Tag - Reviews

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REVIEW: EGO Power+ Electric Lawn Mower
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» REVIEW: Pact Organic
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» REVIEW: Ninja Coffee Bar System
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» REVIEW: Monster ClarityHD On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones
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» Zoom-Zoom in the 2017 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD
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» Chattanooga: 3-Day Family Vacation
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» DIY: Sliding Barn Door
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» Pi Pizza and the 2017 Hyundai Elantra #Houston
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» REVIEW: LIFX Z Light Strip
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» My Travel Essentials (Ethiopia, pt. 2)

REVIEW: EGO Power+ Electric Lawn Mower

Electric lawn mowers aren’t a new thing for our family. In fact, we’ve had one for many years, my tree-hugging husband insisted on it. But ours is pretty ridiculous, you literally plug the mower into a 100-foot extension cord connected to an outlet and mow away. It’s tedious and I’ve almost run over the cord more times than I can count. The picture below (not me) features this interesting contraption I’ve used to mow for years.

Is she cutting the grass or vacuuming the grass? Even I’m not sure. Men in big trucks have had quite a few laughs at my expense as they drove by, some pulling commercial mowers behind them. My husband didn’t see any problem with this method of grass-cutting but he’s not the only one who mows the grass, I was fed up.

Finally, a mower we can both agree on.

We’ve been using the EGO Power+ lawn mower for a couple of months now and absolutely love it. Actually. I adore it. The EGO Power+ mower is powerful with the torque of gas, but doesn’t require gas or a silly extension cord. There are  a few different types of EGO Power+ Lawn mowers but we received the Power+ 21 inch with 5.0Ah battery. The 45-minute run time was more than enough for our 1/3 acre. Here are some of my favorite things about it so far:

Battery charges in 30 minutes flat: I never open my calendar app and schedule grass cutting time. Instead I usually realize it’s about to rain and quickly run out to take care of the lawn. With EGO’s rapid charger, I only need to plan 30 minutes in advance to get a full charge.

Ease of use: No more cranking the motor over and over again and pulling a muscle in my mom-bicep. With the push of a button, the mower starts up every time. Electric mowers are also much lighter so they are easier to push through the grass. My arms and legs appreciate it. Even our nine year old can expect to add cutting the grass to his summer chore list.

Noise level: I can listen to a great Spotify playlist while mowing without having to buy a pair of $300 headphones to actually enjoy it. I’ve always hated the loud noise, and smell, that gas mowers produce.

Folds up: With two cars in the garage, it doesn’t leave much room for lawn equipment. The EGO mower folds up nicely for storage purposes. If needed (for those friend favors), I can quickly load it up in the van, too.

EGO is not just a mower: EGO has a ton of other tools including blowers, trimmers, and chainsaws. The best part, they all use the same battery and battery chargers. This allows you to charge one (or more batteries) while using other batteries for the tools you need immediately.

 

Conclusion

We have used electric outdoor equipment for a long time but always being tied to a cord is getting really old. Time with family has become more and more valuable to us and EGO has allowed us to get the job done quickly without the awful fumes of gas. If you are looking to start with one unit, an EGO mower is a great foundation to build upon. We will continue to add tools from the EGO platform to our garage.

POWER UP YOUR SUMMER: From May 18th – June 4th, online or in-store at The Home Depot, you can get $50 off handheld kits (while supplies last).

EGO Power+ website

buy EGO on Amazon

EGO 21 in. Push Mower Specifications:

  • Up to 45 Minute Run-Time with 5.0Ah 56 Volt ARC Lithium Battery
  • Rapid Charger : Charges the 5.0Ah Battery (included) in only 40 Minutes
  • 21” Deck
  • Push Button Start
  • Compact Storage
  • Weather Resistant Construction
  • LED Headlights
  • 3-IN-1 Function: Mulching, Bagging, Side Discharge
  • 3 Position Handle Heights
  • One Handed Height Adjustment
  • Maximum Cutting Height: 4 inches
  • Minimum Cutting Height: 1 ½ inches
  • Grass Bag Capacity: 2 Bushels
  • Rear Wheel Size: 9 inches
  • 5 Year Warranty

» REVIEW: Pact Organic

We have really made an effort to understand where our clothing comes from over the past few years. When possible we like to choose clothing that is ethically made. PACT Organic fits this criteria. They use organic cotton to minimize their environmental impact and ensure that their factories are safe, hygienic and free of child labor. Workers are also paid a living wage. As they say at PACT… change begins with your underwear.

PACT has great packaging. In addition to enjoying the clothing myself I feel that there is clear communication of their company’s goals that makes PACT products a great gift item as well. The leggings were soft and sturdy and had a slightly raised waist that makes them smooth and easy to wear under dresses and long t-shirts. I cannot get over how soft PACT clothing is! You can truly feel the quality of the organic cotton.

The premium hoodie has become a staple in my wardrobe. It’s soft and thick, yet still lightweight. Great for walking Wrigs when the night cools off a bit. The thumb holes are a fun and comfy detail.

Quick Facts about PACT Organic
-All clothing is Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
certified, Organic Content Standard (OCS) certified, and Fair Trade
Certified.
-All clothes are super soft and are made with organic cotton that gives
you just enough stretch for the perfect fit.
-I felt that each piece was just the right thickness. Nothing was see-through or thin. This is clothing you can feel good about buying for many reasons!
Trust me, you need some PACT in your life. For a limited time you can use a special discount code to get 25% off your order. Just enter Goodbye25 at check out! Click here to hop over and check out the selection of super soft organic, Fair Trade clothing.

I was selected to review PACT clothing as a part of the Mom’s Meet community of bloggers. All opinions are my own.

» 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

buy Ninja Coffee Bar System on Amazon

» 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

» Zoom-Zoom in the 2017 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD

Another work trip to D.C. means another opportunity I get to drive something other than the mom minivan. The 2017 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD is a crossover vehicle with great handling that provides a smooth and quiet ride that also allows the driver to seamlessly control the extras while driving. Everything inside is thought out and nicely within reach or a voice command away. In fact, one of the most used feature for me was the voice command that allowed me to call my family as we are out and about. In addition, the CX-3 Grand Touring comes equipped with a Bose Surround Sound system which made any conversation sound good. With seven speakers and a lot of kick, music lovers will also rejoice.

The adaptive front lighting system is very useful for nighttime. I’m having a harder time seeing at night when driving so having a vehicle that properly illuminates the road is a necessity. The LED adaptive front lighting system means the lights on the vehicle turn with you as you turn through corners and curves allowing you to better see what lies before you. This is such a great feature to have whether you live in the big city or the country.

Conclusion

Overall, the Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring is a great sporty subcompact crossover that is comfortable with an interior that has a nice layout.  It’s a good looking vehicle that has strong performance with Sport Mode and great fuel economy rated at 34 HW MPG. Plus, I prefer hatchback vehicles since they typically allow more options to store oversized items.

 

 

 

 

 

Special thanks to Mazda USA for allowing us to test drive the 2017 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD. As always, these opinions are my own.

» Chattanooga: 3-Day Family Vacation

Spring Break is the most common topic in our home right now and I’m sure it’s making the rounds in your house as well! One of our favorite Spring Break destinations is Chattanooga, Tennessee.  In fact, Chattanooga made the list on Thrillist.com of America’s 8 Most Overlooked Small Cities.

Chattanooga is a short two-hour drive from the Nashville area. The perfect distance for a weekend getaway or a Spring Break adventure. There is plenty to do for adults and kids alike so it’s always an easy choice for us. Additionally, Chattanooga never seems to be overcrowded and that’s a huge plus for us as we navigate a city with kids in tow.

Day 1, Afternoon

The Chattanoogan Hotel

The Chattanoogan Hotel has some great Spring Break packages that you need to check out here. The location is ideal; within walking distance of many local restaurants and shops, as well as the free shuttle that will take you to the main downtown attractions. Upon arrival, Elliott and I hopped out to check in and gather our room keys. We were immediately greeted by friendly staff and a warm fire as we entered the spacious lobby. After check-in we explored the hotel a bit and then headed up to our guest rooms. We noticed the local art in the hallways along the way and appreciated the non-standard decor. The kids appreciated the presence of Pokemon as they were allowed a bit of time to catch them all.

Our room was spacious and clean. I always appreciate coffee in the room but especially love that the Chattanoogan provides a Keurig and a few k-cups. This ensures that I can have a quality cup of coffee the moment the kids wake up. The beds are also very comfortable at the Chattanoogan. The double rooms provide two queen beds rather than two full beds. This is something I no longer take for granted after a few recent stays at other hotels.

After settling in we immediately headed to the indoor pool for a quick swim. We love the pool at the Chattanoogan because it’s just the right depth for a slew of young kids. It makes it so much easier to keep them safe. The view of the mountains from the pool area is a nice addition as well! There is plenty of room to sit inside the pool area and there is an additional outdoor veranda with tables for warm evenings.

There is a hot tub and sauna for mom and dad as well!

Day 1, Night

One of our favorite things about Chattanooga is the Shuttle! The Shuttle is free, clean and easy to catch. It’s also a great way to give our suburban kids a taste of public transportation. On our first night we took the shuttle across the bridge to eat at Good DogAnd we are so glad we did!

Good Dog serves hot dogs (including meatless varieties) in countless, delicious ways.  Additionally they provide stacks of books, games and fun coloring utensils. The kids really enjoyed their meal and not a crumb was left over. Once our meal was complete we took the walking bridge back over to the downtown area. After the walk the kids had enough room to enjoy some Rita’s frozen custard and Italian Ice.  We enjoyed walking around a bit more as we finished off our treats and headed back to the hotel for a bit more swimming.

Day 2, Morning


We started our day with the breakfast buffet at Broad Street Grill, inside the The Chattanoogan. There was plenty of fresh fruit and hot breakfast items for the kids to choose from. They also had a nice assortment of Greek yogurts and cereals. Calvin and I each enjoyed egg-white omelets made-to-order from the chef as well. We noticed that several other families were dining in the large restaurant area and felt right at home. The service here is also amazing and reflective of the hotel in general. Lola smashed a strawberry into her shirt and our kind waiter brought soda water to fight the stain within a moment. Extra touches like this make dining with kids so much easier!

Day 2, Afternoon

Creative Discovery Museum

We have visited many many children’s museum’s over the years. And I’ve got to say even I was running around with wonder in the Creative Discovery Museum. They had everything from dinosaurs and fossils to painting and music rooms. And nothing was off-limits! The kids spent almost and hour building robots and sewing and hammering in the Make-it area. The staff was friendly and helpful, even teaching Charlotte how to knot the end of her thread.

There was also a neat outdoor area on the rooftop that displayed live bees (safely) and allowed the kids to use their muscles to push, pull, turn and move all kids of things. This was a great outlet for them and I think they just might have been a little tired after this adventure. We could have easily spent 5-6 hours here but we headed out after 4 hours.

After the long visit at the kids’ museum, we decided to walk a few blocks for Thai food at Thai Smile. The food was good but the service was a little too slow for us, especially with hungry kids. It turned out to be a beautiful day so we took the walking bridge to the Coolidge park area. Our kids enjoyed riding the $1 Carousel (yes you read that right!) and climbing all over the animals that make up the outdoor fountain.


We also brought a football and played catch while we soaked up the sun. It was a beautiful day. While this was going on I popped over to an antique store that backs up to Coolidge park. It’s so nice to have so many different things accessible in a small area. After eating lots of heavy food we also needed a little pick-me-up so I grabbed fresh juices for everyone at Pure Vida which was also easily accessible from the park and carousel area. After we had our fill of green juices and vitamin C we checked out the little stores in the area. This area is considered the art district so there was a lot of inspiration for our little artists.

Additional considerations: The park was busy with kids playing soccer and college students playing Spike Ball (no dogs allowed FYI). There are plenty of little shops around including the legendary Clumpies Ice Cream that overlooks the park area, make sure you pick up some treats there.

Day 2, Evening

We were all pretty worn out by the evening and pizza was sounding really good after being out all day so we decided to grab a bite at Mellow Mushroom, which is right next to the shuttle stop back to the hotel. You simply cannot go wrong with Mellow Mushroom! We love that we can choose two entirely different pizzas for each half of the pizza because I opt for vegetarian options and the rest of the family definitely does not. The service was great and the pizza was better! We also checked out High Point climbing gym, which was next door, and decided to return for a climb the next day.

Day 3, Morning

High Point Climbing

We visited the downtown location of High Point Climbing. It’s a beautiful facility that even allows you to climb on the outside of the building. There is 30,000 sq. feet of climbing surface to enjoy including a really fun kids zone. The staff was very friendly and encouraging to our kids who didn’t have a lot of climbing experience. They definitely instilled a love for climbing in them in just a short amount of time! As you all know, our daughter Lola is blind. But this didn’t stop her! We could barely get her off the wall to leave when it was time to go. We always enjoy allowing our kids to push forward and challenge themselves.

The kids zone was a great place to start for Elliott (9), Lola (9) and Charlotte (7) but they quickly advanced to the bouldering area and some of the intermediate level climbing areas in the main gym. Liam, who is 5, had plenty to challenge him in the kids zone and stayed there until the very end. He did do one beginner level wall in the main gym right before leaving and was quite proud of himself.

High point provided everything we needed to climb for the day and the day-pass price was very reasonable. They do discount the day pass for the last 2 hours in the day if you prefer to climb for a shorter amount of time and save a bit of money. Overall this was an incredibly fun and empowering addition to our Chattanooga vacation. The kids can’t wait to climb again!

Summary

We loved staying at The Chattanoogan Hotel and hope it won’t be our last time. It was a luxury hotel experience with friendly staff. We didn’t feel crazy trying to keep up with all of our kids in the pool due to the layout and shallow water. The focus on local foods and art made the experience uniquely personal and inviting. Lastly, the location enabled us to hit all the city hot-spots without ever getting in our car. We will continue to keep Chattanooga on our short list for long weekend. We can’t wait to visit again and experience even more Chattanooga attractions such as Rock City and Lake Winnie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: The folks at The Chattanoogan Hotel, and Creative Discovery Museum kindly accommodated us for this review. As always, the opinions are my own.

» DIY: Sliding Barn Door

Our bonus room renovation project has been a long time coming. It was the room where we stacked stuff, kept the dog kennel and even stored our recycling containers. When friends came to visit I generally tried to keep them far away from the dreaded bonus room. In an effort to lighten up this room we recently added shiplap and painted it white. This move started a series of additional improvements to the room and I’m happy to report we are super close to an entire room reveal. The latest addition to the room, today’s feature, is a sea-glass colored sliding barn door. Here’s how we did it!

Part 1- Building the door

This is the second sliding barn door in our house. This time around, we searched Google and Pinterest for design ideas and got quite overwhelmed with the options. Our good friend Andrew, gave us a simple base plan and promised we’d love it. So we took his word and started with a 1/2″ birch plywood (4′ x 8′) sheet cut to the door size we needed. From there we were able to customize the finishes on the door easily. The instructions from National Hardware’s sliding barn door kit (more on the actual kit below) guide you on what that final size needs to be. We bought additional 1″ x 6″ pieces of various lengths for our trim. Yes, I know. My sketches are clearly amazing, I’ll make sure to start signing them like Joanna Gaines. Certainly someone will make a published book out of them one day.

Building the door was a very smooth process. I laid the birch plywood board out in the living room, I chose to work inside due to the chilly weather, and measured to determine what cuts I would need for the frame. This went quickly and I then used a combination of liquid nails and screws to attached the framing to the birch plywood. The dogs were, as usual, very curious and tried to lend a paw through the process.

I then attached the diagonal cross board, after measuring the placement area, with wood screws and a bit of liquid nails for good measure. After the boards were screwed in I immediately began to apply the first coat of paint. I chose an economical chalk paint by valspar for this project and I was really impressed by the quality compared to my typical Annie Sloan choice. The seaglass color was absolutely perfect!


Once the first coat was dry I took a hammer, crow bar and other various items and basically beat the junk out of the pretty door I just created. I really didn’t want a shiny new door in this room and I searched half of Nashville looking for something old. Unfortunately the size we needed just couldn’t be found. So I improvised and got a work-out while I “distressed” the door. After the door was good and beat up I mixed a gray and brown stain with Annie Sloan wax and rubbed the door down. This added a gritty look and highlighted the dinged-up areas nicely.


Part 2- Installation

Installation was fairly painless. National Hardware provided a great kit with instructions for this project. It includes the track, rollers and stopper hardware necessary for a quick and easy installation. They also offer a door handle and pull that we did end up using. The templates included take the guess work out of drilling the holes into the door.

I painted a header (National Hardware recommends a 1×6) to install into the new shiplap. The track for the rolling hardware is screwed into this beam. This provides a stylistic touch and security to the door system. Make sure you have your level for this step as you don’t want a door that slides open or shut on it’s own. Calvin and I took turns managing kids and working on installation. As you can see the kids kept busy in the kitchen with snacks and mess-making while we worked.


Once the beam is up, the track is bolted securely into the beam. The beam and track went up easily and the door slid effortlessly onto the track.

Conclusion

If you’ve been wanting to do this project but unsure of the cost and difficulty level, you have nothing to worry about. Building the door is easy (do all your measuring and math before you leave the house) and with two people, installation was a breeze. I don’t have any other hardware kits to compare against but the National Hardware system had clear instructions and the pieces were all sorted and labeled nicely. For two people, I would say this project would take about 3 hours, including the door creation. This doesn’t include the paint drying and the interruptions from kids who are constantly hungry and wanting to help hammer and drill things. Total cost for this project is $255

Our Material List (based on 39″x83″ door opening):

(1) 4′ x 8′ cabinet grade board
(2) 1″ x 6″ in. 10′ board
(3) 72 in 2×6 header board
(20) wood screws (for door)
(20) drywall screws (f0r header)
1- can of valspar chalk paint
Liquid Nails for Wood
Paint brushes and old t-shirts for stain/paint
National Hardware Satin Nickel Sliding Barn Door Kit
Door Materials: $85
Hardware: $170

Tools That Will Help:

Drill
Saw (we used a table saw)
Hammer and Crowbar (for distressing)
Socket Wrench
Drill Bits

 

 

 

Disclaimer: The folks at National Hardware kindly provided the sliding barn door hardware for this review. As always, the opinions are my own.

» Pi Pizza and the 2017 Hyundai Elantra #Houston

Special thanks to Hyundai USA for allowing us to test drive the 2017 Hyundai Elantra. As always, these opinions are my own.

Trips to Houston are always hard. With only nine meals to plan and so many places to eat, it creates quite a dilemma. Usually they’re filled with old favorites topped off with one new hot spot. When we found out that Cherry Pie Hospitality had ventured into the pizza business, it was an easy decision on where to go this time around. Pi Pizza wasn’t the only first for me, so was Driving a Hyundai. The Scarlet Red Elantra was surprisingly fun to drive and has totally changed my perception of the car brand.

Here are some of our favorite things about the car followed by my first (but not last) visit to Pi Pizza.

2017 Hyundai Elantra

My first impressions of the new Elantra was it’s sleek design and roomy interior. The inside fits four comfortably (five technically) with decent sized trunk space. I know I’m always in for an adventure driving the streets of Houston so the sport mode was a necessity.

all photos © Goodbye Normal

Things we loved:

You had me at CarPlay – Finally got to drive a car with Apple CarPlay! Built-in car GPS systems are so inferior compared to maps on smart phones. CarPlay was able to mirror Apple Maps onto the car’s display along with Spotify. iMessage is also another major component of CarPlay which took more time getting used to. Nonetheless, having the car’s display look just like my phone, squashed the learning curve and I was ready to go right away.

Style – Hyundai has come a long way with their designs. I have to admit that in the past, I might’ve been embarrassed with driving a Hyundai but those days are now gone.

Power – The Elantra has a 2.0L Atkinson cycle engine that delivers more standard horsepower (147 HP) than the 2016 Toyota Corolla (132 HP) and 2016 Nissan Sentra (130 HP). There’s no reason to just sit there when you can get up and go in an Elantra.

Conclusion

A car with CarPlay is a huge selling point for me. The car was perfect for our trip and would make a fun commuter for anyone. The additional horsepower (vs. some of the other vehicles in the same class) is a benefit in a city that gives little grace for those that can’t keep up. The lane assists is a natural extension of the car and keeps anyone safer on the road.

Pi Pizza
181 Heights Blvd, Houston, TX 77007

Although I never got to enjoy Anthony Calleo’s Pi Pizza food truck, this brick and mortar is proof that Pi has come a long way. Linking arms with Cherry Pie Hospitality, this new concept brings a great atmosphere (punk rock but warm and welcoming) with ample seating and fun decor featuring custom-painted skateboards on black-and-gold calavera wallcovering. You can definitely find unique combinations and flavors of pizza, on paper you might be a little skeptical, but just give it a chance.

all photos © Goodbye Normal

My favorite part, Pi uses the highest quality ingredients in their pizzas, boasting a 98% “from scratch” kitchen meaning none of their pizza toppings come from a bag. Do yourself a favor and make sure to get the Mac n’ Cheese balls, the jalapeno ranch dip takes it to another level.

» 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.

Buy on Amazon

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.

 

» My Travel Essentials (Ethiopia, pt. 2)

I love the title “World Traveler.” Knowing the globe has been a lifelong dream of mine. And not just the terrain or the scenic views… knowing the people that make up the world. Walking a day with them, being part of their story for just a little while. I can remember laying in bed as a child and dreaming about foreign lands, even pretending to speak other languages. Fulfilling these dreams and desires is a gift that, at times, I can’t believe is mine. My little “World Traveler” title has required me to gather some pretty fun gear over the years. I was able to try a few new products on my last trip that made my travels uniquely comfortable this time around. Here is my round-up of my favorite gear for long distance travel:

JUST PORTER

The Sable Rucksack Backpack is great especially if you need a carryon that you can wear to free up your hands. When traveling long distances, my essentials always add up quickly with the fear of lost luggage. The Sable Rucksack has one large compartment complemented with a few zipper pockets that I used to stash chargers and documents.

I used the laptop sleeve for an iPad Pro and it was well protected. Two of my favorite features of these bags are the waterproof shell and the use of magnetic buckles for quick buckling/unbuckling. Outside of airport travel, the bag served it’s purpose as there were many days we were out for 12+ hours and needed to carry food, water, and other supplies for the day.

“For each bag purchased, Just Porter manufactures a give bag and fills it with school supplies then gives it to a child in need. But, Just Porter’s charitable giving goes beyond parachuting and dumping goods onto poor communities. They actually work with the communities to manufacture their Give Bags locally and purchase their supplies from the local markets.”

Just Porter website
buy Just Porter on Amazon

BUFF BANDS

I’ve always used Buff Bands for camping. They are great for a variety of reasons; sun protection, sweat control, and keeping my hair out of my face just to name a few. Buff Bands served their purpose on the dusty clay roads in Ethiopia.

There were many times we covered our noses and mouths to prevent ourselves from inhaling the dust. In addition, the UV Buff Insect Shield Infused has an invisible repellent that lasts through 70 washings, blocks 95% of harmful UV rays, and features Polygiene technology to kill odor-causing bacteria.

Buff USA website
buy Buff products on Amazon

Paracable

I can’t tell you how many white iPhone cables my family has gone through. Finally fed up, I was on the search for a sturdy cable worth the investment. Meet Paracable. Apple MFI certified, 32-strand paracord, and especially great for travel since they are five feet long. I don’t think I’ll ever buy another brand of lightning cables, however I may never need to replace the Paracable ones I have now.

Paracable website
Buy Paracable on Amazon

TOSI HEALTH

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Tosi makes an assortment of health food products but my two favorite items are the Tosi complete Greens and Tosi SuperBites. I am a huge fan of green juices, powders and smoothies. However, many brands I’ve tasted end up grainy or unpalatable. Tosi’s Green drink is very smooth and lightly sweet. I had no problem chugging a big glass when I felt sluggish or lacked nutrition. The Tosi SuperBites were a great meal substitute for me on days when we packed a lunch for travel or when the scary airplane food came out for dinner on the 13 hour flight. The Cappuccino Crunch Cashew was my absolute favorite. Clean energy and fuel for the day. The bars also stood the test of hard travel. They never crumbled or disintegrated in my bag, as other brands have.

Tosi website
Buy Tosi Superbites on Amazon

KEEN FOOTWEAR

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Elliott and I both lived in Keens during our trip. I typically fly in a slip-on style shoe to make security check points easier. In the past I’ve found my slip on shoes lack the support I need for the, sometimes long, layovers and walking in the airports. My Keen Rivington CNXs gave great support and looked stylish at the same time. While in-country Elliott and I both wore the waterproof sandal style Newport H2 Keens. The Red Clay streets of Uganda leave a pretty decent mess on your shoes by the end of the day so we loved that the Keens could be washed off at night and dry by morning. The also came in handy when our boat began taking on water in the Nile (yikes!). Elliott’s favorite shoe to wear to this day is the Chandler CNX.

KEEN website
Buy KEEN shoes on Amazon

SHOLDIT

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Seriously… where was this item all my life? I often wear a scarf when traveling because I can wrap it around my face when I’m trying to sleep or to avoid weird smells on the airplane… or when someone is coughing. But this scarf takes it to the next level. The scarf contains two concealed pockets for passports, money and boarding passes. It enabled me to skip digging through my bag at each juncture and it also kept my travel documents safely close to me and away from sticky fingers. I felt secure and less stressed between check points. The Sholdit also comes in great patterns and colors, something for everyone’s unique style.

Sholdit website
Buy Sholdit on Amazon

COMFY COMMUTER

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I LOVE this pillow. So much, that I took a selfie with it on the plane. And I don’t take selfies. It does all the things every other travel pillow has failed to do. For one, it doesn’t slide or slip. The material on the back of the pillow provides enough friction to keep the pillow in place. It also surrounds your head in a way that give you neck, head and shoulder support. You won’t end up with a sore neck after using the Comfy Commuter. And when you reach your destination it packs neatly away in it’s little bag. There was literally nothing to complain about, it made my flight so much more comfortable.

Comfy Commuter website
Buy Comfy Commuter on Amazon

POLAROID

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Before this trip I was unaware that Polaroid made such a diverse line of products. I utilized their earbuds on the flight, which were very comfortable, and their bluetooth “selfie stick” to capture all of our team photos. Everything functioned seamlessly and it’s always nice to take care of photos ourselves rather than soliciting strangers.

Polaroid website
Buy Polaroid on Amazon

BAGO TRAVEL BAGS

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We packed our Large duffle bag full of donations and checked it through. I was a bit nervous about checking the duffle but I trusted the durable material in the end and gave it a try. I am so glad I did! The Bago duffle came through without a scratch or tear, while our standard luggage looked terrible by the time it reached Uganda. The duffle also folds into a little tiny bag and we didn’t have extra luggage to bring home as a result. For more info on the duffle check out my previous packing post here. Elliott carried the Bago packable backpack (great for kids!) throughout the trip and we were impressed with the lightweight yet durable material. It held up very well as we traveled around Uganda and went in and out of airports during our 32 hour travel home.

Bago website
Buy Bago on Amazon

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: We received units from some of these brands for review. As always, the opinions are my own.

All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal