Parents who want to buy a skateboard for their kid generally have two options. They can get a piece of junk at Walmart or ToysRUs (often “endorsed” by a big name rider) which hardly rolls, won’t flex properly and is guaranteed to be an impediment to your child ever learning to ride. Or they can pay $150+ for a proper board with decent wheels, bearings and trucks, but with a deck that’s too long for the average child to handle. Do your son or daughter a favor and check out Termite Skateboards for a better solution. Designed by hardcore skaters with a vision – to offer young riders the performance they need in order to learn – Termite boards are in all respects adult quality, scaled down for kids 2 and up. And a wide selection of graphics with age-appropriate, street inspired edge guarantees your little one will look the part when they hit the pavement on their new wheels. Complete decks go for $99, and they even offer discounts to low income families. Good people with a great idea.
Like most designers, I’m an Apple kinda guy. I use Windows when I have to, but in the same way I use a public restroom – I wash my hands as soon as I’m done. Well I guess I do that in any restroom, but you get the idea. I’ve always appreciated the quality of Microsoft’s hardware design though, and their new(ish) Arc Wireless Keyboard doesn’t disappoint. Incredibly compact, lightweight and elegant, this little wonder replaced my full-size keyboard and I’ll never go back. Whether on my desk or lap, everything about this product looks and feels just right. From its ergonomic curvature to the surprisingly tactile response of the low profile keys, I type with effortless comfort (and greater accuracy) on the Arc than any keyboard I’ve used to date. And in sharp contrast to Windows’ arcane installation process and confusing operation, the Arc is purely plug ‘n play for any Mac or PC – just insert the tiny wireless receiver in a USB port (it smartly snaps to the board for transport) and you’re ready to type your next brilliant blog post. $59, available in stealth black and looks-like-Apple white.
I usually don’t swipe images directly from manufacturer’s catalogs, but in this case could not find a more descriptive photo to convey why I so love a product. To be sure, Automoblox have won praise from numerous sources since their introduction almost 3 years ago, but having recently enjoyed them (by myself and with my son) felt they more than deserve a fresh plug here. Beautifully designed vehicular toys are hard enough to come by these days, but Automoblox’s emotive forms manage to capture the essence of car styling – from sports cars to minivans to SUVs – in the purest forms, lovingly sculpted from silky wood and richly molded plastic. Better yet, their ingenious design lets kids mix components from various sets to create an endless range of imaginative combinations, so durably constructed that they can be played with and enjoyed long beyond the construction phase (ever see the pained look on a child’s face as they try to roll a Lego car around while its parts disintegrate into bricks?). Automoblox transcend traditional play categories like “building toy” or “vehicle”, a rare product that’s managed to create a niche all its own. Prices are commensurate with the quality, $12-$45 depending on size.
I’ll start this post off with the first negative thing I’ve said on the blog, but this needs to be said. I hate our Dyson vacuum. Its design, though eye catching, is horribly awkward to use. Its heavy. Its plastic housing is poorly assembled and has cracked in four places (with only light use.) And while it may pack the brute “power” to pick up a variety of heavy objects, its real world suction is severely limited by a brush / head design that leaves my kids’ Cheerios scattered on the floor even after numerous passes. And I know I’m not alone in feeling this way… in fact friends of ours from Britain took their Dyson to the curb to ceremonially smash it to pieces before moving to the US, a cathartic act for which they found final closure by purchasing a Hoover upon their arrival in LA. But I seriously digress… Don’t let its name dissuade you, Electrolux’s brilliant mini vac is as elegant and functional as a Dyson is overwrought and bloated. This sleek little machine, available in several hip shades, can clean your whole house on a single charge, get into small spaces via its removable handvac, and dance around furniture like Fred Astaire as its head twists and turns almost telepathically linked to your hand. So get that baseball bat and let your Dyson know how you really feel, then head to Target and grab an Ergorapido for $99.
Some people get head colds, others have sinus problems. When I catch a cold I suffer from the worst chest congestion you can imagine… day after day of coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. That’s all history since I discovered Mucinex, the first cough medicine that truly lives up to the promises on its package. Not sure what’s in there that Robitussin and the like don’t have, but if you can get past its somehow discomforting name you’ll find honest 12 hour relief in each tablet, even at night when things tend to be at their worst. Within minutes of swallowing the large pill it feels like there’s a little guy chiseling away at the tightness in your lungs, breaking up blockages and opening up the airway (I’m trying hard to avoid using the word m_cus here, which has always grossed me out for no rational reason.) There’s also a children’s version – in cool little packets of flavored powder that melts on kids’ tongues – which safely allows everyone in the family to get a good night’s sleep. Don’t know how I survived eleven Chicago Winters without it (or how I survived 11 years in Chicago period, but that’s for another post.) About $12 for a pack of 14, which will last you a week.
Contrary to popular belief, I don’t walk around with an average 3 days stubble just to enhance my manly good looks. Truth be told, I hate to shave. I hate the entire concept of shaving, and I avoid it until the face looking back at me in the mirror simply demands that I do it. Well that may be history since I tried King of Shaves’ Kinexium Shave Oil, a product that’s been around a while but somehow evaded my medicine cabinet until a few weeks ago. Simply put, this magic in a bottle will completely transform the experience of dragging a sharp blade across your face (also works great with electric razors), creating an invisible layer of ultimate slipperiness that allows the razor to glide effortlessly over skin yet trim your beard as close as you could want…. without any burn or irritation. And your face feels absolutely soothed afterwards – smooth, soft and moisturized like the proverbial baby’s bottom. If there’s a slight downside, some may object to the product’s synthetic smell, but it washes off completely with a bit of water. Hard to find at most US shops (King of Shaves is a British firm known throughout the world but oddly undiscovered by Americans), grab it from Drugstore.com for about $7.
Winter nights get pretty cold in LA, and as our baby has yet to figure out how to use a blanket beyond security mode we needed a heater to keep him comfortable (translation: not wake us up 4 times per night). I really have the hots for the solution we found, a space-aged arc of temperature control from Bionaire, a firm that’s always had a knack for well designed devices like this. With an easy to read LED display, two heat settings and useful modes of operation including a timer and thermostat for temperature hold, this unit will silently keep a small room toasty regardless of how chilly it gets out there. Save some money this Winter by turning down the central and plugging in this tower, then enjoy it as a whisper quiet fan the rest of the year. Also available in a smaller model which doesn’t oscillate. About $70.
Whatever the opposite of a green thumb is, I’ve got it… and every attempt I’ve made at a decent looking lawn or flower bed has ended in a brown, dried-out reminder. Enter Scott’s Miracle Gro Liquafeed, an ingenious combination of spray nozzle and fertilizer that’s worked like magic for me. Simply screw on a fresh bottle of plant food, flip the switch from “water” to “feed” and squeeze the trigger. Within a week of each use I’ve seen significant increases in new growth and overall healthier looking plants, bushes, flowers and grass (the food is a multi-use formula.) Aside from Scott’s chemistry, their designers did a great job on the delivery system too. Unlike other liquid feeders, their integrated handle / nozzle / bottle is well balanced and ergonomically sculpted, and actually works as a pretty good hose (with 6 spray settings) for the majority of times you’re just going to use it to water those plants.
I risk violating a prime tenet of Product Fetish by posting about Plantronics’ latest bluetooth headpiece – that this blog wasn’t going to become a “latest and greatest” gadget collection. But having this sleek handsfree glued to my ear for the past three months has solidly placed it in the category of “Stuff I Want to Hug”, so perhaps I’m not breaking the rules too badly. In any case I’ll dispense with the performance specs available elsewhere and just say that the clarity of sound offered by the 975 is unmatched, its battery lasts longer than you’ll ever need it to, and the ingenious leather case (with integral battery to fully charge the headset up to 3 times when you’re on the go, no need to drag along an AC adapter) makes this the best hands free solution available. Top notch build quality too, down to flawless stitching on the surprisingly supple leather. Worth every penny of its admittedly high-end price, you really can’t put a dollar value on not looking like a dork. $130.
I have to admit to a love / hate relationship with Philippe Starck’s work… most of his designs seem largely superficial, paying only passing consideration to issues of functionality or ergonomics. But truth be told, the guy captures wit and charm in a hunk of plastic as few designers can. His Prince Aha Stool for Kartell (1999) is a modern classic, bridging the gap between fun and function in amazingly versatile ways. We’ve used these indoors and out as seating and side tables; the high-quality plastic and sophisticated color options work well in just about any setting. Sure they’re getting ubiquitous, but for all the right reasons.