Even for someone like me who spends a ton of time testing phones and laptops, it can be hard to keep up with innovations across every category of device – especially when it comes to things like fixtures and appliances that aren’t meant to be replaced very often. So a little while ago when my kitchen faucet sprung a leak I was faced with a question: Are today’s new-fangled touch-activated models a worthwhile purchase or are they just a waste of money?
At first, I was annoyed by the whole affair since we had only moved into our place in 2018 and as it was new construction, I expected the faucet to last longer than five years. But after getting it checked out things got worse as we learned it would cost more to fix it than to just buy a new one. So after the plumber told us to “treat yourselves” and we learned that apparently Delta is the Colgate of faucets (four out five plumbers recommend it!), we started looking at our options.
Now, as someone who’s never had to buy a faucet before, my wife and I were initially a bit lost. We started by looking at models that had a similar design to what we already had because we knew it would fit. But eventually, my love of gadgets drew me to Delta’s Touch2O line, which lets you control water simply by tapping instead of yanking the handle around. So even though I was already aware that some prominent chefs like J. Kenji Lopez-Alt aren’t a fan of touch-activated faucets, since I had never used one before, I figured why the hell not?
However, there are a couple of important considerations that come into play when buying one of these. The first is that they’re more expensive than a regular faucet due to the extra electronics and whatnot. Thankfully, despite being listed at around $1,000 on Delta’s website, the Trinsic Pro Touch2O we eventually settled on was available for half that on Amazon. And, compared to a traditional non-touch model, we were looking at about a $100 premium, which isn’t nothing, but it was low enough that my curiosity ultimately won out.
But more importantly, the only reason the Touch2O model wasn’t rejected outright is because we already had an outlet installed under our sink. By default, Delta’s Touch2O faucet runs on six included AA batteries that the company says should last about a year (or up to three years if you buy some larger C batteries). And while swapping in fresh cells every 12 months isn’t that much of a hassle, it’s something I’d rather not have to think about., Not to mention the waste of tossing dead akalines in the trash on a semi-regular basis isn't ideal. Thankfully, Delta sells an AC adapter for its faucets that’s relatively cheap (about $40), which means that you only need to rely on the batteries if your power goes out (which is quite rare for us because we live in the city).
If it wasn’t for this, buying a touch-activated faucet that requires a constant power supply would have been a non-starter. Regardless, if you’re considering getting a Touch2O faucet from Delta, expect to pay about $150 or so more than a basic version. At least when it comes to installation, things are relatively straightforward. The main differences are making sure you don’t get your wires crossed and remembering to save a spot to stash the AC adapter so that it stays dry and out of the way.
Anyways, now that I’ve been using a Touch2O faucet for about three months, here are my thoughts. First, it takes a little getting used to, because ideally, you should leave the handle open all the time and rely entirely on touch controls to turn the water on and off. And after years of muscle memory telling me to do that exact opposite, this practice felt really unnatural for a couple weeks. But once I got past that, I really started to like it. Sure, it’s a small thing, but being able to touch the neck of the faucet quickly to shut off the water is nice when you’re trying to multitask. I think it’s slightly more sanitary too, because I can use the back of my hand to tap the neck of the faucet instead of reaching for the handle, which is nice if you’ve been trimming chicken or whatever.
After a while, using the faucet becomes one less thing to think about and I also really appreciate that Delta’s touch activation works pretty much anywhere, which makes it more fun for my toddler to play with when we’re washing our hands. And if he gets out of control, I can simply use the handle as normal to prevent unnecessary splashing. Another little bonus is that the Trinsic Pro Touch2O also features a little temperature indicator built into its base, which makes it easier for children to tell if the water is too hot to touch (red means stop). Finally, while it's not directly related to the touch technology, I also really like how sturdy the coil is that supports the gooseneck.
So in the end, I will fully admit that although a touch faucet is hardly a game-changer, having one in my kitchen offers a few small perks that I think were worth the extra $150. That said, it still remains to be seen how this thing will hold up over time. I’m hoping that because Delta’s Touch20 devices use solenoid valves – which have been around since as far back as the early 1900s – there shouldn’t be any major tradeoff on durability. Because I really don’t want to think about buying another faucet for a long time.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/what-we-bought-are-touch-activated-faucets-smart-or-silly-140058186.html?src=rss
Small outdoor pizza ovens have become popular backyard cooking options in recent years. While anyone with a decent-sized patio could have a permanent one installed, these versatile products are more compact and store easily in a bag when you’re not using them. That makes them great for people who have limited outdoor space and allows you to take them on the road as needed. There are also great options for having a dedicated pizza oven indoors. Here are a few specs you’ll want to consider before making a purchase, plus some recommendations to get you started.
What to look for
When shopping for an oven, you’ll first want to consider what types of pizza you plan to make. Most portable outdoor pizza ovens from the likes of Ooni, Solo Stove and others use wood and are primarily designed for the high-heat cooking required for light and airy Neapolitan-style pies. We’re talking temperatures up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit. These units can certainly cook different styles at cooler temperatures, but they’re easiest to use when you’re running them wide open with a full load of wood.
If you purchase a propane or natural gas burner, you can adjust temperatures easily by turning a knob. For this reason, I recommend you spend the extra $100 or so on that accessory. It makes your pizza oven a lot more versatile and gives you the option to still have a freshly fired pie when you don’t feel like messing with wood or charcoal. If you only want to cook with gas, there are models available that only use propane or natural gas.
The other key consideration is size. Most companies make ovens that fit 12-inch pizzas, a perfect size for one person. They’re also great for parties, since people can customize their own without having to pick off toppings they don’t like. If you want to make larger pizzas or plan to use your oven for other things (pans, etc), consider a larger version that can accommodate more than just small pies. The interior dimensions – or at the very least the stone size – will be listed on most product pages.
Plan for success
Making pizza at home requires a considerable amount of counter or table space. You’ll need room to stretch and prep your dough, lay out your toppings and load pizzas onto a peel. Of course, some folks will be comfortable working in the tight confines of a small kitchen, but I’ve found it much easier to use extra space to make sure I’m not constantly moving things around during the various steps in the process.
It’s also less hassle to set up your pizza station in close proximity to your pizza oven. As a rookie baker, I did the running back and forth from the kitchen to the back porch. It’s far from ideal. It’s difficult to maintain your fire (if using wood or charcoal) when you’re unable to watch it closely. The good news is a patio table can be easily converted into a pizza station with a large cutting board. This also gets your oven off the ground so it’s easier to access.
Ooni sells tables for its ovens that also offer shelving and storage for peels and other accessories. Solo Stove has a rolling stand for its Pi oven too, with small side shelves and a spot for your propane tank underneath. Of course, you can find other tables and stands to suit your needs, just make sure they can withstand any heat that may radiate from the bottom of the oven while cooking. Most ovens are either well insulated or don’t project too much excess heat toward the table, but you can never be too careful. For that reason, a stainless steel or metal surface is a good choice to set up an outdoor model.
Most of these pizza ovens cook quickly at high heat, especially if you’re making Neapolitan-style pies. Having everything you need nearby so you can keep tabs on the oven and quickly make the next pizza will ease a lot of unnecessary headaches. When your cook time is two minutes or less, you don’t want to venture too far.
Outdoor pizza ovens
A good multi-fuel outdoor pizza oven: Ooni Karu 16
If you’re looking to go all-in on an outdoor pizza oven, you can’t go wrong with Ooni’s Karu 16. It’s the company’s largest multi-fuel model, which means you can choose between wood, charcoal or gas (propane and natural gas burners sold separately). This one is equipped with a hinged glass door for keeping tabs on your progress and a digital thermometer monitors the ambient temperature inside. The larger size means you can not only cook bigger pizzas, but the Karu 16 can also accommodate pans and cast iron, so baking, roasting and searing are all possible here. It’s this versatility that makes the Karu 16 our top pick.
A solid outdoor pizza oven: Solo Stove Pi
Solo Stove may be on your radar for its fire pits, but the company also makes a solid pizza oven. Dubbed the Pi, this unit is made out of stainless steel and is round like the company’s trademark products. Solo Stove says Pi can hit temperatures of 850 degrees Fahrenheit with wood and 900 degrees with a gas burner (sold separately). It explains that those figures translate to maximum stone temps of 750 and 800 degrees respectively. The Pi’s big difference from the Karu 16 and other Ooni ovens is that it doesn’t have a front door and stays open the whole time like a brick oven.
A great smaller option: Ooni Fyra 12
The Ooni Fyra 12 was the first outdoor pizza oven I used and it remains one of my favorites. It’s compact compared to some of the alternatives (22 pounds), so it won’t take up quite as much storage space. It also runs on wood pellets instead of chunks, and once you get the fire going, you just refill the chute from the top. This means there’s much less tending a fire on the Fyra than other wood-burning models, so you can focus on making and cooking your pizzas. The Fyra does all the things other Ooni pizza ovens do well, including high-heat bakes (950 degrees) in as little as a minute.
Indoor pizza ovens
Let me preface this section by saying you probably already have an indoor option that you can use to make some great pizza. Whether that’s the main oven in your kitchen or a multi-function countertop unit, with some affordable accessories, you can easily up your game without spending $1,000 on a dedicated appliance. For example, my Breville Smart Oven Air Fryer has a convection pizza setting that automatically adjusts cook time based on the size, temperature and whether the pie is fresh or frozen. A key consideration here is size. These things are massive, about the size of a large microwave, so you likely won’t want to keep them out all the time unless you have a huge kitchen.
A versatile indoor pizza oven: Ooni Volt 12
Ooni made its name on outdoor pizza ovens that primarily burn wood or run on gas. For 2023, the company is taking things indoors with the Volt 12. Ooni’s first electric oven can also be used outside thanks to weather resistant construction, but this behemoth brings the company’s design and efficiency to your kitchen for the first time. Capable of temperatures up to 850 degrees Fahrenheit in as little as 20 minutes, the Volt 12 can fire up Neapolitan style pies in 90 seconds. Controls on the front give you the ability to adjust both the top and bottom heating elements. There are also cooking presets and a Boost function to quickly get the stone back to temp between pizzas. The 13-inch stone inside is square, so you can slide in pans for Detroit recipes or other baked goods.
A solid indoor pizza oven: Breville Pizzaiolo
If you’re set on buying a dedicated pizza oven, the Breville Pizzaiolo is another great option, but it’s just as pricey as the Volt 12. The Pizzaiolo cooks 12-inch pies as well, but the stone on this unit is perfectly sized for them and there’s a metal heat reflector panel inside that will also keep you from overshooting the cooking surface. This means you won’t be sliding larger rectangle pans in here like you can with the electric Ooni. Round pans fit just fine and some smaller square ones likely will too.
In terms of cooking ability, Breville offers presets for “Wood Fired,” New York, Pan, Thin & Crispy and Frozen pizzas with the added option to run the oven full blast at 750 degrees Fahrenheit. A second dial allows you to adjust the top heating element depending on how dark you want your pizza. Like it does on other Breville appliances, Element IQ tech adjusts the heating elements based on the selected style, creating the ideal environment for each one. For advanced users, the company offers a manual mode that turns the timer dial into a control for the bottom deck while the style preset selector manages the top. Breville includes a magnetic overlay for the front panel to show you temperatures for the converted controls. The instruction manual also gives you recommendations for where to begin with manual mode for the aforementioned styles.
The best pizza accessories for the oven you already have
If you want to make good pizza at home without spending hundreds of dollars on a dedicated oven, you can definitely do it with the oven you already have in your kitchen. With a few accessories, you can improve your game without splurging on a Breville, Ooni or Solo Stove. First, I’d recommend a high quality baking steel or stone.
Baking stones are great for getting better browning on the bottom of your pies than a pizza or sheet pan. You can also use them for bread, cookies and other items. The stone absorbs heat to cook pizza quickly, like the inside of a brick oven, which leads to a crisp crust. They’re also more affordable compared to baking steels. Those metal slabs do have one key advantage: higher heat conductivity. This means a steel will cook your pizzas faster since it can absorb more heat from your oven. While baking steels can be used as griddles on your stovetop and for other types of baking, they’re not ideal for some leavened breads.
The second item you’ll want is a pizza peel. These come in all shapes and sizes, made out of a variety of materials. I typically use a bamboo or wooden peel when topping and launching my pizzas and then a metal one for retrieving them. I’ve found that dough doesn’t stick as easily to bamboo during prep and the metal resists the high heat of the oven when turning or retrieving a finished pizza (bamboo will burn). There are also perforated peels which allow both steam and excess flour to escape. A peel is a great tool for loading and turning pizzas, and since you’ll typically be cooking them with your oven at 500 degrees or hotter, using something like parchment paper to move them around won’t work.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-pizza-oven-141550352.html?src=rss
LED light bulbs are already supposed to be energy-efficient, but Signifiy thinks it can improve on the formula. The company has released Philips Ultra Efficient LED bulbs that, as the name implies, use 40 percent less energy than the brand's usual LED options. The "advanced" LEDs and optics reduce the yearly energy cost to between 55 cents and $1.03 per bulb, Signify claims. For context, a Philips Ultra Definition 60W bulb uses an estimated 97 cents each year.
The new lights might also be helpful if you're trying to minimize waste. Signify estimates that the Ultra Efficient line has an average lifespan of 50 years, or more than three times the usage of Philips' standard LED bulbs. There's a real chance this lighting might outlive you.
The Philips range is available now as a Walmart exclusive. It starts at $10 for a 60W-equivalent A19 bulb ($17 for two) in soft white and daylight variants. A 65W BR30 bulb costs $11, while a 100W A21 light is $15. You're paying considerably more than you would for standard LEDs — a four-pack of Philips Ultra Definition 60W bulbs costs $14. However, Signify is clearly betting that the lower energy costs and increased longevity will ultimately save you money on top of being kinder to the environment.
The catch, of course, is that these aren't smart bulbs. You'll need to live with higher energy consumption if you insist on Philips Hue and don't want to use smart plugs. If that isn't an obstacle, though, you may see your energy bills shrink if you replace enough bulbs around your home.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/philips-new-ultra-efficient-led-bulbs-use-40-percent-less-energy-193033312.html?src=rss
IKEA is launching a new interior design service that gives customers one-on-one assistance in decorating — and furnishing — their rooms. The product-centric company is moving further into service offerings, moving from putting the work in customer's hands with apps to letting "IKEA designers" take care of everything. IKEA says they’ll hold your hang through everything from picking out products to having them shipped over. It's also leveraging its ownership of TaskRabbit to link customers with DIY experts to put ordered furniture together when it arrives.
Clearly, IKEA thinks everyone has gotten comfortable enough with video calls over the last few years, as everything is done digitally, but the process does seem pretty straightforward: It starts with a questionnaire on the IKEA USA site and then three one-on-one video calls. Customers get a mood board and initial plans for the space to align the vision, followed by a meeting to approve ideas and products. They come out of it with 3D renderings, a mood board, floor plan, drawings, a list of products and material options.
IKEA already offers something similar for kitchens, with customers able to schedule an appointment for their kitchen to be measured and designed for free with an IKEA kitchen planner. Anyone living in the US can opt for an online meeting for this service, as well.
The new interior design service does come at a cost, with meetings with an IKEA interior designer cost $99 per room for an individual and $299 per room for businesses. The prices aren't bad considering the average interior designer will cost anywhere between $50 and $500 per hour, according to Forbes. Though IKEA also profits from any furniture chosen with the interior designer and, while their offerings aren't designer prices, they can still add up to a sizeable bill.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/ikeas-latest-idea-is-an-online-design-a-room-service-104553216.html?src=rss
Moen thinks it can take the hassle out of watering your lawn — and possibly save you some money in the process. It's introducing a Smart Sprinkler Controller (shown below) that, in tandem with matching soil sensors, can automatically tweak watering schedules on a zone-by-zone basis. Your yard should only get the water it really needs — Moen claims it can reduce the water use of a typical home by 30 percent. Whether or not that's true, you'll probably appreciate the season- and weather-based adjustments that can save you from watering in the middle of a rainstorm.
You also won't have to rip up your lawn to get started. You only have to stick the sensors in the soil, where they can stay flush with the ground. You don't have to bury cables or watch where you're mowing. The Sprinkler Controller attaches to your existing irrigation system within half an hour, and the sensors can be ready to go in less than five minutes.
Not surprisingly, Moen is using this as a chance to reel you into its broader smart home system. If you have the Flo Smart Water Monitor and Shutoff, you can watch out for leaks around the house without worrying that your sprinklers will shut off the home's water supply.
The initial outlay may be pricey. Moen will release the devices in early February, starting at $180 for an eight-zone controller and $235 for its 16-zone counterpart. Sensors will be available for $70 each, or $180 for a three-pack. However, the company is clearly betting that its system will cut your water bill enough to justify the expense, not to mention spare you constant manual adjustments to watering schedules. The sprinkler tech could also reduce your home's impact on the environment. That's particularly helpful in California and other regions where water conservation is frequently important.
LG’s latest upgraded appliances, including washing machines, refrigerators, ovens and a dishwasher, feature, well, less. It’s taking a more minimalist approach in 2023 with less showy profiles, colors and, seemingly, controls. While we’re not getting a close-up look at all the dials and buttons, the appliances look restrained compared to previous years’ appliances. In recent years, we’ve seen a washing machine whose feature was an entire extra washing machine. There was also a dryer that had two doors. Just because. LG also once even experimented with creating washing machines that could clean your clothes without any water.
This year's appliances will have a simpler design language, with what LG says is an "elegantly clear control experience." The company says it’s made its latest range to ensure it can “match with any kind of décor, color scheme, or interior trend.” It used recycled materials across multiple machine parts, adding that its latest appliances also require fewer total parts and less energy than typical kitchen appliances.
This would dovetail with the company’s announcements at the start of the year, where LG said it would offer upgradability for its home appliances. So far, that’s included new filters for certain use cases and software upgrades to offer new washing programs for laundry machines. The company said it planned to introduce 20 models with upgradeable features but hasn’t confirmed how many actually arrived. Simpler, more streamlined hardware could make for easier for LG to replace more substantial parts, like motors and heating elements, to be even more efficient or effective.
However, will fewer buttons mean fewer features or less flexibility? We don’t know yet, but I like the subtler aesthetic. LG will reveal its new appliance family at CES 2023 — a show that always sneaks in countless kitchen appliances alongside the latest TVs, EVs and more. The show kicks off in Las Vegas in a week’s time.
While plenty of gadgets cross our desks, we at Engadget also end up buying a lot of things for ourselves throughout the year. In 2022, some of us upgraded our TVs while others invested in new cookware and deskaccessories that upped our productivity. But there are plenty of things we've been loving recently that haven't made it onto the site. Here, our staffers look back on the year that was by gushing about their favorite items they bought this year.
Nest Hub Max
I got a Nest Hub Max last year for Christmas and over the past 12 months, it’s probably brought me more joy than any other gadget. By setting Google Photos to automatically upload pictures of my son to an album linked to the Nest Hub, every day I’m treated to a slideshow of all the fun times we’ve had. When people say kids grow up fast, they’re totally right. But as a photo viewer with voice controls, the Nest Hub max lets me relive those memories while being also an important part of my smart home control center. – Sam Rutherford, Senior Reporter
55-inch LG B2 OLED smart TV
In prioritizing big purchases for our new home, I knew I wanted to get a better TV and soon. Not only did we need a new one quickly for our living room while my fiance used our old one in the basement he’d claimed as his man cave, but I also wanted to see if I could get a good deal during Amazon’s October Prime Day event. I ultimately decided to splurge on the 55-inch LG B2 OLED smart TV when it dipped under $1,000 during that period. To say the difference from our old LED TV was instantly noticeable is not hyperbole: as soon as we set the thing up, we were stunned by the quality. Blacks are deep and colors are much more vibrant than on any TV we’ve had before.
We’ve watched a lot of things on it so far, from live sports to documentaries to sitcoms and everything looks much sharper and more colorful than we’re used to. We’re also pleasantly surprised by LG’s webOS. This is the first TV we’ve used with it and it was super easy to get accustomed to. We like how you can customize your homescreen and navigate either with the arrow keys on the remote or the convenient little cursor that flies around the TV screen. We now refer to it as the “good TV” in the house, with my fiancé opting to watch his weekly sports games on the B2 rather than in his basement sanctuary. — Valentina Palladino, Senior Commerce Editor
Chase Bliss Gen Loss v2
I have made no bones about my love of all things lo-fi and broken. What can I say? I like warbles. In my quest to make every instrument I own sound like it’s coming out of an old tape player I’ve tried a number of things, but in June I pre-ordered the Generation Loss MKII and I think my search is now complete.
The Generation Loss is one of the most popular lo-fi pedals ever made, and last year its creator, Tom Majeski of Cooper FX, joined the relentless experimenters at Chase Bliss. One of the first orders of business was updating his classic pedal. It’s pitched as a “VHS duplicator,” but that is greatly underselling things. While the original Gen Loss was just sort of a generalized tape simulator, the MKII version digs into the highly specific sonic characteristics of a variety of tape-based devices.
The company pulled apart and analyzed VHS players, Tascam Portastudios and dictaphones in an effort to find out what makes them unique. It covers everything from the subtle frequency drop off of old ¼-inch tape running through a reel-to-reel machine, all the way to the crushed hum that results when you make a copy of a copy of a VHS cassette. And if you’re not into the newer version that faithfully recreates particular tape formats, you can always throw one of Chase Bliss’ patented dip switches to turn on classic mode. — Terrence O'Brien, Managing Editor
Apple MagSafe Duo charger
I’ll admit it: My favorite gadget of the year is, well, something I bought last year. In spring 2021,I picked up Apple’s MagSafe Duo charger, which can charge both your iPhone and Apple Watch at the same time, all in a fold-up, compact form factor. While I could (and have) used it at home to charge my Apple devices overnight, I picked it up as a compact charging kit for when I traveled. As we all know, 2021 was not the year for roaming the globe. But as travel restrictions were lifted this year, I finally got to see if the pricey charger was worth the investment.
Yes, $129 was a lot for a dual charger, but it fulfilled the brief of using just a single cable and being so much more compact than most rival Apple Watch standup chargers. It unfurls like a makeup compact, meaning it can slip into anyone’s luggage with ease. Yes, I could take the Apple Watch cable, but in recent years these cables have USB-C, not USB-A sockets. Unfortunately, a lot of hotels (and charging plugs) still don’t have those, and if I’m visiting a different country, there are only so many things I can charge at once with a travel adapter.
After unfolding the two sides, the magnetic puck for Watch charging can also be folded out at 90 degrees, attaching to the wearable and allowing me to see the time when it’s set up. The small footprint means it fits on most nightstands and bedside tables at hotels, guest rooms and even window ledges. If space is at a premium, you can fold it around to charge a single device, whether that’s the watch or your iPhone. The MagSafe charger spot can also wirelessly recharge my AirPods if I ensure they’re in the correct position.
It’s not perfect. I’m increasingly frustrated at the sluggish charging speed when wirelessly charging my iPhone – even if this isn’t a problem when charging overnight. Hopefully, Apple will bring out another model that’s hopefully cheaper and faster to charge. When Apple eventually ditches Lightning, it’ll need to make a new one anyway. – Mat Smith, UK Bureau Chief
Bissell SpotClean Pet Pro
Our new house has carpet on the second floor and, while it’s in pretty good shape, there were some stains we wanted to remove if possible before moving in. We also have a cat who occasionally eats too fast and, well, I probably don’t have to tell you the rest. Investing in a spot cleaner seemed like a no-brainer, and I’m glad I went with Bissell’s SpotClean Pet Pro. It’s fairly light at 13 pounds and not very big, so I can tote it around by its carrying handle to any place in my home. All you have to do is fill the solution tank with the proper ratio of cleaning liquid and water, plug the machine in, turn it on and use the included handle to scrub away stains.
I first used it on some of the carpet’s existing mystery marks and they easily came out after a few minutes of elbow-greased scrubbing. The SpotClean’s handle has a button that lets you control the amount of solution it sprays out, and while it’s running, it’s constantly sucking up excess water, filling up a separate tank with the dirty bits. The hardest part of using it is the scrubbing you have to do, and how much weight you want to put into it is totally up to you. I found most light stains came out quickly and without too much effort on my part, but I did spend more time on tougher spots. I also love that I can use this to deep clean upholstered furniture, like our old couch which is in desperate need of a refresh. This spot cleaner certainly isn’t the sexiest purchase I’ve made for our new home, but it’s one that will keep it looking fresh and clean for longer. — V.P.
Tushy Classic Bidet 3.0
Everyone likes a clean butthole. I don’t think that’s a controversial thing to say. But while toilet paper does a decent enough job, sometimes it just doesn’t get the area clean enough. Which means you end up using more TP, potentially clogging the toilet in the process, and you still might not feel like it’s completely clean. That’s why I recently purchased the Tushy Classic 3.0, an affordable bidet that can fit with my existing toilet.
I’ve long wanted one of those fancy Japanese bidet toilets. But not only are they expensive, they require remodeling my bathroom with an additional outlet, which I simply can’t justify at the moment. The Tushy Classic 3.0, on the other hand, is only $130 or so, and it gets the job done at a fraction of the cost. Installing it is easy. All we did was attach it to our existing plumbing and we were done in about 10 minutes. It doesn’t use any electricity either. Turning the knob adjusts the water pressure while moving the toggle adjusts the angle of the spray nozzle.
We’ve been using it for a few months now, and we really do love it. We almost look forward to going number two, which is a strange thing to say. As a woman with monthly menstruation, I really appreciate that it helps get me much cleaner than with toilet paper alone. I think we end up using less TP as a result, too. I’d probably want to upgrade to a fancier bidet in the future, but for now, the Tushy Classic 3.0 more than does the job. — Nicole Lee, Commerce Writer
Blueland hand soap
Before we moved into our new home, we had nearly exhausted the available storage in our apartment. Our tiny bathrooms had little to no space to store extra hand soap, bath wash and other necessities, so I resorted to stuffing our linen closet to the brim – so much so that I had to lean on the door to get it to close properly. So I turned to Blueland, which makes hand soap, cleaning supplies and the like that come in small tablets inside compostable pouches, and most of their formulas are plant-based, vegan and more environmentally friendly than cleaners you’ll find in big-box stores. All you do is drop the formula tablet into a container of water, shake it up and let it sit for a while until the whole tablet dissolves and then you can use the product.
I was immediately impressed with the foaming hand soap for a few reasons. First, a couple of packets took up significantly less space than even a refill jug of the soap I was previously buying, plus I liked the fact that I was purchasing one less plastic bottle by switching. Second, the soap actually worked as advertised. I had tried a couple of eco-conscious hand and dish soaps before this, and most of them had left me disappointed because I felt like they didn’t clean as well as standard solutions. But Blueland’s hand soap foamed up nicely and actually left my hands feeling clean after every wash, with no weird residue left behind.
I started off using the tablets in a mason jar outfitted with a foaming pump lid, but I’ve since graduated to Blueland’s own glass hand soap bottles, which are hefty and luxe. Ultimately, Blueland solved a few problems for me: I don’t have to waste as much space storing hand soap refills, I don’t have to create as much waste since I’m not buying those single-use plastic bottles anymore and I don’t even have to remember to buy hand soap when I go shopping because I get refills sent to my door every few months. — V.P.
Fujifilm XF 27 mm F/2.8
Earlier this year, when I started dabbling in photography as a hobby, I decided the best way for me to start honing my skills was to have my Fujifilm X-T30 with me at all times. The only issue was that, even the relatively light XF 35mm f/2 bought was a little too bulky to go everywhere. I ended up snagging one of Fuji’s 27mm pancake lenses used a few months back, and it’s barely left my camera since. More importantly, my camera has barely left my side since.
With this lens the X-T30 comfortably fits in my Peak Design Field Pouch, along with a cleaning cloth and brush, a notebook and pen, plus my keys. It’s so easy to just grab everything no matter where it is that I’m going. To my parents’ for a birthday dinner? Sure. Grocery shopping? Why not? Just around the block to walk my dog? Seems silly not to.
Obviously, the big feature here is size, but it’s not like you’re making a lot of tradeoffs to get there either. Images taken with the 27mm are insanely sharp. Even wide open at F/2.8 the corners are crisp and contrasty. Would a larger aperture have been nice? Sure. But this is plenty for street photography and family snapshots. My version doesn’t have an aperture ring sadly, but the newer model does. Honestly, my one real complaint is that the minimum focus distance is about 13.4 inches, and I often find myself wanting to get closer to my subject. Still, this is probably the best investment I’ve made in my budding love of photography. — T.O.
Anyday Everyday cookware set
After a traumatic incident where I accidentally set a small fire in a hotel room during a work trip to Barcelona, I've always been extra careful about leaving metal in a microwave. So when my friend gifted me a set of Anyday bowls, telling me it was safe to place their metal lids in my microwave and cook whole meals with them, I was blown away.
The premise of these glass bowls is that they're designed to cook food in your microwave. The bowls themselves are made from thicker, thermal shock-resistant frosted glass so they'll better withstand temperature fluctuations without cracking. The lids keep steam in the dish to cook your food, and have vents to let out the excess. A silicone rim expands to accommodate extra pressure, and the stainless steel in the lids is curved in a way that Anyday says makes it "100% microwave-safe."
As someone who mostly prizes convenience when it comes to cooking, I'm enamored with my Anyday bowls. I love steaming eggs and fish filets, but I can also cook rice, vegetables, pasta, and make nut butters, cakes and pretty much anything in the microwave with this system. Of course, anything requiring a sear, deep fry or broil won't work, and some of the recipes the company shared on its website are too complicated for my liking. But for making healthy steamed meals, the Anyday system is honestly a godsend (or friendsend). Best part: they're dishwasher safe, so I don't need to deal with the cleanup after. — Cherlynn Low, Deputy Editor
Madewell Zip-Top Transport Crossbody
My go-to bag for years has been the Pearl crossbody from Lo & Sons, which I love for its compact size and multiple compartments. But it just wasn’t big enough for all the gear that I wanted to carry around with me. So for my birthday this year, I decided to buy myself a newer, larger, bag. I knew that I wanted it to be a crossbody – it feels more secure to me than a regular shoulder model – and I would prefer it if it had top handles. I discovered Madewell’s Zip-Top Transport Crossbody while I was browsing the web, and it seemed to fit the bill.
I’ve had it for a few months now, and it’s earned its place as my new everyday bag. It’s made from a vegetable-tanned leather that’s soft and worn with a slight waxed finish which feels lovely to the touch. The shoulder straps are detachable so I can swap them out if I want, or I can use just the top handles by themselves. The best thing about it for me is its size: at around 10 x 10 x 3 inches, it’s small enough to not weigh me down, but it’s also surprisingly roomy. It fits all my essentials and then some. That includes my wallet, phone, keys, earbuds, pens, my Kobo Libra 2 e-reader, a portable battery and, if I wedge it in correctly, even my Hobonichi Techo planner.
That said, I wish it had more compartments. It only has two inside pockets, which themselves are not that big. As a result, it’s easy for smaller items to get lost; I often have to spend time searching for my lipstick or hand sanitizer. My current solution is to keep these items in a separate small makeup pouch that can fit inside the bag so that it’s easier to fish out. It’s not perfect, but at least for me, the good outweighs the bad. — N.L.
Purist Mover water bottle
I spent $50 on a water bottle earlier this year, and surprisingly, I don’t feel like an idiot months later. That’s because the bottle is the Purist Mover, and it has largely solved the problem of my water picking up a metallic taste after a few weeks. The trick is an ultra-thin, unbreakable layer of glass that lines the interior and helps prevent odors and tastes from transferring. To my taste buds, this has actually worked. I still need to wash the bottle every so often, of course, but so far my water has never tasted like anything other than water.
This might seem like a pointless thing to brag about, but the Mover just feels nice, too. Its textured finish is pleasing to the touch, and its simple design looks high-end – for a water bottle, at least. There are multiple lid and size options available; I went with the 18-ounce model and “Union” spout cap, which has been fine, though the lid tends to make a whistling sound that sounds uncannily like hitting a bong. (Be warned if you’re ever off-camera during a work call.) I still can’t tell anyone they should spend this much on a water bottle, but the Mover does the thing I want, and I’m spending way less on wasteful plastic bottles as a result. — Jeff Dunn, Senior Commerce Writer
To me, cooking nirvana is when you have a recipe in mind, your mise en place all set, and you can focus on getting that perfect sear or saute. But before you get there, having the right equipment for the job goes a really long way. So for the adventurous cook in your life, here are some of our favorite kitchen gadgets that would make excellent gifts this holiday season.
KitchenAid Cordless Variable Speed Hand Blender
While KitchenAid’s cordless hand blender isn’t as powerful as some of its wired rivals or countertop models, what it lacks in oomph it makes up for with convenience. There are no speed dials to adjust, just squeeze harder on the trigger to make it go faster. Meanwhile, the lack of wires gives you one less thing to worry about when you’re making sauces or smoothies (especially if you’re doing it on the stovetop). And with a battery life that can blend up to 25 bowls of soup on a single charge, your loved one will probably run out of energy before this thing does. — Sam Rutherford, Senior Reporter
Everyone has their preference when it comes to cutting tools, but I think everyone could use a ceramic knife in their arsenal. Starting at under $50, they’re relatively affordable. But more importantly, they are much sharper,hold an edge up to 10 times longer and are lighter than traditional steel blades. That makes them less tiring to use, and you don’t ever have to worry about them rusting either. Just remember, ceramic is more brittle than metal, so tell your giftee to stick to slicing fruits, veggies and boneless meats – leave hacking through bones to other knives. — S.R.
After being disappointed with a bunch of non-stick pans from big names like All-Clad to smaller brands plastered across social media, I went on a quest to find something I could trust. And after trying out Mise En’s options, I found a winner. Not only are Mise En’s pans significantly cheaper than premium legacy brands, but I’ve also found they maintain their non-stick coating (which is also PFOA-free) much better over time. So if you know someone who would appreciate a good, affordable no-nonsense pan for cooking eggs, crepes or anything else that can get a little gummy, look no further. — S.R.
Air fryers might seem like just a fad. After all, they’re just compact convection ovens, right? That’s true, but that doesn’t mean they don’t work. In our experience, pod-shaped air fryers are able to produce crispier foods than their convection oven counterparts and they’re much easier to clean too. If you have someone in your life who loves the idea of “frying” foods without the oily mess, an air fryer could potentially be a fantastic gift.
Our favorite air fryer is the 6-quart Instant Vortex Plus with ClearCook and OdorErase. It has a display window so your giftee can check how the food looks. It also uses odor-eliminating filters that help reduce cooking smells – a feature that many air fryers lack. The six-quart size in particular is what we recommend; it’s large enough to fit four large chicken thighs or a whole pound of wings. The basket internals are nonstick so it’s easy to clean, plus the inner rack is dishwasher safe. — Nicole Lee, Commerce Writer
Any home cook will tell you cooking is a messy affair. No matter how neat and tidy you think you are, you’ll inevitably encounter oil spitting at you as you’re frying potstickers or perhaps an accidental splash of tomato sauce as you mix in meatballs. If you have a loved one who cooks often enough, they’ll certainly appreciate an apron to avoid getting any of that mess on their clothes. Hedley & Bennett makes perhaps the best commercially-available apron on the market. The Essential Apron is made from 100 percent cotton twill fabric that’s durable enough to withstand frequent use, and it comes with pockets – one breast pocket for a perhaps pen or a clip-on timer and two large front pockets big enough for a phone or a small tablet each. These aprons are also sold in a wide variety of colors and patterns, so you’re sure to find at least one that’ll fit your loved ones’ taste. — N.L.
An immersion circulator (aka a sous vide machine) isn’t for everyone. But it can do things that no other gadget can. It can take the guesswork out of nailing the temp on a steak before finishing it off with a quick sear in a cast iron skillet. A sous vide machine can also create the perfect jammy center on a soft-boiled ramen egg or simply add a range of aromatics to various types of meat while they cook. This is the kind of thing that a lot of home cooks dream about but can’t quite justify buying, which is precisely what makes it a perfect gift. — S.R.
A good grater is a must-have in the kitchen, and just like Band-Aid is to adhesive bandages and Kleenex is to tissues, Microplane has become synonymous when it comes to zesting and grating. The classic model comes with a no-slip plastic handle and an included protective cover and it can handle anything from parmesan cheese to garlic to nutmeg. And priced at $16, it’s an ideal kitchen gadget gift even if you don’t have a ton to spend. — S.R.
There’s no shortage of instant-read thermometers out there, but ThermoWorks’ ThermoPop has been a staple in my kitchen for a long time. Yes, it’s cute, but that’s only one reason to buy it over others. I like that it’s quite accurate and provides temperature readings in just a couple of seconds, plus it's splash resistant and pretty easy to clean. It also has a screen that you can rotate to show you the temperature in different orientations, making it easy to use in all kinds of positions. Plus, you can’t beat its $35 price tag, which is a steal for an accurate thermometer like this that also has an attractive, pocketable design. If you want the latest and great, spring for the ThermoPop 2 that just came out, which is even more accurate than the previous generation, faster and can read temperatures up to 572 degrees Fahrenheit. — Valentina Palladino, Senior Commerce Editor
Anyone who has watched even a handful of cooking shows or videos has probably seen this cutting board in the background. And the reason is that they’re just great products that deliver everything you need and nothing more. Boos blocks are available in a huge range of shapes, sizes and woods, from small circular boards to huge maple slabs with juice grooves. That said, if you’re planning on gifting a cutting board this nice, don’t forget to include proper care instructions, which at the very minimum include oiling it once a month. — S.R.
Everyone needs a good pair of scissors, and it doesn’t hurt if they look good too. The Good Shears sport soft silicone handles and sharp micro-serrated blades that should make quick work of anything short of beef bones. And unlike a lot of cheaper competitors, the Good Shears are dishwasher safe and can be taken apart for sharpening or cleaning. — S.R.
Those who eat rice regularly know that rice cookers are a much easier way to prepare the popular grain than using the stovetop alone, especially if you’re cooking for a crowd. Our favorite model is the Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy thanks to its “fuzzy logic” tech (yes, that’s a technical term), which ensures perfectly cooked rice even if your water and rice measurements aren’t exact. It has settings for different sorts of rice: white, mixed, porridge, sweet, semi-brown, brown, rinse-free and quick-cooking. Other features include a timer and a keep-warm setting. The Zojirushi rice cooker also makes fantastic polenta, not to mention oatmeal from steel-cut oats.
There’s also an updated (and pricier) option called the Zojirushi Induction Heating System Rice Cooker. In addition to the fuzzy logic tech mentioned above, it features an induction heating tech that heats the inner cooking pan. According to the company, this allows the device to make precise temperature adjustments to cook exceptional rice. This also means the food will heat evenly, as the bottom, side and lid will all generate heat. — N.L.
The Vitamix 5200 is often cited as the premium blender of choice among experienced cooks and professional chefs. But the default 64-ounce container is often much too tall to fit under most cabinets. Enter the Vitamix Low-Profile blender, which still has a 64-ounce container but has a much shorter stature so it easily fits in most kitchens. Aside from looks, it’s just as capable and powerful as the original. It can crush ice, make quick work out of frozen fruit and tough vegetables and puree soups with ease. — N.L.
A good kitchen scale is an essential kitchen gadget, especially in times when loose volumetric measurements just don’t cut it (like baking). Not only does OXO’s Precision Scale support both metric and imperial measurements, it also features accurate 0.1-gram measurements that go up to six pounds. There’s also an easy-to-read digital display with a built-in timer, and its minimalist design will look good in practically anyone’s kitchen. — S.R.
Admittedly, this might not strictly be a gift for a cook, but it’s definitely handy to have around the kitchen and great for creating a custom sodas or cocktails. The Soda Stream Terra, is the company’s most affordable sparkling water maker. For just $100, the starter kit includes the device itself, a reusable 1L bottle and a CO2 cylinder. You can also spring for the $130 hydration pack if you’re shopping for an avid cocktail maker or seltzer addict. That tacks on two more 1L bottles, two 0.5 liter dishwasher-safe bottles and 40ml lemon flavor drops. The whole setup is super easy to use too, and doesn’t even need to be plugged in. Just attach the CO2 tank, fill up the bottle with water and then tap to add bubbles. From there your giftee can mix and match flavor packs to suit their taste while also cutting down on waste from packaging and transporting heavy cans or bottles. — S.R.
If you have a meat lover in your life, ButcherBox’s Favorites is quite possibly the best gift they’ll ever get. Each shipment will have all of the company’s bestsellers lovingly vacuum-packed and frozen for their enjoyment. The contents include two pounds of ground beef, four eight-ounce boneless pork chops, three one-pound packs of boneless chicken breasts, two six-ounce filet mignons, one pound of sirloin tips, a 12-ounce pack of apple gouda sausage and a 10-ounce pack of bacon. That’s more than enough to keep them satisfied for at least a month, perhaps even longer. At least, if they don’t gorge it all in one go. — N.L.
IFA 2022 (Europe's answer to CES) starts tomorrow, so you know what that means — some wacky new appliances and home products. LG is kicking off the proceedings with the MoodUP refrigerator that has color-changing LED door panels, offering something completely different for your kitchen than the usual white or brushed metal.
Using LG's ThinkQ app or tapping on the door, you can choose from 22 colors for the upper door panel and 19 colors for the lower one. Or, you can let it choose various color themes like 'Season,' 'Place,' 'Mood' and 'Pop,' that represent things like the colors of nature or "a feeling of wellbeing through the use of soft, soothing colors," LG wrote.
The panels will blink repeatedly if you leave the door open for too long, or flash a welcome when someone approaches. The freezer door will also glow brighter at night "to help midnight snackers find and open the door" (never stop, LG). With the LED panels switched off, it offers a combination of gray and white for a more traditional look.
It also comes with a built-in Bluetooth speaker that connects to mobile devices or PCs. You can get it to play songs from LG's Music Collection playlist that match the color theme, or have the LED panels change colors in sync with the music. The idea is to add "a sense of liveliness and fun" by apparently transforming your kitchen into a discotheque.
Details are scarce on the refrigerator itself, but it looks like LG has both a wide, four-door model and a regular single-door version with two freezer compartments. The top image appears to show both models side-by-side.
It also offers upgraded voice recognition along with WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. Several PR photos appear to show the company's "InstaView" camera/display tech as well, but LG didn't mention that in the news release. There's no word on pricing, but LG will be showing off the "Dios Object Collection MoodUP" refrigerators at IFA 2022 in Berlin, starting tomorrow.
IKEA already lets you preview furniture in your home via AR, but its latest AI-powered iOS app offers a big leap in capability. Called IKEA Kreativ, it can scan your rooms using LiDAR and build a complete 3D replica of them, then let you delete your existing furniture. From there, you can try out new IKEA couches, tables, etc. and get a much better idea of how they'll look in your home.
The scanning is done via something IKEA calls the Kreativ Scene Scanner, which uses LiDAR if it's available on your iPhone. It also works on iPhones or iPads without LiDAR, though having it allows the app to "pull in additional spatial detail," IKEA told Engadget.
To use it on the web or a mobile device without LiDAR, you simply have to input a series of photographs of a room. Those are then "automatically processed and assembled into a wide-angle, interactive replica of the space, with accurate dimensions and perspective," IKEA said in a press release. From there, you can erase existing furniture and position new IKEA pieces, quickly try alternatives and fully design the room. All of our ideas can be saved for later or shared with others. Naturally, the app also lets you add preferred pieces to your shopping cart.
If you're looking for further inspiration, IKEA also unveiled 50 new 3D showrooms. Those let you browse the IKEA catalogue virtually and try out products in 3D settings, "quickly swapping, moving, rotating, stacking and hanging IKEA products," the company said.
The app is the latest high-tech move by IKEA, which has launched a raft of connected speakers, smart home hubs, connected lights, charging pads and more over the last few years. On top of that, IKEA joined a new group created by Microsoft, Meta and others to create metaverse standards — so, you might be able to at least find furniture in virtual reality.