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Author Archive for Janet Cloninger

The Balancing Tree will help your child develop fine motor skills


I thought of Jenga when I saw the Balancing Tree toy, but the Balancing Tree looks much less difficult and frustrating for children.  PlanToys developed the Balancing Tree using its principals of sustainability.  They are  a”leading company that has created a new material and process as part of our zero waste goals. Continuing our commitment for a sustainable future, PlanToys has introduced PlanWood as another high quality, safe, and sustainable material in our toy-making process. This material will be used in harmony with our solid rubber wood.”  This balancing game is designed for children ages 3 and up.  Children develop motor skills by building the tree and adding the birds.  The player who can stack and balance the tree and the birds without making it fall wins.  The Balancing Tree game is $15.00 at PlanToys.  It’s also available at Amazon for $14.95 and is eligible for free shipping for Prime members.

The S-View Flip Cover cases for Samsung Galaxy S5


While sitting in Starbucks over the weekend, I noticed the gorgeous white phone and case belonging to the lady sitting at the next table.  It was so beautiful that I wanted to ask her what phone she had.  The case and phone were incredibly thin, and the cover had a window that showed the top half of the screen.  I kept sneaking glances at it until I decided it was a Samsung Galaxy S5 phone.  When I got home, I started looking for the case; turns out it was the official S-View Flip Cover case from Samsung.  There are two versions of the S-View covers.  Both have windows on the cover so you can “easily view key indicators, time, date, alarm, missed calls, new messages, etc. without flipping open the cover”; you can also answer or reject calls or access the camera without opening the cover.  When you do open the cover, the sleep/wake function will wake up your S5.  Both cases replace the phone’s battery cover; the S-View cases have rubber gaskets that maintain the phone’s water resistance.  And both cases protect the phone and its touchscreen.  

The Galaxy S 5 S-View Flip Cover comes in black, white, rose gold, and pink smooth faux leather or gold, blue, or green perforated faux leather.  The phone recognizes the color of the case and changes the background to a complementary color – or you can choose your own background image.  This case is $49.99 at Samsung.

The Galaxy S 5 Wireless Charging S-View Flip Cover is available only in white or black smooth faux leather.  It also replaces the S5′s battery cover and has rubber gaskets to maintain the water resistance.  It contains an integrated Samsung ID chip and utilizes the global Qi standards for inductive charging.  You charge your S5 simply by placing the cased phone on the Samsung Wireless Charging Pad.  The Galaxy S 5 Wireless Charging S-View Flip Cover is $69.99 at Samsung.


You can get your Keyport 2.0 blades pre-cut and mailed to you or get lost keys easily replaced with the KeyMe app


When you get a new Keyport Slide 2.0, blades, and accessories, you aren’t quite ready to assemble the Slide and stick it in your pocket.  You have to take your uncut blades to the nearest locksmith or key maker and have your standard keys copied using the Keyport blades.  It perhaps doesn’t take long to get to the locksmith and get them cut, but it does delay your new gadget satisfaction.  Keyport just sent out an email telling customers about the new KeyMe app and service that lets you order Keyport blades already cut when they are mailed to you.  The app allows you to scan your keys using the iPhone’s camera, then you can use these scans to order Keyport blades that are cut and ready to go in your Keyport Slide when you receive them in the mail.

If you don’t have a Keyport, you can have standard keys cut, and you can choose from a variety of designs for the keys.  You can also use the scanned information to have keys cut at KeyMe kiosks (if you have one nearby), or a locksmith can cut a key for you using the instructions displayed on your iPhone.  You can easily get new keys if you lose your keyring, or you can even email the instructions to a family member so they can get a copy of your key made by a local locksmith.

The KeyMe app is free in the Apple App Store.  Of course, you’ll have to pay for any keys you order through the app.  You can learn more about the KeyMe app and service and see a list of compatible key types at their website.  The app is only available for iOS devices, but the Android app is coming.

Does your pet have an emergency preparedness kit?


If you live in areas prone to natural disasters, you probably have made some preparations for emergencies.  Do you have an survival kit for your pet?  Quake Kare sells survival kits for dogs and cats, filled with products you’ll need to keep your pet healthy and fed until things start to return to normal.  The kits come in either a blue bag for dogs or a red bag for cats.  Each bag contains pouches of food and drinkable water, water purification tablets, collar and leash, first aid kit, poop bags, emergency blankets and lightsticks, food and water bowls, and more, including a couple of toys to help keep your little friend entertained and calm until things return to normal.  There are even two decals to put on your doors to alert emergency responders to the presence of a pet inside.  The kits are available in Ultimate ($79.95) or Deluxe ($69.95) kits for cats or dogs, with the difference being just the number of items included.  Quake Kare sells survival kits, emergency kits, and emergency supplies for you and your family, too.  You can get every member of your family outfitted for survival at one stop.

Come up to the lab and see what’s on the … err, what’s cooking


I’ve heard the expression that baking is science and cooking is an art (meaning that baking requires more precise measurements, temperatures, and times, while cooking is a bit more forgiving), but as any chemist knows, it’s all just chemistry.  This cute salt and pepper set lends an air of the chemistry lab to your kitchen.  The Lab Flask Salt & Pepper Shakers look like Erlenmeyer flasks with pseudo element labels.  Their rubber stoppers are drilled with one or two holes for shaking out the seasonings.  Each shaker is 4″ tall.  A set of Lab Flask Salt & Pepper Shakers is $14.99 at Perpetual Kid.

This purse and wallet are doubly theft-proof


Travelon, as you can guess from the name, makes great bags for traveling – around town or around the world.  This particular wallet and bag combination is perfect for protecting your valuables and your personal data as you go about your daily travels.  The Travelon Anti-Theft Convertible Hobo with RFID Blocking Wallet are made of 100% polyester.  The bag has a slash-resistant bottom panel, straps, and exterior zip pockets, and the strap has a carabiner that is used to attach the bag to a chair so no one can walk away with it while you’re having a meal.  The strap is adjustable, so you can even wear it cross-body, which prevents someone from snatching it off your shoulder as they walk by you.  The bag also has a locking hook to keep the main compartment’s zipper closed so someone can’t just reach in and grab the contents.  There’s a front zipper compartment with RFID shielding in the interior pockets to protect your passport and your phone from being scanned without your knowledge.  The Hobo bag also comes with an RFID-shielded wallet with eight card slots, two bill pockets, ID window, and one zip pocket to keep your other RFID-chipped cards from being scanned.  The bag measures 14″wide x 10.5″ tall x 3.5″ thick with a 17″ to 30″ strap drop; it weighs 13 ounces.  The wallet is 7.5″ wide x 4″ tall x 0.5″ thick.  The set comes in black, steel, navy, golden brown, olive, or orchid.  It’s available at QVC‘s Today’s Special Value pricing of $34.92 until midnight ET today (August 29, 2014).

Did you know a donkey’s mouth is 20 times cleaner than most keyboards?*


*That’s what the folks at AM Labs postulate, anyway.  There’s no data that actually quantifies and compares the cleanliness of the two, but you have a pretty good idea from just looking that your mobile devices and computer keyboards and screens have “schmutz” on them.  They have oil from your skin, dirt, dust, and grime from the environment, and germs, too.  They look nasty, which can reflect badly on you, and they can pass along germs to you from others who may have borrowed your device.  The products produced by AM Labs are designed to remove the schmutz with “completely non-toxic and alcohol-free” solutions that won’t damage your devices or harm your skin.  The solutions aren’t gentle to germs, though; a single swipe removes up to 99.9% of common household bacteria on the surface.  And the microfiber cloths remove smudges and smears, so your gadgets and gear look good as new.  

AM products come in a variety of convenient forms: from wet wipes, to microfiber cloths and gentle microfiber sponges, to spray bottles wrapped in the microfiber sponges, to giant spray bottles for cleaning TVs and large computer screens.  There’s even a refill pouch of solution for all refillable products.  Prices range from about $10 for a pack of wet wipes to $30 for the biggest pump and sponge kit for cleaning giant TVs and big computer monitors.  Learn more and purchase these products from the AM Labs website.

Let your tablet take a seat in this beautiful wood Desktop Chair


Although BiteMyApple populates their store with successfully-funded, commercially-available crowd-funding projects for Apple products, the Desktop Chair v2 will actually work with most any tablet.  The Chair is made of “premium wood sheets that are cross-grained (layered perpendicularly) and hydraulic-hot-pressed to achieve maximum dimensional durability and precision.”  It’s bent and folded, and each end has a lip to hold the tablet in place.  You can set the Chair one way to support the tablet in portrait orientation or flip it to support the tablet in landscape.  The Desktop Chair v2 has a furniture quality that will long outlast your current tablet and serve you well with future tablets.  The Desktop Chair v2 is available now from BiteMyApple for $59.99.

Ladies, these boots are made for walking – and for holding your gear


The PURSE N’ BOOTS – EUROPEAN knee-high boots from Elizabeth Anne shoes are made of luxurious cowhide, and although they are made in a riding boot style, you can wear them for most any activity.  They are available in brown or black, in sizes from 5-12, and in slim, regular, and wide calf widths.  What sets them apart from every other boot on the market is that they have built-in pockets to carry your gear – a phone, a passport, credit or ID cards, makeup, house key, or cash.  The first run of these boots for winter 2014 have already sold out, but Elizabeth Anne is taking pre-orders for a new run that will ship in December 2014.  The boots are normally $399.99, but they are available for pre-sale for $309.99.  If you place your pre-order quickly, Elizabeth Anne will give you another $50 off the PURSE N’ BOOTS – EUROPEAN if you enter the discount code PNB069 when you place your order.  And if this particular style of boot doesn’t suit your fancy, Elizabeth Anne offers several other styles of the “purse for your feet” boots, including a cowboy style and a military style.  You can use the discount code for these boots, too.

Here’s the true secret to easily spreadable butter


It seems many people are looking for the perfect method for buttering up their toasts and bagels.  Julie was disappointed with the knife that promised to use the heat of her hand to make butter spreadable that she reviewed yesterday.  As Julie mentioned, butter can actually be left out on the counter without refrigeration, but I don’t particularly care for just leaving the butter sitting out.  I’ve tried two methods for keeping butter fresh and covered while keeping it soft and spreadable.  I’ve tried the Butter Bell (two versions seen in the top row of images) and the Butter Boat.  Both methods use the cooling properties of ceramics and water to keep the butter soft and fresh. Read More →

Pyramid Distribution is now offering a Lightning cable that works as a sync/charge or charge-only cable


A couple of months ago, we told you about a microUSB cable for Android devices that could act as a normal sync/charge cable, or it could protect your device from unwanted data exchange while you are charging at a public charging station and charge your device faster, as well.  Now Pyramid Distribution has a Lightning cable that gives the same benefits to Apple users.  The Bench 2X Faster Apple Lightning To USB Sync Charger Data Cable is Apple MFI certified, so you know it will work.  You can use the Bench cable as a normal cable to sync and charge your Apple device.  When you need to charge up at a public charging station, switch the cable to the DouBleTime mode to prevent malware transfer to your device or data grabs from it.  The DouBleTime mode has the added benefit of faster charging, up to 2000mAh, because none of the incoming power is being diverted to sync functions.  The Bench 2X Faster Apple Lightning To USB Sync Charger Data Cable is $19.99 at Pyramid Distribution.

Tempo wearable monitor for seniors helps you keep a discreet eye on your elderly relatives


Do you have an aging parent or relative who wants to live on their own, but you are concerned about fading health?  They don’t want to live with you or in an assisted living facility, but you’d like a way to know what is happening with them on a daily basis?  There are various monitoring devices available, but they tend to be of the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up, send an ambulance” types.  The Tempo Wearable Technology for Seniors monitors can give your relative some independence while keeping you aware of how their day is progressing.  Tempo is seeking funding on the Fundable crowd-funding site.

The system consists of room beacons, a hub, and a wearable monitor that looks like a bracelet or watch.  The bracelet and beacons track where the wearer goes in the house and how much time they spend there.  “Tempo monitors motion (walking, sitting, lying down), location (bedroom, living room, bathroom, kitchen etc.) and activities (cooking, eating, sleeping, bathing etc.) to create a map of of your loved one’s day-to-day habits. Tempo even picks up on subtler, more gradual changes—like slower motion, more time spent sitting down, or cooking less often—that can often be indicators of a change in quality of life or even underlying medical conditions.”  The hub collects data about the daily activity and sends it to the cloud, where it is analyzed for patterns and changes in patterns.  When something unusual is noted, like spending too much time in the kitchen (which could indicate a fall), the system will send a notification to your computer, phone, or other mobile device.  You’ll know when to make an extra call to see how they are doing.

For a pledge of $169 ($149 if you get one of the few remaining early-bird special pledges), you’ll receive a monitoring device, four room beacons, a communications hub, and three months of the monitoring service.  A pledge of $269 adds a second monitoring device, one for each parent, and a total of six months of the monitoring service.  There’s no date specified for shipping the Tempo Wearable Technology for Seniors on the Fundable site.

This game not only improves your child’s memory, it helps him remember family members


I’ve heard of people who make little photo books for their young children that contain pictures of their family members who live far away.  The child may not see Grammy very often, but she’ll be familiar with Grammy’s face from looking at the photo album and talking with her parents about the pictures as they “read” the book to the child.  This Memory Game from Pinhole Press takes this concept and adapts it for slightly older children.  Playing games where the child has to find matching pairs of cards improves his memory skills, and this game simply replaces the pictures of animals or fruits and veggies with pictures of family members or pets.  Choose twelve pictures to personalize this card game.  And you know, it’s not just for children.  It would make a wonderful gift for grandparents or aunts and uncles, too.  A set of personalized Memory Cards is $19.99 from Pinhole Press.

The QiStone+ backup battery wirelessly charges any Qi-chargeable device


The QiStone+ charger is described as the only truly wireless power bank.  The charger has a 4000mAh battery that can keep your phone or other Qi-chargeable device powered up during your day.  You can even charge two devices simultaneously with the QiStone+ charger – one wirelessly on the Qi transmitter on the top of the power bank and the other plugged in to the USB port.  And the QiStone+ has a Qi receiver on the bottom, so it can be recharged with any other Qi charger you have.  It measures 4.3″ X 2.8″ X 0.8″ and weighs only 4.8 ounces.  The QiStone+ wireless power bank is $79.99 at Amazon.

Keep your unplugged power cords within easy reach with the Plug Out organizers


If you have more things to plug in than you have outlets or if you just keep things unplugged to prevent power draw when appliances aren’t in use, you’d probably like a way to keep those unplugged cables in clear view and within easy reach.  These Plug Out plug organizers are silicone strips that adhere to the wall under the AC outlet and hold the cables that aren’t currently plugged in.  The strips use a non-staining adhesive, so they’ll remove without leaving behind marks on the wall.  You’ll get two Plug Out organizers per package in your choice of black and white or green and orange.  They are available for $7.49 a package from Perpetual Kid.

Get ready for Oktoberfest with Das Can-In-Stein


Your barware might not include expensive ceramic or metal beer steins, but you can simulate the look with these Das Can-In-Stein beverage can holders.  Simply slip any standard 12 ounce can into the “scaffolding”, and you’ll have a stein, complete with handle and thumb-opened hinged lid.  Although it looks like pewter, Das Can-In-Stein is made of pewter-colored resin.  Whether you’re drinking a beer or a caffeine-free Diet Pepsi, Das Can-In-Stein improves the look of your beverage.  At only $9.99 each, you may be able to add a set of these tankards to your barware and still have money to buy something to go in them.  Das Can-In-Stein is available from ThinkGeek.  (Das Can-In-Stein started out as one of ThinkGeek’s April Fool’s pranks, but it’s really available to purchase now.)

The new mophie juice pack is just for the Galaxy S5


Cases with backup batteries are usually designed for the iPhone, but mophie’s newest case is for the Samsung Galaxy S5 phone.  This case covers the back and sides to protect your phone, and it wraps slightly around to the screen to keep it lifted off the tabletop should you lay the phone facedown.  Inside, there’s a 3000mAh battery that gives you double the battery life.  The juice pack doesn’t interfere with the phone’s NFC or S Beam functions.  The back of the case has LEDs that display the backup battery’s charge level, and there’s a switch that you flip when you need a charge.  You don’t need to remove the case to charge the S5; a microUSB port in the bottom of the case allows you to charge and sync your phone; when the phone is charged, the backup battery charges.  The mophie juice pack for Galaxy S5 is available in black or white for $99.95.  You can pre-order a case from mophie now for shipping on September 8th.

WaterField Designs introduces the new VertiGo 2.0 Laptop Bag


Actually, it’s not just a laptop bag, because the VertiGo 2.0 is available in three sizes: small holds an iPad Air and similar tablets; medium holds a 13″ Mac laptop; and large holds a 15″ Mac laptop.  The VertiGo 2.0 is the “ideal business and traveling companion that can hold a surprising amount of gear without feeling too heavy.”  The vertical orientation of the bag makes the load feel lighter, and it has lots of pockets – some open, some zippered – to hold and organize all your other daily gear.  The VertiGo 2.0 is available in a brown waxed canvas or a black ballistic fabric.  Regardless of which fabric you choose, the bag can be all fabric, or fabric accented with black or chocolate leather.  The bags have YKK locking zippers and a key fob for security and dual handles and a shoulder strap for convenience.  The VertiGo 2.0 varies from $129 for a small all-fabric bag to $169 for a large leather-accented bag.  You can order your perfect VertiGo 2.0 Laptop Bag for your daily carry at WaterField Designs.

Equalizer case for iPhone 5/5s


Although the lights on the back of this iPhone 5/5s case look like an equalizer display, they don’t actually react to specific frequencies and the max levels are pre-set.  They will react to any music or ambient sound, and they look cool and add interest to what would normally be a plain, black cover over the back of your phone.  The lights in the Equalizer Case for iPhone 5 use their own battery, so they won’t drain the phone.  The case covers the back and sides and has tabs that roll over onto the front to keep the screen off the tabletop should you lay it facedown.  The polycarbonate case adds 1/4″ thickness and 1″ height and 1.8 ounces to your phone.  The little boom box apparently holds the two CR2032 batteries that power the lights (a test set is supplied with the case), and a power button on the top of the case turns off the lights when you aren’t ready to party.  The Equalizer Case For iPhone 5 is available from ThinkGeek for $14.99.


The Bolstr is smaller than a gear bag but bigger than a holster


Men seem to like to carry lots of stuff in their pockets, and sometimes they have too much stuff and need a bag.  But many men have aversions to bags that are much smaller than a laptop bag or to bags that don’t look like they can be carried into war.  Sometimes neither of those styles are appropriate – laptop bags can be too big to just run around town for errands and tactical bags don’t look appropriate for work.  Bolstr, a current Kickstarter project, wants to be just right – not too big nor small, and not too much like a purse.  Bolstr has an asymmetrical design, which the designer says “eludes the man purse stigma”.  It has a slim design that can expand to hold extra items when needed.  There’s a sunglasses pocket and one for a phone, and it’s big enough to hold a small tablet like the iPad mini or phablets.  It’s made of polyurethane-coated 1050D ballistic nylon and has waterproof zippers to keep your gear dry, and it’s available in a right- or left-handed model.  It will be made in the USA.  The funding period ends Sat, August 30, 2014 at 1:16 AM EDT, and funding has already far exceeded the $10,000 goal.  A minimum pledge of $45 gets you one Bolstr.  Shipment is expected to begin in September, 2014.

This Belkin Powerhouse XL dock is designed for Android tablets and eReaders


This PowerHouse Micro-USB Dock XL is designed for Android tablets and phones, eReaders, and similar devices charged by microUSB.  It has a dock to adjust the microUSB plug so you can dock many of your devices while they are still in a case.  You can rapidly charge your device while photos, music, apps, and other data transfers.  This PowerHouse Dock has a painted aluminum finish and a 6′ cable.  It will look and work great on your desk or on a bedside tablet.  The PowerHouse Micro-USB Dock XL is $39.99 at Belkin.

This new watch from Tokyoflash Japan is Radioactive

tokyoflash-kisai-radioactive-watch-1 The face of the new Kisai Radioactive watch from Tokyoflash Japan looks like it could be the monitor display on a nuclear reactor.  The lights flash to display the time, and an animation mode will look like a constantly changing status display (can be turned off).  The case and band are made of brushed stainless steel, and the watch has a mineral crystal lens.  It has a PL301517 rechargeable watch battery, and it is water-resistant to 3ATM.  The Kisai Radioactive is available from Tokyoflash Japan at the special release price of $139 until Thursday, August 21st at 11am Japan time.

The TANDA zap promises to zap your acne away in just one day


Eight years ago, The Gadgeteer reviewed the Zeno Acne Treatment device, and that review is still being read today.  Acne is a horrible thing that sits right there on your face, for everyone to see.  It can sap your confidence in your appearance, it can physically hurt, and it can leave scars.  People try all kinds of potions and gadgets to try to clear up their skin, and there’s a lot of old-wives tales and home remedies that may harm more than help.  The TANDA zap is an FDA-cleared and dermatologist-recommended home treatment device.  TANDA says the zap starts clearing the breakout immediately, and it’s gentle enough for all skin types and tones without causing redness, dryness, or irritation.  Treatment uses:

  • Blue Light: 414nm blue light works by producing oxygen singlets which attach to the P.acnes bacteria (acne-causing bacteria). These singlets have a phototoxic effect on key porphorins, causing the P.acnes bacteria to self-destruct
  • Sonic vibration: Increases microcirculation to reduce swelling and inflammation while agitating the skin to expose more of the bacteria to the light
  • Gentle warming: Produced by the light energy, opens pores and allows the light to reach more bacteria

The zap is available for $49 in white, pink, or zebra from TANDA.  It can also be found at retail and online merchants.  TANDA also offers other models that are designed for people with larger breakout areas.

Two new 3-in-1 cables from Bloobury lighten your daily carry kit


Last year, we told you about a 2.5′ retractable 3-in-1 cable from Bloobury that combined an Apple 30-pin connector, an Apple Lightning connector, and a microUSB connector in one cable.  That cable could easily replace three cables in your gear bag, but what if you’re not a fan of the retractable cable format?  This year Bloobury is adding two new 3-in-1 cables to their lineup.  These cables still have the 30-pin connector, Lightning connector, and microUSB connectors, but they aren’t retractable.  The BlooGlow 3-in-1 EL Electroluminescent Lighted iPhone Sync & Charge Cable is 3′ long, and it has embedded electroluminescent lights embedded in the cable that indicate when the device is charging.  The lights seem to run toward the device as it charges, and they slow down as the charge completes.  It’s available with blue or pink lights for $29.95.  The BlooBraid 3-in-1 iPhone Sync + Charge Extra Long Cable is 5′ long.  It’s wrapped in a cotton braided fabric for extra strength.  Both the BlooGlow and the BlooBraid cables are compatible with all Android devices, all iPads, and all iPhones.  Go to the Bloobury site to learn more and to find links to purchase the cables.

The Solar Strap lets you wear your solar charger


There are a lot of solar chargers on the market, and most of them seem to require you to set them up and leave them in direct sunlight.  Those types are more useful if you have set up camp and will stay around the same place for a long while, but they aren’t so useful if you’ll be hiking, golfing, or at a festival and constantly on the move.  The Sun Strap, a Kickstarter project that’s currently seeking funding, is designed to be worn on a bag strap or even on your bike frame.  It measures 3” x 15” and weighs about 6 ounces.  It has a 5,600 mAh lithium-ion battery that outputs 5V/1A power to recharge most USB-chargeable devices, like your phone, GoPro camera, or even a small tablet like an iPad mini.  The Solar Strap can also be charged using a USB charger, so you’ll leave home with a full charge.  The funding period continues until Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 10:15 PM EDT.  A minimum pledge of $55 gets you a Solar Strap.  If funding is met, the Solar Strap should begin shipping in December 2014.