Thermomix kitchen robot can replace all your small appliances

If I said one device could replace nearly every kitchen appliance you own, you’d probably think I was starting a late-night infomercial. But an appliance I’ve discovered may actually be able to deliver on that promise. It’s called a Thermomix, and though it’s very popular in Australia and Europe, it’s virtually unknown in Canada and the US.

The Thermomix is a kitchen device that looks like an oversized food processor that’s been bred with a huge blender.  And while it can blend, puree and liquefy, it can also chop, grate, beat, whip, knead and shred.  But Thermomix also has some other properties that will blow your mind; it can steam vegetables and fish, cook rice, make risotto, sauté onions and garlic, weigh your ingredients, and even go as far as cooking not just a dish, but an entire meal. I received a newer model Thermomix TM5 for several weeks to test and review.

What is a Thermomix?

Thermomix is a kitchen robot that combines the functions of 12 kitchen appliances onto one unit. The device comes with a cookbook and computerized recipe chip which is installed into the side of the Thermomix, and that means the Thermomix can automatically execute a variety of recipes — with your help. Of course you can also make food from scratch and use it as an appliance without computerized direction too. Included with the device are a small steamer basket for use inside the mixing bowl, a spatula, a two-level steamer basket for use on top of the device and a whisk.

What can Thermomix do?

cooks
-mills grain
-grinds spices or coffee
-scale
-blender
-whisk
-warmer
-food processor/chopper
-mixer
-steamer
-dough kneader

Thermomix Cookbooks & Recipesthermomix tomato soup recipe erin

If you like the freedom of having pre-programed recipes, know that there are several cookbooks produced by Thermomix. The Basic Cookbook is the quintessential Thermomix bible and comes with the device.  You can purchase other books that come with recipe chips, such as a British Cookbook, gluten free recipes, vegetarian foods, a ‘taste of Asia’ book and even one for lunches and after school snacks. Prices range from about $15USD to $38 USD.

I tested several recipes from the Thermomix Basic cookbook.

One of my favourites was a Creamy Tomato Soup. The recipe sautées onions and garlic, then used canned tomatoes and fresh cream to create a fast and easy hot soup that’s absolutely delicious.

Mashed potatoes in the Thermomix are so easy; they’re steamed in milk in the basin, then whipped to perfection; and all with just one ‘pot’ that needs washing.thermomix broccoli salad erin robot kitchen

I also repeatedly made a broccoli salad that took just minutes; broccoli florets, apples, peppers and all the ingredients for a dressing get tossed in the Thermomix bowl and in 4 seconds (not even exaggerating) you have a perfectly chopped and dressed salad that tastes fantastic.

Cook an entire meal using Thermomix

thermomix 7 review recipes

A fun and easy feature of the Thermomix is its ability to cook a whole meal in the device. Thermomix will have you load the steamer basket with potatoes and some water, then the 2-tier steamer basket gets added on top; veggies in the bottom and fresh fish on top. The device lets you know precisely when to add each set of ingredients so that each gets cooked properly to perfection.

Powerful blending with Thermomix

The Thermomix has a very powerful motor and large sharp blades.  While devices like the Vitamix (read my review of that here) get all the press for making the best blended drinks and smoothies, the Thermomix is just as good at shredding and liquefying frozen fruit and seeds into drinkable meals. I have used the Vitamix and the Thermomix and as far as I’m concerned, when it comes to smoothing making and blending functions, I’d be hard pressed to pick a winner. They’re both fantastic.

Cleaning the Thermomix

All the parts and pieces of the Thermomix are dishwasher safe, but one of the easiest ways to clean the basin is to add soap and hot water, then to run the motor for 10 seconds. It cleans the inside instantly!

How Thermomix works

With the recipe chip installed in the device, you use the dial on the front to select the meal you’d like to make. With the recipe loaded, the device takes you through the steps necessary in order; from adding ingredients, to chopping or whipping sauces, then walking you through the rest of the process. A chime lets you know when you’ve completed each step, and the recipe.

You can also go fully manual with the device, so you can chop, sautée or blend on your own.  A word to the wise; the machine is very powerful; it’s easy to turn potatoes into glue, or whip cream into butter. Until you’re familiar with the device, start out slow and work your way up.

How can I get a Thermomix? Where do I buy Thermomix in Canada or US?

Sadly for some of you, you can’t just go online and order a Thermomix.
Thermomix is only available directly from Vorwerk’s subsidiaries or official distributors.  You must see the device privately demonstrated and order from the authorized rep to get one. Think the Amway, Avon or Tupperware sales model.  It’s not for everyone, but I will say having a personal demonstration allows you to ensure you’re going to make the most of this device.

Overall review of Thermomix

I really enjoyed my Thermomix experience.  I found it easy to learn and use, and the recipes I tried were delicious from the cookbook. Making guided recipes was simple and fun, and even using the machine manually was easy.  I found it quite handy, particularly for things like sautéing onions, whipping cream, grating cheese ad pureeing soups.

If I have my druthers, I’d definitely look at replacing some of my older small appliances with this one device, but it’s not an inexpensive prospect.  A Thermomix costs about $1700 CAD so it’s certainly an investment.  But considering a good food processor will cost you $100-200, a good blender like a Vitamix is upwards of $500, a hand mixer is about $75, a KitchenAid stand mixer is $200-300, not to mention of you want a hand blender or chopper kit ($150) you can see how it might make sense to just have one device.

If you’ve got the budget to invest in a machine like this, I have no doubt you’ll love it.

Get more info on Thermomix here in Canada, or here in USA.

BEDDI Glow smart alarm clock review; it wakes with light, can call you an Uber

Beddi glow smart alarm lightCan BEDDI Glow smart alarm clock help me wake up better?

There are few sounds that irk me as much as the screech of my alarm clock. It goes off each day at 2:50am so I can snooze it a few times before I finally crawl bleary-eyed and groggy from my warm covers at 3:30 to head to work. Believe it or not, snoozing like that actually helps me feel like I got ‘extra sleep’. (Does anyone else do that?)

I’ve always hated the sound of ringing alarms. I use the radio sometimes, but I find it disconcerting to hear people talking in my room before I’m fully conscious and know what the hell is going on. It’s all the more unsettling when I realize the radio is tuned to Coast to Coast AM and they’re talking about a phenomenon of people waking up with the demonic Hat Man shadow-person standing over their beds. Shudder.

Better, more gentle wake up?Beddi glow smart alarm light

There has to be a better, more gentle way to wake up, and I think I may have found it.
I was recently sent a BEDDI Glow smart alarm clock for testing and review. BEDDI Glow allows you to wake with a simulated sunrise light, your own music, or FM radio. It’s also got a host of other neat features that makes it pretty handy.

BEDDI Glow alarm Features

The BEDDI Glow smart alarm clock gives you options for your wake up. I’ve been using the simulated sunrise feature and the ‘relax’ sound effect. More on how it works and how I like it in a sec.

The clock is about the size of a ‘traditional’ alarm clock, and it’s got a time/display panel and a speaker on top of the face, and a light panel on the bottom. The brightness can be adjusted so it won’t disturb you. A series of buttons on the top can be configured to perform the tasks you choose; from turning the light panel on, to playing audio traffic or weather info, to playing various white noise effects. Each button cam perform multiple functions since it can support a single tap, double tap or a long hold. It works with iOS8 and above, and most phones with Android 4.3 or above.

A neat feature I like; if you unplug the clock, or the power goes out, the time will reset itself automatically once you reconnect.  No annoying flashing time, and no ‘tap tap tap tap tap’ to try to reset it.

Mood Light

I love coloured lighting. Particularly as the day winds down, it’s nice to have a soft warm glow to greet you as you head for bed. BEDDI Glow’s Mood Light feature lets you enjoy a soft rainbow glow that shifts colours across the spectrum.

Using the app and settings for the mood light, you can choose a fade effect, or a rainbow transition. To stick it on one colour, go into the mood light settings, select the ‘normal’ and it will give you a colour spectrum to choose from.  It’s not easy to get to, but it’s there making the mood light cool, fun and functional.

White Noise for sleepBeddi glow smart alarm light

I find white noise most helpful on airplanes or in waiting lounges where upset children are on the rampage. I’ve not really used white noise to get to sleep. Since it’s available on the BEDDI Glow, I thought I’d give it a try. There are 10 white noise settings from rainforest, waterfall, and ocean, to motor, fan and shower. For the most part they sound realistic and were enjoyable. I found myself gravitating to the ‘shower’ setting as it sounded most like rain falling outside a window. You can choose how long to leave the noise running and it will shut off automatically.

I though the ability to use the white noise settings for wake up sounds was something that was missing from the app. I’d much rather wake up to the soft sounds of a storm than a beep… but perhaps most folks would sleep right through them?

Get traffic & weather info as you wake up

Beddi glow smart alarm lightThis is a pretty cool feature. Using the app you set your location to get accurate weather data and current conditions will display in the app dashboard. It’s very simplistic showing only the temperature and a single weather icon. I think having the ability to click into the weather settings and get 3 or 5 day forecast info, or even a forecast for the rest of the day would be helpful. I’m surprised that’s not already built into the app.

The traffic feature takes your current location as its input for the weather info (or a different location you choose) and then lets you add a ‘destination’ address and the time you’d like to arrive for work. In the app it will display the drive time for that time and destination. You can also configure the alarm so that when the alarm goes off, it will tell you the weather and traffic info. Pressing one of the smart buttons can also deliver the same info, delivered by a friendly robotic voice.

Waking with Sunrise light & gentle sound effects

The sunrise setting is perhaps my favourite thing about the clock. The light can be set to come on gradually over time (from 5-30 minutes) or to come on a minute before the alarm.I set mine at 15 minutes and found it was enough to help me wake.

It would be fun to be able to wake up to the colours of the mood light, but I guess that’s not really the point…

I use the ‘relax’ sound effect to wake me combined with the sunrise light. The alarm goes off, softly at first, then it gradually increases until I hit snooze, then the cycle starts over. By the time the sound starts, the light is already on, so it helps me adjust to waking up. It also makes it harder to just go back to sleep since the room has brightened.

BEDDI Glow also has the ability to set multiple alarms on different days so you can have one wake up time for weekdays and another for weekends or early meetings. Smart!

Adjustable snooze bar

The snooze bar settings can be adjusted to give you anywhere from 1 to 10 more minutes of sleep, or it can adjust itself in decreasing time intervals all on its own.

Save outlets! USB Charging is built in

BEDDI Glow has 2 built-in USB ports in the back of the device, so you can charge phones and tablets without taking up valuable outlet space. It’s smart and convenient. There’s also an aux jack for those that might need it.

Configurable app dashboard

One of the things I liked about this device is that I can configure the dashboard for the alarm clock to include information, tasks, and shortcuts for things I need. In my app I have alarm settings, weather and traffic information as well as the white noise control. There are also a series of buttons along the bottom of the dashboard that allow you to instantly play audio from the phone to the Bluetooth speaker, to turn the white or mood lights on or off, or set a timer.

For the most part the app is very intuitive and easy to use, though a few of the settings are buried deep within menus and sub menus. It takes a bit of exploring around the app to get to know where those settings are.

Connect Spotify and UberBeddi Glow Uber smart sleep light clock alarm

Since the clock is connected to your smartphone, you can use it as a Bluetooth speaker to play music or podcasts, or have music set to be your wake-up. BEDDI Glow connects with Spotify (premium accounts only) and Apple Music too to give you your own personal music experience if that’s what you prefer.

I found the fact that the BEDDI Glow smart alarm clock can call you an Uber to be a bit weird. It’s not a service that I’d use (if I did need a ride after waking up I’d probably just use the app on my phone so I could track the driver) but I’d be interested to hear what others think about that.

Once you’ve logged into your Uber account with BEDDI, you can configure one of your smart buttons to call you an Uber with a single press of a button. I think that’s a bit dangerous, since in my sleepy haze I’d be liable to accidentally call myself a ride and not even realize it. The clock will then alert you when your ride arrives.  Talk about high tech and easy!

Overall review of BEDDI Glow – It’s AWESOME

After several weeks of testing I can confidently say that I love this alarm clock.

I love how many options there are for you to choose precisely how you wake up. The sunrise setting is one of my favorites and I find it helps ease me into my day. Since I’m a huge fan of colored lighting, the fact that it has mood light built in is also a huge plus.

I think the integration with local weather and traffic information is also genius; it’s the kind of information I like to have, but rarely have time to go looking for as I’m rushing around trying to get ready. Having it spoon-fed to me first thing a handy time saver.

I’ve also been enjoying the white noise option and find it quite relaxing.

In short, the BEDDI Glow Smart alarm clock works precisely as it should and the features are easy to configure and operate. I highly recommend this device if you’re in the market for a newer, smarter alarm clock and a better wake up experience overall.

BEDDI Glow sells for about $80USD /$107CAD. Get more info on it here.

IllumiBowl motion-activated toilet night light review

This light couldn’t be more fun and functional.  IllumiBowl’s toilet night light is just that; a way for you to find your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, without the need to turn on harsh bright overhead lighting.
An alert reader asked me to check this light out and I have to say that while initially I thought it was kind of silly, now I love it. Continue reading “IllumiBowl motion-activated toilet night light review”

Decorating with light: Playbulb Sphere & Candle review

Every so often, we all get the itch to redecorate. Depending on your budget and circumstances, that itch may or may not be able to get scratched. But if new furniture is out of the question, or a new paint job seems too tedious, there are still ways you can spruce up your home, and even give it a color makeover, without spending a lot, without moving furniture, and without needing to lay tarps all over the house.

MiPow is a new brand I’ve recently been introduced to, but already fallen in love with. They make a variety of smart lighting products, from simple portable lamps, to their well-known Playbulb light bulb that also doubles as a speaker, to LED task lighting, and even some other fun products too.

MiPow PlayBulb Candle

img_1022

I have absolutely fallen in love with this tiny LED candle. Not much bigger than any candle you would find in a store, this version is completely electronic, so it’s ultra safe for homes with pets or small children.

img_1026The candle is controlled via Bluetooth on MiPow’s Playbulb app on your smartphone, allowing you to turn the unit off and on, adjust colours, and even use special effects like a flicker or a color morph.

The company didn’t stop there when it came to making this candle ultra useful. If you need to, turn the candle upside down, and set a real tea light in the hollow in the base. You’ll still get the beauty of a colorful base, with a real candle flickering on top.

Also super clever? You can actually blow on this digital LED candle to turn it off, or even to turn it on.

Are you the type who prefers scented candles? MiPow’s thought of that too. The candle comes with three scented rings you can swap in to give it that extra sensory dimension.

Easy to adjust and use

https://vine.co/v/irjMZajjahK/embed/simple
This candle was so easy to use. It connects easily, and works beautifully. Powered by 3 AA batteries, I find myself using it all the time because it allows me to place it in locations I wouldn’t dream  of using a real candle. I can place it under the glass top of my side table or even on the floor since there’s no heat and no flame. But I also use it on the coffee table, the dining table and even as a nightlight.
If you like to set a nice dinner table with matched napkins, plates and colours, the Playbulb Candles would be perfect since you can dial up whatever hue you like for your special occasion; matching napkins, plates or even the food.

MiPow Playbulb Sphereimg_1039

Speaking of special occasion lights, MiPow has another light that’s a step up above plastic LEDs. The Playbulb Sphere is a beautiful frosted glass globe lamp that rests on a small base when charging but it can be moved anywhere for a portable colorful glow. You can get 6-8 hours of light on a single charge.

The Playbulb Sphere works beautifully on the small side tables, or even as a chic dining table centerpiece since it’s only about 15cm in diameter.

Tap to change


The Sphere lamp can be adjusted via the app on your smart phone, allowing you to change color, dim the light, or even apply a handful of special effects. If your smart phone is not nearby and you want to change colours, you can tap the glass surface of the lamp to adjust it.

The Sphere is also water resistant so you can use it outside without worry.

Playbulb Sphere is another very clever lighting product I love and used constantly during testing. Whether it was to create a soft glow for a dinner party or gathering, extra task lighting, or even as a nightlight in a guest bedroom I found a multitude of uses for this pretty piece of tech.

Overall impression of the Playbulb Sphere & Candle

I really enjoyed both these products in the Playbulb  line. I found them very easy to set up, easy to adjust with the app, versatile,  fun to play with and quite durable. If I had one piece of constructive criticism for either of these devices, it would be they could each be a bit brighter on on maximum setting.

If you’re looking to add some lighting to specific areas of your home and want to experiment with some cool new technology, either of these lights would be perfect. These are lights I would definitely purchase to put in my home, and they’re inexpensive enough that they would make a fantastic gifts (great for a baby gift or housewarming) for others too.

Where to find:
Playbulb Sphere is $59 at Best Buy  and the Playbulb Candle is $24 at Best Buy (or 3pack for $60).

I have reviews coming too on more products in the Playbulb line, like the Garden light, Comet task lighting and the Playbulb Lightbulb/Speaker. Watch the blog for more.

Parrot Zik3 Headphones Review

parrot 3Just when I thought I’d seen it all when it came to headphones, I found myself surprised again! The Parrot Zik3 over ear wireless headphones seemed at first glance to be headphones like any other. It wasn’t until I started reading into and experimenting with all the amazing features these headphones have, that I realized how truly unique and revolutionary they are.

Set up: Parrot Zik3 Wireless Headphonesimg_1006

I give high marks to companies whose products are very easy to set up. No one wants to fuss with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections and multiple attempts at getting their new toy working. Fortunately Parrot has it figured out. Once these babies are out of the package, you’ll need to install the rechargeable battery, then fully charge them before first use. The battery compartment is accessed by a hidden magnetic compartment in one of the ear covers. Once they’re fully charged, all you need to do is go to your smartphone’s Bluetooth menu and connect them. My phone found the headphones on the very first attempt, and they connected instantly. I was ready to rock out!

It’s worth taking note that these headphones can only connect to one device at a time. Some other wireless headphones are able to connect to multiple devices at once, allowing you to have both your tablet and your phone connected at the same time, for example. But not in this case; fair warning.

Comfortable and padded: Zik3 Headphones are easy to wear

One of the things I hate the most about over-ear headphones is that they are often very uncomfortable; either instantly or after an hour of use they press on your ears and lead to achiness and itchiness. Not so with the Parrot Zik3. The earpieces are well padded, and large enough so that they fit comfortably around your ear without touching or pressing down on it. Even the headband is nicely padded for additional comfort. Another nice feature; the headphones will fold down flat so they can be stored away, or packed for easy travel.Zik 3 control

Control the headphones with touch

The Parrot Zik3 are controlled via a brilliant smart touchpad on the right ear cover. Drag your finger up or down the cover to adjust the volume. Tap it to play or pause or receive a phone call. This function is extremely responsive and works marvelously.

Features that are made for travel

Parrot Zik3 are an ideal pair of over ear headphones for traveling, thanks in particular to one of their great features; noise cancellation. These headphones, when paired to your smart phone or device, allow you to set different levels of noise canceling. For example, you can set them to block out any and all outside noise electronically. Meaning if someone else in the room is watching TV, kids are playing, or an airplane is droning on in the background, you can mute this outside noise and focus on your music, podcasts, TV, or whatever you’re listening to.

Similarly, if you do need to hear what’s going on outside those headphones, such as if you do you have little ones you need to keep one ear on, or you’re walking around in a high-traffic area and need to stay alert, you can set the headphones so that you can hear conversation, noise, and talking around you along with your music. It’s a great effect, and it sounds really neat to have your ears sealed inside these over ear headphones, but still be able to hear a conversation going on next to you. Parrot-Zik-3-Wireless-Headphones

The Zik 3 also have an optional cable to connect directly to your smart device so that if you are on the road and want to preserve battery life, you can.

Parrot Zik 3 – Neat features

These headphones have a unique ability to allow you to adjust the music you’re listening to. Using the Equalizer function, you can adjust the levels of bass or treble, and give the music a different sound. You can choose ‘pop’, or ‘punchy’ sound,  or to put the focus more on the vocals. Whatever way you like to hear your music, these headphones allow you to adjust for it easily by selecting your option with the touch of your smart phone screen.

Another setting called Concert Hall allows you to adjust what I can only describe as the size of the sound in your ears. Selecting ‘living room’ for example gives you a more direct and intimate sound then the concert hall setting which provides a much bigger more 360° sound picture. It’s a neat effect that’s hard to describe, but fun to play with. Parrot’s website explains it like this: “The Concert Hall effect externalizes the music and reproduces the sound of a real stereo system. Several concert hall acoustics are reproduced for a harmonious and more natural listening experience, which also reduces tiredness during long listening sessions.”

Make and receive phone calls with Parrot Zik3

The Zik3 phones are able to work with your cell phone; no longer do you need a microphone and cables to make or receive calls with your headphones. These headphones have all of that built in. To receive an incoming call, you just tap the touchpad on the right ear cover. Music is muted and the built-in microphone picks up your voice. The headphones also have a caller identification feature you can enable where the headphones will use your phone’s directory to announce who’s calling so you don’t need to pull out your phone. I found the headphones were perfect for conference calls, allowing me to take notes without cords snaking across my desk.img_1008

More smart features: music stops if you take them off, starts when you wear them

Parrot has developed a ‘movement recognition algorithm’ which allows the headphones to react to your head movements.  Pull the phones off your ears and put them around your neck to stop the music or switch off a call. When you’re ready to resume, put the headphones back over your ears and the music or podcast starts up again. Never miss a thing!

Also handy; when starting up, the Parrot Zik 3 will automatically connect to the last device it was connected to. You can disable this feature if you use more than one device with your Parrot Zik. The Zik 3 also has an auto-off timer you can set, so if you’re they type who’s bound to forget your headphones are powered on, these will automatically shut off for you to save battery life. Speaking of battery life, these headphones are rechargeable via USB, and of course you can use them with a mini cable if you don’t want to go wireless.

Overall: Parrot Zik 3 Review

I really, really like these headphones. They’re very comfortable, they sound great, and the adjustable features mean you can fine tune any music or audio to your own personal listening preferences.  I think the  noise cancelling feature is one of the most useful; being able to block out noise in the comfort of the home is smart, and it’s also clever to be able to let in some of that external noise when you’re on transit, or walking in the street.

I also like the fact these phones fold flat for easy travel and transport too. I short, I’d definitely buy these as my next pair of headphones.

For more info, check out Parrot’s website. The Zik3 retail for $399 USD, and come in a variety of cool colours.

 

Robot housekeeper does the vacuuming while you’re away

img_0114There’s a new addition to my house! He’s small, only weighs a few pounds, but already feels like a member of the family.

Meet my Roomba! iRobot’s robot vacuum cleaner. While robot vacuums have been around for quite some time, I’ve never had the opportunity to test one until now. Frankly, I’ve had my doubts about how well they can keep the place clean, so I was looking forward to putting Roomba through his paces.

What’s in the box: iRobot Roomba 880


The Roomba vacuum is a large circular gadget, significantly larger than a dinner plate, and about three or 4 inches tall. While he’s weighty, he’s not heavy and he comes with a built-in handle so you can pick him up and carry him around. I received the ‘880’ model for this review, so these comments will all relate to this specific model.img_0118

Also in the box are a couple of devices that look like small towers. One of these is the “home base” station which will charge your Roomba. The other devices are what’s called virtual walls. More on those later. There’s also an extra filter and a remote control.

 

Set up


The Roomba is very easy to set up out of the box. You just pull the tabs off the battery, set the day and time (very easy; not at all like trying to program a VCR) and then set up the base station. The base station needs to be in a wide open area the vacuum can access easily, one that is not near stairs and is free of clutter like shoes or other junk. It should also be near a wall outlet for power.
Once the Roomba has charged himself up he’ll be ready to go.

 

Using the iRobot Roomba


The Roomba can be used at any moment simply by pushing the ‘clean’ button in the center of the vacuum. The robot will back away from its base station and begin cleaning in a somewhat hard to follow but linear pattern. The robot learns its way around furniture and is smart enough to back away from stairs. The Roomba will clean an entire floor of your house and then return to his base station when the battery begins to run low.

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While I was using the device, I had no problem getting the entire main floor of my house (about 1000 sq ft) swept on a single charge. The robot would go from room to room and find his way in through doorways and around beds or furniture easily. While the robot is short enough to go under beds and furniture, my beds sit directly on the floor, so I was unable to tell if the robot would automatically head under the bed to sweep up. However he did certainly sweep underneath all the other furniture in my house, something I’m glad I don’t have to do!

Roomba also has a ‘spot clean’ mode, so if you spilled something on the floor or have a particularly dirty or dusty area, you can bring the Roomba over and select ‘spot clean’, and the device will begin a series of swirl patterns and sweep up everything in that single area. I decided to test this feature by pouring some flour on the floor and then bringing the Roomba over to attack it.

Spilling stuff to test Roomba’s Spot Cleaning

Getting a spot cleaning done is a simple as pressing the ‘spot’ button on the top of the robot. Roomba immediately went to work, and started in a series of small circles that got larger and larger. In no time, all of the flour was cleaned up. As you’ll see in the video I made, I have some grout missing from spots on our tile floor, and while the Roomba did not have the suction power to get the flour out of those deeper crevices, he was able to get every last bit of flour from the tile surface. I was pretty impressed. While more suction would be nice, I also recognize that not everybody has giant grout gouges in their floor. So for most applications I think the spot cleaning would work great.

But could Roomba handle heavier spills like oatmeal, breadcrumbs, or even peanuts?
It was back to the test kitchen to find out. With this test, again the Roomba performed better than I expected. After initially rolling over top of the peanuts on the first circle, Roomba started scooping them up easily. The oatmeal and the breadcrumbs were no problem. In the end, my poorly grouted kitchen being what it is, the only remnants after one single rumba cycle were a lone peanut, and some stray oatmeal flakes deep in the grout holes. I ran a second spot clean cycle, and any additional bits were picked up. I did still need the broom and the dustpan for those deep grout cracks, but if you think about it, if you’re sweeping the floor as your regular method of cleaning, you still have to work to get down in any cracks or crevices. To see how Roomba performed, watch the video version below.

 

Schedule your robot housekeeper!!


One of my favorite features about this Roomba is the scheduling feature. It’s very easy to set the date and time on the Roomba with the buttons on the device. With that information programmed in, it’s another few quick clicks to set a cleaning schedule that works for you. I set the Roomba to clean every other day while we are at work, so we come home to a spotless floor.
Roomba knows how to untangle itself from cords
I will say I have come home a couple of times to find Roomba stopped at the edge of the stairs, or stuck on a rug or a stray sock. That’s because if the robot gets in a spot he can’t get out of, he’ll just shut down and wait for you to rescue him, squeaking out a few ‘help me’ beeps. He also has a built-in ability to untangle himself from any cords he may get caught on. I’ve watched Roomba do this; the robot merely backs away and reverses course over the cables and was always successful at disentangling itself.

 No more pet hair tumbleweeds

I feel like the amount of pet hair in our home was drastically reduced to the point of being invisible. While normally my husband and I would have to use a Swiffer or the vacuum to pick up dog hair tumbleweeds a few times a week, with the Roomba, that was just no longer necessary. I think the Roomba would be ideal for multi pet households where a lot of pet hair is a concern.


Will it upset your pet? Probably not.  Have you seen the video of a car riding the Roomba? Neither my dog nor my neighbor’s dog were bothered whatsoever by the robot. The Roomba even bumped into my dog one day while she was laying on the rug Roomba wanted to clean, and while she was a bit miffed, it was just a gentle push and then the Roomba moved off in a different direction. So it’s good to know that even if you have a lazy dog who won’t get up, the Roomba will just clean around him and not hurt him.

 

Cornering with the iRobot Roomba


img_0923-1Roomba will get around and under things where the pet hair tends to collect, like underneath chairs or in the hallways. And the robot even did a good job of getting into tighter spaces and corners, however his round shape means he can’t get into them perfectly. With that said, the tiny brushes that extend from the vacuum do increase the robot’s reach into corner areas. Overall I was not unhappy with how the robot was able to clean, and the spaces he was able to get into.

 

Clean shag rugs too!?


One of the biggest surprises for me in testing out the Roomba was the fact that it was able to clean my two shag rugs. Though they are rather thick, Roomba was able to roll up onto them and vacuum superficial dust and small objects. Roomba was not able to give these rugs what I’d call a thorough clean, (as you’d expect, it’s a shag rug! A regular vacuum can barely handle it!)  but I was surprised that he wasn’t scared to try it. I’ve also read that some robot vacuums will not clean black or dark colored rugs because they see that color as an empty space or a drop off. However once again, the black shag rug in my living room was no match for Roomba’s smarts.
Keeping Roomba in line: he can go only where you want him

One of the neat features of the iRobot Roomba is the ability to set up virtual walls and light houses. A virtual wall will allow you to block the vacuum from entering certain rooms or areas. In my bungalow, I found this unnecessary, since if I did not want the robot in certain rooms, I would just shut the door. However this would work very well for wide open concept homes where you only perhaps want the robot to focus on the kitchen, and stay out of the children’s play area. You simply set the virtual wall to create a border where the robot shall not pass.

With a lighthouse, the opposite happens; lighthouse placement will allow Roomba to specifically target certain rooms he might not otherwise get into. For example if you’re cleaning your main family room where the Roomba has his docking station, but also want to make sure he gets the playroom, or the bedroom, placing a virtual lighthouse at their doorway will ensure that he visits those two rooms after his initial room clean. Of course this is also subject to battery life.
Cleaning the Canisterimg_0939

Keeping the Roomba’s canister clean and emptying it regularly is important to helping your robot function well. iRobot recommends you empty the dustbin after each use. While I tried to do this, sometimes I forgot. Fortunately the Roomba will let you know if the dustbin is too full to continue. I was able to get about three days worth of sweeps on my entire main floor before it would fill up.
I did feel like cleaning out the canister was rather awkward, since it has a very narrow opening at one end of the canister. It’s hard to get pet hair out of it, unless you reach in with your fingers and try and pinch it out. Heavier dust or objects like the peanuts I used in my tests will fall out easily, but lighter debris needs to be shaken free. If I were to design a new room by canister, it would have a wider mouth for ease of cleaning all the junk out.  As it it, you’re probably going to get your hands dirty.

Overall: Verdict on the iRobot Roomba

I’m pretty happy with the Roomba. Having never tried a robot vacuum before I ws impressed with the cleaning ability and found it extraordinarily helpful with pet hair in our home.
I was surprised at how easy the robot was to program and schedule; even people who aren’t tech savvy could get this set up easily and quickly. In short, I’d definitely buy  a Roomba for my home.
Do you have experiences with Roomba, or other robot vacuums? I’d love to hear about them in comments below.

Get your phone a new outfit for the new year! Cool & Stylish new smartphone cases

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The Moshi line of cool new cases

When the seasons change, it’s a great time to think about upgrading your smartphone case. It’s a great idea to have a case wardrobe so your phone is protected in different situations, or you can just change cases to jazz it up for different events and situations.

Recently I’ve gotten a look at some particularly cool new smartphone cases.

Moshi Cases

IMG_7486A line of sleek and sexy cases, Moshi makes gorgeous leather, and metal cases for iPhone and Samsung. I really liked the iGlaze Armour case, which I got in a gold tone to match my phone.  It has plastic bumpers at top and bottom, and a nice sleek gold back. A slim edge gives access to the whole screen, and the openings are wide enough to charge the phone without needing to remove it from the case.

Also in the Moshi line is a beautiful elegant leather-look folio case. Overture has a snap-in binding to hold the phone securely and is covered in a mix of weatherproof fabric and microfiber lining. This case, like the other in the line has all the right openings for snapping photos and charging your device, plus it can double as a stand when the cover is flipped open.IMG_7485

The Kameleon is a similar case to the iGlaze, but it has a really cool kickstand feature that allows it to be propped in either portrait or landscape mode.

FUZ Designs

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Warm and felty-fuzzy for winter! Fuz Designs.

This might be my favourite case for the coming winter.  FUZ designs makes a really fun felt case. It’s a durable plastic drop-proof shell, covered with a fuzzy grey felt that’s just 2mm thick. The case allows charging without removal, and it’s nice to hold, plus it doesn’t slide around on fabric.

Felony Case

felony case kaliedoscope
How eye-catching is Felony Case?

These plastic shell cases from Felony Case are definite winners for most eye-catching.  The 3-D raised texture on the  Kaleidoscope case is stunning, but the softness of the design means it’s comfortable to hold, despite looking menacingly like a torture device. In gold, rose gold, black and white, these cases are stunning accessories. Not to mention the case is barely a millimeter thick, so it adds absolutely zero bulk to your device.  While the business-types have been coveting the Moshi cases and the hipster are after Fuz, the fashionistas all want my Felony Case!

Felony Case also has the sleek and elegant stone-look case called Smoke marble which gives a more natural feel to your high tech smartphone.

Felony Case stone

Speck Cases

NEW speck casesSpeck never disappoints when it comes to cool new cases that are also built tough.  This season there’s some pretty attractive options, including an aluminum backed, flower skinned beauty (called the Inked Luxury) in a yummy flower print as well as a couple ombre models. As with all Speck cases they’re super durable, with a rubber lined interior that holds your phone securely and keeps it free from damage.

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For the minimalist, the clear Candyshell case lets your phone’s own beauty shine through. It’s a great basic option.

anker case
I’m always looking for power solutions.  I’ve got cords and cables in nearly outlet at home, but of course when you’re in the most desperate situations where your device is dying, you’re rarely at home. That’s why I love battery cases.  You can wear them on your smartphone all day long, and only use them to boost your juice when you need to.
IMG_8114-0I think they’re handier than external charging battery packs, because you don’t need an extra pocket or space in your bag to stash it; it’s just always there, and you don’t need to fuss with tangled cords.
A new slim charging case I’ve just discovered is by Anker.  Their battery case will give you up to 70 hours more audio, 19 hours of 3G talktime, 15 hours of video, 14 hours internet or 3½ hours 3D gaming. Almost as important as the extra battery life is the fact these cases are Apple approved, meaning you won’t own it for a few months then have your device reject it.
This case feels quite slim in the hand and on the phone, and the convenience of charging your phone up without being tied to a cord is truly awesome.  While this case is super slim, it also packs impact protection, meaning your phone is safe from accidental drops too.
Get your hands on one of these Anker Ultra Slim Extended Battery Case cases via Amazon.

What’s your favourite case?  Which brands are tops for you? I’d love to know about others I should check out.

For info or links to any of the cases featured, click the bolded names.

Philips Hue Go Portable Smart Lamp Review

img_9001Regular readers will know I get way too happy about smart lighting. I particularly love coloured lights as I feel like you can totally change the look, feel and even decor of a room with colour, minus the paint brush!

So I was thrilled to get a test model of the new Philips Hue Go lamp. This lightweight package contains a large soup-bowl sized (and shaped) lamp with a bowl shaped base and flat front.

Portable colour and lightimg_8515

The lamp connects with a nice long AC cord for power but it also works off the cord, as the rechargeable lamp is also fully portable and lasts up to six hours on a charge. For the newbies you don’t even need the app to start playing with it; a small button on the bottom of the bowl allows you to cycle through a variety of light colours and effects while a small wedge keeps the lamp steady on its rounded bottom.

Get connected!

Getting the lamp set up on Wi-Fi was very easy. You just download the free app then “add new device”.  Once you do that the app will search for devices on the network and it automatically finds the Go lamp. Once it pairs you’re in business.

Different Powersimg_8457

The Hue Go lamp is a good size that can be easily hidden behind a price of furniture where you could keep it out of sight for various light effects, or you can leave it out on display. It’s very clean and unassuming looking, and the entire light fixture lights up, meaning it’s a beautiful lightning showpiece as well as a bright light source.

The Go lamp has the ability to transform; it will push out enough light to make it task worthy or you can dim it for a more subtle background effect.

Using the app you can adjust colour, brightness and intensity all at a touch.

Since it’s LED powered it doesn’t heat up at all, making it also great to use as a filler spotlight for, say, the bottom of your Christmas  tree (green!). I had fun using it in different situations, like as a lovely icy winter tablescape, on a side table for a red Christmas glow, and even turned up orange-red hot as a substitute for lighting the fireplace. The Hue Go light really goes anywhere.

Soothing wake-up light

img_8995A feature I just discovered on the lamp is the wake-up mode.  This setting will gradually increase the light intensity to give you the feeling you’re waking to gentle, natural daylight, which is much nicer than waking up to an alarm clock shouting at you.

Get the Bridge

You’ll need the compatible Philips bridge to get the light connected to Wi-Fi. As I noted above it will still work without it but the options are limited.

In short, I LOVE this light. It’s fun, easy to use and works perfectly. Get a Philips Hue Go lamp for $100 from BestBuy.ca

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How to get your light bulbs to turn blue ahead of snowfall

snowflakeNeed your gadgets and devices to do more for you? I have a new trick that helps me keep ahead of bad weather; my smart light bulbs in my living room turn bright blue when snow is in the forecast for the following day. So how can you get this kind of personalized heads up, and not need to constantly keep checking your weather app?
You’ll need two things: a Wi-Fi enabled smart bulb with colour-change abilities, such as Philips Hue or LIFX, and an app called IFTTT.

What’s IFTTT?

The acronym stands for “IF This Then That”.  Simply put it translates to, “IF I do This (your choice of activity), Then That (your selected result) happens automatically. IFTTT (pronounced to rhyme with ‘gift’) is actually a website where you go, create a free user account, and start automating your life.31D7838E-CEE5-4502-A82A-E21E5B7788C1

One of the ways you automate things is by using or making “recipes”, such as “if the temperature drops below zero, Then turn my Nest thermostat up 3 degrees,” “If there’s a flight deal (to a certain city), Then notify me on email,” and even, “If the pollen count is high, Then remind me to take allergy medicine,” and “If the current weather condition changes to rain, then change my Philips Hue light bulbs pastel blue.”  The possibilities are literally endless, and while you can create your own custom recipes, you can browse and use the recipes others have made on the IFTTT website too.  For a look at the full list of apps and services, or Channels that work with IFTTT, click here.
My IFTTT recipe: IF snow turn LIFX bulbs blue

I have some LIFX bulbs in a living room lamp, so I went to the IFTTT app and created a recipe that uses the local forecast in my area, to tell the bulbs to turn blue when snow is coming, and I also get an alert sent to my cell phone (click here to access my recipe).  Now I get a super helpful 24 hour advance heads up about inclement weather.  In the summer, I create a new recipe to warn me of rain. Another similar recipe on IFTTT will turn your LIFX bulb cyan and slowly blink them.

It’s worth getting to know IFTTT technology.  It’s easy and fun to automate life’s tasks and get your devices working smarter.

 

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Spy on your pets? Watch over your kids? Record intruders? New Myfox camera can do it

IMG_7768 Personal use cameras are becoming much more popular. From dash-cams in cars, to smaller home security cameras, it’s now easier than ever to monitor your environment for security, safety, curiosity, or to keep an eye on pets or children.

That’s the premise of the Myfox home security camera. This device is described as a “high performance home security camera remotely controlled by a smartphone app and is the only camera with a motorized, mechanical shutter to guarantee total privacy.”

Hands On with MyfoxIMG_7772

The camera is a very unique shape.  It’s just a bit bigger than a standard size hockey puck. The lens is in the side edge of the device, and features a sliding shutter that can open and close over the lens when you want it. The camera comes out of the box with a very long USB cord for power, which is a great unexpected plus, allowing the camera to be placed anywhere, at a good distance from any power source.

CLICK HERE to read the rest of this review on Best Buy’s Plug in blog.

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