Best Baby Gifts 2013

2013 February 2

When you’re considering a baby gift, or baby shower gift, you probably want your gift to be received with gladness, and not have them searching the box to see if you included the gift receipt. If they have set up a gift registry, take it seriously! But sometimes new parents aren’t aware of the best or most useful products out there. I’m going to highlight a few here which there is NO WAY any person would be disappointed with, at least not once they give them a try.

These products are the best of the best.

bumpkins_bib Bumpkins Waterproof Bibs.  The best bibs ever. They are lightweight, super easy to clean, don’t stain, don’t smell, don’t fade. Waterproof. Pocket at the bottom to catch crumbs & drips. Can’t buy a better bib at any price. And over 30 different patterns to choose from!  Don’t forget to check out the 3-packs of bibs.

 

 

miracle blanket Miracle Blanket. If you want your newborn to sleep well, swaddling is important. Most babies like to be tightly wrapped, how they felt in the womb. I’ve found swaddling successfully requires time and experience — something new parents don’t have. Well this Miracle Blanket is a swaddling fail safe. It’s easy to use, wraps them tight, and difficult to do wrong even while sleep deprived. They call it the miracle blanket, because this blanket can change the game when it comes to keeping babies sleeping happily, and thus parents happily sleeping. Can’t recommend this one highly enough! Pick any color you like.  Read the reviews at amazon, this one is the real deal.  One reviewer said, “… the two new parents I gave this to as a shower gift were pathetically grateful, and couldn’t stop gushing. I understand; for a new parent, anything that grants you sleep is your favorite thing in the world.”
brica Brica Travel Bassinet.  For the first year, who needs a huge pack n’ play?  A good travel crib can be great, but for the first year this travel bassinet is perfect.  It’s extremely light weight, and super easy to set up.  Small enough to fit just about anywhere, in case space is tight when travelling.  We love this one.
Bumbo Floor Seat. This is great for babies which are still learning how to sit up. It supports them and holds them in the seat snugly. It’s safe with or without the strap, as long as you don’t put them on the counter and leave them alone. We love this seat!
medelapump Medela Pump in Style Advanced (with On the Go Tote). When it comes to breast-feeding, smart moms know that a good breast pump is well worth the investment. And when it comes to breast pumps, Medela is the name to trust. This bag contains everything you need to pump on the go (even built-in battery & charger), but this is definitely not just for traveling. It’s convenient to set up in your house wherever you like. We’ve used this machine with three kids, and it’s still going strong. This pump is a bit pricey, but believe me this is not an area where you want to go cheap and have something break or suffer an uncomfortable experience. Mom’s got enough going on, and you don’t want to be fighting with a poorly designed breast pump machine. Save up, and get the right one. 
soundmachine Marpac Dohm-DS Sound Conditioner.  This one may surprise you, but a good background noise machine can really help a baby fall asleep and stay asleep.  For that matter, it helps kids and adults of all ages.  Babies are particularly soothed by certain sounds and tones, and we’ve found the typical electronic beeping nursery songs aren’t the most soothing.  There are dual-speeds, but you can further adjust the volume and tonal qualities to fit your liking.  It’s also small and travels easy.  This is the #1 sound machine sold at amazon, read the 1000+ 5-star reviews and see why.  Do yourself a favor and just get it.

Best Kid’s Bible

2013 January 28

I’ve reviewed the best three kid’s Bibles below.  All three are fantastic, but they are listed in order of our preference.

gospelStoryBible The Gospel Story Bible.  If you’re into gospel-centered resources like we are, this is probably the one to get.  I became aware of it at a recent Gospel Coalition conference, and it is very well done.  “Discovering Jesus in the Old and New Testaments.”  The art is great, the theology is solid, and the stories are one page long, with a few short discussion questions at the end of each story.  See the Jesus connections and gospel connections in every story, including the old testament stories.  This one isn’t just for kids.
jesusStorybookBible The Jesus Storybook Bible.  Another great Christ-centered kid’s bible.  “Every story whispers his name…” This one also helps see the Jesus connections in many of the stories.  The author has a connection to Tim Keller’s church, and if you’re familiar with Tim Keller, you won’t be surprised that this is a solid and insightful book, for parents and children, similar to the Gospel Story Bible.  I’ve included a link to the deluxe edition, since it’s only a few more bucks, and it includes audio CDs and a ribbon bookmark to save your spot.  Highly recommended.
 bigPictureBible The Big Picture Story Bible is a bit older, more traditional children’s picture bible.  Nice cartoon illustrations (maybe better if you’re not into the modern illustration styles), large text, and simpler text to read. The content is solid, but less text to read, aimed at young kids.  This has been recommended to me several times, and was probably the best children’s bible around for a while.

Best MacBook Air Bundle

2012 December 6

MacBook Air 13″

MacBook Air 11″

The MacBook Air from Apple has set the bar for laptops, netbooks, ultrabooks, etc.  It has a fully featured Intel processor and capable graphics card, but it utilizes a solid-state drive (SSD) instead of spinning hard disk.  The SSD is key to allowing the MacBook Air to be one of the thinnest and lightest laptops around.  The SSD has other benefits as well, allowing industry leading battery life and incredibly fast boot / load times.  If you don’t have one yet, get one!  (You’ll usually save some money at amazon.com as well.)

Now you’ll want some accessories to compliment your amazing MacBook Air.

Keep that sucker protected.  Consider this slim, airport-security-friendly, neoprene sleeve that is just right for the MacBook Air.  Available in sizes  13″ Protection Sleeve or 11″ Protection Sleeve.

Read and write CDs and DVDs.  As you know, there is no disc drive built in the MacBook Air.  To watch the occasional DVD or burn a disc, you’ll need this Samsung Slim DVD+/-RW USB External Drive.  It plugs into your USB port and works right away.  No driver to install, and no external power cord — it draws power from the USB port!  Super convenient.

Get a lap desk.  You wanted to use that laptop on your lap, right?  I highly recommend a lap desk.  Preferably one with a wood top, such as the LapGear LapDesk Mahogany.  The wood looks great and holds up well over time.

A wireless mouse.  The trackpad is good enough to browse the web, but for doing real work you’ll want a real mouse.  You know, one with two buttons and a scroll wheel, such as the Microsoft ARC wireless mouse.  The great thing about the ARC is it actually folds in half, to almost half its size.  You might also consider a travel USB mouse with retractable USB cable.

What’s your favorite accessory for the MacBook Air?

Best Geek Watch

2012 December 6


Check out the Pebble watch. What? Did you expect one of those iconic (ironic?) calculator watches from the 80′s? Please. Grab this hat while you’re at it. The Pebble watch (getpebble.com) runs apps! It uses an e-paper display which can display any clock face imaginable. It’s bluetooth connection syncs up to your iPhone and displays notifications from twitter, facebook, email, etc. Just in case you weren’t connected enough to social media. At $149 it’s a bit pricey, but did I mention it’s a remote display and control for your iPhone?

Let’s explore a few other geek watches.

 

Gotta be digital.

Gotta be square.

Gotta be a bit large.

Diesel has some designer watches that fit the bill, such as this Diesel Quartz Black Dial men’s watch. Nice.

 

 

 

If the Diesel brand is a bit too pricey for you, this Armitron 408177SIL will fit any budget.  All the features you’d expect in a digital watch, but with a geek’s style.  Whilst wearing it, I’ve had several people comment… one person mistook it for the Pebble.  Score!  I also think it looks better in person than the pictures.  This Armitron is probably my favorite watch I’ve owned in the last 10 years.

Ooma Deal, Ooma Discount for Limited Time

2012 July 10

I’ve been a happy Ooma customer for over 2 years now.  The price of the Ooma Telo box has come down significantly in that time, and the service is still pretty much free:  just a few dollars a month to cover mandatory taxes and fees.  If you have home phone service from one of the regular guys, this will save you a lot of money.

I’ve reviewed the Ooma Telo in the past, but if you want the best deal, for a limited time, there is a referral code you can use to save $50 and get free shipping!

Get Ooma today, with $50 off and free shipping!

 

My Favorite Healthy Bars

2012 June 10

I can’t choose just one bar, there’s several that I like a lot and keep rotating.  Sometimes I’ll eat one of these for a quick breakfast on the go, or for a relatively healthy snack throughout the day.  High quality ingredients in all these bars.  Nothing fake.  No preservatives.  Just real food.

 

Raw Revolution Bar

 

Raw Revolution bars, raw food.  I was a bit surprised that I would like an apple cinnamon bar as much as I do like this. It’s got some nice greens mixed in there too.

 

Odwalla Bars

I’ve mentioned the Odwalla bars before.  They’re great.  No doubt the choco-walla is my favorite, but the superfood is runner up.  The superfood bar is a bit more healthy, with raisins and greens.

 

 

 

Larabar Apple PieThe Larabars are great.  They have tons of flavors to choose from.  I really like the Apple Pie and Blueberry Muffin ones.  Fruit and nuts and thats it. But these bars are pleasantly chewy, not like eating a birdseed bar. If you’re into that, Kind bars are good that way. Ingredients: apples, raisins, dates, walnuts, almonds, and cinnamon. That’s it!

 

Click on the pictures above to get these bars from amazon.com with free shipping, and if you’re ready to commit, you can subscribe and save even more!

The Best Mac Mini Peripheral Bundle

2012 May 4

The Mac Mini is a great little computer.  It’s got a lot packed in there, even some pretty nice built-in speakers (as long as you’re not an audiophile).  If you’re interested in getting a Mac on your desktop for under $600, this is the way to go.  To get a full computer setup, though, you will need some peripherals:  a keyboard, mouse, and monitor.  If you don’t have these already lying around, let me recommend this set of peripherals to complement the Mac Mini.  These are all available from amazon.com, and all qualify for free shipping!

  

First, a monitor: HP 20″ LCD.  No need to pay extra $$ for the Apple display. This is a great monitor for a little over $100 (at amazon.com). The Mac Mini includes an HDMI to DVI converter cable, so you can use any monitor that supports DVI, which is pretty much all of them these days.  (Want more screen?  Try this excellent 24″ LCD from Asus.)

Next, a keyboard: You could get the official Apple keyboard, but let’s pretend you want to save some money and stick with the black peripheral color theme.  If you don’t mind using a PC keyboard (with a WIN-key instead of the command-key), you can get a basic USB keyboard from AmazonBasics.  A wireless keyboard and mouse are always an option.  Personally, I don’t mind wires, and no batteries.

Now a mouse: Standard USB mouse, from AmazonBasics.  Two buttons + scroll wheel + free shipping = great deal.

What about a CD/DVD drive?  Yes, please.  Remember there is no optical drive included with the newest Mac Mini model, so if you need to read or write CDs or DVDs, you’d better get an external drive. I recommend the AmazonBasics CD/DVD writer. It’s slim, black, and powered through USB alone, so no power adapter to mess with. The square footprint of the DVD drive is smaller than the square Mac Mini, but complements it just the same.  (Second option for DVD writer.)

You want to videochat, too?!?  OK, with this super cool and inexpensive Kinobo USB webcam, you can Skype or Facetime with your buddies (includes a built-in mic).

That’s it, pick up all these peripherals to turn your Mac Mini into a stylish, fully functioning Mac workstation, all for under $180 (with free shipping) if you order from amazon.com using the links included here.

Odwalla Food Bars Are Healthy and Yummy

2011 March 4

I’ve been enjoying Odwalla food bars lately. They make for a great snack, and also compliment my light lunch. One isn’t quite enough food to be a meal on it’s own, but it could probably be half a meal.  Odwalla makes a variety of products which use healthy, natural ingredients. Their products also happen to be very tasty! These food bars are 25% organic, contain no GMOs, and include hearty helpings of essential vitamins and minerals. The Odwalla Bar is sweetened only with natural nectars, is wheat and lactose free, and contains nothing artificial.

Another thing I just became aware of: I can get these bars delivered to my house, with free shipping, for less than $1 each! How? Amazon.com subscription! Amazon will ship me a new box every 1, 2, 3 or 6 months, and with a 15% discount!  This is the first product I’m trying out with a subscription. Check it out, get some great food, so convenient, and a great deal!

Odwalla Berries Go Mega 15ct Bars

Do-It-Yourself Pottery Barn Knock-Offs

2010 May 4

Like the Pottery Barn style, but not the Pottery Barn price?  You are not alone.

Here are some cool ideas for creating Pottery Barn style decorations and furnishings and for all your spare time.  Check the bottom of the page for a list of many other pottery barn style ideas:
Pottery Barn Knock-Off Party

Running the Ooma Numbers

2010 April 10

Update: For a limited time, save $50 off Ooma and get free shipping!

The Ooma Telo has potential to save you lot’s of money, even with the high initial cost.

Let’s look at a hypothetical scenario, which is probably common:  you already pay for a high-speed internet connection, and you’ve also still got the ol’ analog land-line service that you’re paying for.  You’ve got your cell phone for long distance calls, but you still like the land-line because the call quality and the cordless phones scattered throughout the house and … well, let’s face it, you are old school.

As long as you have a DSL or cable internet connection, you’ve probably got enough bandwidth for good voice quality using Ooma or any other VoIP service.  Just to be sure, head over to http://www.whichvoip.com/voip/speed_test/ppspeed.html to verify that your internet connection is sufficient for VoIP service.

How much will Ooma save you?

Let’s stick with the basic Ooma setup.  $250 for the new Ooma Telo box, and you are going to use your existing home phones (no need to buy the Telo handset).  $40 to have Ooma port your existing home phone number.  No monthly fees with basic Ooma service, but $11.75 per year after the first year.

Ooma Land-line
Year 1 $290 $300
Year 2 $312 $600
Year 3 $324 $900

Hopefully that is pretty clear. You start saving a bundle of money after the first year. Even if you must pay an extra $10-$15/month for a higher-speed internet connection to support VoIP, you still are saving money by year 2.