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An Awesome Toy for Toddlers

Our ~3 year old Toddler has been playing with this toy for well over a year and loves it. It’s been great to see how his play time has matured and grown with this toy. He started off excited to hear the noise and eager to watch us push cars down the coaster. Now he’s fully engaged and experimenting himself with different sized cars. When some get stuck or fall over, he learns how to fix things. He’s currently learning to stack several cards in line and watch them go down as one big caravan. This system comes with a couple Little People cars, but works well with a variety of cars including Matchbox cars.

We definitely recommend this toy for boys or girls. It makes a great medium-priced gift $30-50.

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As long-time users of the Brita Water Filter, we were not really aware that other similar form-factor filtration systems offered much difference. Generally I am not a huge water drinker. There always seems to be something funny about the taste or my throat feels a bit dry after a glass. Normally I’d pour a small amount of tea or infuse the water with something to overcome this issue.

When our last Brita filter reached its final days, I decided to investigate some of the alternatives. After reading a lot of review, I decided to try out the ZeroWater ZP-010 10-Cup Pitcher. This system received mostly high ratings and the negative ratings seemed to focus more on the longevity of the filters and not the quality.

ZeroWater Spout

The ZeroWater Pitcher can be poured just like our Brita Pitcher, but also has a spout so that you can get water without lifting it out of the fridge. This feature is especially nice if you just filled the pitcher. It’s true that the ZeroWater filter system does take longer due to it’s 5-stage filter process. So adding the clever spout on the bottom means that you don’t have to wait for the whole set of water to drain before use. Good thinking here.

How does it taste?

First and foremost, the filtered water taste great and is noticeably different from that of the Brita water. I find myself drinking straight water from this system and loving it. Our ZeroWater ZP-010 10-Cup Pitcher also came with a TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) meter to measure the water before and after.

Our tap water generally registers at around 022 on the TDS meter before filtration. We also tested Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water which registered at around 215. After running through the ZeroWater, both registered at 000. Phenomenal.

For comparison, we tested water through a friend’s Brita filter and it registered 008 after filtration. So there is something different going on here.

How long did the filter last?

The main complaint about these filters seems to be the longevity of the filter – that is, they tend to not last very long. Ours lasted a solid 3-months before registering above 000. Technically they say replace the filter once your water registers 006, but we ended up replacing it as soon as it registered 001. The main reason for this is that we noticed a slight difference in taste. 3 Solid months was plenty fine for us. With similar usage, this is what our Brita filters tended to last. And in reality, we probably drank a lot more water from the ZeroWater.

ZeroWater versus (vs.) Brita Water Filter

Feature ZeroWater Brita
Taste StarStarStarStar Star StarStarStar
Filter Longevity StarStarStarStar StarStarStarStar
Cost StarStarStar StarStarStarStar
Result Winner

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Blaze Truck Sharp

Fast, Rugged, Low-cost Radio Controlled Toy Car/Truck

Our kids love toy cars. They have ones that you can push around, ones that you can pull back and let fly, and even have a small Lightning McQueen Infrared RC car. The Lightning McQueen car is fun but really slow, can only turn while going in reverse, and gets stuck often. Chasing it around the house is a quick game as the kids can easily just catch up to it and pick it up. We wanted to get something faster, a little more rugged, and that could manage to torque its way across carpet, rugs, and various small toys scattered around. We also wanted to spend <$30.

After shopping around a few local stores and browsing online, we bought the Lutema Blaze Remote Control Truck. There are not a lot of reviews for these products, but the packaging looked professional and the features were impressive for this price range.

It’s worth noting that this is not a young kids toy and has small parts not suitable for ages 0-3. The recommended age listed on Amazon says 4+, but the side of the box says 14+. Definitely use your best judgement and supervise any use by younger children.

We wanted something that was rugged enough to drive around carpet, rugs, and hardwood while bouncing over toys and into furniture. We found the Lutema series remote control vehicles at one local retail store and they looked pretty solid. They retail for ~$30 but have also been available on Amazon ranging in price from $12.99 to $15.99. In this price range the Lutema remote control vehicles are quite a good deal, good value, cheap price. If you are looking for something more professional or something larger then you will likely have to spend out of the $15-30 price range.

Key Features:

  • Full directional control (independent Forward/Reverse and Left/Right)
  • Rugged build with flexible shock absorbing wheels and body giving enhanced stability
  • Sharp design and solid build quality & feel
  • Pretty fast speed
  • Unique traction wheels
  • Adjustable wheel alignment
  • Rechargeable battery pack (with charger) for the vehicle and a standard non-rechargeable 9V (included) for the remote.

The Blaze RC Truck speeds over hardwood and carpet without problems. It’s faster than I expected and can even spin out doing donuts on slicker floors. It’s able to drive right over smaller objects (e.g. small toy cars, train tracks). It has unique wheels that seem to give it extra traction. Most RC vehicles in this price range tend to have large rubber wheels that look shiny and dark. These wheels look a bit worn and dry, but the wheel compound seems to give extra friction.

Traction Wheels

The shocks on the wheels probably look more impressive than they truly perform. However, they do seem to give the truck a bit of a bounce and help recovering when driving over rough terrain and obstacles.

Blaze Truck Shocks

To keep things driving straight, the Blaze RC Truck includes an adjustable wheel alignment.

Steering Adjustment

When the car is turned on there is a glowing blue light coming form the cab.

Blue Light in Cab

The remote control is adequate but has a cheaper build quality and feel compared to the Blaze truck. In this price range, it’s hard to complain. It does function fine. The control does not have an On/Off switch but the light appears to only activate when one of the levers is pushed.

Blaze Remote

Conclusion

I definitely recommend this remote control truck especially at this low price.

Feature Rating
Performance on Hard Surface StarStarStarStar
Performance on Carpet StarStarStarStar
Performance on Grass Star
Build Quality StarStarStarStar
Value StarStarStarStarStar
Cost <$30

Additional information:

  • It’s footprint is about the size of a piece of paper folded in half: ~5.5” x ~8”
  • Lutema Blaze Truck 4CH Rechargeable Remote Control Truck – Yellow
  • Lutema Tracer Overlord 4CH Rechargeable Remote Control Truck – Yellow
  • Lutema Cosmic Rocket 4CH Rechargeable Remote Control Truck – Red
  • Lutema Tracer Overlord 4CH Rechargeable Remote Control Truck – Red
  • 27Mhz on the Blaze Truck/Vehicle.

Alternative Styles:

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Under Armour Coldblack hat

I’m not an avid hat-wearer. But as I get older and the sun gets brighter, wearing a hat has become quite commonplace for me. I’m not fan of the trendy wide brimmed stiff hats, trucker hats, etc. that are popular these days. To me those look less like wearing a hat and more like a caricature of wearing a hat. I prefer the simple curved baseball cap style. Normally I’d get a Nike or Adidas cap with a small, muted logo. I’m not a fan of a tight band around my head so I’d usually go with something adjustable.

Under Armour Shadow Cap

I recently received this hat as a gift to replace an aging Adidas hat that had turned from a stylish black into a faded dirty brown color due to the brown -> black die fading with use.

First impressions

I put the Under Armour Shadow Cap on and immediately noticed how “light” it felt. Not just weight, but also the tightness. While I normally wear adjustable hats, the issue still is that you had to make it tight enough to not blow off in the wind but not too tight as to give me a headache after an hour or so of wear. The Shadow Cap feels very secure and does not have that tightness.

The material on the top of the hat has a softer, silkier (though not shiny) feel to it instead of the usual stiffness of a normal cap. I think this helps the hat fit securely but you feel much less of a squeeze. Maybe somewhat more like the difference between wearing soft leather gloves vs. canvas work gloves.

Overall Look

When wearing this hat it looks pretty much like a baseball cap with a slightly more fitted look. While there are several designs and colors, I really like the black with the small muted grey Under Armour logo. On the brim there is a small unobtrusive imprint ColdBlack.

Pictures online tend to make the top of the hat look rather big; however, this is likely due to a piece of cardboard put in to help “display” the hat and keep it’s shape. One you remove this temporary cardboard, you can see that the structure of the top part of the hat is rather minimal. The brim is sturdy as any other cap.

Conclusion

I definitely recommend this hat.

Feature Rating
Comfort StarStarStarStarStar
Style StarStarStarStarStar
Cost $20-25

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We’ve been a fan of Whole Foods Almond Milk for several months. Pretty much once we discovered it, we loved. However, starting in May 2013, we started seeing some issues with the milk. In our blog about Frothing Almond Milk we have tracked the changes in foaming quality based on expiration date. While no ingredients have changed, these different batches have significant difference in how they foam leading us to believe that there is some sort of ingredient change or quality control issue.

Now several wholes foods seem to have cleared the shelves completely of their Whole Foods 365 Organic Almond Milk. At our local store, there’s not even a place for it anymore. We’ve been told it’s a production problem with their supplier. Estimates of a few weeks to a few months were given, but nothing solid yet.

Update July 11th 2013

According one of the Whole Foods Facebook Pages, the Milk is now back in stock. It could take a few days to actually reach the shelves of your local store, but hopefully it will be there very soon.

The official statement seems to be that it’s a “new recipe/formula” so hopefully it will be an improvement and one that is consistent carton to carton. From Whole Foods: “Wanted to give you a heads up that our 365 Almond Milk is back in stock, and still free from Carrageenan.”

Update July 15th 2013

Still no stock at our local stores. The rep at the Whole Foods here said that it would not be until August. Though there are reports of it being in stock in other states.

Update August 2013

Finally! It’s back in stock at our local stores. We’ve heard some mixed feedback here about the recipe, but so far we’ve liked it. Our primary use is for foaming milk to use in coffee and we are glad to saw that the new recipe is back to actually foaming and foaming well.

Whole Foods Foaming Again

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