Category Archives: Household Products

TevaSphere Trail eVent Trail Runners

TevaSphere Trail Runners Trail eVent Shoes

While I do not run trail I do plenty of hiking through national parks and local wildlife areas taking pictures so trail runners like the TevaSphere Trail eVent shoes are a great choice for foot protection and comfort.

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

Recommendation:  5/5 Stars

TevaSphere Trail eVent Trail Runners Shoes

I could not wait to get out on the trail and try out these new trail shoes from Teva that are meant for rough trail running and designed for all weather work. The TevaSphere Trail eVent shoes are designed from the sole up to bring stability and support to shoes designed for activities like trail running and hiking.

The Trail eVent shoes are designed for maximum support and stability while running on rough terrain like trails or open country. The wide middle section under your arch has the additional stability to provide your ankle the support it needs on uneven and broken terrain or simply hiking.

The heel has a rounded contour to allow for a better run over terrain while the back of the shoe has a hard plastic support around your heel. The toe also has a hard surface to keep the toes safe while also keeping the shoes from damage on rough surfaces.

Teva Trail Runners

The sides and select areas of the shoes are well vented using a breathable membrane the company calls eVent to keep your feet cool and dry. The membrane allows water to seep out and evaporate faster so your feet get dry faster when you do get them wet.

I have been using the Teva Trail shoes for a couple months and have been impressed in several ways including the support the shoes give on uneven ground. The shoes have withstood trail hikes and walking on rough terrain easily and my hiking includes plenty of off trail walking while searching for the perfect picture.

I have spent several weekends hiking in local Minnesota parks and wildlife areas taking pictures and wandering off trail and the shoes are very comfortable. The eVent keeps your feet dry even after stepping in creeks and lake sides by allowing them to dry much faster than I expected.

TevaSphere Trail Runners

I tried a few walks along the Red River and walked in water just to see how fast they would dry off and the shoes were plenty comfortable after only about ten or fifteen minutes. A direct comparison between these and other shoes and how fast they dry is not fair as types of materials and shoe design varies widely.

I think a major advantage of the Teva Trail eVent trail runners is the ventilation that allows water and moisture of all types to drain and evaporate from the shoes. This means no water in the shoe to squish around while you continue your trail run or other activity.

Even when wet the Event Trail shoes are comfortable and hug your feet with padding and the support you need when running and walking so getting wet is not a real problem. I think the main feature of water not being held in the shoe because they are not waterproof so they don’t hold water or moisture in.

Trail Runners Heel & Toe Detail

The Teva Trail eVent shoes are an excellent pair of shoes for activities like trail running and hiking but for any regular activity they would also make a great shoe. I have not purchased expensive shoes like these in the past but buying more expensive shoes has become a necessity.

Big box stores just do not sell decent quality shoes anymore and buying a more expensive shoe for specific activities like hiking and jogging is a necessity. The TevaSphere Trail eVent trail runners make a great choice for trail running or simply hiking to get the best support and comfort.

Trail shoes are a must if you run trails and the TevaSphere eVent’s do offer better stability and support for rough terrain like open country. I highly recommend the Tevasphere Trail eVent shoe for a fantastic trail or hiking shoe and as an all-around athletic shoe.

Trail eVent @ Teva

Pros
Tough durable materials
Venting allows air and water in and out
Stabilizing center for better foot/ankle support
Rounded heel for better stride/foot fall
Cons
None

T-fal Ultraglide Easycord Steam Iron

T-fal Ultraglide Easycord Steam Iron

The T-fal Ultraglide Easycord Steam Iron features a ceramic coated soleplate, vertical steaming and a cord system that keeps it out of the way while ironing.

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

Total: 5/5

T-fal FV4478 Ultraglide Easycord Steam Iron

The T-fal Ultraglide Easycord steam iron uses a 1700 watt heating system while the steam feature allows a variety of ironing and steaming uses. The vertical steam feature allows you to steam while clothes or fabrics are hanging and even steams curtains or drapes without taking them down.

I received the FV4478 model which comes in blue while it seems the other model numbers close to this are simply different colors. The T-fal Ultraglide Easycord has some models only sold at specific stores and costs about $40 which is a great price.

The controls are easy to understand and get to while the spring loaded water tank cover allows for quick filling. The water tank has a rubber seal on the opening that also has the anti-calc valve which is for cleaning and water flow.

T-fal Ultraglide Easycord Steam Iron

The anti—calc valve is used in conjunction with the self-cleaning feature to keep calcium and other minerals from building up inside the iron. The valve can be removed and cleaned and the iron can run through a self-cleaning mode to get rid of buildup.

The iron has the usual low to high settings with types of clothes like linin to silk marked on the heating dial. The mister and steam buttons are easy to use with your thumb while ironing.

In front of the steam and mist buttons is a dial for more or less steam which is also easy to adjust with your thumb while holding the iron with the same hand. The base of the steam iron has an indicator light to show it is on and the Ultraglide Easycord has an auto off with blinking warning light.

Ceramic Soleplate

The cord has a swivel connection so it stays out of the way when ironing and flips up toward the handle when you set the iron down on the base. The nine foot cord allows you enough cord length to not have to use an extension for most situations.

A big feature of the T-fal Ultraglide Easycord Steam Iron is the ceramic coating on the face of the iron to make ironing easy and keep the iron clean. The smooth surface is just like a nonstick coating on pans but has the slick feel that goes well with ironing.

There are plenty of holes for steam and you can easily use the steamer function to steam clothes while hung up. I steamed some curtains without taking them down and the iron with its push button steam features works well for steaming as well as ironing.

T-fal Ultraglide Easycord Controls

I do have one complaint about the T-fal Ultraglide Easycord Steam Iron with how much water does drip out of the steam holes when moving the iron around or vertically steaming. The iron does drip some but not too much and it certainly is not something that would cause me concern.

This only happens when the steam feature is non and does not leak at all when not using steam so it is not that biig a deal. It does drip some but the Ultraglide Easycord does have enough great features to warrant more than a look.

I highly recommend the T-fal Ultraglide Easycord model 4478 as a great easy to use steam iron that is excellent for steaming and ironing.

Steam & Misting Controls

Ultraglide Easycord @ T-fal

T-fal Ultraglide Easycord @ Target

Pros

Fast heating
Large tank
Vertical steaming
Nonstick face
Easy To Use

Cons

Drips a bit

Bissell SpotClean Portable Spot and Stain Carpet Cleaner

Bissell SpotClean Portable Spot and Stain Carpet Cleaner

Bissell SpotClean Portable Spot and Stain Carpet Cleaner makes an excellent choice for cleaning small carpets and for spot and stain removal on upholstery and furniture at home or in vehicles.

The Bissell SpotClean 5207 is a fantastic portable carpet cleaner for spot and stain cleaning that also works well to clean vehicle upholstery and furniture.

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

Recommendation: 4.5/5 Stars

Bissell SpotClean 5207 Spot and Stain Carpet Cleaner

The Bissell SpotClean 5207 makes a great spot and stain carpet cleaner that is portable and easy to use with a completely removable valve system in the dirty tank. The SpotClean 5207 uses two tools and a two tank system for portable cleaning of upholstery and carpets.

The SpotClean 5207 can clean carpets or spot and stain spills on upholstery easily and quickly with tools for regular cleaning and deep cleaning. The SpotClean 5207 has a clean and dirty water tank with fill marks on the clean tank for small and large jobs.

SpotClean 5207 Whats in the Box

The dirty water tank has a fully removable valve system that is much easier to clean than previous models and really makes the spot and stain cleaner easy to use. The HeatWave Technology helps to keep your clean water tank warm by directing the motors exhaust along the clean water tanks side and base.

The SpotClean 5207 comes with a general cleaning tool that has a brush and spray nozzle for cleaning upholstery and regular pile carpets. The Deep Reach tool has a small brush head with plastic nozzles that spray your water deep into carpet for better cleaning.

Parts of the Bissell SpotClean

The powerful motor gives great suction to pull up as much dirty water as it can which helps for cleaning spot and stain removal and getting the carpet dry quickly. The machine uses a regular carpet cleaner or Bissell’s carpet cleaner as well as an oxygen cleaner to lift and remove any spot or stain.

I found using an oxygen cleaner really helped a lot to get rid of stains but one thing while working with the SpotClean really made more work for me. I started to demonstrate the SpotClean 5207 on a spot and stain filled carpet and wound up having to clean the whole carpet.

Bissell SpotClean Tool Storage

The SpotClean 5207 did a great job of cleaning the carpet and removed all the spot and stain areas as well as the general dirt of the carpet. I did not realized how much the carpet needed a cleaning and wound up cleaning the whole thing with the portable carpet cleaner.

The Bissell Spot Clean 5207 is an excellent spot and stain cleaner and is easy to recommend for a portable carpet cleaner.

Dirty Water Tank Bissell SpotClean

Pros
Easy to Clean Dirt Water Tank
Easy To Use
Separate Tools for General and Deep Cleaning

Cons
Keeps Water Warm But Does Not Heat Fully

SpotClean @ Bissell

Dymo Rhino 4200 Label Printer for Labeling

 Dymo Rhino 4200 Industrial Label Printer for Labeling

The Dymo Rhino 4200 is an industrial quality label printer for professional quality labeling using nylon and polyester labels along with specialty printing on heat shrink tubing.

Dymo Rhino 4200

Ease of Use/Performance: 5/5
Convenience/Storage 5/5
Appearance/Design 5/5

How much I enjoy 4/5

recommendation: 4/5

The Dymo Rhino line of printers is the professional quality labeling printers from a leader in handheld printing that prints on nylon and polyester tapes as well as heat shrink tubing. The Dymo Rhino is your professional quality industrial printer for labeling that uses specialty tapes along with heat shrink tubing for quality labels.

Whats in the Box Dymo Rhino 4200

The Dymo Rhino 4200 has a full QWERTY keyboard along with quite a few specialty keys on the front with a line of keys for labeling circuit breakers, cables, bar codes and varying the printing alignment. The Rhino 4200 prints on 1/4 inch, 3/8 inch, 1/2 inch, and 3/4 inch labels but they need to be the Rhino specialty cartridges or heat shrink cartridges.

 

The labeling printer has a Favorites and symbols library along with quite a few specialty functions that allow for easy and quick creation of labels for a wide variety of applications. The Rhino 4200 has rubber bumpers for protection and runs on six AA batteries or you can purchase a lithium Ion battery pack as well as an AC power adapter for your Rhino printer.

The various labels in both polyester and nylon allow for permanent printing for a wide variety of applications like labeling circuit breakers or other home building applications. You can print on heat shrink tubing and multi lined tags for easier cable identification in industrial or even home use for networks or telephone lines.

Rhino Cartridge Install

Bar code printing makes for a convenient way to quickly print bar codes for inventory or point of sale use in both Code 39 and Code 128 systems. The printer is quite handy for all kinds of uses and works well for the quick trials I put it through at home but the cartridges are a bit more expensive than paper label cartridges.

The regular nylon and polyester tape costs about $15 to $22 while the heat shrink tubes cost about $27 to $35 not including shipping costs from CableOrganizer.com. I received the Dymo Rhino 4200 from Cable Organizer and their prices are the same as I could find anywhere for both the printer and cartridges with low shipping costs at about $2 for the first cartridge and a little more per item to ship.

I really like the Cable Organizer website and shopping cart system that includes a quick shipping calculator on your items pop up cart as well as their shipping rates that are not inflated. CableOrganizer.com only adds a smaller additional fee for each additional item shipped and does not as some sites often do double the price of shipping for each additional item.

Rhino 4200 Battery Compartment

Too often when looking up shipping costs online sites charge an outrageous price for small items and often negate the lower cost of the items you can find online. CableOragnier.com has a nice online sales system and up front tells you how much shipping is when adding items to your cart for easy purchase decisions.

The Dymo Rhino 4200 industrial thermal printer does work well for both around the home use labeling recipe bottles and network cables, bins for parts and even those toy cubbies for kids. The labels are waterproof and tough with both the polyester and nylon tape being made for industrial applications so they won’t wear quickly like paper labels will.

Dymo Rhino Labeling

The printer is quick and easy to use with its full QWERTY keyboard that also has the full set of number keys and the labeling types are clearly listed on special keys. The Dymo Rhino is a great all around label printer that is handy for both around the home and workshop labeling as well as industrial use.

I have found the Rhino 4200 and some cartridges locally at office supply stores and home improvement stores but for the specialty heat shrink tubing you are probably going to have to order it. The Rhino line is a newer line of label printers and supplies for it will be limited at stores until it has been out for a while so ordering cartridges will probably be necessary.

I highly recommend the Dymo Rhino 4200 as an all around label printer that comes in handy for a wide variety of uses at home and work and is available at CableOrganizer.com.

Rhino 4200 @ CableOrganizer.com

Rhino 4200 @ Dymo

Multi-Cat Swheat Scoop Natural Clumping Cat Litter

Swheat Scoop Cat Litter

Swheat Scoop cat litter is a natural litter that works much like those clay based clumping litters but is safe to dispose of in your septic system and is chemical free.

Ease of Use/Performance: 4/5
Convenience/Value 3/5
Appearance/Design 4/5
How much I enjoy 3/5

Total: 3.5/5

Cat Litter Swheat Scoop

I avoid shopping at Petco and PetSmart as I prefer the lower costs of stores like Wal-Mart for supplies but at times I do shop there as well as get information and advice. Cat litter is a constant recurring cost of having cats and I am always looking for either a lower costing solution or one that works better.

Swheat Scoop is a natural product made entirely from wheat but the wheat that did not meet food grade standards and is heated to kill potential infestation as well as make the product do what it needs to. Swheat Scoop uses the starch and heat treatment to provide an absorbing material that does clump for the liquid cats are going to be adding to the litter tray.

Swheat Scoop is flushable due to the light and 100 percent biodegradable content but I am not sure I would want to add my cats litter to my sewer lines because of my particular home problems. I have had problems with sewer lines clogging up so I want to reduce how much stuff goes down my sewer to prevent clogging and more plumbing problems.

If flushing your cats litter is a major feature you want like apartment dwellers to reduce the amount of garbage you need to deal with Swheat scoop makes perfect sense. Flushable litter does attract many buyers and Swheat Scoop does have people’s attention but some clumping issues does not have me convinced enough to change my litter choice.

Clumping is a major factor of today’s cat litter and Swheat scoop is supposed to be a great clumping cat litter but my second photo shows a bit of a different story. Clay based litters are great for clumping and my two favorites are a Sam’s Club brand called LitterClean and Arm & Hammers Double Duty cat litter.

Swheat Scoop clumps fairly well but as you can see in my demonstration picture the wheat based litter does fall apart when you try to get the clump out of the dish. The clay based litter does clump much better and you can easily pick the clump out with your fingers in this example.

Cat Litter Clumping Ability

Scooping the Swheat Scoop clumps out of my cats litter tray was an exercise in chasing down the smaller clumps when the big ones fell apart but for the most part it worked well. The clay does make harder clumps and if good clumping is important Swheat Scoop did not clump as well as other clay based litters that I have used.

I used the 14 pounds of Swheat Scoop pretty quickly and started to have to add some other clumping litter once the straight wheat based litter started getting low in the pan. To start using the Swheat Scoop I poured the litter into a clean pan and the cats had no problem taking to the different litter type without fuss.

When poured out of the bag Swheat Scoop smells just like fresh ground wheat and has very little smell when the cats use it but just like clay litter frequency of cleanup is important. I clean up my cats pan every night and had no problems with smell from the Swheat Scoop but I also have no problems with smell from clay litters.

The litter does have some dust when pouring and scooping out clumps but not as much as the cheaper LitterClean litter and the Arm & Hammer litters I have used in the past. I regularly use clay litters that cost 29 cents per pound for the Sams Club litter and 38 cents per pound for the Arm & Hammer version.

Swheat Scoop costs about 92 cents per pound which is pretty pricey when you look at the fact that all you’re doing is throwing it out after a few days. If flushing the cats stuff down your septic system is important then Swheat Scoop does work well and I did have no problems in a couple of test flushes.

The cost and the lack of firm clumps does leave me a bit hesitant to recommend this but if flushing is more important than cost and solid clumping Swheat Scoop is well worth a look.

Swheat Scoop Website

Eco Nuts Soap Nuts

Eco Nuts Soap Nuts Laundry Detergent

Eco Nuts are the sterilized and certified USDA organic version of soap nuts used for cleaning your laundry that are earth friendly and hypoallergenic.

Ease of Use/Performance: 4/5

Convenience/Storage 4/5
Appearance/Design 4/5
How much I enjoy 4/5

Total: 4/5

Eco Nuts Soap Nuts

Eco Nuts are the earth friendly choice in soap nuts with a proprietary sterilization process and a plastic free packaging. Eco Nuts sells a variety of soap nut products including soap nuts, liquid concentrate, bar soap and a variety of laundry and home cleaners.

Soap nuts are actually the berry of a fruit tree and have an outer shell which contains most of the saponin so the main thing we want out of our soap nuts is the outer hull. Soap nuts are actually bad tasting to insects so they do not need pesticides and the trees grow well in poor soil for a great product for the low income countries the trees are grown in.

Laundry detergents do several things but the main thing we want them to do is to clean our clothes by removing the dirt and washing it away when the clothes are rinsed. To remove dirt and oil the detergent needs to lower the surface tension of water so that the dirt and oil will mix with the water and rinse away.

The surfactant in a detergent is what is doing the work but something else you don’t know much about is also happening, suds are being generated but they do not indicate the level of cleaning. Suds are merely an indication that there is a surfactant at work but it does not mean the clothes are getting cleaner.

When you have more suds there is either more detergent to generate those suds, try squeezing lots of dish soap in a sink, or there is little dirt for the detergent to react with. We don’t need to see the detergent working we just need to find out that the clothes or other items have been cleaned when the wash cycle stops.

I prefer smell to find out if things are clean as well as appearance and soap nuts do just as good a job as most other laundry detergents I have tried from the best to the cheapest. I have tried Tide Free and Clear and other expensive detergents and those cheaper ones but have not been really impressed with any until now.

Detergents usually have dyes, perfumes and other chemicals to help you or get you to think that your clothes are being cleaned but in fact much of that stuff is not doing much to clean your clothes. Perfumes only make your clothes smell and dyes are only added to make the detergent look more appealing when you’re using it which we really don’t need.

If you’re sensitive to chemicals or have allergies even those clean and clear detergents may not be gentle enough as they still contain chemicals that are processed. I have been having more and more allergic reactions and have switched completely to those free and clear detergents but they have not helped all that much.

Eco Nuts are one company’s take on eco-friendly soap nuts with a proprietary cleaning process to sterilize the soap nuts and are certified organic. The Eco Nuts website states that some processers of soap nuts dry their nuts on the roofs of buildings and shacks which is very believable when you see videos soap nut harvesting.

Lying around on a roof in the sun means birds can fly over as well as those four legged friends, rats, can run across the drying berries leaving behind undesirable things. Sterilizing the soap nuts before shipping them out and sorting them to specific standards means the company cares about your health and the health of those that are going to be exposed to the product.

Soap nuts are also a great way to clean baby diapers and clothes as they are natural and do not have all those extra chemicals that can irritate skin. Eco Nuts use that extra cleaning process to ensure your loved ones are safe and will not be harmed by a product that is contaminated with unseen things.

Eco Nuts are available in the berry form that has had their seeds removed as well as a liquid that is made from the berries but is highly concentrated. The soap berries are used either in a small bag with 4 to 5 berries per bag and just tossed in the laundry or boiled down to a liquid.

When you boil soap berries you simply place a dozen or so berries in about four cups of water and boil until the berries lose their brown color. You can reuse the berries you toss in the small cloth bag up to ten times until they lose that same brown color as they do when boiling.

The liquid Eco Nuts you make yourself is used just like regular liquid laundry detergent but you only use 3 tablespoons according to the Eco Nuts website. I have been using both the Eco Nuts berries and the Eco Nuts Liquid Detergent that is concentrated and has a preservative so it does not go bad.

If you use your homemade liquid it can go bad due to the natural ingredients so you need to store any homemade liquid soap berries in your refrigerator. The Eco Nuts Liquid Detergent does not need to be stored in a cooler environment and you use less per load, about a half a teaspoon.

The Eco Nuts Liquid Detergent works just as well as the berries and I have found a new detergent for my own home laundry but cost is now the deciding factor. I reviewed soap nuts from another company that does not sterilize their soap nuts and they cost roughly $7 less including shipping.

If you’re worried about the extra sterilization Eco Nuts is a great product and the liquid version I received worked extremely well. You have to retrain yourself to use much less than the usual laundry detergent when using liquid soap nuts which is how I prefer to use soap nuts but I will be making my own liquid detergent.

I will not be buying any soap nuts for at least a little while as I now have enough to last several months but the supply I have works very well for both companies products. Eco Nuts has a great product but I am not really convinced that sterilizing an already organic product is worth the extra cost but if you think it will help with a cleaner product it works well for a detergent.

I do recommend Eco Nuts as a great laundry detergent but I am not sold on the price of the proprietary sterilization process they put their soap nuts through.

Eco Nuts Website

LEGO Motorized Excavator 8043

LEGO Technic Motorized Excavator

The LEGO Motorized Excavator with Power Functions remote controlled motors is an excellent base kit to build not only the Motorized Excavator model but the Tracked Loader and many other models.

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

Total:  5/5 Stars

LEGO Motorized Excavator 8043

What a few weeks it has been since receiving the LEGO Motorized Excavator and a couple of books from No Starch Press but the fun is not going to stop here with plenty more LEGO building in my off time. First I received a book from No Starch Press titled The Unofficial LEGO Technic Builder’s Guide by Pawel “Sariel” Kmiec so naturally I scanned the LEGO site looking for a Technic kit that would fit well with this book.

After a little back and forth with LEGO’s public relations contact I received the LEGO Motorized Excavator kit but this kit will be going out of manufacturing soon so quantities may be limited through official LEGO stores. I do see plenty of kits still available on sites like Amazon and at local stores like ToysRUs so getting your hands on one soon should not be a problem but if you’re interested in this kit I would shop soon.

The LEGO Excavator is a motorized kit that includes 1123 pieces but the main attraction for this kit is the Power Functions remote control system that includes four motors and two remote controls. The kit has instructions for making the excavator in three books which goes to show how technical this kit can be and is not for the young as it does require a bit of dexterity and good instruction following to get some of the steps accomplished.

The 8043 kit is recommended for 12 to 16 year olds and I really would not consider this kit for younger than a ten or twelve year old but definitely get them a book about basic LEGO building techniques like the guide I mentioned from Sariel. These types of information books will help budding engineers understand more about building techniques, give hints and tips in building their own models and give ideas for more to do with the LEGO kits than just build the couple of models they include instructions for.

Whats in the Box LEGO Motorized Excavator

The 8043 kit can also be used to make the Tracked Loader model that you can also download form the LEGO website here without having to buy any other parts for the model and you will even have parts left over from the loader build. The downloadable instructions is a handy feature and allows you to assemble and look at other models from this kit but you may not have all the parts for other models but I will go into more of that later.

The Motorized Excavator kit is a perfect one to use with books that help to show the LEGO building techniques and engineering basics behind the technics sets but the kit is also a fun time just following the instructions LEGO provides. The LEGO 8043 kit comes with the four medium sized motors and the two remote controls with two infrared receivers and one battery pack to run the motors and receivers.

The Power Functions system is LEGO’s newest remote control system for motorized vehicles or whatever other devices you could create and is really a dream to work with especially given the line of sight required by the remotes and sensors. The sensors have a domed top and do a great job of catching that line of sight no matter what direction the model is running at compared to where the operator would be standing and I had no problems controlling a tank or the excavator from about fifteen feet away.

The LEGO Power Functions website says the remote controls and receivers will work up to 33 feet away which is the same for just about any infrared devices I have seen and a typical range for these types of controllers. The domed top of the receivers make for a better line of sight so turning the vehicle your controlling is much less of an issue and I had no problem with the arm of the excavator blocking the signal.

Partly Built LEGO Motorized Excavator

You will have problems if you try to use the Power Functions remote controls and receivers at that thirty three foot rage as it is just not very good for longer distances but closer in at ten to twenty feet is very good. This type of remote control is really much better and more fun to use at the closer ranges and I really see no reason to use it at that far a range as it is just not fun when you can’t see the model well.

I built the excavator in about six hours but this may not be typical because I was taking breaks to snap a few pictures and answer emails so the building time will vary on both age of the modeler and understanding of LEGO building techniques. The instructions are easy to follow and only one small error on my part by choosing the wrong part made my build in any way not as smooth as it could have been.

I simply added the wrong piece early on and only after getting about three quarters of the way through the instructions and not finding the correct part did I realize I might have already used that part earlier and should not have. I simply went back in the instructions, found the step where I used the wrong part and partly disassembled the excavator to switch out the correct part and reassembled the parts I had to take off.

The LEGO Motorized Excavator kit is a great one to use for budding engineers or anyone interested on how motors, gears and tracked vehicles work and especially with the complicated gear assembly this model uses. The LEGO engineers also built and have instructions for a tracked loader that you can download from the LEGO Technics website which can be found here for easy download.

Track Detail LEGO Motorized Excavator

The Technic website has downloadable instructions for a wide variety of kits and you can easily try your hand at building these and seeing which ones have close to the right parts by looking through the instructions. You may need to buy some extra parts to finish some of the models the Technic website has instructions for but you have a great start to many of the models with the 8043 kit or any of the construction kits with the same amount of parts.

To find out if the LEGO Excavator kit could build another kit or what parts you would need to buy to finish another model you can go to the Brickset website to find lists of parts by set so you can see the possibility of making other models using the Motorized Excavator kit parts. The LEGO sites that others have created to help builders and collectors are really amazing and this comes to the buying part of the review and a site in the United States where you can buy additional parts.

If your budding engineer is looking to branch out from the kit instructions of the two models and make something else but needs a few specific parts the BrickLinks website can help you find a store that has the parts you need. The site is not really easy to use but there are plenty of helpers and a forum to help you if you have problems finding the parts or ordering and with a few orders just placed for some parts I can say the site is easy enough to use.

The Motorized Excavator kit number 8043 is a fantastic kit and really makes a great start to any young person’s LEGO collection if the common bricks are just not filling that building void the youth may be experiencing. LEGO’s go way beyond the simple houses and buildings I used to build as a kid when there were only a few dozen bricks available and no hint that it would turn into such a toy craze that it has.

Tracked Loader LEGO Motorized Excavator

I highly recommend the Motorized Excavator as a basic Technic kit to start a LEGO collection and the Power Functions remote control it contains is enough to start your own models without much else to worry about at the beginning. Of course over time the LEGO collection may need a bit of expanding so other kits or just parts to fill out specific models may be forth coming.

LEGO Motorized Excavator Website

LEGO Tracked Loader Instructions

Brickset Website

Bricklink Website

LEGO Education Storage Bin

LEGO Motorized Kit Video

Logitech Harmony Touch Universal Remote

Logitech Harmony Touch Universal Remote

The Harmony Touch is the newest Universal Remote from Logitech that includes the excellent computer setup for universal remote features along with a new touch screen for even easier control of your vast media electronics.

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

Recommendation:  5/5 Stars

Logitech Harmony Touch Universal Remote

Logitech is known for computer peripherals and universal remotes with the newest all in one control device sporting a touch screen in the handheld remote that can control all your entertainment devices. The Logitech Harmony Touch remote is a handheld remote with a 2.4 inch touch screen for easy control of your entertainment center and even those remote controlled air conditioners and ceiling fans.

The Harmony Touch comes with the remote, a charging stand, ac adapter and USB cable with instructions for getting the remote started but the main settings and instructions will be done from your computer. The Logitech Harmony remotes come in two major versions with the newer ones being set up using the MyHarmony.com website and the model numbers of your devices you wish to control.

The first step after unboxing your new remote is to load a small program onto your computer and get the model numbers of all the devices you are going to be using with the universal remote. Logitech even has a worksheet to print if you need the extra help with finding model numbers but simply writing down all those numbers from the stickers on devices is pretty easy.

Whats in the Box Logitech Harmony Touch

The remote connects to your computer with both MAC and Windows supported to set up your activities and devices which are the two major categories the remote uses. The computer setup simply adds a driver and an icon without any real program added to your system, most of the heavy lifting computer wise is done from the Logitech website.

Activities are things like watching TV, watching DVDs, listening to music or just adjusting the air conditioning for supported portable air conditioners while devices goes more in depth for each piece of your entertainment center. The Logitech website has an interactive list of devices by manufacturer you can check on to see if your devices are available as preprogrammed in the remote which includes over 225,000 devices currently.

Once you have the My Harmony installed and you have signed up for an account you simply follow the easy browser based steps to set up activities and devices like watching TV. To use just one device is pretty simple but for things like watching a movie on your DVD or Blu-ray player you may need to turn on a couple different devices and this is where the Harmony Touch really shines.

My Harmony Device Control

The Touch will turn on my TV and set it to the correct input for watching a DVD while it will also turn on my Oppo DVD player and the sound bar I am currently using for my sound system. The TV will go to the HDMI input while the sound bar simply turns on and the DVD player is powered up and ready for either watching whatever movie is currently in or waiting for you to insert one.

You can still use each and every button form the remote control of the devices the Touch is replacing or you can set up important ones as buttons on the Touch using simple setup instructions. The Logitech Touch also has a Favorites icon setup where favorite channels on cable or TV can be set to the Favorites page for easy watching of common channels.

You can choose from local cable and broadcast stations or add your own pictures to blank icons and use whatever you like for your icons page. This setup is very easy and had all the local stations for my over the air that I use with at least the name of the channels and the station numbers.

Setting an Activity on Universal Remote

The Harmony Touch works great for multiple devices but for the PlayStation 3 you still need a little something extra to control that Bluetooth only device but Logitech has a special device for that called the Harmony Adapter for PlayStation 3. The Harmony Touch costs about $250 while the PlayStation 3 adapter costs an extra $60 which is a bit pricey until you look at all those remotes sitting on your coffee table.

A single remote that can control all your devices is not going to be cheap but the Logitech Harmony Touch has a few other tricks up its sleeve with the ability to learn directly from other remotes. I recently received a JBL Cinema SB200 sound bar that is a new device and Logitech has not listed this yet and even trying the closely related SB300 did not really work well.

I simply turned the remote to talk to each other and had the Logitech Touch learn commands directly from the JBL sound bar remote which really only amounted to power and volume. The sound bar also comes with the ability to learn remote commands from the TV remote but I wanted to control everything from the Logitech remote so I did not need all those remotes sitting around.

Changing Buttons on Universal Remote

The Touch universal remote has a nice stand with this newest version that connects to an AC adapter to keep the remote charged when you’re not using it and as a handy place to keep the remote. The My Harmony pages for setting up the remote are very easy to use and even for very complex devices like receivers Logitech will have all the controls listed if you need to work directly with the receiver.

The activities will list on the touch screen and the bottom of the touch screen has shortcuts to help and a menu that opens up the devices page where all the saved devices are listed. The touch screen adds a much easier way to control your remote and I find it helpful not have to worry too closely about pressing the correct buttons from the side of the screen like on a previous Harmony universal remote.

If you are looking for a new way to control all those devices and want the convenience of computer help with keeping things organized Logitech’s Harmony Touch is definitely worth the cost. I highly recommend the Logitech Harmony Touch Universal Remote as an easy to use and setup remote to keep all those entertainment devices in line without the hassles of codes.

Touch Universal Remote @ Logitech

Devices Supported by Harmony Remotes

JBL Cinema SB200 Sound Bar

JBL SB200 Sound Bar

The JBL Cinema SB200 Sound Bar makes a great speaker system for smaller rooms or if a full surround sound system just won’t work in your media or entertainment center.

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

Total: 3.5/5 Stars

JBL SB200 Sound Bar

Sound bars have their niche in home entertainment and fill that void where full surround sound systems just will not work for either space or a financial aspect and work very well when you’re not too concerned about experiencing surround sound. Sound bars come in the less expensive but equally worthwhile speakers and go up to those expensive ones easily reaching $2000 but the JBL Cinema SB200 Sound Bar comes in at a more affordable $300.

The JBL SB200 sound bar is about 4 inches deep, 4.5 inches tall and 35.5 inches wide for a sound bar that works well in front of, above or below a TV on a stand or wall mounted. The sound bar comes with a wall mount plate, the remote control, a short optical cable and an RCA to 3.5mm cable along with an instruction manual that has setup and instructions about use.

Whats in the Box JBL SB200 Sound Bar

The controls for the sound bar are on top with a simple remote included for easy on the couch adjustment but the SB200 can also learn remote commands for volume and mute form your TV remote. This one feature is so easy and worked perfectly for me with my Vizio TV remote the first time I tried it and made using the SB200 as my main speaker system for the living room quite easy.

One main feature of the sound bar is the use of Bluetooth to pair the speaker with any Bluetooth enabled audio source such as an iPad or other tablet which works very well with the simple pairing process. This means you can listen to tunes on the sound bar when you’re not using it for the main entertainment of watching TV or movies.

The controls on the remote and the top of the sound bar are almost identical with the exception of the Bluetooth pairing button on the sound bar for use with a Bluetooth source and wireless connection. The Bluetooth pairing works as easily as any Bluetooth device but you can also connect the JBL sound bar with the rear optical and stereo connections which are switched by the source button.

JBL SB200 Controls

The optical audio and stereo connection on the back of the sound bar connects the sound bar to your HDTV or other audio source but with only the three connections you are limited in how many devices to connect to the sound bar. The optical connection allows connecting and using several different formats of audio such as Dolby Digital but the stereo connection only uses analog stereo for its source.

The sound bar includes a Harmon Display Surround feature that simulates surround sound by delaying parts of the sound but you can switch this off if you don’t like it or for using the sound bar with music. The JBL sound bar has the wall mount bar which hooks to the back of the sound bar to hang the sound bar on a wall or you can set the sound bar on a table or media.

I’m not sure how the bass is created but looking inside the sound bar the two main speakers seem to have two sections with one pointing forward and the other that has sound coming from a round hole in the back. The inside has two horns which point from inside to the outer front of the sound bar but two slots are also at the back of the sound bar which I assume are both for bass to come out.

JBL SB200 Connections

The switch on the back for wall mounting or table top use controls how the bass comes out but you can tell a definite difference from one to the other. Mounting the sound bar would obscure the back ports for bass and more front bass when it is mounted on a wall or the front of a media center would make sense.

I could not find out what kind of speakers the sound bar uses but I think it has to do with the dual port design for the two high excursion drivers that are the two larger drivers in the sound bar. Looking inside the front cover of the sound bar you have two drivers that are about 3 inches wide and two that are an inch wide along with the two oval openings for the horns.

The JBL Sound Bar does have Dolby Digital decoding through the optical input and does well when connected to both my Vizio HDTV and my computer for playing movies and television. The Bass boost works well but does not add the same amount of bass that a dedicated subwoofer or separate speaker would, movies sounded great and even ones like Star Wars was very enjoyable using the SB200 for sound.

Inside the SB200

While the JBL Cinema SB200 sound bar does not do full surround sound it does a great job at imitating it and the sound bar does make a great entertainment system when space is limited or if you just can’t afford a better one. The SB200 does sound great from high notes to low bass and makes an excellent entertainment speaker system that works well for a TV and with its wall mountable feature does have a nice mounting option.

I highly recommend the JBL SB200 Sound Bar for an excellent single speaker solution that does work well for movies and television as well as music with its unique options for connectivity.

SB200 @ JBL

Toilet Tattoos Watercolor Tattoos for your Toilet

Toilet Tattoos Toilet Lid Decals Watercolor Tattoo for your Toilet

Toilet Tattoos are removable appliqués that fit on standard toilet lids made from electrostatic vinyl film in a variety of decorative and even whimsical styles for any occasion, like a watercolor tattoo for your toilet.

Ease of Use/Performance: 4.5/5
Convenience/Storage 4/5
Appearance/Design 4.5/5
How much I enjoy 5/5

Total: 4.5/5

Toilet Tattoos Watercolor Tattoo for your Toilet

Getting ready for company like the relatives at Christmas dinner usually means cleaning the house from top to bottom and setting out the holiday decorations. Now you can even decorate in the bathroom and I’m not talking candles and drapes, toilet lids can now get their own decorations that look like a watercolor tattoo for your toilet.

You’re not limited to just holiday decorations for your porcelain throne as Toilet Tattoos come in a wide range of styles such as artistic, whimsical and even monograms. Your toilet lid can now sport kids themes, pet warnings and rubber ducks or simple designs like a rainbow or cartoon animals.

Your throne can be adorned with artistic designs like wallpaper and rug patterns or a whole page of choices from wildlife like a bear, fish or a selection of dogs. The company offers a truly wide selection but you can even get the holiday and seasonal decorations that you would expect but I truly like the oddball and everyday ones.

Unlike real watercolor tattoos, Toilet Tattoos are an easy to install applique for your toilet seat lid that is made from electrostatic vinyl for easy application and even removal and reapplying to the same or other lids. Toilet Tattoos are easy to apply with the vinyl film that sticks to smooth toilet seat lids whether its wood, plastic or even those inexpensive particle wood types and adheres very well that looks like a watercolor tattoo on your toilet.

Watercolor OuthouseWatercolor Tattoo for your Toilet

I received, with helpful recommendations from my wife, the rubber ducks on a blue wave background and the classic outhouse for my downstairs guest bathroom which my wife is having outhouses as its theme. The rubber ducky’s fit real well into our own master bathroom and the other rubber duck items my wife is adorning our bathroom with.

The vinyl appliques are easy to install and come with a larger backing that is handy to keep around in case you get more Toilet Tattoos and need a temporary place to stick one. I have checked out fancier toilet lids at stores like Menards and Lowes with eye opening prices of about $50 for designs that cover the lid and the seat.

A few simple designs have just a single flower but these lids and seats costs about $20 but with the toilet tattoos you can adorn the design you choose. Looking at adorning your toilet lid you can even go the shag cover or other covers for toilet lids that simply snug onto a lid but prices for just a simple cover are at least $5.

Toilet Tattoos are available from the website at $9.95 for the predesigned ones and prices of about $25 and up for custom designs like monograms. When you install the Toilet Tattoo you should clean the lid well, the whole toilet could use a cleaning as well so you don’t track dirt and unclean stuff from other parts of the toilet to the new applique.

Rubber Ducky Blue Watercolor Tattoo for your Toilet

Simply peel and place the Toilet Tattoo in place on the lid and if you need to reposition it simply peel it off and try again. The electrostatic vinyl does not use an adhesive but simply sticks to smooth surfaces and works just like those decorations you stick to windows.

I had no problems installing both a round and oblong applique for my two toilets and they both have adhered well and withstood the normal use a family puts their commodes through. If the toilet gets dirty you can simply wipe off the tattoo while it’s on the lid or easily remove the Toilet Tattoos from the lid temporarily which is not like a real watercolor tattoo.

Do not use harsh chemical cleaners on the Toilet Tattoo but gentle cleaners work very well or remove the applique when cleaning with cleaners that contain bleach or other harsh chemicals to prevent damage to the vinyl. I have had no problems using and cleaning the Toilet Tattoos on my two toilet lids and have enjoyed adorning my toilets.

I highly recommend Toilet Tattoos as a low cost and easy to apply decoration that can be a year round applique or you can buy ones for special occasions.

Toilet Tattoos Website

A little update, Wal-Mart seems to be cleaning out of the Toilet Tattoo market, you can buy them for around $2.50 last time I saw them in the clearance aisle.