Griot’s Garage Car Care Products – 5 stars

If there is one difference between California and Washington it’s the sheer lack of nice places to get your car washed. Also, if you own a black car, you’ve hopefully figured out that the surest way to surprise yourself is to take it to a car wash (especially non-touchless) as you’ll drive out with paint swirls.

A few years ago, I took to the internet and discovered an incredible (and local to Washington) company – Griot’s Garage – that makes some of the best car washing / caring products I’ve used. It’s the same product that Park Place Auto Salon uses (and they sell all their stuff). If you live on the East Side (or work there), Park Place is the best car wash.

In my experience with their products, I will say they are top notch. The micro-fiber towels, each custom designed for a specific purpose, are excellent at what they do. They are easily washable and will last years. The reviews on Amazon for all of these products back up my claims.

The way to get into Griot’s garage products is first to recognize that you don’t need to wash your car with water. You can do it in your own garage, and all year round.

Griot’s Garage 11285 Spray-On Car Wash Kit

Griot’s spray on kit is a waterless cleaning system. You basically soak parts of your car with this high volume bottle sprayer and then you wipe with the plush green micro fiber. Then after a minute you buff with the micro fiber. It takes 10-15 min to wash a car depending on how dirty it is. If you have kids, you can shave off some time!

The key with this kit is being very generous with your spray and working in small sections out of the sun. I’ve purchased an extra set of towels since they do get pretty wet and soaked.

Griot’s Garage 11262 Interior Kit

For the inside of your car, the interior kit is great. Doesn’t smell bad and won’t ruin any synthetic or leather products.

Griot’s Garage 11345 Speed Shine Quick Detailing Kit

The speed shine kit is a bit different than the wash. This is meant as a quick “wax” application to use after your have washed a car (either in an auto wash) or due to some dust and dirt that’s accumulated. Much faster than the Spray-On wash it’s even great to use after a wash. Your car will look detailed.

Griot’s Garage 11224 Wheel Cleaning Kit

For cleaning your wheels, this stuff makes brake dust melt.

Griot’s Garage 67255CSTBUC Ultimate Car Wash Bucket

However, now that it’s summer in Seattle, I’ve been enlisting my kid in washing the cars which they seem to enjoy. For this reason I got the Griot’s car was bucket. It is very fast and easy to wash your car the traditional way with about 4 gallons of water (between bucked and rinsing).

The Ultimate Car Was Bucket is really well designed. It has a tray on the bottom to keep the dirt under the wash towels and a special designed measuring system that makes it easy to dole out car was soap. Finally it has an upper shelf that’s good for a wheel brush or cloth. Also it has wheels and a big handle that make movement around the car easy.

Griot’s Garage 11102 Car Wash

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This stuff is amazing. If you use the Micro Fiber wash mit and drying cloth you will have a spotless shine. Simply pour into the small little reservoir in the bucked and fill with a hose.

Griot’s Garage 10268 Micro Fiber Wash Mitt – Set of 2

I have the pads (Amazon doesn’t seem to carry them) but the mitts are the same concept. These are super plush, super absorbent and required to get clean / and shine without spots. No swirl marks.

Griot’s Garage 11117 Micro Fiber Drying Towel

For drying your car, nothing beats having a huge absorbent towel. This towel is amazing. it has 4 hand pockets that let you cover a lot of the car in a short amount of time. I have 2 of these and I keep 1 in the car at all times in case I do go to a touch-less car wash.

Griot’s makes a TON of other products too which you can explore. For example, bug removal spray, glass cleaner (I just use micro fiber and water). The stuff above will go a long way to improving your car look.

★★★★★
Exceptional. A spectacular product.

Aquabot – High pressure water spray – 4 stars

One great reason to go camping is all the wonderful opportunities it provides me for researching gadgets!

This past weekend our team did an annual float down the Snoqualmie river. At the end team members were amazed by my Aquabot. I used it to wash all the sand off my feet before getting into the car. I may have sold a few that day!

What is the Aquabot? It’s a high pressure spray that attaches to a 32oz Nalgene bottle. With it you have a stream of water that you can use outdoors for things like showering, cleaning your kids, or just having an impromptu water fight. Our kids love them and so do I!

Aquabot is one of the more sucessful kickstarter projects I’ve funded (meaning I actually use the product). I’m currently in a self-imposed Kickstarted moratorium this year as I went overboard last year.


The spray itself is very powerful. I estimate about 30 ft.

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I recommend getting one with the bottle as it saves another purchase. But if you have a bunch of Nalgene bottles already, this will make a welcome addition.

Purchase direct from Aquabot for $20.

★★★★☆
Great. Worth purchasing.

Wally iPhone Wallet Cases – 5 stars

Lets face it. Apple Pay and Coin are not doing a good enough job replacing all the plastic cards we must cary. In the interim I’ve been super happy with my Capsule Wallet.

However, I also like to have the most minimalist setup – Driver’s License and one Credit Card. For this reason I have often turned to Distill Union, the maker of the Wally Wallet.

There are two versions. 1. The “Case” which I got for my wife, and 2. The Stick-On wallet which I use. I prefer no case, so this is a great compromise. Plus I like the way the leather feels on the back of my iPhone 6 Plus.

Here is the case. It comes in different colors and for all iPhone models. The sides are a nice siliconized rubber. The case holds 3 cards pretty easily.

 

My wallet uses a temporary 3M sticker to adhere to the back of the phone. The stick-on holds 2 cards easily.

 

If you are looking for a wallet solution for your phone, I highly reccommend.

Note: no iPhone? Not to worry. They also make a stick on card case.

★★★★★
Exceptional. A spectacular product.

Ring Doorbell – 4 stars

The Ring Doorbell is a wireless video camera and doorbell with mobile app. You simply replace your exiting doorbell and it even uses the same wiring (assuming you have 10VA wiring like most homes do).

Before the Ring I had the Doorbot, which was OK (made by the same company). Video quality was meh and it was a bit buggy. So I never wanted to review it. However, a few months back it was replaced with the Ring Doorbell.

If you have a doorbell transformer that looks like this:

You are in luck. I never really knew what this odd shaped gizmo is, but basically it connects to your home 120V AC power and converts that to low power for a doorbell chime.

The Ring doorbell has an internal battery that this low voltage power will keep charged. You can use it without hard wiring, but you will need to keep the doorbell charged every so often.

If you do not have a wired doorbell, there is a wireless solution too.

Once you install the Ring, you get the following features:

  • Motion at the door sends your phone an alert (you can customize the distance and sensitivity)
  • Rings of the doorbell chime your internal door bell and your mobile phone
  • You can see and talk to people at the door
  • You can optionally add cloud recording and see any previous motion activity or ring activity at the door

I find this product very useful to know when packages are delivered, and also when people are poking around my house (which happens more often then you might imagine).

My only real complaint with the Ring is that unlike Dropcam, you can not set up geofencing rules to disable motion sensing which I have found to be rather sensitive and bothersome when I am home.

Install is super quick and the product is high quality. It’s a really awesome home addition.

★★★★☆
Great. Worth purchasing.

Apple Watch – 60 days – 4 stars

After writing up my Apple Watch – First Impressions review, I was asked to revisit in 60 days. Well it’s been a bit more than 60 days and I’m still wearing it. Here are my updated thoughts.

I should mention a few things though. My Apple Watch had a minor defect with the sapphire crystal. The coating applied to the crystal had some defects which appeared like scratches. I took the watch to the local Apple Store and they sent it back to Apple. I got a brand new replacement watch 5 days later. That experience was exceptional.

Apple Watch as a watch
The Apple Watch is a superb watch. The build quality, the feel, the utility are there. I think of it like I do my previous watches and it does this job really well. You forget you are wearing a computer. On top of that it has a few features watches don’t have: changing watch faces, user swappable bands.

Charging
Not a problem. Not once have I gotten even close to the end of the battery. I end each day with about 50-60% battery life. Given all the noise about this pre-launch I’d say Apple more than exceeded expectations here.

Charging every night is also not a problem. I don’t sleep with my watch and never have. I got an inexpensive Spigen dock from Amazon and it feels natural to just slap the watch on the stand and go to bed. No problem.

For travel I got myself a Dodo case that charges my watch and phone in a nice stand.

Bands
I ended up buying the watch with the leather band and like how it looks and feels. Since then I’ve aquired the sport band (black) and the milanese loop. The sport band is way more comfortable than I imagined. And the milanese loop looks incredible, and feels incredible. And I love that it is infinitely adjustable.

I find that I wear the sport band on the weekends and on my workout day. I then go back and forth between the two other bands.

The ability to change bands easily, and in less than 10 seconds is to me what makes this watch better than a watch. I think this is probably one of the best innovations Apple has delivered.

Experience
The watch is not without its flaws. I expect these all to be addressed in the watchOS 2.0, but for now here are the big issues I encounter

  • Launching apps is basically impossible using your finger. I find using Siri the fastest way to do this (“Siri launch Stocks”) or setting up glances for my favorite apps
  • Siri doesn’t talk back to you which kinda stinks
  • Glances load slowly
  • Apps load slowly, and sometimes don’t load before the screen times out
  • Watch and or Phone require reboots every few weeks when battery drain on phone gets excessive or notifications stop working
  • Navigating glances is poor

Not a huge list. Now lets talk about the positives

  • Siri, Calendar and iMessage and notifications are the heroes
  • Being able to answer a call on the watch is surprising useful and delightful. I was in the garden the other day without my phone and was able to answer the call
  • Changing watch faces is also quite awesome
  • Setting an Alarm on the watch is better than the phone (the wake up ramp is better)
  • The Activity stuff, while not critical to me, is nice to have. I like the progress report on standing and moving and find that I hit my 12 hour standing goal every day (I have a standing desk at work).
  • Turn by Turn GPS navigation is super handy
  • The sketch and send heartbeat stuff is mostly useless. No one sends me these any more and I don’t send them either.

Apps
I thought I would list out what I think of as my go to apps on the watch

  • Weathernerd – I love this app for weather and I get a daily alert each morning with the forecast relative to yesterday.
  • Overcast – I started to use this after getting the watch for podcasts as Apple doesn’t have podcast support. I wish I had done this sooner. I use this Glance the most as well since it’s the fastest way to get in my car and start playing a podcast
  • Todoist & Wunderlist – I have both. Not sure which one I’ll stick with long term.
  • Reminders – no watch app but I love telling Siri “Remind me to research blah when I get home”. Killer feature
  • Trello – we use this heavily for work and the apps + notifications are great
  • Deliveries – my go to app on iOS and Mac for tracking delivery status
  • Passbook – when traveling or paying at Starbucks this comes in very handy. Having gate information and boarding details on the wrist is great
  • PowerPoint – presenting from your iPhone and using the watch for next and previous is kinda Ninja. Note that for this to work well you need to change the watch setting to resume to the last app when waking and not the watch face.
  • Apple Pay – when it works… it’s awesome.

Final Thoughts
I really like this watch, and see a bright future ahead. Apple has already announced a few nice features as part of Apple Watch 2.

The big ones are:

Nighstand mode – watch will tell time on its side all night. Unfortunately every dock maker out there now is thinking DAMMIT! This will require docs to be redesigned for the watch to lie on it’s side.

Native apps – today all apps are basically run through the phone. Apple’s apps are native (stocks, weather etc) and you can see the difference

New Watch Faces – I wish Apple would allow 3rd party apps to populate a watch face background like our OneDrive app does on Android Wear. This would be a killer feature for me.

HomeKit support – with my forthcoming Insteon Hub and Light switch, I cannot wait to say “Siri turn off the bedroom lights”

It’s clear to me that in 2-5 years, this will just become more and more incredible. I am really looking forward to the journey.

★★★★☆
Great. Worth purchasing.

Drying Rack from Acadia Woodworks – 5 stars

There are some things Amazon just doesn’t have. One of them is a nice looking, functional drying rack for Ziplock bags and sport bottles.

I’ve been looking now for a few weeks to find something made for sport bottles and not baby bottles without much luck. That is when I stumbled across ArcadiaWoodworks on Etsy (who is is not far from Seattle) and purchased his Ziplock rack, which I emailed him and asked about it’s sutability for drying bottles to which Charlie replied within a minute with a photo of said rack with bottles on it.

For $15 I went ahead and purchased, and thanks to Apple Pay it took less than 5 seconds to complete the transaction. Charlie shipped it a few minutes later and I had the Drying rack the following day.

In our household we use a variety of water bottles (S’Well, Klean Kanteen for the kids, and my latest work water bottle from Fred which comes in a flask size and fits well in my back pocket) and food storage bags.

We use Ziplocks just like everyone else, and it drives me a bit crazy that you cannot recycle them. So we tend to re-use them. But my friend Kelsi also told us about these amazing re-usable food bags called neat-os. They come in 3 sizes and we have the snack and sandwich size.

Here are some photos of our new rack

And here it is with our neat-os

I love it when I find something high quality, inexpensive, and locally made.

Thanks to ArcadiaWoodworks for an awesome drying rack!

★★★★★
Exceptional. A spectacular product.

Lush Dirty Shaving Cream – 5 stars

My curiosity has no bounds. I’ve been spending the past year experimenting with different shaving creams and products.

For a while I was using Dollar Shave Club and using their shaving cream. However, I found that after about 3 months of use, they were no comparison to the Gillette blades. I found that with Subscribe and Save from Amazon, the 12 count of blades was a great value (a bit more expensive) than the most expensive Dollar Shave club blades ($33.90 for a 3 month supply or $2.80 per blade) . I replace my blades ever week if I shave every day or every other week if I don’t. Interesting that I now see that Gillette has “Gillette Shave Club” but are charging $4.50 per blade. Yeah, nice one.

I am also pretty unsatisfied with the cheap Gillette handle, so I invested in a really nice handle, the Bolin X1 which is compatible with Gillette Fusion blades.

 

You may find the Bolin at Nordstrom, or in my case I ordered online from a Canadian retailer. They also make a great stand that I also got.

With my razor secured I tried a variety of shaving techniques. For a few months I used a boar bristle brush and shaving cream. This was great but involved more cleanup and prep. Also I was not completely happy with the 3-4 different shaving products I tried. I also needed to apply a pre-shave shaving oil to make it easier to shave. I have pretty sensitive skin so I was motivated to get a smooth shave.

For Valentines Day this year, my wife purchased some shaving cream from a company called Lush. I had never heard of them, but they are based out of Vancouver. They are famous for making these crazy Bath Bombs that my wife seems to love.

Anyway, the best way to describe Lush is that it’s a modern day Body Shop (if you remember those). Not the kind of store a Man will feel like running into I guess.

Well, turns out there are two Lush stores in Seattle. One in Bellevue and one downtown. Ok, so what about all this?

Well Lora got me a Shaving cream called Dirty. They make 3 other creams.

Let me just say… this is the most amazing shaving cream I have ever tried. AMAZING.

Ladies, Father’s day is coming up. Get it for your Man. You can pick it up from Amazon too (3.5oz and 8.1oz)

They also have another cream called Ambrosia, D’Fluff and Prince. I also got Ambrosia for travel (since the cream is in a travel friendly bottle). It also seems just as good, but I like the black tub for daily use. The woman in the store that sold me my 2nd container raved about how awesome it is for women, so you may also want to give it a go (Prince looks like it works for women).

★★★★★
Exceptional. A spectacular product.