Category - Technology

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REVIEW: August Smart Lock Pro + Connect
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» REVIEW: Kwikset SmartCode Deadbolt
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» REVIEW: Ring Video Doorbell Pro
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» REVIEW: Ninja Coffee Bar System
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» REVIEW: Monster ClarityHD On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones
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» REVIEW: LIFX Z Light Strip
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» REVIEW: Ring Doorbell and Stick Up Cam
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» 3 things you need to help survive Winter
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» REVIEW: Philips Hue
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» REVIEW: Click and Grow Garden

REVIEW: August Smart Lock Pro + Connect

We are in the midst of yet another renovation. Smart technology and monitoring our home continues to be a top priority. Our family is constantly on the go and we have four kids who can’t seem to remember that doors should be locked on the way out. And I’ll be honest, as mom to those busy four I’m notorious for locking myself out. We added some great, smart solutions to our last home but I’m excited to share that we’ve discovered an even better solution for our new place: the August Smart Lock Pro.

Installation:

Installing the August smart lock was a breeze. The August app gives step-by-step instructions on how to get things going. The only tools needed were a standard screwdriver, drill and a couple of drill bits! The lock worked with our existing (Kwiskset) deadbolt and the entire install was complete within ten minutes.

Function

The lock can be accessed from our smart phone using the August or Smartthings app, Siri through our Echo device, or by the existing key (hand-turn from the inside). In addition, DoorSense is a magnetic sensor that lets you check if your door is open or closed, this is especially great with kids running around! We opted to add the Smart Keypad to the exterior to our home as a fourth access option as well.

The phone app allows us to check the lock from anywhere, lock or unlock from anywhere and give the kids (or other family members and friends) their own access codes to input at the door if needed. The app keeps a log of which codes have been entered so we know exactly who unlocked the door with exact times. We’ve already employed these options in various ways. It was a snap to give access to the dog sitter or remotely unlock the door for a friend to grab an item when we weren’t around. The August Lock has provided both freedom and peace of mind to our daily routine.

The August App also has a cool feature called the 24/7 Activity Tracker which lets me know when different members of my family come and go through the front door.

Design:

We love the sleek, modern look of the August Smart Lock Pro. It comes in two great color options (silver and black) that will compliment any home. As a bonus the exterior portion of the door hardware is not altered by the August lock. I love this because I don’t have to add another key to my keychain and to an outsider, the lock doesn’t bring any extra attention to itself. The smart lock itself is a bit bigger than the exterior of the existing deadbolt, but does not come out any farther than the door handle. This is acceptable, especially considering it needs to house AA batteries (included) and a motor.

Compatibility:

To access the lock remotely, just use the included August Connect Wi-Fi Bridge and your app can lock and unlock the door from anywhere. The August Smart Lock Pro gets even smarter when we combined it with voice-activated commands through Amazon’s Alexa. Locking the door couldn’t get any easier! We simply ask Alexa to lock the front door or check the status of the front door and she does the work for us. If you choose to ask Alexa to unlock the front door she will prompt you for a four-digit passcode. Not just anyone can unlock the door!

Conclusion:

The August Smart Lock Pro meets our many needs. It installed quickly and it looks great. We now have greater freedom to let friends and family in as needed while maintaining greater security in our home. The lock also has some great companions: The August Doorbell Cam and the August Keypad I’ve already mentioned. These items can be added to give even more flexibility and control over the security of your home.

August website

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I received this product from August to complete this review, but the opinions expressed here are my own.

» REVIEW: Kwikset SmartCode Deadbolt

Since turning our home into a smart home with a SmartThings hub and installing a Ring Pro doorbell system, replacing the traditional lock on the front door has been a priority.

Before

Calvin and I have historically been terrible at remembering to lock the door on the way out. Add kids into the equation and it becomes even easier to forget! The challenge is not only making sure the door is locked on the way out, but also making sure people don’t get locked out when they’re not supposed to be. Faced with these two issues I began to look for options. My research led me to this Kwikset SmartCode Deadbolt lock. I can now use my phone to lock/unlock the door OR use the digital keypad. This came in ultra-handy when I locked my keys, phone wallet AND groceries in the car at Aldi and had to walk/jog home empty-handed (true story).

This primary feature among others (listed below) is why we love it so much:

  • Touchscreen, great for design and function
  • Keyless entry
  • One touch locking
  • Works with Amazon Alexa via our Samsung SmartThings hub (or Wink for others)
  • Up to 30 user codes so I can track who is using their “key”
  • You can re-key the lock yourself to use your existing keys

Installation

The deadbolt works with standard size door cutouts (1-3/8in. – 2in.) so for us, no new holes were required. Simply remove the old deadbolt and install the smart one. When we first tested the lock, the deadbolt didn’t extend as far as the unit wanted so we had to make sure the lock was lining up correctly. I also utilized a spade bit to make the hole in the door frame about 1/4″ longer. Even with that minor hiccup, the installation process only took about fifteen minutes.
From there, it was time to set up manual codes and connect the lock to my iPhone’s SmartThings app. If it isn’t the first device you’ve added to your app, both of these steps will only add another five-ten minutes, depending on how many manual codes you set up.

Design and Function

This lock is made of a heavy metal that’s built to keep anybody out, as a deadbolt should. The touchscreen is responsive and bright when you touch the keypad to activate it. When unlocking the door, you have to enter the code but when leaving the house, you can simply touch the padlock icon to lock the door. The SmartThings app can unlock and lock the door as needed. A few advanced functions include locking the door at a certain time every night (this will only occur if the door is unlocked) or lock/unlock the door automatically depending on if you (really this is detecting your phone) are leaving or arriving.

Conclusion

With four kiddos and a dog running around, you can never be too safe. I love knowing that my door will lock every night on it’s own as I manage bedtime for my family, talk about peace of mind! There’s nothing worse than leaving for a trip and wondering if the last person out the door remembered to turn the lock. With the addition of this lock I’ve gotten into the habit of double checking to see if the door is locked when we’re gone for an extended period of time. Another bonus? I no longer need to equip my kids with keys that they might easily misplace. The thought of our house keys floating all over Nashville is frightening. If your house is as busy and crazy as ours, I definitely recommend this product.

Kwikset website

Buy Kwikset SmartCode Deadbolt on Amazon

 

 

I received this product from Spectrum Brands to complete this review, but the opinions expressed here are my own.

» REVIEW: Ring Video Doorbell Pro

A little over a year ago, we had the opportunity to review and install a Ring Video Doorbell and loved it.

When we moved last September, we knew a Ring Doorbell was a must have security device. When Ring asked us to test out the Pro version, we were looking forward to the narrower, sleeker look compared to the original Ring doorbell. In addition, the higher resolution video footage (1080p vs 720p) is one of the other main differences that set the Pro apart. Just like our older model, the unit came with interchangeable face plates to match our wall color/preferences (white in our case), and customized alert zones in the app help a ton. Without setting up the zones, the Ring Pro picked up lots of unwanted (for us at least) car traffic, but the customized alert zones and motion sensitivity were able to correct false notifications. The Ring Pro can only be hardwired to the existing doorbell wiring but we knew that wouldn’t be an issue for us.

Even with the smaller profile, we had to cut out a piece of our door trim, which added about 10 minutes to the installation. Without having do to that, it took about 15 minutes to connect the necessary wires and mount the doorbell. Just like the original Ring, the Pro uses our home’s wifi to alert us and record a video anytime there is motion detected or someone rings the doorbell. The 160-degree range of view helps catch most activity that happens in the front yard and for us, even the street.
The videos are good quality, include sound, and are generally about 30 seconds long (from the beginning of the detected motion until the motion ends, which is usually about 30 seconds for someone crossing our yard or approaching our front door). We now know exactly when our mail or packages are delivered each day! The videos are stored via Ring’s cloud servers for $30 per year.
Some of the other existing features from the original Ring Doorbell are not lost. The Ring Pro still has doorbell functionality and rings our existing doorbell in the house, as well as alerting us on our iPhones that someone has rung the doorbell. From our iPhones, we have the capability to “answer” the doorbell by seeing a live view of the person on our porch and the option to speak to them if we choose to. This allows us to answer the doorbell whether we are in our house (and just don’t want to open the front door / get out off the couch) or away from home.

Conclusion

With four kiddos and a dog running around, a few more eyes and ears outside never hurts. We saw this peace of mind as a huge benefit in our last house so getting another was a no brainer. I have found the Pro to be a little more reliable than the first version and definitely notice the better video quality. The cloud video recording is optional but anyone should just plan on adding that service. We love the additional security of knowing who is entering our yard or approaching our house and when packages are delivered. If you don’t have the wiring infrastructure, I would still recommend the original Ring Doorbell (or Doorbell 2) but if you do have wiring, splurge for the Ring Video Doorbell Pro.

Ring website

Buy Ring Video Doorbell Pro on Amazon

» REVIEW: Ninja Coffee Bar System

I once had three ways to make coffee in my house that took up all of the kitchen counter space. This consisted of a traditional coffee maker for large pots when company was over, a Keurig Coffee Maker for quick single cups, and my personal preference at the time, a French Press for most mornings. The Keurig lasted for a grand total of 7 days. The convenience was great but I kept worrying about the hot water running through that little plastic cup and the amount of trash it was creating over time. I loved the taste of the French Press but became frustrated after breaking our third glass carafe in about 1 1/2 years.

After the last French Press carafe broke, I began to look for a better option. Once the Keurig was gone, I loved having the counter space but missed the ability to make a quick cup of coffee. Enter the Ninja Coffee Bar System, a coffee system complete with a variety of brew types and sizes (single cup to whole pot), a built-in frother, and tons of specialty (hot and iced) coffee recipes — Caramel Macchiato, Iced Mocha Latte, and a Vanilla Flat White just to name a few — you can create and enjoy at home. Bonus: I was able to go from three kitchen pieces cluttering my counter to one.

Set up

The Ninja Coffee Bar System we received comes out of the box ready to use. First run one or two classic brew cycles with water only to prepare the machine for drinking use and you’re ready to start serving up everything from drip coffee to lattes. We keep the water reservoir full (similar to a Keurig) so the machine is ready to make a single cup or full pot at any time. The unit includes features of your regular coffee maker such as a clock with programming abilities along with a heat plate to keep your carafe hot. The best part, the Ninja Coffee Bar has a sensor that alerts you when it has mineral build up and needs to run a clean cycle. This is the first of any coffee machine I’ve owned that had this feature.

Ease of Use

The unit comes with a fun little recipe book that explains how to make many coffee drinks and also details how to use the different settings on the machine. The coffee grounds scoop has different sizes on each end so you can easily put the right amount of grounds in based on how much coffee you’re wanting to make. Simply follow the directions a few times and you’ll easily start making your own creations.

What I love about the Ninja is the versatility. There is a pull-down setting that allows you to make a single cup, a glass carafe for a full or half pot and even a pitcher for iced coffee. The built-in frother is powered by the same plug as the coffee maker so no need to deal with batteries.

Quality of Coffee

I enjoy a strong, flavorful cup of coffee. The Ninja has plenty of options to make sure I get exactly what I want. I’ve tried every setting on the Ninja and every single cup and pot has turned out full-bodied and flavorful. Our favorites have been the half carafe classic brew and the lattes. The kids have enjoyed creating decaffeinated iced coffees. With the Ninja Coffee Bar System you truly have all the tools to make pretty much any style coffee drink. It definitely makes us think twice before picking up a coffee at a shop.

Conclusion

We LOVE the Ninja Coffee Bar System for our house. It’s so much fun to use and the coffee quality is excellent. We have enjoyed so many fun mornings and evenings whipping up delicious coffee treats. It’s truly a staple in our home at this point and I especially love the ability to make a single cup or a whole pot without sacrificing quality.

Ninja Kitchen website

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» REVIEW: Monster ClarityHD On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones

Because my iPhone 7 doesn’t have a headphone jack (and I’ve already lost the lightning adapter), I began looking for a set of Bluetooth headphones that I can not only listen to music on but also take calls with. Monster is a trusted brand, which led me to their ClarityHD Bluetooth Headphones. I opted for the On-Ear style because I felt they would be more comfortable wearing for longer lengths of time. So far, I’m loving these things. I have tried a variety of music ranging from Ben Rector to some great workout playlists on Spotify and the sound has been great for all types of music.

Set up

Out of the box, the ClarityHD is ready to go. You may need to charge it, which takes two hours for a full charge of 20 hours of wireless playback time. The ClarityHD on-ears are ready to pair via Bluetooth as soon as they’re turned on. And I was right, after wearing these for a couple of hours, I didn’t feel they were putting too much pressure on my head at all.

Of course you can play, pause, control the volume on your iPhone or computer but you can also use the touchpad on the right-hand side of the headphones, just above the earcup. For example, turn volume up or down by swiping up and down. This touchpad feature is really easy and convenient to use — no fumbling with your phone or buttons. To play or pause, make one tap on the touch pad. It definitely feels awkward at first but after a week or so the controls became a lot more natural to me.

Conclusion

The ClarityHD On Ear Headphones are among the most comfortable and lightweight headphones I have tried, making them a great for everyday and travel use. I’m planning a trip to Uganda this summer and already know the compact folding design will come in handy (I do wish these came with a case). Having a 3.5 mm audio jack option if my battery dies is nice to have, too. For more daily work-from-home use, I’ve taken advantage of the built-in microphone for taking calls many times. They’re very comfortable, and the overall design is basic and discreet, which is a good thing.

Monster website

» REVIEW: LIFX Z Light Strip

With the open floor plan in our house, it feels like we spend over half of our family time in the kitchen. We’ve permanently set up a LIFX Z strip in our kitchen to help brighten the mood in the morning, calm things down at night, and celebrate special occasions. LED light strips aren’t really a new thing, but LIFX Z light strips make things even more fun with the ability to use multiple colors all controlled by your smart phone.

Set up

Out of the box, you will you need to connect and plug in the unit, it’s as easy as it sounds. The (2 meter) light strip itself has a sticky 3M adhesive that can stick to practically any surface when you’re ready to commit. Behind the TV, underneath counter tops, or in the eaves of your ceiling are the most common places we’ve seen. I decided that above the cabinets was the perfect spot for our home. We already have LIFX Color 1000 bulbs in the house so setting up the light strip on our iPhones was super easy.

iPhone App

Once your light strips are set up and you are playing around in the LIFX app, you can do simple functions such as creating your own light combination to more complex things such as linking your light strip to an Amazon Echo, a Nest Thermostat or IFTTT.

New Motion Setting in App. Light looks 100x better in person.

For our home, we’ve created schedules via the app for the light to turn on/off during certain times of the day. In the morning, a nice warm glow followed by a calming blue for the evening. If you want to leave the light on overnight, you can bring the light brightness down to make a beautiful kitchen nightlight. Personally, I love creating color combinations to cheering our favorite team on game day, celebrating holidays, and letting the birthday/boy girl choose the color on their special day.

Kitchen is ready for @clemsonfb to start thanks to @lifx z light strip! #smarthome #fun #home #gotigers #clemson

A post shared by Erica Ho (@goodbye_normal) on

Conclusion

I tried not to overwhelm anyone with the possibilities of the LIFX Z on purpose, however they really do seem endless. If you are willing to learn some of the advanced features, you can do more helpful things like have the light change different colors if rain is in the forecast or turn on when another one of your smart devices (Nest Cam) senses movement. Just like the bulbs, the light strip is expected to last 28 years (based on 3 hours a day)! For families, the LIFX Z definitely isn’t a necessity but it does bring joy and awe to the kids.

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Lifx website

Disclaimer: The folks at LIFX kindly provided us a LIFX Z Starter Strip for this review. As always, the opinions are my own.

 

» REVIEW: Ring Doorbell and Stick Up Cam

We live in a “safe” neighborhood but with young children, I wanted more peace of mind. Thanks to Ring and our internet recently being upgraded to faster speeds, we now have a reliable wireless solution instead of the traditional wired option. Once installed, setup for both the Video Doorbell and Stick Up cam are extremely easy as it is with almost all good smart devices these days.

Video Doorbell

Because the Video Doorbell was replacing our existing doorbell, we decided to have the power hardwired. This version also has an internal rechargeable battery so that you don’t have to use electric wiring if you don’t want to.

  • Compatible with all iOS and android Smartphone and tablets
  • Built-in motion sensors detect movement up to 30 ft. allowing you to know what is going on outside of your home
  • 720p HD Camera with 180° Field of View, 30 ft. Motion Detection, and Night Vision
  • Lifetime Purchase Protection: If your Ring Video Doorbell is stolen, we’ll replace it free of charge
  • Bank Grade Encryption
  • -5 to 120°F Operating Temperature

Elliott was excited to jump in and help make the swap. (I have to admit, I hated seeing our original-to-the-house doorbell gone… but I quickly got over it.) Everything you need is included in the box. Ring claims that the installation takes about 5 minutes but ours took a little longer since we had to make our wiring hole significantly larger to allow the new device to sit flush on the wall. Installation took about 20 minutes, you also have to consider that my nine year old was doing a majority of the work here.

If there’s motion or someone rings the doorbell, both Calvin and I get a phone notification. We can jump immediately to the live view and decide whether or not we want to talk to the other person or not. We’ve also taught the kids to use it as an emergency tool since they don’t have their own phones. So far I’ve been able to give instructions to the UPS driver and also turn away solicitors while nobody was home… nicely of course. There have been times that I didn’t get to answer on my phone in time but it was still great to open the app a few minutes later to see who just came by the house.

(photo blurred)

Stick Up Cam

The Stick Up Cam is very similar to the doorbell except it’s designed to be installed anywhere else outside the home (or inside if you prefer). We’ve started with one Stick Up Cam so we decided to put it near our garage door as the kids often will gather and play on the driveway. You can keep the unit plugged in via USB or solely rely on the unit’s rechargeable battery.

The installation was even faster for the Stick Up Cam as we opted not to keep it plugged in. Ring claims that the battery will last up to 8 months, but of course that will vary depending on use and the traffic of the area it is monitoring.

  • Motion detection
  • Night vision
  • Two-way audio
  • Weather resistant for outdoor use
  • Bank grade encryption
  • 80 degree field-of-view

The most practical use I’ve used it for so far is checking on the kids from inside the home to make sure they are being safe and playing nicely. The Stick Up Cam also has two-way audio just like the Doorbell product. Even with our Stick Up cam installed pretty high up on the house, the microphone/speaker have worked really well so far. We even discovered that we had a opossum trying to get dinner from our trash can one night. The Stick Up Cam doesn’t boot up as fast as the doorbell does and sometimes not at all. I’ve even tried this next to our router to make sure we were getting the strongest connection possible. This can be a letdown to many in a real emergency situation. Hopefully they may be able to fix this in an app or firmware update in the near future.

Conclusion

Having a few more eyes and ears outside never hurts. Ring makes everything super easy to install and set up on your iPhone. Considering the peace of mind and security that Ring products offer, it’s worth the cost of the equipment. I have found the doorbell to be a little more reliable than the Stick Up cam but I also think it’s because of less movement. When someone rings the doorbell, they normally stand and wait for the owner to open the door. With the Stick Up cam pointed at the driveway, there have been times the recording started a little too slow to catch what triggered it in the first place. You should also plan on adding the cloud video recording option that runs $3 a month or $30 a year (per unit) for unlimited video recording. I’m still hopeful that Ring will give price breaks for multiple units as it can get pricey if you’re looking to monitor your whole house.

Buy on Amazon

Ring website

 

 

 

Disclaimer: The folks at Ring kindly provided us a unit for this review. As always, the opinions are my own.

» 3 things you need to help survive Winter

So far, we’ve had a very warm fall, and I’m okay with that. But I know evil Winter is lurking in the shadows. The picture above is not an exaggeration, it’s how I really feel every year during this dreaded season. Before we head into the thick of it, I’ve already started to prep… not my wardrobe (although that’s important) but my bedroom. There is only so much hot coffee and tea that one can drink so here are a few things that we’ve added to combat the oh-so-real winter blues.

1. Withings Aura w/ Sleep Sensor

aurabox

Rise and shine. When it’s cold out, I never want to get up and out of bed. The Aura (by Withings) has an awesome alarm feature that increases light that simulates a sunrise for a gradual wake up on those dark winter mornings. The Aura also has a nice bedside speaker that functions for the alarm (or sleep mode) and when you just want to listen to some tunes through Spotify (via iPhone app).

With the sleep sensor (optional) accessory and with the help with the (iPhone) app, you can begin tracking your sleep. This can come in handy if you run into a season where you’re not getting much sleep at night. The Health Mate app might help you find a pattern to when you’re tossing and turning… and hopefully help you figure out the root cause.

ios-withings-aura

The initial setup for both the Aura and sleep sensor doesn’t take long at all. The unit has no buttons but rather turns on/off by touch and up/down through gestures on the device. This takes some getting used to. Setting up and changing sleep/alarm settings is primarily done through the phone app. I’ve enjoyed managing the alarm times via the app as it is much faster and less annoying than having to hold the ‘alarm’ button and tapping the ‘minute’ button 30+ times on traditional clocks.

aurascreenshots

Withings website

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2. Envi Heater

enviheater

We all have that one cold room in our house. Unfortunately for our house, it’s my room. And the problem is, if we crank the heat to our liking for bedtime, our kids are upstairs sweating in their sheets… not to mention the gas bill that comes afterward. Enter the Envi Heater (Bonus: Made in the USA), designed to heat an average room of about 10 by 15 feet, which is perfect for our bedroom. During those cold winter nights, we’ve never considered heating our bedroom because space heaters can be ugly and expensive to operate. We like the Envi Heater because it’s silent (through convection heating) and only sticks out about four inches from the wall, unlike those big clunky hotel units that I’ve been fearful of. And about that electric bill? This thing only costs four cents an hour to operate!

The other reason we’ve avoided heaters this long is because of the hazards they can be. The Envi Heater has no exposed elements and operates at a safe surface temperature of approximately 90°F so that it’s not hot to the touch. The Envi does have it’s own temperature sensing, thermostat for easy temperature regulation so that you can leave it plugged in and not worry about any children or adults accidentally leaving it running.

enviheater3b

The unit must be installed onto the wall to work but Envi Heater makes it super easy with the included instructions, wall template, and hardware. Plug it in and you’re good to go (they also have a hardwired model for a nice permanent finish, plan on getting an electrician of course). Installation time took me about 10 minutes. And the company backs their product with a 3-year warranty.

Envi Heater website

visit Envi Heater on Facebook

 

3. Brooklinen (Bedding)

brooklinen-bagnbox-1000x625

When you work all day and tend to the kids all night, moms need a good night’s sleep! The first time I layed in Brooklinen sheets, I immediately thought of the sheets at a W or Loews Hotel. You know, the kind that takes you to an imaginary place that you never want to leave, or get up in this case. I’m now a believer that good bedding is worth the investment. Their most popular mix-and-match Luxe Hardcore Bundle includes a Core Sheet Set, 1 duvet cover and 2 extra pillowcases in a smooth 480 thread-count weave. We are currently using a comforter we’ve already had but when it’s time to replace it, we will be giving Brooklinen’s a shot.

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By working directly with leading factories in developed markets and cutting out middle men, they are able to offer exceptional quality products, manufacture responsibly and are comparatively cheaper than same quality sheets in a retail store. I don’t know why these feel so good, they just do… maybe Brooklinen’s explanation will help for those of you curious enough. Don’t believe me? You can try their sheets for 60 nights risk free. If you aren’t completely satisfied, they offer free return US shipping and easy exchanges, no questions asked.

Brooklinen website

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Disclaimer: The products mentioned supplied units for review purposes only. As always, the opinions are my own.

 

» REVIEW: Philips Hue

Earlier this year, we had the opportunity to try out LIFX bulbs. That experience really convinced us that smart lights were an asset to our home. After researching all the smart bulb options, I wanted to give the Philips Hue line a shot.

huekit

I was pretty thrilled when we were given the opportunity to try out the White Ambiance Starter Kit. At night time, we like to keep some lights on for the kids as they wind down. However, many nights I am already in my own room reading and decompressing before the kids actually fall asleep. When it’s time for me to go to bed, I want all of those lights that I had to leave on to be off…  Hue allows me to do lights out without having to walk back through the house. This is just one of many benefits of a home set up.

Set up

The Philips Hue Kits comes with a hub that will need to be plugged in directly to your router. Your next step is to screw the bulb(s) into any existing ceiling light or lamp, then make sure to power it on. As expected these days with smart home products, all of final set up is controlled through their app (iPhone for me) that will walk you through step by step directions to get your lights connected. Super easy, you will be up and running in about five minutes.

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iPhone App

The official app is easy to use and I’ve been able to bring the lights from full brightness during dinner time to a lower light setting when it’s time to settle down, this is currently my way of giving the kids an early hint that it’s time for bed. Turning the lights completely off is even easier with the widget’s feature on the new iOS.

hueapp

If your schedule is predictable, you can set up routines and schedules or allow your phone’s GPS to know when your home or not to turn the lights on/off. I had no real issues with the app however I do prefer the look and feel of the LIFX app a little more, but it’s not a deal breaker. If you’re more savvy, Hue works well with IFTTT, Wink, SmartThings, and Alexa/Echo.

Conclusion

The White Ambiance Starter Kit comes with a separate remote switch that is a huge selling point for me over LIFX. It allows me to turn lights on/off and control the brightness level without always having to use my phone. The whites on these bulbs are comparable to the LIFX bulbs. I didn’t get a chance to compare colors as we tested the white ambiance kit. However, the new Hue color bulbs boast that they now have “richer colors”. The bulbs we did try are great to keep in high traffic and common areas. I tested them in different rooms and found them to be most valuable in my kitchen. The White Ambiance Kit is just one sliver of the Hue line and is a great introduction to smart home lighting for anyone. They have plenty more bulbs and other lighting solutions that we will be adding soon. One bridge (that is included in this kit) can support up to 50 bulbs!

Buy on Amazon

Philips Hue website

hue-white-ambiance-concentrate-img-1515-0

 

Disclaimer: The folks at Philips Lighting kindly provided us the Hue White Ambiance Starter Kit for this review. As always, the opinions are my own.

» REVIEW: Click and Grow Garden

Fall is officially here and winter will be here before we know it. Our Nashville climate isn’t conducive to growing much outdoors once that shift happens and we love having fresh herbs in the kitchen. The solution? And indoor herb garden with Click and Grow.

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Set up

The Click and Grow unit has three pods allowing you to choose to purchase and insert any combination of refill cups as you’d like. The kids really enjoyed peeling off the lids and being able to pop each cup in. It’s like a garden Keurig! On the left side, there is a water reservoir that has a floating piece to let you easily see when more water is needed. When the tank is full, it lasts about four weeks until it is completely empty. This is pretty amazing for people (like me) who forget to water plants. Once the pods were in we simply plugged the unit in (first thing in the morning) to allowed the light to do it’s job. The unit’s light will stay on for 16 hours and then shut off for 8 all on it’s own.

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Basil, Basil, Basil

With three basil cups in place and a tank full of water, we were ready to watch our little garden grow. In about two days, we started to see little sprouts. From there, the plants grew and grew at such a surprising rate. For two months we’ve been able to trim off a few pieces every few days and only have to refill the water reservoir as needed.

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Conclusion

A year-round garden is always a challenge as the seasons change and especially in the fall and winter months. Click and Grow makes it easy for busy moms to keep some nice fresh herbs or vegetables on hand. The kids also enjoyed being part of the opening and setup process. Three pods can feel limiting, especially if you’re trying to grow strawberries or cherry tomatoes. If you’re looking for a more complete solution, the Click and Grow Indoor Farm (fits 38 and 57 pods) may be worth checking out.

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Click and Grow website

 

Disclaimer: The folks at Click and Grow kindly provided us a unit for this review. As always, the opinions are my own.

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