Reviews of lots of very cool products!

Archive for August, 2015

FlipStir Puzzle – Level 1 – Rainbow Pencils


Get this great product here: FlipStir Puzzle – Level 1 – Rainbow Pencils

I’ve always loved doing puzzles, from basic jigsaws to more unusual styles that require extra dexterity and logic, so when I saw this FlipStir puzzle I was quite intrigued.  I’ve never seen any puzzle or game designed anything like this.  There is basically a sealed plastic canister with clear sides.  Through a hole in the top is secured a metal rod with a plastic lever or “foot” at the bottom and inside the canister are the pieces to the puzzle.  I chose to try the Rainbow Pencil design both because it looked visually interesting and since it was a “Level 1”, so I figured it would have the best chance of my kids (ages 5 and 7) being able to give it a try.  

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Now that I’ve tried this out, I’m really impressed with the clever design.  I would say that it took me about a half hour to fully solve the rainbow puzzle design.  It was a bit frustrating at first, but the same can be said of any new type of dexterity puzzle, as it naturally took me a few minutes to figure out how to best use the metal rod and plastic “foot” to manipulate the pieces.  Each of the pieces is a plastic semicircle with a lip on the underside, which is useful to help grab at them with the end of the rod.  A number of times I found that I thought I was placing a piece correctly, but it was actually upside down or backwards.  After a few tries I figured out how to flip a piece around if I needed to.

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The FlipStir is recommended for ages 7 and up.  My 7 year old daughter tends to get frustrated very easily with physical tasks that she finds difficult, so I decided after trying out the FlipStir on my own that I’m going to wait a while before having her give this a try.  While I think she would be capable of doing it, I think she’d just get too worked up in learning the mechanism.  Probably within the next year or less I could take it out to do together with her and I think she’ll really enjoy it.  The rainbow pencil image is nice for beginners because it’s easy to tell from the order of colors which piece comes next, so I think it will be a good one for her to start out with.  I also like that everything is fully enclosed in the plastic container, so it’s easy to take on the go with no fear of losing pieces.

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I’m very glad that I was able to receive this as a free promotional sample in order to evaluate and provide my honest review.

 

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Brooklyn Beans Roastery Bold Variety K-Cup Pack

Get Brooklyn Beans Roastery’s coffees here!

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Having now tried all four types in the Brooklyn Beans Roastery Bold Variety Pack K-cups, I am really impressed with the quality and flavor of these intense brews.  The pack includes 10 each of French Roast, Cyclone, Espress-O, and Fuhgeddaboutit.  I use K-cups primarily at work, where I have access to a Keurig machine that is available for my department.  I really enjoy the flavor of a good cup of coffee and won’t just drink bad coffee for the caffeine boost.  The K-cups that my work provides are ok, but not the greatest and I often find that I need to add sugar to cut the bitterness.  With every one of the Brooklyn Beans coffees, I am able to enjoy the coffee just on its own unless I’m specifically in the mood for some sweetness, because the roasts are incredibly smooth with no harsh or bitter notes.  I should also mention that these all worked very smoothly with the Keurig machine, fitting in and brewing just as I would expect any other K-cup I’ve tried before.

Let me give my thoughts now about each of the dark roast varieties:

French Roast: This gives a beautiful deep sienna colored cup of coffee with a slightly woodsy aroma.  The woodsy and smoky character definitely comes through in the flavor, but is moderate enough that it is not at all bitter.  It is easy to drink and gives me the boost in the morning that I’m looking for.

French Roast (1)

Cyclone: The Cyclone brew is a deep, silky brown.  It has some nice woodsy notes and somehow makes me feel like I should be sitting around a campfire!  It has a very nice smooth flavor – a bit more intense I think than the French Roast.

Cyclone (1)

Fughgeddaboutit: First of all I just have to say that I love the name of this coffee – so clever and funny!  This intensely concentrated black coffee has a wonderful bold flavor, yet is still smooth enough to drink on its own.  I enjoyed this one as well with a tiny splash of vanilla creamer.

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Express-O:  I think this may be my favorite of the four if I had to choose.  The aroma is fantastic – it really smells like I’m walking into a nice coffee shop where a barista is expertly preparing espresso drinks.  I wouldn’t expect such an intensely deep dark brew to taste so smooth, but really I love just sipping this on its own.  It’s a great treat for a break from work in the afternoon.

Express-O

All in all it is clear that Brooklyn Beans takes care to use high quality ingredients and methods to deliver a really great cup of coffee!

I’m very glad that I was able to receive this as a free promotional sample in order to evaluate and provide my honest review.

MelodySusie Large Capacity Acrylic Cosmetic Organizer

Get this great product here: MelodySusie Large Capacity Acrylic Cosmetic Organizer 

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I’ve been struggling to find ways to keep my home organized, so when I saw this MelodySusie large capacity acrylic organizer I was so excited to give it a try! When I opened up the box I was really impressed by the thick, sturdy acrylic construction – clearly high quality. There are three separate pieces in this set. The largest piece is the set of drawers. As you can see in my video, there are two narrow drawers on the top drawer with two wider drawers beneath. The drawer on the very bottom is deeper than the one in the middle. All of the drawers glide in and out of the frame smoothly, as long as they are not overfilled. I really like that each of the drawers has a custom fit piece of liner fabric – this is a black mesh material that provides a bit of cushioning to protect the items I am storing and also help prevent the acrylic from being scratched. There are so many possible uses for these drawers, from cosmetics to jewelry to even office supplies or small knick knacks. I’ve been using it for makeup and other cosmetics items, with lipsticks in one small drawer, tweezers and nail scissors in the other small drawer, nail files and makeup pencils in the shorter wide drawer, and some of my larger items like my facial cleansing brush in the taller drawer at the bottom.

Drawer Section Dimensions:
Upper Drawers: 4 ¾” x 5 ¼” interior opening, 1 ¼” deep
Middle Drawer: 10″ x 5 ¼” interior opening, 1 ¼” deep
Bottom Drawer: 10″ x 5 ¼” interior opening, 2″ deep
Whole Drawer Unit: 11″ wide, 5 ¼” tall, 5 ¾” deep

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The next piece is an acrylic tray with 10 compartments which can either be placed on top of the drawer unit, inside the largest drawer to easily divide it into smaller spaces, or used separately on its own. This pieces has 6 small sections (1 ¾” x 1 ½”) which are perfect for lipstick, lip balm, or nail polish; three slots across the back (3 ¼” x 1 ½”) that are good for taller bottles or small pads of paper and a larger space in the front (4 ¼” x 3″) that I like using for hair ties and clips. This whole piece would also be great as a jewelry organizer, placing watches and bracelets in the back, earrings or pendants in the small slots and chunkier necklaces or brooches in the large section. 

Then there is a taller piece that nests onto the top of the drawer unit or can be used on its own. This section for me is perfect for the everyday items I use when getting ready in the morning. There are 6 small sections in front (4 of them are 1″ x 1 ⅛” and the other two are 1 ¾” x 1 ⅛”) which are perfect for lipstick or lip balm and I also find handy to hold a pen or pencil if I need to jot down a quick note, two tall sections in the back (a wide one: 4 ¾” x 2″ and 3″ tall and a curved triangular one) that I like for brushes, and taller items like deodorant, moisturizer, and liquid foundation, and finally two curved sections on the right front that provide nice open space for things like hair clips and ties, small pots of eyeshadow, and more.

All in all I am so happy with the MelodySusie organizer. Instantly this has allowed me to declutter the countertop and drawers in my bathroom and simplify my daily routine by grouping together all the items I use in the morning. I love how many different ways I can configure the organizer to be just right for me, by using the tray piece either inside the large drawer or on its own and choosing whether to place the tray or taller piece on top of the drawers. For now I am using the taller piece on top of the drawers and using the tray section completely separately in another part of the house.

I’m very glad that I was able to order this as a free promotional sample in order to evaluate and provide my honest review.

Pearl Design Flatware Place set by Liberty Tabletop

Get the full flatware set here: Pearl Design 45-piece set by Liberty Tabletop

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When I heard about Liberty Tabletop flatware company, I was really intrigued by their business practices and happy to have a chance to try out a place setting of one of their flatware lines.  I don’t normally comment much on the company itself in a review, but I really appreciate that Liberty makes all their products fully in the US with good labor practices and using high quality materials.  From having used their flatware now for a few weeks, I can attest that these are great quality.  The utensils are extremely sturdy, with a classic design and beautiful shiny finish.  

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The placeset I have is from the Pearl pattern, which has a row of small silver circles wth incised lines along both sides to make an attractive border all along the edge of the handles of each utensil.  This is a nice extra accent to give some style to everyday flatware.  Each piece is extremely sturdy – I couldn’t bend them even if I wanted to!

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I’m very glad that I was able to receive one place set as a free promotional sample in order to evaluate and provide my honest review.

The Green Spring – a book from the Green Kids Club

Get more info on the Green Kids Club here: http://www.greenkidsclub.com/

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My day job is actually related to sustainability in science and I’m quite passionate about the subject, so I was very intrigued when I heard about this Green Kids Club and had a chance to review one of their books.  The club’s tagline is “environmental activities for kids” – with 5 and 7 year old kids at home, that seems perfect for me to get them engaged and excited about the environment around them.  Their website has a few activity suggestions and some very simple games (a word search, matching game, and a couple where kids can interact with a simple scene on the screen).  These games seem to be made for touchscreen devices, so I would recommend trying them out on a tablet or phone.  The book I received is “The Green Spring”.  The illustrations are nicely done in a style that I think will appeal to younger kids.  The text though is a bit heavy handed with a teaching type style.  I wish that it were more plot and character driven, with a bit less obvious attempts to push environmental principles onto the reader.  It just feels to me that the kids would be more likely to embrace and retain the key messages if the story were more engaging in this way.  With that said, I do think it provides a nice introduction for kids to the basic concepts of environmental sustainability, with a cast of animals and children that young readers can relate to.  All in all I’d say this is a cute book for a classroom setting where the messages can be backed up with some interactive group activities, but might not be my first choice for a home library where it’s harder to plan some of those related exercises.

IMG_20150806_222710202I’m very glad that I was able to receive this as a free promotional sample in order to evaluate and provide my honest review.

ThinkFun Maker Studio – Propellers Building Kit


Get this great product here: ThinkFun Maker Studio – Propellers Building Kit

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I have two very creative kids, aged 5 and 7, and I knew when I saw this ThinkFun Maker Studios Propeller Kit that we were going to have a lot of fun. I love the idea of providing all the pieces and adding in common household items like toilet paper rolls and soda bottles to complete the kit. It’s a neat way to reuse these items before they go into the recycling bin.
We chose first to do the toilet paper roll windmill. The other projects look great, but we didn’t have a 2 L soda bottle or potato chip can (like from Pringles) in the house, plus those were a bit more complex in their construction, so with younger kids it was good to start with a basic project anyways. It took me a bit to realize that the plastic tool included is used to punch holes in the cardboard – this tool is actually really cleverly designed and works perfectly to punch the correct sized hole in the cardboard tube. I like the way that the black rubber circular pieces lock into the plastic parts to hold everything in place. I will mention that it’s important to make sure the holes are lined up directly across each other on the paper tube or else the windmill will not be able to properly turn. I got my holes a bit off the first time, but was able to redo them to fix it. The proportions are a bit off from the drawings in the instruction manual for the windmill – the drawings show the cardboard tube as a lot taller compared to the windmill blades, but clearly with a toilet paper roll (as they say to use), it ends up with a much shorter windmill. It still works well though and was a lot of fun to put together with my kids.

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I really like the included flip book of ideas to ask additional questions and get kids thinking about how to modify their designs to do things like get the propellers going on their own (with the aid of rubber bands and the like). My kids are a bit young for most of these, but I could see them being really great ways to get extra scientific thought out of older kids.

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It’s also fun that there can be extra creativity after the item is done according to the instructions. My daughter wasn’t in the mood to help with actually assembling our windmill, but grabbed it afterwards and had fun with her markers decorating the cardboard tube to make it extra special!
  I’m very glad that I was able to receive this as a free promotional sample in order to evaluate and provide my honest review.

Tens Unit Pulse Massager by SantaMedical


Get this product here: Tens Unit Pulse Massager by SantaMedical

I’ve never used a Tens unit before and was very curious to give this a try to see how it might help with issues I’m working through with pain in my arms, hands, and shoulders. This household unit is easy to use. The included instructions are quite confusing and don’t even describe each of the modes, which is why I’m giving this four stars, but at least the buttons are self explanatory enough that I was able to figure out my way through using the product. I like that the electrode pads have a built in layer of gel on them – no need to apply extra gel on the skin. In order for them to work it is important to attach both pads to your skin – this completes the electrical circuit and allows the pulses to be felt. I’ve been trying out some of the different modes and I definitely can feel the pulses in my muscle tissue and can use the controls to vary the intensity. I will be starting physical therapy soon for my muscle and tendon issues and will work with my therapist to determine the best way to utilize this Tens unit during my treatment.

I’m very glad that I was able to order this as a free promotional sample in order to evaluate and provide my honest review.