best discovery ever!

My biggest fear when I travel alone, is figuring out how to get around without getting terribly lost, looking like a tourist or heading completely in the opposite direction and giving up on my destination altogether (which I have done more than I care to admit). Hello Citymapper!  How did I not know you existed?!

Because of my fears, I have become a huge planner when I travel. When I went to Prague many years ago pre-sophisticated smart phones, I packed my itinerary tight and had every tram journey planned & printed from point A to point B (I just love a city with trams!), even pre-booked taxis before I left home for trips farther afield. In Auckland and Melbourne (my oft-repeated destination) their transit systems have comprehensive apps that give you point to point instructions. And even in NYC, I find myself relying on Google Maps for subway or walking routes. Well no more . . .

As I started planning for my next trip to Lisbon – where I don’t speak the language, where transit system apps and quite frankly decent cross over transit maps don’t exist, where I seem to have chosen a hotel for which the closest form of transportation is a jam-packed tourist tram with waits up to an hour long and where hills upon hills can make walking a daunting task, I feared not only my usual woes but that my Uber bill would skyrocket out of control.

Then somehow, I stumbled upon CityMapper as a result of my 800th google search on how to get from said hotel to various points around the city. Boom! The best thing I have ever seen. Simply put in your starting address, your go to address — choose by clicking on a map or entering an exact address — and you get options galore with detailed English instructions and even step by step notifications if you wish. Save addresses, send meeting spots to friends, sync between devices, see what’s nearby. It’s everything you need for just about any major city, all in one simple to use app.

Now, I plan to leave for Lisbon without detailed pre-planning, just a list of places I want to see, a rough outline by day and I’ll figure it out on the fly.

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ooh, sexy!

spectre_saf_gallery_zoom1 spectre_saf_gallery_zoom2 spectre_saf_gallery_zoom3I’m a MAC girl. Always been one. Most likely, always will be. But I gotta admit, this HP Spectre is damn sexy with its black carbon finish and copper accents.

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oh, my aching back

71dewojfsml-_sx522_This little machine is the best $40, ever spent! Have you ever been to the chiropractor and wanted to take home their electrode based massaging machine? Well, now you can have a simple version of it all for yourself at less than the price of an office visit.

witouch1Sold under the brand names Aleve by Bayer (blue) or WiTouch (green), regardless the brand, the machine is exactly the same little battery powered contraption that in 30 minutes offers amazing relief. While not as high powered or multi-armed as the fancy doctor’s office machine, it’s two pads sit either side of the spine and provides varied pulse sensations in a pre-programmed rhythm and is adjustable from low to medium intensity. If you suffer from lower back pain it is well worth a try.

Tip: 

The WiTouch replacement gel pads, required for each use (usually lasting 2-5 uses each) are much less expensive than the Aleve branded pads. And since the machines are exactly the same, go for the cheaper option.

available at drugstores or Amazon.com

another new beauty

hellodysonDyson has introduced their answer to the hairdryer and it is a looker!  Always on the cutting edge of technology and design, Dyson is great at making great looking things. I’m not a fan of their vacuums (because I prefer a bag to bagless) but this little beauty might be worth a shot.

dysondyson-attachmentsWith two colorways and three magnetic attachments, it looks like a hand held version of their room fans. Reviews are thus far positive owing to the balance that shifts the weight to the handle, those easy to use magnetic attachments, quietness and descent amount of power. At $400 it is priced like a professional model so before you jump, maybe see if the pros adopt it as a tool of choice.

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have you seen this?

juicero-cold-press-juicer-1This sleek wi-fi enabled contraption is the latest invention in the cold pressed juice craze. No longer do you need to lug umpteen heavy bottles of juice home from the store — and when you’re juicing that’s 6 bottles a day mind you. Or ship a maximum 3 day supply from a cross-country juicery. No more nasty cleaning of a traditional juicer that removes all the good stuff anyway. This handy dandy machine is a sleek, clean, easy to use counter top version of a high pressure juice pressery, previously only available for commercial use.

OK, it’s expensive at $700. But it’s brand new, heavily VC funded and will come down in price eventually (she says hopefully). Just buy the machine, download the app, order juice packs that range from $5-7 each and come in 8 juice combinations, use the app to verify the freshness of the pack via QR code (the machine won’t juice if the pack is out of date), insert the pack and within 2 minutes you have fresh cold pressed juice. Simply throw the pack away (or rinse and return for recycling), no need for clean up.

I’m thinking it’s actually not all that bad a deal.  if you juice regularly and spend $200 plus $25 shipping for 3 days of juice, the machine will pay for itself eventually. OK better if it were $400 then it’s in the range of your stand mixer price, that you maybe use once in a blue moon while this beauty would get used every day — and look great on your counter top too!

The Juicero, currently only available in California but expanding to a state near you one day soon.

living with alexa

EchoWay back in December I answered an unsolicited invite to purchase the new Amazon Echo for just $99 (well down from the future list price of $199). Why not? It seemed kinda cool in a Star Trek talking computer kind of way.

My new Echo arrived just yesterday, 6 months later. Out of the well designed box it took all of 2 minutes to set up — download the app to my iPhone, connect to wi-fi and I was up and running. Now, I am an Apple girl at heart. But I do love my Kindle. And I despise Siri whom I have used less than a handful of times in several years.

Alexa (the voice of Echo) on the other hand is pleasant and helpful and really does sound like the computer from Star Trek. Only she is not that smart just yet. However, for my simple needs, so far I like her. She tells me the time. She tells me the weather. She keeps a grocery list for me that shows up on my iPhone. She plays my local NPR station. She gives me news updates and answers silly fact-based questions with ease. No pushing of buttons, no need to stand close, no need to repeat myself 18 times. I just ask in my normal voice from anywhere in my large loft-like apartment, “Alexa, what time is it?” Echo 2Other things Alexa can do with the drop of a question:  Play music from Amazon Prime, Pandora and iHeartRadio play lists. Turn off and on lights using select connected technology. Set a timer or alarm. Buys things from Amazon (of course!). Tell you what’s on your Google calendar (if you have one). And she vows to get smarter as time goes on.

Echo as an object is basically a speaker. The technology lives in the cloud. So as Amazon adds more partnerships and features, Alexa will be come even more helpful. Is she the be all and end all. No. But I’m using her so that’s a good sign. I only wish I could change her name from  “Alexa” to “Computer”. Then I’d really feel like I was living in an episode of Star Trek!

guy gifts

guy gifts 20141. What guy doesn’t like photos of naked girls. This artsy collection is by Australian photographer Russell James  $1992. The label on this wine is cooler than cool and the wine ain’t half bad either $16.99 3. An ingenious little cardboard box that projects iPhone images up to 8 times their size $39.99 4. The man who has everything does not have this stunning music box that plays Mozart with the twist of a key $90 5. A world clock — just roll to find a new timezone. Watch the video. You’ll be amazed. $49 6. A five pound supply of gummy green army men. You’re going down soldier!  $15

Click on highlighted numbers to shop

beauty isn’t everything

misfit shineI really wanted to love my Misfit Shine fitness tracker when i wrote about it back in mid-September (here). At that time I had just used it a few weeks. It was beautiful and novel and had potential — potential for me to go electronic. But I am sad to say this little beauty has been a huge disappointment. So before you spend your dollars read on . . .

The issues:

  • syncing is a challenge. While it is supposed to sync automatically when near your iPhone’s open app, it only does so when it damn well feels like it. Manual syncing can take 6-7 attempts before it is successful.
  • often it doesn’t differentiate days and puts all my activity together on one day, even though it might have occurred over successive days.
  • customer service is slow and poor — after an app update, I just couldn’t get my misfit to sync so I contacted customer service through the app. 3 weeks later I got a response saying sometimes it just takes time to sync. After several days, the function did start working again.
  • the beta system for alternate exercises is very hit or miss. I chose this fitness tracker over others because it can track swimming. You are supposed to tap 3 times before starting so it recognizes you are doing your chosen alternate activity. Only there is no indication that it has recognized your taps and is a 50/50 shot whether it tracks the activity at all. And some of those times, it just tracks swimming as walking instead.
  • adding manual tracking (just for the above situation) was a welcome update recently. But unfortunately whatever you track manually doesn’t count towards your daily total. So what’s the point? If I forget to wear the tracker or it doesn’t record my activity due to a glitch, my day can look like a big goose egg.
  • the battery is supposed to last 3-4 months. I barely got 2 months out of my first battery.

so back to paper and pencil for me. I hear the newer cheaper version is a bit more responsive to touch so may sync or track alternate activities with more success. If you are eager to try, I’d try one of those. Not as pretty but you can’t have everything.