Ring Stick Up Camera Review

If you’ve ever wanted to watch over your property, you know security systems can be complicated and expensive. But things are simplified with the arrival of the Ring Stick Up Camera. Continue reading “Ring Stick Up Camera Review”

Top 10 tech gadgets of 2016

I’ve tested a lot of gadgets and gear this year. Picking favourites is hard, because unlike previous years, many of the items that have come into the tech test kitchen in 2016 are really high quality, and work well, so picking the cream of the crop is a challenge. Nevertheless, here are the Top 10 tech gadgets I highly recommend having in your life. Continue reading “Top 10 tech gadgets of 2016”

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

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

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

What causes Tarnish?

A well-used silver polishing cloth.

A well-used silver polishing cloth.

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

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

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

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

How to clean silver

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

Chemicals can cause tarnish

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

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

Don’t experiment with cleaning silver using household cleaners!

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

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

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

A Note about Grocery Store Silver Cleanser

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

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

 

 

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

 

Gorgeous fitness, activity & smart gadgets

For many years, fitness and activity trackers were utilitarian, rubbery and, let’s face it, sometimes ugly.

Now, a whole new generation of fitness and activity trackers, plus other smart devices have the look of fine jewelry, with all the smart functionality you need!

Fitbit’s new trackers

Meet Fitbit Altaimg_1691

The Alta is the fashionista version of an activity tracker. Slim and bracelet-like, the Alta actually looks a lot like the original Fitbit Flex (and comes with all the basic activity tracker features you’d expect), but with some improvements:

  • more sleek bracelet/band options including more watch/jewelry style options
  • vertical display on the front of the band with built-in watch
  • smart alerts come directly to the bracelet

The Alta is meant for a person who wants to be fashionable and not be seen to wear an ‘ugly’ rubber athletic band all the time. The band does the physical tracking and it pairs with a free smartphone app where you can store and access stats from day to day and long-term. There are also several pretty options for bands, from leather, to metal to the original rubber if you’re going to be working out hard.

Read my FULL REVIEW of Fitbit Alta .

Check out Fitbit Blaze

To use the Blaze you’ll need the Fitbit App if you want to keep long-term stats. With the app downloaded, you pair the device to your phone.

The Blaze has an interesting configuration; it’s essentially two parts; the band (which is interchangeable, more on that below), and the tracker unit, a flat, square device just over an inch square and slightly thicker than an average watch.  The tracker pops out of the band to allow for changeover, and must be removed and placed inside a tiny box for  charging.

At first I thought this band would be heavy and bulky, but after less than an hour, I had already forgotten it was on my wrist. Really, it doesn’t feel any heavier or bigger than my original Fitbit Flex, despite the obvious size differences.img_1456

I also like that the tracker unit itself can be popped out of the band, and tucked into a sports bra, sock, or pocket. This was one of my favorite features of the Fitbit Flex; it allowed me to hide the tracker if I didn’t want to be wearing something obviously athletic and rubbery on my wrist for a nice night out or a formal event. While the accuracy of the device may not be as exact if it’s worn elsewhere since it’s been made to be worn on the wrist, in my experience it wasn’t off enough to throw my day out of whack. And besides, the better looking these devices get, the less likely we are to want to hide them anyway, right?

Read my FULL REVIEW of the Fitbit Blaze.

Samsung Galaxy Gear S2 smart watch &

Samsung Galaxy S7 smartphone

Samsung Gear S2

I’ve been playing with this device for a week now and I love it’s clean lines and intuitive interface. While it functions as a chic watch, with a host of cool faces to match any style, it also has fitess tracking abilities.

  • Taking charge of your fitness goals is easy. It helps you track your daily activity levels,  and water vs. caffeine intake.
  • The Gear S2 helps you stay fit (even when you don’t want to!) with motivational messages, giving you the extra push, or much needed reminders.
  • The Gear S2’s battery life enables you to stay connected approximately 2-3 days on a single wireless charge.
  • No matter the weather, you can stay on your fitness track because the Gear S2 is water resistant and dustproof, so you never have to miss that much needed outdoor jog, even in the rain!
  • The Gear S2 will also track your heart rate.

The Gear S2 pairs with the  Samsung Galaxy S7

Features:

  • The Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge are the first Dual Pixel smartphones, letting you get the shot in 0.15 seconds. With a 12MP camera and a larger (f1.7) aperture, the camera owns the night and captures the moments that matter like never before, even in low light.
  •  With a stunning 5.1″ Quad HD Super AMOLED Display (5.5″ for Galaxy S7 edge) these smartphones are designed to not just look beautiful, but feel great in your hands. Plus, with an always-on display, stay up to date on the time, calendar and notifications without having to wake up your screen.
  •  Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge deliver fast wired and wireless charging technology. Additionally, the hybrid SIM card tray allows users to insert a microSD card for up to 200GB of additional storage

For Apple users, Samsung is working on an app that will allow the watch to function with iPhones too so more users may then be able to  jump on board.

Ringly Smart Ring

This little gem (pun intended) is a chic cocktail ring with smart functionality. Ringly rings come in a variety of metal finishes and stones. They work by sending you alerts when texts, phone calls or emails come in. You can also set it up to work with other apps and devices, like Fitbit, MyFitnessPal, Instagram, Twitter and many more.

The Ringly will vibrate on your finger, and you can set it for one buzz, up to four vibrations. The ring also sends a coloured light alert, via a tiny LED light in the side of the ring (the stone itself doesn’t glow). You can change the colout from orange to red, blue, green or purple, depending on they type of alert you want to get. It’s a fun accessory, but I recommend getting a size smaller than you might ordinarily, as the stone is quite heavy and falls to the size if not fitted properly. You’ll find that frustrating, and pull the ring off, so size appropriately.

New Ring Video Doorbell has smaller design, adds Live View

doorbell_proRing, makers of the very popular and easy to use Video Doorbell, are rolling out a brand new gadget dubbed Pro. Made as an upgrade from the existing doorbell, the new Pro version is smaller and slimmer than the original,  and has advanced features, like Live View.

Ring says the ability to peek in on homes at any moment, with a live video feed has been the number one most requested new feature, so it’s now available in the Pro model.

I’ve been a fan of Ring since first reviewing the original model and now one keeps watch over my home. Read my review here.

The new ultra slim wifi video doorbell with advanced features available today on pre-order for $249. Ring will now offer two choices for smart doorbells, Ring Video Doorbell, which offers dual power and super easy installation for $199 and Pro which requires doorbell power and has a handful of advanced features for $249.screen-motion-pro-b3c5ab536239238cce5b1e39e151f4bf

Interested in other home security options, like padlocks that work with your smartphone (no keys!) and wireless alarm systems? Check out those gadgets here.

pro-colors-31f91f13608b5561d672b9a837f7332a

 

Gadgets get better looking! The rise of ‘Smart Jewelry’

tech talk december 3This time on CTV’s Tech Talk we focused on a new trend that’s seeing gadgets get  better looking, after many years of being functional, but in some cases kinda ugly.

Tory Burch for Fitbit

IMG_7876I’ve long been a big fan of Fitbit’s Flex fitness tracker. (Read why here) My biggest knock on it has been that it’s not a pretty accessory when it’s worn at work or for a night out. Fitbit’s heard my prayers, partnering with US Designer tory Burch for a line of beautiful jewelry-type cases for the Flex; a series of bracelets, and a neat pendant too. You’ll need the Flex tracker first (sold separately), but now you’ve got a gorgeous option, aside from the ugly and obvious plastic wristbands that the Flex comes with.

Bellabeat Leaf Fitness Tracker

IMG_7784The Bellabeat Leaf is a sleep, stress, movement and health monitor that looks nothing like typical fitness bands. It’s a beautiful metal and wood pendant that is very versatile. It can be worn on a chain around the neck, clipped to a leather buckle bracelet, or clipped on to any piece of clothing. it comes in a few different colour combinations too.

This neat little gadget tracks your movements like many fitness monitors, but it will also track your menstrual cycle.

Moto360 Smart Watch

IMG_8507We’ve all heard about smart watches, and Motorola’s entry to the market is just as stylish and smart as the others. With a round face and interchangeable virtual watch faces, you can totally customize this watch to your mood, outfit, or overall style.

The watch will deliver alerts directly to your wrist; everything from the basic texts, calls and emails, but also alerts from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram plus WordPress and even the Ring Video Doorbell! While it has some limitations whenused with Apple smart devices, it still works pretty good, and looks great.

Netatmo June UV Sensing Bracelet

netatmo-june-1-537x402June by netatmo is a small light-sensor made beautiful. It measures ambient light and alerts you when you’ve had too much sun. JUNE’s UVA and UVB sensors measure your sun exposure while the App computes the data and gives you the UV index in real time. While it should keep you from getting a sunburn, it can also protect you from the aging properties of the suns rays by alerting you when you’ve been in the sun too long. This delicate little sensor is sparkly and looks like a pretty gemstone. Attached to a nice leather bracelet, it’s a chic way to be sun savvy.

Fossil Q Smart Watches and Fitness Bands

fossil q watch

Speaking of sexy watches, Fossil has come out with a new line of really, really beautiful watches that will also give you smart alerts. I tested the Fossil Q Grant, a lovely watch with Roman numerals that gives you a subtle buzz when something on your phone needs attention.

dreamerYou’ll get filtered notifications from favorite contacts and the Q line also allows you to track everything from steps to calories. Fossil Q Grant is compatible with both Android and iOS operating systems.

I also showed the Fossil Q Dreamer, a fitness tracker that looks like chic jewelry, rather than a bulky or plastic fitness band. This charming and sparly little bangle also tracks daily steps and calories, as well as providing basic vibrating alerts for messages.

Looking for more chic wearables? Click to read my Top 5 Wearables List!

I also showed the brand new Glow Headphones. These have garnered a lot of attention since I first  showed them off on my Twitter and YouTube Channel.

They’re quite the eye-catching earphones! Read the full review of them here.

IMG_8243

 

My Top 10 Tech Gadgets of the Year

I’ve had the great fortune to test some of the best and most-coveted tech gadgets this year. I’ve reviewed a lot of devices, but only these make my top 10 list for 2015.  My criteria? They have to be easy to use, perform as promised – or better – than the companies advertise, they have to be useful, practical, and well made. It has to be something I’d actually buy for myself, and there’s also bonus points for coolness.

Here’s the list, in order.

10. Belkin Mixit Charging Cables

IMG_7398With the battery life of many phones in a sad state, it’s imperative to carry extra cables or a portable battery pack. But they can be heavy, or clunky, or get tangled up inside your bag.

Belkin has come up with a WAY better option that I think is going to be a huge hit.  There are three smart additions to their MIXIT line of cables.

Made from natural leather, the MIXIT Lightning to USB Tassel is a chic handbag charm that hides a premium metallic charging cable in its tassels. Belkin says, “its fringe design takes a purse from bleak to chic, keeps the cable tidy and prevents it from getting tangled.” I also love the chic lobster clip that makes it easy to attach and swap it from bag to bag. Read the full review HERE.

9. Vitamix Blender

IMG_6963I like using frozen fruit and fresh kale in my smoothies, however my blender will only chop the hearty greens so well.  Inevitably I’m choking down tiny kale fibers, or having them get jammed in the straw. Oh, and there’s usually some giant pieces of frozen fruit left in the bottom too.

Not with the Vitamix.  This blender is able to absolutely liquefy its contents, usually on just one blending cycle. That means no bits of kale, and no frozen chunks. I was sceptical at first, but I can attest the Vitamix is on another level when it comes to blending. Full Review HERE.

8. Biolite Campstove

rsz_biolite_recropThe BioLite CampStove was the company’s first production piece. The concept is simple and genius at the same time: the CampStove creates a smokeless campfire that can cook meals and boil water in minutes. Setup is easy, fuel is free, and the company says, “flames are hyperefficient with performance on par with white gas stoves.” Then at the same time, the stove’s heat generates usable electricity for charging LED lights, mobile phones, and other personal devices. The stove’s USB connector will charge up most devices, and every twenty minutes of charging with a strong fire gives you about an hour of talk time on most smartphones. Probably more than you need out in the bush! The stove can also boil a litre of water in about 5 minutes in the small, Thermos-sized kit. I tested this gadget on a summer camping trip and it was compact, easy to use, produced a lot of heat, and gave me juice on the go. It’s a must-have for the serious camper. I love Biolite’s NanoGrid light kit a lot too. Read about both HERE.

7. Phonesuit charging case

phonesuitAre you the type who always runs out of juice on your device? The Phonesuit Elite battery case will keep you going all day long.  On its own, it protects, then when you need the extra hit of power, you just turn it on, and it gives you an additional 120% charge. The beauty of these cases are they recharge in 2 hours, and are quite slim, considering all the power it packs.  I liked these cases because they’re really durable, they recharge quickly, and the deliver that extra power punch quickly. Read how to get one, and about some other great case options HERE.

6. MyFox Security Camera

myfoxA small oddly-shaped camera, but it works like a dream.  A beautiful HD video picture, and set up is super easy. With the free app downloaded, I was able to set up the account in no time, and the camera was fully operational in about five minutes.The MyFox camera is without a doubt the easiest camera with the best video quality for your home secutity dollar. Read the full review HERE.

5. Fujifilm Instax Share Photo Printer

IMG_2828Wondering what to do with all the digital photos that sit on your device for years and years?  Start printing the best ones!
The new Fujifilm Instax Share printer is truly pocket sized, but it operates basically as you might remember a Polaroid camera operating; it spits out a small photo instantly that takes a couple minutes to fully develop. The result is retro-cool prints in an instant. The printer is easy to operate, and makes great quality prints.
Read more about the Instax printer HERE.

4. Felony Case

IMG_0380I only picked two cases as tops this year, and this is one of them. 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!  Check out the full write-up on Felony Case, as well as som other great options HERE.

3. Osram Lightify Flex

IMG_6431I’m sure under counter lighting is going to be a hugely popular use for this product, but you could see getting really creative with it too: lighting around a mirror, a headboard, under a glass table top, or stone bar. There are endless possibilities because this lighting is ultra thin and completely bendable. The Flex kit is super easy to install, and gives you the option of turning the lights different colours. I absolutely love changing the look and mood of the room with coloured light, and Flex makes it easy and chic. Learn about the Flex kit HERE.

2. Qwerkywriter Bluetooth Keyboard

QWERKY111Qwerkywriter is a solid aluminum metal (but not heavy!) keyboard that connects wirelessly via Bluetooth to iPhones, iPads, iMacs, MacPros, Macbooks, Android Tablets Devices, Windows Tablets, and more. It also has a functional carriage return bar that works as an ENTER key.
I absolutely love the feel of the industrial strength mechanical switches that give the device a unique clacky feel and sound. Punching typewriter keys requires just a touch more force than a younger generation will be familiar with, but those old enough to appreciate Mr Dressup reruns will love the stress relief properties.
Read all about Qwerkywriter on my blog HERE.

1. Ring Video Doorbell

IMG_4769It’s a simple gadget that’s infinitely useful. Ring is a video doorbell that lets you respond to visitors remotely via your smartphone from anywhere.  Got a package being delivered and you’re not home? Use Ring to answer the delivery driver’s call and instruct him to leave the package with a neighbour.  Annoying salesperson? Know before you open the door and get stuck in conversation. Ring is ultra-easy to use and get set up and has a sharp HD camera and high quality 2-way voice interaction. Added motion-detection alerts can also keep you safe from people lurking around or casing your place. I have Ring at my house and love it.
Read the full review HERE.

Have you got a gadget you think deserves top billing? Is there a gadget I should look at for next year’s list? Let me know in comments, below.

 

 

 

Read more tech news! Surf cool tech topics HERE.

Review: Ring Video Doorbell

ring doorbell

I may have found one of the easiest, simplest, and most straightforward gadgets on the market these days.

Watch my 3 minute VIDEO review of the Ring below

I recently had a chance to test out a Ring video doorbell. A coworker had tipped me off to the product, as he’d just ordered two, and was in love. After testing out numerous gadgets recently that connect to Wi-Fi, and require you to have an account, and do your own installation, I was a bit apprehensive about this one. I’ve found a lot of new gadget releases to be quite time-consuming, tedious, and buggy to set up. Not so with the Ring. I was blown away, and minutes after downloading the app, my account was set up and ready to go. Then it was onto installation.
IMG_4760I love that the Ring video doorbell comes in a kit complete with absolutely everything you need to install it yourself, including screws, screwdriver, and a tiny little level. That was absolutely brilliant, as I was not looking forward to have to rifle through my husband’s tools to find what I needed.
I watched the video they have at the ready for you on their app to get an idea of what to expect with installation. The video was short, and easy to follow, and made the installation seem super easy, which it was. In less than 10 minutes, I had an account set up and the video doorbell affixed to the front of my house already to go. I pressed the button to test it out, and it worked perfectly from the first try.
How it Works:ring graphic
When pushed, the doorbell will send an alert to your smart phone, and show you who is at your door. From there, you can decide if you want to engage in conversation with them, or ignore. The HD video picture is super crisp and clear and gives you a very good view of who is there. A recent new addition by Ring, cloud storage, also means that you can get access to images of who rang your doorbell, even if you aren’t by your phone to monitor the alert.
The audio interaction between yourself and your visitor is also quite handy, meaning you can accept and authorize a package delivery to your front door, even if you are miles away at work. Similarly, you could instruct a florist to drop your bouquet off at a neighbors house if you won’t be home for several hours. Ring also adds, “built-in motion sensors detect any activity on your property and trigger instant mobile alerts, giving you peace of mind when you’re away.”
You might be wondering how you avoid having your fancy new expensive video doorbell stolen. Good question, so was I. The Ring doorbell comes with special security screws, which require a specialized tiny screwdriver. Without the tiny screwdriver to free the unit, the video doorbell is securely bolted to your wall, and a thief cannot just run off with it.
 IMG_4774
The Verdict:
I’ve had the doorbell for a couple months now, and I already think it’s a really great invention. Primarily, I love how easy and user-friendly it is. Even non-tech savvy folks will have an easy time getting this product up and running.
The Ring video doorbell sells for $199 at Best Buy and Amazon.ca