My latest gadget review

My wife is not so gadgety, so when I get a new device I like writing a quick blog about it in layman's terms without all the technical mumbo jumbo.  I got 2 new devices this past weekend that I quite like and thought I'd share with you:

Beats Solo 3

You get 3 main categories of headphones:
  • In-ear earphones: These are the types of earphones you wedge into your earhole (like those that come with your smartphone)
  • On-ear headphones: These usually have a band over your head and have medium sized capsules that are about the same size as your ears
  • Over-ear headphones: These have a bigger capsules and completely cover your ear and normally seal the sound off (like radio studio headphones)
Unless you want to look like you're in a control tower trying to communicate with a plane, you'd rather go for a set of in-ear or on-ear ones when at gym or travelling.

Whilst I do already have reasonable set of in-ear earphones, I find that I'm constantly fiddling with the things in my ear and I can still hear a lot of ambient room noise, so they are often just not loud enough for me. So this past weekend my wife bought me a pair of Beats Solo 3 wireless "on-ear" headphones and I'm in love. With the headphones. And my wife.

Beats Solo 3
There are those in the industry who say you're paying too much for a Beats product. Yes, you do pay a premium, but you are getting a premium headset. The Solo 3's fit snugly on my ears and produce a phenomenal sound (some people find Beats have too much bass... for me, I like a good thump).

Besides the audio quality, this specific model has another little gem up its sleeve... battery life. Now that Apple have the licence rights to the product they've spruced it up with a W1 chip. What does that mean for you? This chip has increased the battery life from an average of 12 hours (which the previous model had) to an industry leading 40 hours! It only takes about 2 hours to fully charge the headphones again.

Also, if you're an iPhone user its now even easier to sync the headphones with your device. You simply hold headphones close to your phone and you get a screen-pop up asking if it can sync for you. No more having to go into bluetooth settings and trying to pair the devices manually.

Most retailers are selling the headphones for about R4999, but Takealot often runs them on their site at a few hundred rand less.

Zagg Ignition 12

How often do you find yourself scrambling to find a power outlet because your smartphone or iPad is about to go flat, but you still need to use the device? Well, the solution is to have a portable power charger with you. It's essentially a spare battery that you have pre-charged and it supplies power to (and charges) your own phone's battery without you needing to find a plug socket.

They come in all sizes, but if you can think of it like a bucket, the larger the bucket, the more water (or in our case, power) it can store. The "size of the bucket" is usually measured in mAh. Don't worry about what it means, suffice to say a device that might be the size of a triple thick credit card might charge your phone once and is about 2300 mAh. A power bank the size of a pack of 20 ciggies might be about 5000 mAh and charge your phone twice.

Well, I just got sampled with the Zagg Ignition 12, which is the size of a tiny clutch purse (an analogy for my wife) and packs 12000 mAh, which means it can charge your smartphone 4 times before going flat, or fully charge an iPad and smartphone once. That's a lot of portable power in your hands.

Zagg Ignition 12

But what makes the Zagg Ignition 12 stand out for me is 2 extra little features built in.
  • It has 2 charge speeds. It has a 1Amp USB port (that charges about the same speed as a normal phone charger) and a 2.1Amp USB port (which charges an iPad at normal speed or an iPhone much faster).
  • A little gimmicky, but could come in handy, it has a LED torch light built in. 
This is not the kind of power bank you want to keep in your pocket as it's quite heavy, but it's ideal if you're going away for the weekend camping and need to keep your phones charged, or as an emergency power backup at home. It should retail in stores for about R699 (the supplier did mention it's in the Takealot store, but I couldn't find it there sth time of writing this blog).

Happy gadgeting!

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Wedding anniversary at Makweti Safari Lodge

Nicole and I celebrate our wedding anniversary next week. We got married on 7/7/7.  Ten years and 2 kids later she still laughs at my (same) jokes and we still hug and kiss each other every day. Being a big milestone, we decided to leave our young girls with gran and have a few days alone together to celebrate the 3650 days. What better way to connect as a couple than in the bush. No cellphone signal. No ability to check what’s happening on Facebook. No television.

MakwetiIf you live in Johannesburg (or are a tourist and arrive at OR Tambo airport), there’s a great “Big 5” game reserve only 2.5 hours north of the city called Welgevonden. We’ve been there a few times before, stayed at various lodges and love the proximity of it as well as all the animal sightings.

This time round, being our anniversary, we decided to spoil ourselves by staying at the 5 star Makweti Safari Lodge. With only 5 secluded villas (and more staff than guests) you know you’re in for a pampered time. Believe me, we were not disappointed. From the sounds of the African drum being played on our arrival to the warm hospitality of the staff throughout our stay, it truly was a luxurious 3-night excursion away from home. 


It started with a rope bridge walk to the villa..


The villa itself was luxurious as you would expect from a 5 star lodge:


We had our own pool (but being the middle of winter was way too cold to swim):


We had romantic baths prepared for us on our return from evening game drives...


Without any fencing, there’s always a possibility that animals roam right past your front door. There were often zebra and smaller animals at the watering hole in the camp. We even had an elephant swing past to say howzit one morning.


What makes the experience 5-star for me though, besides the world class amenities, is the service. The hosts Neil and Jessica are kind and attentive without being in your face. It’s as if they appeared when needed and melted into the background when Nicole and I enjoyed romantic lunches and dinners for two on the viewing deck. And the food… oh my lord, each meal was carefully crafted by the hands-on chef and was probably some of the best meals Nicole and I have eaten in a long time. In fact, it’s probably what I’ll remember the most about the experience. Since I also had pudding at every lunch and dinner setting, I probably walked away slightly heavier than when we arrived.


Even the table decor was always laid out with careful preparation:


Whilst we had one "communal" dinner with fellow guests, Nicole and I preferred dining alone, and we had a romantic table set up for us every day:



When it came to the game drives, we went on a 3-4 hour ride every morning and afternoon and saw some truly spectacular sights, the most memorable was a cheetah and her 3 cubs feeding on a fresh kill (pic blurry due to my iPhone zoom!):


There was also the lion who was having a morning nap in the bushes...


What I found equally enjoyable was our game ranger’s imparting of knowledge (without being one of those in-your-face cocky types). With an honours degree in botany, Neil even got us fascinated in the fauna and flora as we drove along the gravel roads.


Being the middle of winter, it got pretty chilly on the game drive vehicle, but Neil and Jessica had that covered with hot water bottles, warm ponchos, hand warmers and… and some much enjoyed Amarula on ice at sunset. Being the boy scout that I am, I had come prepared and just donned my own kit, so I looked like a cold ninja burglar…

Nicole and I loved our time there. Thank you to our hosts Neil and Jessica for making our anniversary so special. We look forward to coming back again soon! If you want to have a 5 -star bush break, we highly recommend Makweti Safari Lodge.


This was a paid-for holiday and not a sponsored post. 
In today's age of always moaning about bad service, its great to give praise where due.

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Parenting with the help of gadgets

It's been quite a while since I've done a parenting blog. I'm by no means the expert parent. My girls are abundantly loved and hugged every day, but they also make me pull my non-existent hair out. Admittedly, there are times when I know I probably shouldn't drop the f-bomb, but it's the only way to overcome some or other parental calamity that's unfolding. Let's face it, when an adult and child have an argument, there isn't always a "meeting of minds".  But that's how parenting goes... you just get in the trenches and do what you think is the very best for your kids.

In my attempts to continually provide my girls with a routine and structure I've been using 2 apps in recent weeks that I think is making life a little easier at home. I thought I would share them with you as it might help you reduce the F-bombs too.

The first is the iPad timer

Kids countdown timer
My girls are really big dawdlers in the mornings, and despite telling them a million times that they need to be ready at 7am as we need to leave for school, they are inevitably still only scratching the surface of their mountain of cornflakes with just seconds to go.

I've now made it easier for them, by using a countdown app on an iPad. There are many available in the app store. I use VISUAL TASK TIMER. It's a simple visualisation, both in numbers and by means of a continually closing circle. When they wake up in the morning we set the app to countdown to 7am. The girls know to be ready when it finishes and as the alarm goes off, they (normally) switch off the TV and go downstairs to get in the car.

Countdown app

The second app is the bean counter

Bean appI got this idea from my daughter's class where the teacher has 2 jars with marbles in them. The shiny balls flow between the "good" and "bad" jars as the day progresses. What I like about it, is that they're communal jars and the results impact all the kids. They have to uplift each other to ensure that they're not all adversely affected by a few naughty kids in the class. At the end of the week, if they have more 'good" marbles, they get to watch a movie in class.

I searched high and low to find an app version of this that I could use on the girls at home. The closest I have come to it is BEAN.

There are "green beans' which they click on when they are good, and the "red beans" which I usually land up clicking on when they are not so good. It works quite well. If they are squabbling, they hear the click click of the red beans and often stop fighting straight away.

Bean app
When they wake up they get green beans as follows:
  • Getting out of bed without moaning - 5 beans
  • Having a morning wee - 2 beans
  • Brushing teeth - 2 beans
  • Getting dressed without an argument - 5 beans
  • Eating their breakfast - 2 beans
If they're naughty I assign red beans depending on how many green beans they have (it's the card up dad's sleeve so i get the result I want).  If they go to bed with more green beans they get to watch TV and play with iPads the next day. If they go to bed with more red than green beans, there is no TV the next day. Period. So far it seems to be working and its a bit of a game to get as many green beans as possible each day.

Hope these tips help your day! If you have any more gadgety tips, leave them in the "comments" section.

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