Zyliss Easy Spin Salad Spinner – 5 stars

I’m not sure if everyone owns a salad spinner, but we’ve owned one for as long as I can remember. Since I was little, salad has been a core part of almost every meal. And we eat our salad after our main course. Kind of like desert.

I never really though much about this device. For almost a decade we just brought it out, used it, and then washed / rinsed it. One day I noticed some mold. Upon inspection I found that there was tons of mold inside the cover of the device. After years of washing, water would get in and never dry out. Kind of like your front loading washing machine  If you don’t know you need to leave that door open other wise there is mold in places you can’t see. And run the sanatize cycle with a cleaner every so often. We do both.

Anyway, it turns out that inaccessible crevices + water will provide a happy medium for mold to grow. Eeeew.

I went to find a better salad spinner. I noticed the Zyliss Easy Spin Salad Spinner at our local cooking store.

The main attraction to me was:

  1. It’s completley clear – no where for anything to hide
  2. It can be completley dissasembled – the lid can be taken apart and cleaned
  3. It’s dishwasher safe

You can see in this photo how the lid comes apart

We’ve had this spinner for over a year now and it looks functions like the day we got it.

The product comes in clear and green and in two sizes. We have the large size and we use this almost every day.

5 stars! ★★★★★
Exceptional. A spectacular product.

Battery Recycling Container – 4 stars

This is a bit of a strange product to review, but I’m doing it anyway.

Our household uses a lot of batteries. Where we can, we’ll use rechargeable batteries. I’ve written about this before.

But there are many good reasons to use good old batteries. We have things like garage door openers, security devices, and some items that really just prefer alkalaine batteries.

When finished with a battery you are supposed to recycle them, not throw then in the trash. This is also true for many small electronics and other such products. To solve this problem I purchased this brown plastic recycle bin to store all our battery and electronic recyclables. Once a year I’ll take it to the hazardous waste dump or an electronics recycling location.

I hate running out of batteries BTW, and recommend getting a box of these Maxell 48 pack AA batteries and keeping them at home.

The Battery Recycling Bin, 2.4 Gallon can be purchasd from Amazon. They are often out of stock but it appears they have a bunch now. It’s $26 and we keep ours in the garage. The kids know about it and so when they are discarding batteries they know where to throw them.

★★★★☆

Great. Worth purchasing.

Bose SoundLink On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones – 5 stars

I’ve been on the market for some wireless headphones for a while. I already have the amazing noise canceling headphones (Bose QuietComfort) which are reserved only for air travel. So I determined to find a great set of wireless headphones to acquire.

It’s important to know something about wireless headphones and noise cancellation. Each technology brings with it a set of tradeoffs. You should be aware of this. A reason I don’t combine both wireless and noise cancellation is you are making the worst set of tradeoffs by taking both at once in the same headphone.

So, I have a pair of headphones that I only use for flying. They have the best noise cancellation technology available (and are pretty much renowned for this). But noise cancellation comes at the cost of audio quality.

And guess what? Wireless headphones comes at the cost of audio quality. But not for the same reasons as noise cancellation, for different reasons. Wireless headphones generally use Bluetooth, which can be a mixed bag.

I got a pair of wireless headphones to mainly to keep by my bedside. I wanted a headphone I could use to do some lightweight video and music listening while my wife was sleeping (or while she wasn’t, but to avoid disturbing her). I was looking for a head phone that:

  • Was “on ear” – in ear headphones are uncomfortable and fall out
  • Small – don’t want some huge thing
  • Great battery life
  • Good controls and usability
  • Can be used with more than one device
  • Portable – I can take with me on vacations or use around the house

I settled on the Bose SoundLink On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones based on a number of reviews and factors.

They look great


They travel light, are super compact with a great case


They:

  • Are really light, which is important
  • Have 15 hours battery life – and can be used with a regular cable if the battery is dead
  • Have Great controls for volume and pause/playback
  • Can be paired with 8 devices and used simultaneously with 2 devices at once (Phone and iPad).

I’ve had them for 2 weeks now and am super happy. I can grab them from my nightstand and by the time I’ve put them on my head, they have automatically paired with my phone and iPad. I can see the battery status in the iPad notification bar which is neat.

It’s a wonder that I can just put them on my head and they work. No fumbling in bed for a cable, no need to plug in. No need to decide which device I want to use! It works with 2 at the same time.

It’s honestly hard for me to explain what it’s like using wireless headphones. It’s weirdly awesome. It reminds me of the first time I used WiFi on my laptop. It was so freeing.

Like anything, this technology will just continue to improve. So what I recommend today will probably not be the same in 2 years. But for now, the compromise you have to make to have freedom from a wire for audio is almost none.

Welcome to the future.

Bose SoundLink On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones – 5 stars

★★★★★
Exceptional. A
spectacular product.

Menu Dining Bottle Grinder – 5 stars

Everyone should have an awesome salt and pepper grinder. When I was a kid we had this small Peugeot Pepper mill. It seems as if it was always out of pepper. Over the years I’ve seen and tried a number of pepper and salt mills. I’ve never really found one that’s made me happy. One that was big enough to store a LOT of pepper. Something that didn’t leave a mess every time I put it down.

Not to long ago I was browsing my favorite store in Houston, Kuhl-Linscomb and saw a funny looking pepper and salt mill. Seriously, if you are ever in Houston, you need to check this place out. It’s a Sur-La-Table meets Design Within Reach. Anyway, I discovered these interesting looking salt and pepper mills from a Danish company, Menu.

These funny looking salt and pepper mills are standing upside down. Why? So that you never have to deal with a mess! And that base in the bottom? It holds an incredible amount of peppercords and salt. I fill these up 2-3 times a year.

I seriously love these things. They are a joy to use. 5 stars.

★★★★★

Exceptional. A spectacular product.

Logitech Ultrathin Magnetic Clip-On Keyboard Cover – 4 stars

My wife hasn’t really ever traveled with a laptop. She does however wish she could do some light work (editing word docs, presentations, and doing some email). A few months ago we decided to get her an iPad Air (before the Air 2 came out). Since she can run Microsoft Office, Remote Desktop and email on her iPad it turned out to be a great light travel companion. What was missing though was some kind of a keyboard.

There are dozens of bluetooth keyboards out there. They come in all shapes and sizes. I was looking for something that wouldn’t make the iPad look like a crazy laptop, or add a lot of bulk. That’s when I noticed the Logitech Magnetic Clip-On Series.

81Bh71RZCLL._SL1500_

This keyboard comes in two models and two colors to match the iPad.

Basically, there is a model for the iPad Air 2 and for the iPad Air (original). The difference is that the iPad Air model has a built in rechargeable battery that last 3 months and the iPad Air 2 model has non rechargeable batteries that last 2 years. I don’t really understand why they differentiate that way, but they do.

The cases have some great features though. They magnetically attach to the iPad, they automatically wake/sleep when you want to use them, and they have a nice flexibile stand that allows you to tilt the iPad a bit.

81QvtpUnXrL._SL1500_

51Xj4JJ7lEL._SL1500_

Keyboard support on the iPad is pretty good actually. You can do a lot from the keyboard such as switch apps, search, cut, copy, paste, control media, volume, take a photo etc. Application support for keyboards is still nascient. Apple’s apps all do a great job, and you’ll find some third party apps do and some don’t support keyboards.

This keyboard is by no means a full size keyboard designed for hours of typing. But it’s a remarkable portable keyboard that’s perfect for what my wife needs.

The iPad Air 2 version gets mixed reviews on Amazon. Honestly, I think people have pretty whacked expectations of what a small keyboard like this should be able to do. Personally, I find this keyboard to be minimalist and great for light typing. On a vacation, it’s a great balance of form and function.

Therefore I give it 4 stars. Why not 5? Well it’s not perfect. The magnetic latch is a bit frustrating at times, and the tilt mechanism is a bit funky.

★★★★☆
Great. Worth purchasing.

For me personally, I have another keyboard to review, the Logitech Key-To-Go which is awesome.

How I make Coffee

In this article I’ll cover how I make coffee. I’ve tried a number of different brewing techniques over the years, and feel that I have finally settled on 1-2 brewing methods that really works well.

For starters, I should mention that my coffee requirements are as follows.

  • Brew coffee for Omar and Lora separate – we wake up at different times
  • 1 cup in the morning before heading to work

On the weekends we like to make enough coffee for 4 cups (2 each) as we spend a couple of hours in the morning relaxing in our jammies with our kids being lazy. My favorite part of the week.

With that in mind we have been through the following:

Jura Capresso ENA 3 – Super Automatic Expresso Machine. We used this machine for 5 years. It was programmed to make an Espresso with 8oz of hot water, called a Cafe Crema. Sort of like an Americano. The coffee this machine produced was always “good” – certainly better than a pot of coffee sitting on a burner. But the coffee was never hot enough for my taste. Could not beat the convenience.

Espro Press French Press – The best French Press I’ve ever owned. It’s a vacuum sealed carafe with a double filter that ensures that grounds stay out of your coffee. Personally I’m not a fan of the “gritty” french press taste. I’ll admit that on occasion I like this, but not for my morning or weekend cup of joe. Also I was not a huge fan of the cleanup. We no longer use this.

Aero Press – A lot of folks are fans of the Aero Press. It’s a great little one cup brewing system. It’s strange looking for sure. Looks like a plastic plunger. You can’t beat the price and it produces a good cup of coffee. It’s also easy to travel with. However, there are nearly infinite ways to make coffee with this thing, and the instructions it comes with are pretty useless. I settled on the following brewing techniques from Blue Bottle or Stumptown (the inverse technique).


The history of the Aero Press is pretty fascinating. It was invented by the guy who came up with the Aerobie Frisbee.

Hario V60 – The Hario ended up being my preferred brewing method. It’s a pour over device. You place it over your mug, place in 16-20g of ground coffee, and pour in 220g of 200 degree water. Ideally you bloom the coffee for 30 seconds.

Like anything, when paired with fresh beans, a great grinder, and kettle, this is the purest form of coffee drinking. For the first time in my life I could taste all the flavors in each single origin coffee we get from Blue Bottle. Coffee from Africa tastes different than coffee from Costa Rica.

1421516431_thumb.jpeg
I purchase the Hario unbleached filters to go along with this.

So for me, this is the gold standard of making coffee. But it’s not very efficient for making 4 or more cups. It’s great for 1 cup.

Before I discuss our final coffee device, I wanted to briefly cover Beans, Water, Grinding and Measurement.

Beans – For over a year we’ve been getting our beans shipped to us by a company called Tonx which was purchased by Blue Bottle. We have the single origin subscription and get two 8oz bags of coffee every 2 weeks. They are roasted right before shipped, and we grind them right before using them. During that time we store them in an air tight container – we use the AirScape  which you can get from Crate & Barrel or William-Sonoma.


Grinder – A good quality grinder is a must. Hand grinding works well for a single cup and a single drinker. For anything more, a simple high quality grinder is an investment worth having. The Baratza Encore is the gold standard high quality grinder. I’ve tried a lot of grinders and I can tell you look no further. This thing weights a few pounds as it has a beefy low RPM motor. It’s quiet and it grinds well. And it’s made in Seattle.

1421517041_thumb.jpeg
Kettle – The Bonavita 1-Liter Variable Temperature is the best for a pour over system. Don’t even look at anything else. This thing rocks. We dial it in at 200 degrees, turn it on, and minutes later it’s done. The goose neck allows you to control the pour so you don’t scold anything and you can perform a proper Bloom.

1421517157_thumb.jpeg

Scale – A lot of cooks rely on a scale these days. I believe a good quality scale is an essential kitchen gadget. This is true for coffee where it’s incredibly useful for measuring coffee and water. I also forgot that when it comes to the metric system, a gram of water is equal to a ml of water. So this makes it easy to deal with ratio of coffee to water. A scale I happen to like a lot for pour over coffee is the Hario Coffee Drip Scale/Timer. It only measures in grams, and it has a timer with auto shutoff. I usually use 18g of coffee and 220g of water. I place the mug on the scale, the pour over V60 on the mug (with a wet filter) and zero the scale. Then I add 18g of ground coffee, zero again, 18g of water to bloom, wait 30 seconds and then add the remaining 202g of water. If I got it right, the scale will read 220g when I’m finished pouring water. Then I let gravity do the rest.

1421517598_thumb.jpeg

So, now that we’ve got the pour over technique and equipment out of the way, what did I settle on?

A quick note btw. It was the advent of the pour over system, and the quality of the coffee that cause my wife and I to realize that years of drinking from the Jura Super Automatic was not all that great. The V60 produced such an incredibly good perfect cup, that we could not deal with the cardboard taste of a cafe crema. I was not in search of anything to replace this, that is, until I read a blog post from my friend Kelsi.

Wilfa Precision Coffee Maker - This guy just arrived state side and Williams-Sonoma is the only place you’ll find it. Think of this device as an automated pour over coffee machine. It’s in the same league as the Technivorm Moccamaster, but less “coffee machine” and more “pour over” machine.


This thing is a work of art. I purchased it in black. It lives up to the hype. We can make 8 cups of coffee that tastes nearly as good as coffee from the V60. I’ve measured the temperature a few times and it’s in the 195 – 200 degrees range. It does not Bloom the coffee unfortunately, but it does have a neat volume flow control that allows you to control how long the water stays in contact with the beans. And it has a clever carafe with markings on it for the amount of water and coffee to use. For example, 250ml / 17g, 500ml / 33g etc. This makes for simple coffee production early in the morning.

I’d recommend this article to learn more. The neat thing about the Wilfa is that you can use it with a Chemed 8 cup or even my Hario V60, or I can use it with the built in cone holder and a single cup vs the carafe. It’s pretty versatile. The way I think about this machine is that it’s basically a kettle, with a water dispenser that goes into a custom cone and carafe. It also has a heating element that will keep a pot warm for an hour. Obviously this will cause a decrease in quality, but can come in handy.

That’s it. This is a great invention. The only thing that may top this is the Ratio Coffee machine. But at twice the cost, I’m not sure how much better it can be.

I debated for a while what rating to give the Wilfa. There are a few things about it that separate the coffee from the Hario V60. So in the end, given it’s not quite as good as a cup from the V60, I’m giving the Wilfa 4 stars.

★★★★☆

Great. Worth purchasing.

Dyson Cordless Vacuum Cleaners – 5 stars

Since I can remember I grew up with a DustBuster in the house. The noise of my mother going around the house with her DustBuster picking up after my sister and me is seared into my brain. As is the sound of the pathetic battery dying in less than a minute.

When I went out on my own, and had my first apartment, a DustBuster is one of the first things I purchased. But the suction and battery life of these things has always been poor.

Here she is, circa 1980.


When we purchased our first apartment together, my wife and I splurged on a Dyson Vacuum (the original Dyson Ball). We’ve had it for 10 years now and it’s still as good as the day we got it.


When we moved into our current house and had our son, we had more crumbs and such to pick up every day. Our Dyson Vacuum is too bulky to cary around the house and un-coil for a quick job. I did some research and settled on one of the new Dyson Cordless Stick Vacuums. There are a number of models.

  • Dyson DC 59 – New motor / suction design and power brush. This is the top of the line model. You can save a few bucks by skipping the motor head and getting the DC 59 Animal
  • Dyson DC 44 – larger battery than the 35
  • Dyson DC 35 – the original, I’d skip this one

There are also “Animal” designations like the other Dysons. All this means is that they include additional attachments like a mini motorized brush head to clean pet hair and the like.

A little known secret is that Amazon sells refurbished models for a substantial discount. Dyson DC44 (Refurbished) is $229 (vs $399 from Dyson). Another pro tip is that your Bed Bath & Beyond 20% off coupon is a good way to get a steep discount on a Dyson.

The only thing they really change over the years is the battery capacity and recently they redesigned it to improve the motor / suction.

The refurbished designation means that you may get a unit that appears to be completely brand new. And you may get a model that is used, where some set of parts have been replaced. In our experience, we once got a brand new unit, and once got one that looked like it had been used (canister was cloudy). I don’t care much, but if the price difference is small, you may want to just spring for a new one.

Over the years we’ve purchased two of these units so we can have one in our kitchen and upstairs in our home. We use them a few times a week. I’ve never used one to the point where the battery was depleted. Each one runs for at least 15 minutes of Vacuuming. Pretty impressive. They have the same suction qualities of the big Dyson, they are just smaller. And they have attachments that allow them to be used in many different situations.

I love the integrated wall stand and charger. We have both of ours attached to the wall above power outlets. The attachments also attach to the wall making for a nice and tidy setup.


We love our Dyson cordless vacuum. It’s a snap to clean up, the filter lasts forever, and like all Dyson products it excels in form and function.

★★★★★
Exceptional. A spectacular product.