near the back of the store, not far from the meat section. I checked there first and had no luck. I made my way over the Mexican food section, but only found boxes of hard shell tortillas. Why is Fred Meyer playing musical chairs with the soft tortillas?

As I wandered past the the magazine stand I was immediately distracted. A few minutes spent browsing through exotic cars and cameras I can’t afford is time well spent. I space out, imagine I won the lottery, and enjoy the moment until I realize I’m wandering Fred Meyer in my workout clothes.

What I need is an iPhone app that, with the guidance of GPS, shows me exactly where I can find items on my list. Stores would certainly nix this idea because they know a lost shopper is the best shopper. I’ll bet a third of the items in my cart tonight were added while searching for the tortillas.

As I made my way towards the next available checker, I walked past an end cap FULL OF TORTILLAS! I spent a few minutes taking it all in. I’d never noticed the tomato and basil ones before. I wonder if these ones made with spinach are any good? Aha! There’s the low carb ones on the top shelf.

And suddenly lights begin flickering off behind me. I stepped out into the middle aisle and didn’t see a soul. Dang, what time is it?

I begin making my way towards the front of the store. When I get there I still don’t see anyone except a woman standing behind the service counter. She looks at me, grabs the intercom, looks at me again and says, “Fred Meyer is closed. We’ll be open at 6 am tomorrow.”

I wanted to approach her and explain that it wasn’t my fault someone moved the tortillas.

I pulled out my iPhone and was shocked to see 11:10 pm glowing back at me. I was expecting the intercom lady to grab her mic again and announce, “Hey loser in the baggy shorts and basketball shoes, we closed ten minutes ago so take your game outside.”

At least once a year I read an article about about a senior citizen who spends the night in a Walmart after getting disoriented in the shower curtains, and nobody notices until morning.

I hope that’s not me in twenty years.

Compared to Mom

The kids scurried to locate their shoes. Chances are slim six shoes will be found before Costco closes so I did what any helpful father who promised his kids they could tag along would do:

“Put on the first shoes you find even if they don’t belong to you”

Every time I pull into the Costco parking lot on a Saturday, I tell myself to NEVER visit Costco on a Saturday. And yet I don’t know if I’ve ever stepped foot inside a Costco on a day other than Saturday.

But today I was missing my co-pilot unless you count three kids who view Costco as one big play ground. I haven’t found a parking spot before the comments start pouring in from the backseat.

“Mom never parks this far away”

“I can’t even see the entrance from here”

When I finally locate a spot, I decide to lay down a few ground rules before we leave the car.

“Only one sample per product”

“No sneaking anything into the cart”

“No comparing me to mom”

That last one is a biggie. I don’t know the store layout as well as Kim does. And no, I’m not the most efficient shopper on the planet. I like to take my time in the DVD and book section. I’ll hang out in the vegetable and fruit cooler room on a warm day. Sometimes I’ll go by the TV section and catch a game in progress. Today I chatted up the lady answering questions for ECOS unscented laundry detergent.

Plus, it’s hard to move a giant cart full of groceries with three kids in tow down small aisles on sample Saturday. What’s the rush?

Kim jotted down a small list of items for me to buy. She crossed out a few before I walked out the door. She told me they weren’t essential, but I’ll bet she knew I wouldn’t be able to find them. Probably a good move on her part or I’d still be wandering the aisles searching for Children’s Benadryl.

Here’s my list. Notice how I keep track of what I have in the cart by making a small tear next to the item. How’s that for ingenuity?


I added the four barely legible items in the right corner and then gave up on two of them while in the store. Sorry, Quicken.

I’d call the trip a success based on my past Costco excursions. I couldn’t find the “dark hot chocolate”, but came up with an acceptable excuse on the fly: it’s a season item. Kim fell for it.

The kid’s dinosaur vitamins gave me trouble. I located the bears, Flintstone and princess variety before Luca found the bottle with two smiling dinosaurs on the front. I guess even the most fearsome velociraptor needs his daily dose of Riboflavin and Beta Carotene in order to stay active and healthy.

They look so much like candy that I might try a couple tonight.

Once we’d checked every item off the list, we stood in line behind buying a cartful of hotdogs and buns. The kids thought that was funny. This is when they get antsy. But today they were kept busy by trying to guess how much the groceries would cost.

“I’m trying to keep the total around $200 today”, I told them.

Luca grabbed the case of black beans and put it on the conveyor belt. Anna grabbed the Pirates Booty while Lincoln tried to lift the can of applesauce onto the belt.

We’re not a well-oiled machine of productivity, but I don’t care. The kids want to help, and the only item that ended up on the floor was the bag of bagels. No harm, no foul.

As we walked to the car Luca asked how much I spent. I handed her the receipt which she held out in front of her with two hands. She scanned the list from top to bottom. Finally she yelled:

“One hundred and ninety four dollars! That’s pretty good, dad! You guessed $200!”

I’ll bet mom would have guessed $198.

Grocery Shopping Success

Kim wrote the list. I did the shopping. Not once did I have to call home and ask which brand of yogurt or bread to buy. Kim knows that if she gives me a little leeway, I’ll eventually figure it out.

The only item on the list that gave me problems was the 6 volt battery.

Our church leaders continue to stress the importance of having a 72-hour kit on hand, and that’s how many hours I would have spent trying to locate this flashlight battery on my own.

But a kind gentlemen working the fabric section directed me to to the secret lair of battery stands near the lotto machine. There, on the bottom shelf, just down from the hearing aid batteries was a couple of 6 volts for the taking.

It’s been a while since I’ve been so excited to finally locate an elusive grocery item.

The last time was probably the night I spent 30 minutes playing hide-and-go-seek with the lime juice.

*Note the small tears to the left of each item. The true sign of a shopping pro.


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The Express Lane

I’m getting pretty good at this whole shopping thing. Most Saturday nights, Kim gives me a list of items which always include:

  1. Diet Coke 24 Pack
  2. Whole grain Bread
  3. Dannon Yogurt

I can find those three items without having to asking a store employee or use a life line. From here things get a little dicey. I have trouble with small stuff like spices and canned seasonal items like pumpkin and cranberry sauce. Around the holidays, stores like to group similar items together on an end-cap making it easier to find all the ingredients for say, pumpkin pies.

The last thing I need is to feel like I’m doing my grocery shopping at Costco which frustrates me to no end by playing the shell game with their products. Next time you’re as Costco ask any employee where to find the syrup and watch them point towards the tire section. Even they don’t know.  shoppingbasket

But I’m getting to the point where I’ll return home with at least 75% of the items on Kim’s list. That’s not bad. And I make up for those items I couldn’t find by adding my own items that include magazines, Slim Jims and ranch flavored sunflower seeds.

Yet I’m still confused by the About 12 Items or Less lines. Trying to determine the meaning of “about” reminds me of Bill Clinton during his Lewinsky testimony when he said, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

Does it mean a firm 12 items plus some gum and Tic Tacs? Does it mean 14 or 15 items? Do my 12 jars of baby food count as 12 items or one? What if I’m buying items that are easy to scan like cans of chili compared to exotic produce (the pomegranate or mango) that slows even the experienced checker?

I’ve come up with my own interpretation of “about” which I’ve successfully implemented the past couple of trips. It’s simple:

Whatever I can cram into a basket.

If I can stash a dozen oranges, four Odwalla Blueberry B Monster drinks, and 15 jars of baby food, then save me a place in the Express Line because I’m coming through!

But if my trip to the store requires a wobbly wheeled cart, I’ll stand in line behind the family replenishing their food storage.

It only seems fair.

My Favorite Things To Do At the Grocery Store

  1. Sample every flavor of cashew in the bulk bin section.
  2. Locate the gallon of 1% milk with the latest expiration date by inserting my entire body into the cooler and reaching my hand back as far as it will go.
  3. Run down the soda aisle with my cart, hop on the back, and then coast down the straight-away until I run into a 24-pack of Diet Coke.
  4. Seeing how many items I can correctly ring up on self-service scanner before an attendant scolds me doing something wrong.
  5. Opening the freezer door near the ice cream that fogs up every door in the frozen foods section.
  6. Weighing items on the scales in the produce section that weren’t meant to be weighed like cartons of orange juice and Slim Jims.

No wonder Kim sends me to the store alone.

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Kindness goes a long way

We have three grocery stores all within about the same distance from our home. I usually head to Fred Meyer first because I know its store layout the best. I also like that I can fill the car up with gas without leaving the parking lot.

But this last week, Kim asked me to pickup a few items on my way home and I was around the corner from Albertsons when she called so I stopped there. As I entered the store I realized I had no idea where anything was situated. I grabbed a cart and started making my way through the store. As I did this I noticed a few things that impressed me:

  1. The shelves were fully stocked at 10 pm.
  2. I didn’t feel like a rat in a maze like I do at Wal-Mart when they clutter the aisles with pallets full of boxes.
  3. The store was well lit. The floors and shelves were clean.
  4. I was able to quickly find the baby food aisle because the aisle signs were big and clear.
  5. All the aisles went the same direction making it easy to see down.

Those were just a few things I noticed while I traversed my way thorough Albertsons. I didn’t pay much attention to the prices but they seemed about the same a Fred Meyer. A 24-pack of Diet Coke was a few dollars less expensive while some of the produce seemed to cost a bit more.

As I approached the check out line, a woman gestured to me that she was opening another line so I walked over to her area and began placing my items on the conveyor belt. I noticed that she stopped the belt twice to take the time to peal off coupons that were stuck to a couple of medications I was purchasing. I hadn’t noticed they were attached, but I was impressed that she took the time to peal them off for me. Before I pulled the 24-pack of Diet Coke off the cart, she kneeled down and scanned it although she was clearly in the latter stages of pregnancy. She was kind and efficient. She had a big smile on her face too which made me feel good.

I left the store in a better mood than when I arrived which usually isn’t the case. Because of the kind service this women provided, I will be returning to Albertsons soon. Eventually, maybe I’ll learn my way around the store.

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Curious Sign at Fred Meyer

I went to Fred Meyer last night to pickup a few items including a small light for a children’s night globe. This Fred Meyer has a regular grocery store area and larger department store area. It’s similar to a Super Target or Super Wal-Mart only not quite so large.

I like Fred Meyer because it’s clean, the people are nice, they have a good produce section and I know my way around the aisles. I can find the peanut butter, popcorn, Diet Coke and string cheese with ease!

So last night I located the small light section in the grocery area of the store. I wasn’t finding the light I needed but I noticed a hand-written sign that said:

You can find more lights in the Electrical department

I was happy they had more lights in another area of the store, but it would have been just as easy to include the aisle number on that sign, right?

The electrical section is mixed in between the paint and the lamps areas. Although I’m very familiar with the store layout, it still took some time to find where the lights were.

As luck would have it, after I found the area, I reached in my pocket and realized I’d left the tiny light at home and couldn’t recall the model/size I came for. Total bummer.

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Pwned by Costco

I visited Costco recently with Kim. Before we went into the store I asked her what we needed and she said, shredded cheese, uncooked tortillas and something else I don’t remember now. It’s all blur.

We entered the store and began pushing a huge shopping cart around the store, finding all sorts of things we needed that were not part of the original three items we came for including Boston Legal season 3, chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs, and special $18 eyed drops.

After a while, I started nudging Kim towards the check out but we still needed some AA batteries. So we walked over to the electronics section and looked around. No batteries. Just giant stacks of iPods and flash drives. We headed over to the office supplies section. I didn’t realize shavers and toothbrushes were part of office supplies but I could overlook this pairing if I could just locate the dang batteries!

We continued walking towards the rear of the store, past the books, chocolate display and Christmas serving dishes until I noticed the batteries on an end cap across from the tires. I tossed a 36 pack of AAs in the cart at a cost of just over twelve bucks. Mission accomplished. 

Costco works for people who have a lot of time to spend shopping. Or those who enjoy going down every aisle. That how our 3 item shopping trip turned into a 30 item one. One thing always makes me laugh at the check out: We could have 20 small items coming down the conveyor belt, yet we’re always asked, “Would you like a box?”. Just once, I’m tempted to pass on the box and see how the many items I can stuff down my shirt and pants as I try to get by the receipt checker.

But for now, I need to rest from lugging that 48 pack of bottled water in and out of my trunk.

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The Library

When I read a book review or a friend recommends a book that sounds interesting my first instinct is to login to Amazon and buy the book. I still do this occasionally but I’ve started using the library. Kim and the kids have been checking out books from the Auburn and Covington branches since we moved here two years ago. Kim checks out a lot of books for herself and the kids. Sometimes we’ll come across one we’d like to add to our collection which we’ll buy from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. One such book that Lincoln loves is “I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More“.

The King County Library system makes it easy to login to their website and reserve books. When the book is ready to be picked up, we receive an email. Today, Kim picked up “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” that I’ve wanted to read for a few bucks.

I’m impressed with the library’s selection and service so far. And it’s saving me several hundred dollars a year if not more.