Timbuk 2 Spire Backpack

The Timbuk 2 Spire backpack is an excellent pack that includes molle straps for extra storage and a great waterproof interior space for a laptop and more.

timbuk 2 spire
Timbuk 2 Spire Backpack

Ease of Use, Performance: 23/25
Look & Feel: 22/25
Features 22/25
How much I enjoy 22/25

Total: 89/100

A few months ago I contacted Timbuk 2 and struck a deal with them, I got a backpack at a discount and they get a review for their efforts. Here’s the review and it’s just like the backpack, well worth a look.

The Timbuk 2 Spire arrived just in time for my summer walks to work and it’s a real hefty pack with plenty of features including a waterproof roll top. The Spire comes in all kinds of colors and a couple of material choices which affects the final cost as well as durability depending on the material.

That’s not to say that one material is going to only last a couple months while another will last years, this pack will last years no matter your material choice. Timbuk 2 has quality from the start and the pack is solidly built with tough stitching, quality materials and great designs.

timbuk 2 back
Timbuk 2 Spire Back Straps

I wanted a bag for my work laptop, lunch and thermos for a daily walk to and from work so the pack had to be both comfortable and large enough to carry the things I would need during the day. The Timbuk 2 Spire works nicely for all I needed and more with its roll top waterproof design and easy to access smaller pockets.

The Timbuk 2 spire is made from water resistant TPU and canvas that are tough and durable as my several months of daily use has proven. The front of the pack has webbing with slots for clips or carabiners to hang things like keys, water bottles or other extras.

These straps that circle the bag to one side are called a molle system where you can attach smaller pouches to the larger backpack. The MOLLE system is a universal system so you can buy from different manufacturers and be assured that it will fit on your pack no matter who makes the accessories.

side with molle straps
Side with MOLLE Straps

MOLLE stands for modular lightweight load-carrying equipment and is a military equipment system for packs and such but has become a great addition to civilian backpacks. The MOLLE system has even gained traction in smaller waist pouches and even dog vests so you can pack along water and doggy bags for those little accidents along the walk.

One side of the backpack has a water bottle webbing pocket while the other has four rows of those webbing loops for more clip on storage. The two small pockets are unique with several inner pockets while the pocket near the top has an outer and an inner pocket.

The roll top pack has a single clip for securing the main compartment but you can access your 15 inch maximum laptop from a side waterproof zipper. The bag has a two pocket laptop and tablet design with the main area being open for things like books or my thermos and lunch bag.

side with zippered access
Zippered Side Access

The bag protects well enough but for extra protection it does fit a 15 inch laptop sleeve if you want that extra security possibly because that laptop is work property and not yours. I found the roll top design easy to use and had the added advantage of being completely waterproof so when you do get caught in the rain you’re protected.

The straps are comfortable and the bag is easy to carry on one shoulder or both for a quick walk to work while the padding for your back really adds a lot of comfort for longer walks. The middle strap to hold the straps together across your front can be adjusted up or down so you can adjust this for perfect fit according to your body.

In the past I have purchased backpacks for my kids for school and have been very disappointed in some of my purchases due to durability and quality issues. You just cannot buy any real quality packs from stores like Walmart so I have turned to companies like Timbuk 2 where quality does make a huge difference.

interior pockets
Interior Pockets

I am very pleased with my purchase and without a doubt will be able to use the Spire for years instead of months as it shows no signs of wear. I have had absolutely no problems with the Timbuk 2 Spire and I do highly recommend this as an excellent school or work backpack or one for those day trips in the woods.

Timbuk 2 Spire @ Timbuk 2
Timbuk 2 Spire @ Amazon

SoundPEATS Q9A Wireless Earbuds Review

SoundPEATS Q9A Wireless Earbuds Review

The SoundPEATS Q9A Earbuds sound pretty good but the comfort is just not there for these low cost in ear earbuds that are now available from Amazon.

Ease of Use, Performance:  3/5
Look & Feel:  2/5
Features:  3/5
How much I enjoy:  2/5

Recommendation:  2.5/5 Stars

SoundPEATS Q9A
SoundPEATS Q9A

SoundPEATS is a popular low cost choice for earbuds and headphones in the mobile market with a new release in the Q9A earbud set. The Q9A Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds are a sport earbud set that touts sweat proof and secure fit from the 3 sets of cushions.

The Q9A earbuds are Bluetooth and connect easily to any Bluetooth devices wirelessly which accounts for the lack of an audio connection. The Q9A earbuds have a DC in connection and three buttons on the right earbud while the left has no controls or connections.

The two earbuds are connected to each other with a flat wire and the right earbud has three control buttons along with the microphone and power connection. The controls allow you to control volume, to pause and play as well as skip tracks but also control calls when one comes in.

The earbuds work well for phone calls and handle private conversations easily in calls and can also be used for recording with the microphone that’s also on the right earbud. The set includes three sizes of ear cushions as well as a USB charging cable along with a zipper carry case.

whats in the box
Whats in the Box

The ear bud cushions give you a good size variety but my issue was more with the angle the ear buds come into my ears and not the fit of the cushions. I tried wearing the earbuds for a time but the angle for the ear bud on my right ear just did not work out for me.

After a half hour it would rub the wrong way on my ear and was very uncomfortable, so much that I could not wear them for more than an hour at a time. I have worn and used several different ear buds and over the ear earbuds with very similar designs without any issues but the Q9A earbuds just were not comfortable for me.

Sound quality is pretty good and about what I would expect for this price range but looking at Amazons initial price of $100 would be way too much for this set of earbuds. $25 is about what I would expect considering quality and the Q9A earbuds work fairly well and would be worth the price if they were more comfortable.

I would look for a more expensive pair of earbuds for my own personal use as the quality and comfort are just not here for me, I have received more expensive earbuds that worked better. The Q9A Earbud set is just not worth a look for me and given the lack of comfort I would look at a slightly higher price point.

That is where I would put my money, earbuds that are in the $50 to $100 range if I was looking for earbuds that were both comfortable and sounded great. The Q9A Earbuds are just not that good and other than a low price there is not that much here to differentiate them from the myriad others at this price point.

SoundPeats @ Amazon

Pros
Decent sound for the price
Good battery life

Cons
Could not get a comfortable fit

Capresso EC PRO Espresso Machine

Capresso EC PRO Espresso Machine

The Capresso EC PRO Espresso Machine is a professional commercial grade espresso machine that has an open bottom and two shot portafilter for control and convenience.

Ease of Use/Performance: 4/5
Convenience/Storage 5/5
Appearance/Design 5/5
How much I enjoy 5/5

Total: 5/5

A bottomless portafilter shows you exactly how well or badly you are pulling your shot in an honest and direct way that closed filters cannot. Before you can even enjoy or cringe at the quality of your work a bottomless filter will show you whether you got the tamp, grind and dose right.

If you get everything correct when making your preparations a bottomless portafilter will have a smooth steady flow into your cup. An uneven tamp, wrong amount or incorrect grind of beans will splatter all over the machine and possibly your counter.

The bottomless filter is just one way of improving your espresso while a quality commercial grade machine makes for the beginnings of good espresso. The EC PRO from Capresso comes with a removable water tank and the two porta filters as well as a plastic scoop/tamper and instructions.

Capresso EC PRO Espresso Machine
Capresso EC PRO

The machine is stainless steel with a quality pump and boiler for the perfect pressure and temperature that also warms the top of the machine for a cup warming tray. The EC PRO has the usual removal tank that holds 42 ounces of water so there are not constant trips to the sink for filling.

The removable stainless steel tray is handy for cleanup while the machines steel surface also makes the work after a bad shot easy. Just like any espresso machine bad shots are inevitable but pulling good ones comes pretty easily and fast when you do a little research.

Nothing beats using a bottomless portafilter to see what you’re doing wrong but the enjoyment of pulling that perfect shot is almost priceless. The EC PRO is an excellent machine and well worth the cost which is around $250.

whats in the box Capresso EC PRO
Whats in the Box

The steaming wand also makes quick work of frothing or steaming and is easy to use with a little practice just like pulling shots. The wand is not removable for easier cleaning but this is a tradeoff with the quality of the machine and any convenience you may gain.

Controls on the front consist of a main power switch and a heater switch for the espresso or steamer with an on off dial for the espresso and steamer function. The EC PRO really is easy to use and did not require more than a casual glance at the instruction book for me when I first unpackaged it.

I cannot recommend highly enough the EC PRO as an inexpensive espresso machine that makes espresso like the higher costing machines. I have been using the EC PRO for a couple months and have been very pleased with my results and very excited to delve into the very visual bottomless portafilter.

I highly recommend the EC PRO from Capresso as a fantastic espresso machine for the home that is a professional commercial grade appliance.

EC PRO @ Capresso

EC PRO @ Amazon

Pros
Quality materials and workmanship
Large removable water tank
Excellent choice of portafilters

Cons
Plastic scoop/tamper is not good at tamping

Sansaire Sous Vide Machine

Sansaire Sous Vide Machine

The Sansaire Sous Vide Machine uses the newest craze of water bath cooking at home using exact temperatures to cook foods like steaks, chops and fish.

Ease of Use/Performance: 5/5
Convenience/Storage 5/5
Appearance/Design 4/5
How much I enjoy 5/5

Total: 5/5

Sansaire Sous Vide Machine
Sansaire Sous Vide Machine

I have the second in my sous vide cooking reviews with another handy way to cook that has been a standard in high end restaurants. Sous Vide cooking is taking food in a plastic bag and slowly bringing it up to the temperature you need.

This water bath cooking keeps food at the right temperature so that you can keep it there for easy final prepping just before serving. A restaurant can keep dozens of steaks, chops and other foods at a medium rare state and simply toss it on a grill or pan for that final sear just before serving.

This is how a restaurant can have food out to diners quickly without having to wait for their food to fully cook after ordering. Sous Vide is cooking at a specific temperature like 122 for medium rare with that perfect sear finalized in a pan.

Sous Vide Beef Roast
Sous Vide Beef Roast

I have gotten pretty good at salmon steaks and my family is really enjoying the fresh fish we have been getting from our local store using the sous vide method. I have also tried a few new things using this second machine like pulled pork and vegetables.

A popular vegetable lately in stores is seasoned or sauced vegetables cooked in a microwave and ready to serve in minutes. Take these bags and simply toss in a Ziploc bag to dunk in with your meat for a half hour and you have a full meal in the same pot.

Green Giant and Birdseye have come up with a wide variety of vegetables and vegetables with beans or rice that make a great side dish for your main meats. The convenience of being able to cook both in the same pot and only having to wash up one pan that you use to sear you meat makes for an easy to clean up meal.

Pulled Pork Sandwich with Veggies
Pulled Pork Sandwich with Veggies

The pulled pork is another that has quickly become a favorite in my home and will continue to be a welcome addition to our growing favorites. Take a pork roast or chicken and sous vide at 140 degrees for a couple days and you will have tender pull apart meat.

Yes, I did say a couple of days, you need to ensure the pot has water because after 12 hours some of it will evaporate but you get tender fall apart meat that is perfect for barbeque sandwiches. A quick sear and some rub before cooking and some sauce right before serving gives you an excellent dinner or lunch that was easy to make as well as delicious.

The Sansaire Sous Vide Machine has a bottom heating element with a hole on the side for water circulation and the top dial adjustment for easy control. The power cord comes out and uses a common removable wall cord for easy storage but the top buttons make this setup very easy to use.

Sous Vide Meal
Sous Vide Meal

The blue light up display shows either the current temperature or the temperature your trying to cook at with the simple press of the top temperature button to switch between them. The Sansaire Sous Vide Machine has a safety reset switch to prevent you from burning out the element so you don’t have to worry if you do use it and the water gets too low.

The Sous Vide Machine works well without any problems but the clip that you use to position the appliance on the side of your pot only has two positions. Unlike the previous sous vide appliance that has an adjustable clamp this one is a simple spring loaded clip but was not a deal breaker for me at all.

I much prefer the simple use of the clip over having to tighten down the clamp on the other sous vide cooker that worked well but took just a few seconds more to set up. Between the two machines that only real difference I saw was in cost with the Sansaire actually being about $20 more.

Typical Sous Vide Cooking
Typical Sous Vide Cooking

The Sansaire Sous Vide Machine worked well and I really enjoyed using it with a new but simple way to cook foods like steaks, chops and fish easily. Cook like a chef with the Sansaire Sous Vide machine which costs about $200 and is available at Amazon or directly from the Sansaire website.

Sansaire Sous Vide Machine

Sansaire Sous Vide @ Amazon

Pros
Simple and easy to cook foods
Keeps foods at the perfect temp for hours
No exact timing required
Creates chef quality steaks, chops and fish

Cons
Takes longer to cook

Primula Cold Brew Glass Carafe Brewing System

Primula Cold Brew Glass Carafe Brewing System

The Primula Cold Brewing System is a great size for at home cold press coffee that has less acidity for great tasting cold coffee.

Ease of Use/Performance: 5/5
Convenience/Storage 5/5
Appearance/Design 5/5
How much I enjoy 5/5

Total: 5/5

primula cold brew ft
Primula Cold Brew

Cold brew or cold press coffee is all the rage with coffee shops like Starbucks and Caribou jumping on the craze by offering a variety of drinks using cold brew as its base. Cold brew or cold press coffee is simply steeping ground coffee in cold or room temperature water which has far less acidity due to the cold water brewing.

This process usually takes at least six hours but you can leave it brewing for 24 without any ill effects to your final product. The longer you steep the coffee the stronger the brew will be but strength also comes from the type of roast the beans have.

If you use a dark roast coffee you will have a richer bolder flavor while a lighter roast gives a lighter flavor to your cold press coffee. The use of flavored beans can also make your final product different just like brewing hot coffee.

Primula has entered the cold press market with the Primula Cold Brew Glass Carafe that is a 50 ounce borosilicate glass carafe with filter and mixing cores. The borosilicate carafe is a safe and sturdy glass container with a silicone base for non-slip use in the kitchen.

coffee with cream and sugar
Coffee with Cream and Sugar

The filter is a plastic core that has a stainless steel filter and flip up handle that locks into the carafe just like the mixing core does. The mixing core allows you to easily mix sugar or flavorings to your brew while both cores can be used in a variety of Primula pitchers.

I found cold brew coffee brewers a few years ago but the mess of a large system did not make for convenient at home cold brew coffee. The system I reviewed previously used a pound of coffee and did not have an easy or fast way to remove the grounds from the brew.

The Primula filter core has a screw off bottom for easy cleaning and the size just makes it more convenient to make a small batch of cold brew coffee. It’s also a very easy system to clean with the glass, silicone rubber bottom and plastic pour spout all being dishwasher safe.

To brew coffee you simply use a grind of your choosing and fill the filter basket with coffee, lock it in place in the carafe and fill with water to the top of the coffee grounds. You screw on the lid and set the carafe out of the way or in the refrigerator till your brew is finished depending on taste for 6 to 24 hours.

I like strong coffee using dark roast beans and when using the Primula Cold Brew System have no problems using a medium to fine grind which contradicts what several other reviewers like. The fine silk I get in the bottom of the carafe I leave there and wash out so I don’t have a problem with any grounds in my brew.

I have been using the Primula Cold Brew for a month now right through the hot months of summer and have enjoyed cold press coffee at work on a daily basis. I simply make the brew the night before and pour my thermos with a few cubes of ice and some sugar in the morning and enjoy cold refreshing coffee at work all day long.

using the primula cold brew to make tea
Using the Primula Cold Brew to make Tea

During the review I got a cold and had to skip a couple days of work which brings up the other use of the Primula Cold Press System as a tea brewing system. The large filter basket makes a perfect tea brewer and the hot teas you get in a few minutes are just perfect.

If you occasionally enjoy tea instead of coffee or like me found a time when tea was a part of your getting better routine for a cold the Primula cold brew worked perfectly making a pot of tea. I really enjoyed being able to brew up a pot with the same easy cleanup in the carafe for a variety to cold press coffee on some days.

I highly recommend the Primula Cold Brew Glass Carafe Brewing System for both coffee and as a tea pot to make your favorite blends. The Primula Cold Brew system costs about $30 and is available at Amazon, bed bath and beyond as well as the Primula website.

Primula Cold Brew system

Primula Cold Brew system @ Amazon

Pros
Easy system that has removable filter core
Easy Clean up
Sturdy borosilicate glass carafe
Stainless Steel Filter

Cons
None

Anova Precision Cooker

Anova Precision Cooker

The Anova Precision Cooker brings accurate water bath cooking called sous vide to the common kitchen for tasty and perfectly cooked foods.

Ease of Use, Performance:  5/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features:  5/5
How much I enjoy:  5/5

Recommendation:  5/5 Stars

Anova Precision Cooker
Anova Precision Cooker

I became interested, intrigued really, by sous vide cooking when watching shows like Master Chef and Chopped but the real twist was when my son bought a sous vide cooker. I had to have one so I contacted three companies and was lucky enough to score a sous vide cooker from Anova.

The Anova Precision Cooker is a simple water heater and circulator that heats water to a specific temperature so you can cook food to that temperature. Sous Vide cooking is an easy way for professionals to keep food at a set temperature and be ready to kiss the food with seasonings or grill it to crispy perfection and serve.

One huge advantage of sous vide cooking for restaurants is being able to keep food like steaks at that perfect temperature for an hour or more without the meat getting dried out or overcooking. A water bath at the exact temperature for medium will keep that meat at that temperature for more than an hour without drying it out.

Sous Vide
Sous Vide

The meat sits at the precise temperature without losing any juices because it sits in a plastic bag with the air squeezed out to keep all its flavor right in. The meat can be seared for a few seconds to add that final touch or can be grilled for an extra bit of flavor.

The Anova Precision Cooker is a simple device that has a control on top and adjustable clamp near the middle with indicators for low and high water levels. The business end on the bottom has a circulator and heater that is submerged in a pot or other container but you do have a minimum level for water.

The Anova cooker has a touch screen control with temperature settings as well as a timer along with an app but the smartphone app does leave something to be desired. The app is not very intuitive nor does it range well for the Bluetooth capability so the app may not be the trick that takes this to new heights.

Perfectly Cooked Pork Roast
Perfectly Cooked Pork Roast

What does make this utterly fantastic and an excellent way to cook a wide variety of foods is the precise temperature you can cook foods to. One great example is steak, chops or fillets cooked to exactly a medium or medium rare, then flame kissed for a perfect steak or fish.

Pop a whole pork or beef roast in a large bag and let it sit for an hour or two then toss it on the grill and rotate every thirty seconds for an absolute fantastic meal. Add some smoky apple or mesquite chips to the grill and your guests or family will think you are an accomplished chef just hiding your real skill from them.

You can cook using the Anova Precision Cooker for a variety of foods but the best I have come across so far is fresh salmon and nothing beats perfectly cooked flaky yet moist fish. I do like to toss the fish in a heated skillet to get that nice crispy sear for a half minute on each side so I do cook the fillets to a very rare temperature.

Sous Vide Gnocchi w/ Carmelized Onions and Peas
Sous Vide Gnocchi w/ Carmelized Onions and Peas

I was actually surprised at how easy both cooking and cleanup is with a sous vide circulator, simply put your food in a zip lock bag with some seasonings and oil if desired and place into the water bath. Times and temperatures are readily available from internet sites but are usually around an hour and there are plenty of fancy recipes to try like a few I have.

The app for the Anova Precision Cooker is easy to use and has a time and temperature setting on the bottom with a readout telling the current temperature at the top of the screen. You can also use recipes to set your time and temperatures but the easy to use settings make this simply and additional bonus of you want to use it.

Salmon Perfectly Cooked
Salmon Perfectly Cooked

The app is more of a bonus in my mind as the main feature of cooking with precision is the main benefit and I really do enjoy the Anova Precision Cooker. I highly recommend the Anova Precision Cooker for an easy to use way to perfectly cook foods using a water bath.

Anova Precision Cooker Website

Anova Precision Cooker at Amazon

Pros
Cooks meats to a precise temperature
Keeps food moist
Keeps food at temperature

Cons
Takes longer to cook food

JBL Sengled Pulse LED Wireless Speaker System

JBL Sengled Pulse LED Wireless Speaker System

The Sengled Pulse LED light with built in speaker is the perfect way to light your home and add great sounds to the area all controlled by your smartphone.

Ease of Use, Performance:  5/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features:  4/5
How much I enjoy:  5/5

Recommendation:  5/5 Stars

sengled pulse

Home automation is not the wave of the future, it’s here today with things like controlling your home’s AC while you’re at work or simply without having to get off the couch. Combining lighting with speakers is logical while controlling this from your smartphone just adds to the convenience of living.

JBL has partnered with Sengled to create a unique line of light bulbs that use energy efficient LED lighting with home automation, smartphone control and wireless internet enhancement features. Sengled has LED light bulbs that have built in speakers, full 1080P cameras or a Wi-Fi repeater to enhance your home.

The Sengled Pulse is a pair of LED lights with built in JBL multi-channel speakers that can be controlled by a smartphone app on an android or iPhone device. The App is free while the pair of speaker lights cost about $120 for great sounds and lighting that is controlled from your phone.

The Sengled Pulse comes in gray or red and the pair comes as a kit with a Master and a Satellite speaker light but you can purchase extra satellites for about $60. Pairing the master is as easy as using Bluetooth to control your speaker while the Sengled App is used to control both volume and light intensity.

sengled pulse with app

You can skip the app and simply pair the speakers as you would a regular pair of Bluetooth speakers and enjoy music but the controls for dimming lights makes much more sense. The app and speakers themselves work flawlessly without any problems over the last month I have had them.

My only complaint is the level of light from the LED bulb which is about 600lumens from the 15 watt LED lights which is about equivalent to a 50 watt incandescent light bulb. The light is just not bright enough for general work in my kitchen but it does make good lighting for smaller areas.

I can really see the advantages of this in a business environment as well as a home with spot lighting for displays or parts of a store. At home you can simply light smaller areas with the dimmer controls while rocking out to your favorite music or use them for entertaining.

Music apps like Pandora and Amazon Prime worked flawlessly with the Sengled Pulse lights and I have no complaints whatsoever with how well the light speakers worked. They also sound great with your typical fantastic sounding JBL quality that I have seen in all the products I have received that bear their name.

The Sengled Pulse sounds great but they are a smaller speaker so getting pounding bass is not going to happen even though they do pretty good. Highs and mids are strong and not tinny while bass does sound good but you just don’t get full sound from speakers this small.

They do a great job for what they are and are well worth a look for parties and entertaining as well as general lighting in your home that also have great little speakers. I have a great idea to use this pair in weatherproof wooden enclosures on each side of my deck that will have a Japanese style roof.

That’s for the future but for now I can enjoy great tunes while using my smartphone to play music as well as control the lights that I have been using in my kitchen. I highly recommend the Sengled Pulse LED wireless speakers for a great way to enjoy tunes as well as light up your life.

Sengled Pulse Website

Sengled Pulse @ Amazon

Pros
Easy to use app
Simple Bluetooth setup for music
Easily plays tunes from any smartphone

Cons
The price is a bit high

Kinkajou Bottle Cutter

Kinkajou Bottle Cutter

The Kinkajou Bottle Cutter is an easy way to cut round bottles such as wine and beer bottles for using as glasses, crafts and other household containers.

Ease of Use, Performance:  5/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features:  4/5
How much I enjoy:  5/5

Recommendation:  5/5 Stars

The world has gone recycle crazy and with that comes the reduce reuse and recycle proverb which makes sense when it can help the environment. Reusing items and repurposing them comes in handy not only in saving the resources of our planet but in saving money.

Being able to take that old soda or wine bottle that may or may not go into new bottles and using it directly around your home can not only save a little money but it can be fun. Many bottle cutters for crafting are those clunky contraptions that seem to work by chance and only after careful instruction and lots of practice.

The Kinkajou Bottle Cutter is a unique bottle cutter that is hand held and uses two sets of rollers to keep round bottles square to the cutting wheel. The Kinkajou cutter is a neat looking device with a simple design unlike many of the other bottle cutters that seem very clunky.

Kinkajou Bottle Cutter
Kinkajou Bottle Cutter

I have to be honest and say that I have not used any other bottle cutters so I can’t directly compare the Kinkajou to those others but the Kinkajou does work well. I have been cutting dozens of bottles and have a good assortment of well-cut ones to use for many projects.

The Kinkajou Bottle Cutter has two knurled knobs on the threaded rods that position the rollers at the correct distance to securely hold your bottle. The flip levers on top tighten down the rods while the cutting wheel lever drops the cutting wheel onto the bottle for cutting.

The four rollers on each half of the Kinkajou ensure the bottle rolls evenly but it also takes a little practice to get the hang of clean scoring lines on the glass bottles. The Kinkajou does a great job on round bottles that are flat but do not really work on ones that are not flat on the cutting surface.

To cut the necks or bottles that are not round you’re going to need to visit some other device or method as the Kinkajou design just makes flat surface cutting. I have been very busy cutting many bottles and as you can see one project has stuck out in this review.

Some Bottles After Cutting
Some Bottles After Cutting

My wife and I are avid home gardeners and have many attempts at a wide variety of gardening projects and the hydroponic bottles are just the latest. The bottles are cut with the tops and bottoms being left long but cutting the necks off the bottles for a specific soda bottle is necessary due to the height of the neck section of the bottle.

Cutting consistent lines works well with the Kinkajou and the bottle cutter does an easy job of making a neat score line that meets when you get around the bottle. While cutting you simply watch the line as it comes around the bottle and adjust pressure on the kinkajou as you near the beginning of your score to ensure they meet.

This may mean a slightly wavy line but the finished results will be a smooth break when you separate the bottle which is done with the silicone bands. Once the score line is done you take the two bands and place them a quarter inch on each side of the line and run cold then hot water over the line to crack the glass right on the score line.

The hot and cold water shrinks and expands the glass while the bands keep the water near the score line so the bottle only breaks at the score line. I used the Kinkajou Bottle Cutter on several bottles without the bands and got some terrible cracks and bad breaks so the silicone bands help a lot.

Hydroponics Using Cut Bottles
Hydroponics Using Cut Bottles

The standard kit from Bottle Cutting Inc. comes with some sand paper but these are easy to pick up at hardware stores when the kits run out. Sand the edges as much as you want for nice smooth edges or simply to get the sharp edges off and your craft project is ready for your imagination to finish it off.

Bottle Cutting Inc. sells kits with extra sandpaper as well as sets of wine glass bottoms and light fixtures to use cut bottles as lights and drink ware. You can also buy extra cutting wheels and a different type of silicone band for separating the bottles where you want them to.

The hydroponics gardens I am creating using these are filled with clay pellets and blown glass cubes with parsley, lettuce and other smaller sized plants. I am going to try my luck at keeping these growing all year round so I can have fresh herbs throughout the winter.

While my hydroponics experiment still needs time to see if I cqan grow my household herbs I have been using cut bottles are our house and at work as small tools and pen holders as well as numerous other containers. There are all sorts of projects you can use cut bottles for and the internet is also a great place to find out more.

I highly recommend the Kinkajou Bottle Cutter form Bottle Cutting Inc. for an easy to use cutter for round glass bottles that does not require all kinds of practice to get the hang of.

Kinkajou @ Bottle Cutting Website

Kinkajou @ Amazon

Pros
Easy to use
Simple instructions

Cons
Only cuts round and smooth bottles

Lotus Essential Oil Diffuser by doTerra

Lotus Essential Oil Diffuser by doTerra

Ease of Use, Performance:  5/5
Look & Feel:  4/5
Features: 3/5
How much I enjoy:  1/5

Recommendation:  1/5 Stars

The Lotus Essential Oil Diffuser by doTERRA works well for vaporizing essential oils that work toward better health and a happier life.

I would like to start off this review with an honest opinion of the main topic, essential oils and their impact on health. I have read a good number of articles and am not one to believe things some say just because they publish it.

Aromatherapy, massage therapy, homeopathy and even some chiropractic techniques are questionable in their healing ability. While you can find plenty of people that say any form of alternative medicine helped them there is also another willing to state the exact opposite.

doTERRA Lotus Essential Oil Diffuser
doTERRA Lotus Essential Oil Diffuser

Just like dieting there are numerous ways to do things and tons of “experts” who will tell you how you can achieve goals like losing weight. My VA physician states it very simply when talking about losing weight, get out and do something and you can lose weight.

If you walk, bike, run or just do anything that burns more calories than you consume in a day you will lose weight, but you need to eat better because what you eat is as important as how much you eat. Improving your well-being can be as simple as having fun or enjoying life more but some products can help as well.

Healing and general well-being is more than just medicine and doctors but medicine is a science that has years of history backed by effective techniques. A patient who feels better and wants to get better has a better chance at being healthy so aromatherapy has its uses.

Studies have shown that relieving stress and having a positive outlook is better for your health and for general well-being so your environment affects your health to some extent. Medicine is founded on the past experience of scientists and doctors with plants and extracts as their first medicines.

Lotus Interior and Cover
Lotus Interior and Cover

Today plants like peppermint are used in medicine and do have proven health benefits but others do not have any scientific or clinical proof they help to heal. Lavender is also a plant that has proven promising in improving sleep quality and to help relieve anxiety but clinical trials are scarce.

It has also been long known that menthol has anesthetic and counterirritant properties so I do have something to back up some of the claims of some essential oils. Others however do not have any known or proven effects on health but health can also be looked at as general overall well-being.

I feel that things like aromatherapy can help improve your health but you need to make sure that your health is taken care of by a real medical professional first. Seeing your doctor who is a real licensed professional with years of education in medical schools is the most important part of being healthy.

General well-being at home can start with eating right and getting exercise but smells and inhalants like lavender at night or lemon during the day can also help. Getting essential oils to help improve your environment will help your overall well-being some and getting that essential oil into the air is a first step.

doTERRA Lotus Controls
doTERRA Lotus Controls

Essential oils are concentrated water repelling oils from plants like mint and lavender that are sold to help improve your health and well-being. One way to use essential oils is to diffuse them into the air of the room you’re in such as your living room or bedroom while you sleep.

The doTERRA Lotus diffuser is an ultrasonic humidifier diffuser that uses ultrasonic frequencies to agitate water so that molecules are vaporized. The Lotus has been redesigned taking the shortcomings of the older design and tweaking them according to customer complaints.

The doTERRA diffuser has a removable power adapter to power it and controls on the back with both light and timer buttons along with indicators. The doTERRA comes with a cleaning brush, small filling pitcher and a user’s manual but I’m not sure if it does come with any samples of essential oils.

The new design lasts from 1 to 3 hours and has a small light that you can shut off on the top where the diffused oil water moisture is expelled. A humidifying diffuser uses either heat or ultrasonic vibrations to get the oils into the air with the Lotus using ultrasonic vibrations to release oils.

The lotus has a front cover that slides off to reveal the small container that holds about a quarter cup of water with the ultrasonic mechanism at the bottom. The ultrasonic mechanism that diffuses water and oil into the air simply agitates the water at a very high speed or frequency.

Simply put it beats the water so fast that it tosses up tiny molecules of water into the air and this water vapor floats up into the room. The essential oils of your choice are also made into small droplets that float up into the air to circulate around a room.

doTERRA also sells essential oils from single oils to mixes that are created to help with specific applications such as better breathing or mental clarity. You can also simply mix your own blends using the single oils to create scents you like that also help your individual needs.

Essential oils are one small tool in a complete tool box for better health and living but one single company does not stand out to me more than others as a supplier for these products. I have done some research and have found some good local supplies of essential oils as well as internet stores to buy from.

I don’t buy the blends but buy single oils and only want the oils that are 100% pure but which ones are all natural oils and not processed or have additives? There is no regulation for essential oils just like other alternative medicines and you only have the company claims and labels to go on for what is in the bottles.

Simply read the labels and find ones that say they are 100% pure and not blends or have additional ingredients like almond oil or read from experts. Testing is a good way to find out and I found a blogger who has done independent chemical tests from various essential oils.

Lea Harris has asked volunteers to donate money to run tests on essential oils from companies like doTERRA and have some results posted on that testing as well as the replies from those companies. Results are either in compliance or not in compliance with ISO standards (International Standards Organization), very interesting reading.

I prefer to just buy locally to help support my local businesses like a popular small store called Tochi or to buy from grocery stores because I don’t have to wait for shipping or even pay for it. Purity of essential oils is a myth more than a fact and claims are just that, any claim of purity or standards are just words the companies use to try and market their products.

The doTERRA Lotus diffuser works well and is simply a good diffuser to get essential oil vapors into the air to help improve your quality of health. I am more skeptical about the essential oils that doTERRA sells mainly because of their claim of Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade.

That term is simply a trademark of the company and not a special government regulated testing or standard for essential oils as there is no standards or FDA regulations. All essential oils are therapeutic grade as they are therapeutic in nature but the grade part is misleading because there are no standards whatsoever in the industry.

I could debate this point ad nauseam but I won’t, I am simply pointing out that essential oils are not regulated when used externally as an inhalant. Any oils used for ingestion are regulated under FDA law but are redistilled to make them less potent which would make them less effective as an inhalant.

The doTERRA diffuser works well and I have no complaints with its design or performance over the last few weeks I have had it as well as the samples of peppermint, lavender and lemon oil. I can recommend the doTERRA as a great diffuser and the oils I received were just fine but they did not stand out any more than the other essential oils I have purchased from other companies.

I also do not like the cost at about $120 for the diffuser directly from the doTERRA website when I found others that work almost as well for well over half the cost. I would actually recommend a diffuser that costs less so you can spend that savings on essential oils instead of just a diffuser.

Lotus Diffuser @ doTERRA

Pros
Easy to use and fill
Lasts up to three hours
Quiet

Cons

None for diffuser itself

Caution is recommended when using essential oils
Essential oils should not be used topically or ingested without careful preparation/dilution

Jabra Stealth Bluetooth Headset

Jabra Stealth Bluetooth Headset

The Jabra Stealth Bluetooth headset makes phone calls as easy as speaking a name and a word that includes clear communication with high definition clarity.

Ease of Use, Performance:  3/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features:  3/5
How much I enjoy:  2/5

Recommendation:  3/5 Stars

Jabra Stealth Bluetooth Headset
Jabra Stealth Bluetooth Headset

The Jabra Stealth is a Bluetooth mono headset that includes a variety of ear hooks and gels along with a USB charging cable and quick setup instructions. The main purpose of a bluetooth headset that has only one earpiece is to connect with a phone and allow hands free calling and communication.

The Jabra Stealth does a good job at this but I did have a few issues that made my experience not as positive as other users and reviewers. The Jabra Stealth easily paired with my Samsung Galaxy S4 phone as well as my wife’s but voice recognition has a way to go before it’s useful.

I tried both phones and checked several things but the simple Call Jeff would not work for either phone so I was disappointed from the start. I tried using Samsung’s version of voice recognition called S Voice and it works much better but still has its problems.

whats in the box
Whats in the Box

I could call Chele which is the nickname of my wife if I elongated the e sound or simply changed her name to Shell to make it work better. It seems both Google and Samsung have problems with names that are not mainstream or nicknames but with those common ones it does alright.

Other commands work somewhat well like open calendar but once the current page is open what next?, it seems that voice recognition and hands free have a long way to go beyond calling John, Jane or Susan. I like the Jabra Stealth but once you get past the talking without having to hold a phone to your ear there really is not much else to the device.

You can use it to text and write memos but other commands are hit and miss while having to always touch the headset to wake up Galaxy or say Ok Google gets tiring. The headset has an on off switch, a button for starting communication between the headset and your phone as well as a answer end button.

usb port & power switch
USB Port & Power Switch

The USB connection for charging is under a small door and battery life is pretty good for such a small headset at about six hours. The Jabra has a full set of ear gels and hooks so finding a combination or individual one that works for your ear is pretty easy.

Of course I may not know or have not researched the commands available but sitting at my desk and opening my calendar I can’t do anything else without touching the phone. I can find restaurants and other useful things using the voice commands but they are just too limited for me to worry about.

The main function I was interested in was being able to call someone but this is limited to how well voice recognition works for my contact list. When both Samsung and Google has me changing names so they can recognize them the functionality of a hands free headset goes out the window.

jabra stealth ear gels
Jabra Stealth Ear Gels

The Jabra Stealth works fine for call clarity, ease of pairing and all the other features like being able to redial by double clicking the side of the headset. The battery life seems fine to me for the size of the device and the ear pieces are comfortable once you get a little used to the fit.

The headset is just too dependent on voice recognition and if that does not work well it limits the usefulness of the headset for the cost you’re paying. I did have luck making several calls and using the Jabra Stealth as a general wireless headset which is one of the main uses I wanted it for but controlling my phone without having to touch it is not going to work.

The Jabra also does not have any volume control on the device so you do have to use your phones volume to turn up and down the volume so hands free is not exactly a full time commitment. I like the Jabra Stealth but it is still a long way form being the total hands free headset that people are wanting.

If you need a comfortable hands free way to talk the Jabra Stealth works well but voice control is still a futuristic concept and not today’s technology.

Stealth @ Jabra

Jabra @ Amazon

Pros
Clear sound and phone calls
Good battery life
Easy pairing

Cons
Voice control and hands free are not good
No volume on headset

Product Reviews Since 2005