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The Porter’s Gate Volume 1: Work Songs


Thank you Porter’s Gate Worship Project for sending us this digital album to review!

I grew up Roman Catholic and then attended a Baptist church in my teenage years. Both of those churches had traditional hymns with only an organ or piano and vocals. I appreciate a good hymn, but I also love contemporary worship with a wide variety of instruments or even a symphonic band! Seeing a need for worship revival, The Porter’s Gate started a creative movement to compose some new worship songs with the help of first-rate singers, songwriters, and musicians.

The theme for this collaborative effort is vocation and they hope to use music as an opportunity to extend hospitality and build bridges with our neighbors. I think they achieved this goal of creating music that is beautiful, truth-filled, and inspiring in this thirteen-track album.


There’s a lot of variety in each of the songs with some of them having a male lead singer while others feature a female lead singer. Urban Doxology was part of the collaboration project too. The voices are all great and I didn’t hear any sour notes. Some of the songs feature just a piano while others have an entire symphony. There are some somber songs and others are energetic.

Like many worship songs, I have to hear the songs a couple of times to have them resonate with me. Listening to this album multiple times has been a pleasant and uplifting experience. The lyrics are God honoring and the music is catchy. I caught myself tapping my foot while listening.

The debut album is due to release on October 6th, 2017 and I highly recommend checking it out through your favorite music provider. I look forward to more inspiring music from Porter’s Gate Worship Project!

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Solo Velocity Everyday Max Backpack Duffel

Specifications:
Body size: 21"x13"x8"
Weight: 2.40 lbs
Fully padded 17.3" laptop compartment
Internal tablet pocket
Separate shoe compartment
Large size zippered pockets
Padded carry handles
Padded back and backpack straps

Strong Points: Unique, well thought out design; looks very nice; lots of pockets, with a very large main duffel area; laptop pouch is extra large, and well padded
Weak Points: Small number of larger pouches; no location for pens or notepads (pens do fit in pockets though); no shoulder strap reinforcements

Thank you Solo for sending us this backpack to review!

I have always cared deeply about what kind of backpack I have used. I went through several cheaper ones before I finally settled upon one that has lasted – a Swiss Gear. The build quality was a huge step above the several cheap ones I used before that; despite the ~+50% price increase, it has been worth every penny, because it has lasted well on the order of ten years. Sometimes it's worth it to pay more, because it may last more than twice as long. But despite this, my excellent Swiss Gear is finally starting to show its age – flaking ends, the logo was lost years ago, and more signs that it needs to be retired soon. So, when I had the chance to review a new backpack, I jumped on it.

Now, it needs to be said that I am nowhere near as rough on backpacks as I used to be. I no longer regularly take the train to work, nor am I a college student any longer (thankfully). So, a bag that looks good, meets my basic needs, and holds my stuff is more than enough.

Having only really owned a school or work oriented backpack, I was more than a little shocked when I saw not only a well padded laptop compartment, but a place to put my shoes! While probably not important for many students, I was surprised how useful this could be.

solo duffel

In order to really put this backpack through its paces, I decided to bring it to work as fully packed as I could. I just so happened to have a scheduled ping pong tournament game at work, so I had a good excuse to bring my gym shoes along; I then filled up the shoe compartment with my size 12 shoes. I packed both my massive gaming laptop, along with the requisite power brick (large enough to be confused with a masonry brick), and my work MacBook Pro and power supply. I also included my fancy headphones and amp, as well as filled up the pockets with an umbrella, Wi-Fi hotspot (perk for being an on-call IT person), and various cables and adapters like I usually do.

The total weight was 20.5 pounds. I have to carry my backpack through a parking garage, up the stairs, up an elevator to the ninth floor, and over to my desk. Thankfully, the backpack not only held up well, but was comfortable to carry. It looks sharp, and believe it or not, it got complimented, as a few coworkers noticed me no longer carrying the company issued laptop bag that I have been using the last few years. I have used it since, and I am pleased with the performance since then.

The main color is a dark grayish blue, with a gray bottom. There are also black zippers along with yellow handles and other accents. I like the look. The front seems oddly flat at first, but the front zipper actually pops open to a central access door, as well as access to all of the uniquely located pockets lined along the opening on each side. It's an unusual design, but it works well. You can hold fairly large things in that main pouch, even if you decide to pack shoes also. If I had an overnight trip away from home, this would be the perfect thing to bring – you could easily pack shoes, a change of clothes, toiletries, and of course a computer, and be ready to rock. It even has a water bottle or umbrella holder on each side, and they are large enough to actually hold said things (unlike some other backpacks I've used with token worthless pockets on the side).

solo duffel

While there is indeed a lot to like about this backpack, and indeed I do like it, I have some nits to pick. First of all, there really isn't a good single larger pouch available for cables, adapters, or other miscellaneous things like most backpacks I have used. There isn't really a good place for a notepad either, as the laptop pouch doesn't have any dividers outside of the tablet pouch (which may be able to fit a notepad if you like). Thankfully, it's tall enough where I can sneak my power brick below the laptop without issue.

Without that large pouch, this one forces you to be organized, and take advantage of the many smaller pouches available. I have adjusted for the most part, but until I remember where everything is, it takes me a bit longer to find my things. Also, the tablet pouch is a bit thin, so if your case is a larger one with a keyboard, it may not be large enough for you. Finally, the shoulder straps are not reinforced like the toughest backpacks I have used. In cheaper packs, it's always the place where the shoulder strap joins with the body that breaks first. It's too early to tell if that will happen here, though they do seem firmly attached. The many handles on the top, sides, and even bottom are well made and very strong.

In the week or so that I have had this backpack, I have used it every day and really enjoy it so far. While I have had to adapt to its quirks, it can hold a lot, it's very comfortable, and it protects my things well. It looks nice, which is also important. If you are looking for a backpack that can double as a duffel bag, with a single, cavernous compartment, then I highly recommend checking out Solo's Everyday Max Backpack.

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Iserlohn Non Stick Silicone Baking Mat Set

For the reasonable price of $12.99 you can get 2 FDA approved and BPA/BPP free mats that measure 16.5” long , 11.6” wide, and 0.03” thick. These are the perfect size for half-sheet baking pans. The corners are trimmed so they’re easy to lift up as well. Because these mats can withstand temperatures up to 500 °F, you can use them instead of wax paper or aluminum foil to protect your baking pans. Alternatively, you can freeze them as long as your freezer doesn’t go below -40 °F. The mats can be cleaned up with soapy water or ran through the dishwasher. They’re pretty flexible (pun intended) when it comes to storage as well. You can store them flat, folded, or rolled up to save space.

The two mats have different designs and I used the one with the inches and centimeters on it for rolling out some pie dough. I’d much rather sprinkle flour on and roll on top of a baking mat than my kitchen counter top. Pizza dough will be another great use for these mats. Having both of them will come in handy for really big pizza crusts! Here’s the recipe I use for making deep dish pizza.

With Mother’s day around the corner this set would make a great gift for mothers out there that enjoy baking. As an added bonus, a bright red silicone spatula is included. I can never have enough spatulas and the red one will be much easier to find in my silverware drawer too. My family and I look forward to many more meals and desserts made with the help of these baking mats. They seem pretty durable and I’m sure we’ll be enjoying them for many years to come. This set is priced lower than competing models and comes with a bonus spatula. How can you beat that?


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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Whelek Self-Inflating Camp Pad

Thank you Whalek for sending us a review sample!

Family camp-outs are fun and our kids aren’t too picky when it comes to just using a sleeping bag to separate themselves from the tent and gravel/dirt terrain underneath them.  My husband and I appreciated the foam padding we brought along, but sadly, foam often breaks apart over time.

The Whalek sleeping/camp pad is pretty durable and has many nice features with my favorite being the self-inflation.  The valve is easy to use, though if there was an instruction manual included, I would have gladly read it.  The construction is solid and looks like it can take a bit of a beating.  The carrying bag on the other hand isn’t as forgiving as I can already see some loosened stitches.  This can be problematic as we all know that putting things back in their original containers is never as easy as removing them!

 

My 5’7” body fit nicely on this sleeping mat, but my 6’2” husband had his feet dangling off the end a bit.  In conjunction with a sleeping bag using this camp pad is more comfortable than without. However, if I had a choice between a sleeping mat or an inflatable air mattress I would choose the latter without a second thought!  A couch still trumps an air mattress if there isn’t a bed available.  

The asking price of $60 is a bit more expensive than the others available on Amazon or Ebay.  The sleeping mask is a nice add-on though and I enjoyed using that more than the mat.   I do plan on bring this along on our next camping trip and I enjoy the compact size after a couple of attempts of folding and squeezing it back into its carrying bag.  The Whelek Self-Inflating Camp Pad is great for camping trips and I recommend picking one up if you love sleeping outdoors.

 

 
(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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Iserlohn Bronze Wind Chime

Thank you Iserlohn for sending us this bronze wind chime!

When my oldest daughter was a toddler we did a nine-hour road trip to Missouri to visit my mom and step dad.  It was a nice trip, but when we were half-way home on the way back, the unimaginable happened.  My daughter puked in the car when we still had another 4.5 hours to go!  We stopped at the closest gas station and used up a lot of paper towels to clean up what we could.   The gas station attendants knew what was going on and took pity on us and gave her some lemon lime pop to soothe her stomach a bit.  While we were at the counter my daughter took notice of the wind chimes and as many toddlers would do, grabbed one and broke it.  Since the gas station refused to let me pay for the broken wind chime, we bought a different one that used to be a lot fuller and purpler than it is today.  

 

It’s definitely time for a replacement.  Upon opening up the new wind chime, I noticed that some of the chimes were tangled, but thankfully they were easy to separate again.  There are also two extra hangers included with the wind chime.   The build quality is good and it looks pretty sturdy with the exception of the plastic ring on top.  While it won’t rust like the previous one did, I still wonder how much of a beating it will take with the 50MPH+ winds we can get here in Illinois.  

 

I like the bronze color, though this wind chime is available in silver as well.  Both models are reasonably priced at $19.99.  The design is sleek and the chimes sound great when there is a mild breeze outside.  Thankfully, I haven’t heard it in a violent wind storm (yet).


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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Iserlohn Office Chair Caster Wheels

Thank you Iserlohn for sending us these office wheels to review!

I used to roller-blade quite often before having kids.  I still put on my Rollerblades every so often, but not as much as I used to.  I’m familiar with doing standard maintenance including rotating the wheels and greasing/replacing the bearings in them. There are many different kinds of wheels available and in varying degrees of firmness.  The softer wheels will give you a smoother ride, but will wear down faster.    Apparently, softer wheels are great on office chairs if you have wood, or another smooth floor surface.  I wish I had known about these before our wood floors got scratched up by the anti-scratch mats we bought for them. If we would have started off with these wheels, our ruined wood floor could have been avoided entirely!

Included in this $19.99 bundle are five orange or teal wheels with ABEC 7 bearings in them.  These are some pretty fast bearings! They make me want to roll down my driveway, or a big hill, or a long corridor if I worked in a stuffy office building.  If I did give into that temptation, I would no doubt lodge some gravel or sand into my wheels and ruin my wood floor some more!  

Installation was a breeze.  It took me less than a minute to pull off my old wheels and install the new ones.  The orange wheels are much brighter and are definitely more noticeable.  Black or gray would be more professional, but are not available from this vendor.  When going in a single direction the movement on these wheels is buttery smooth.  However, changing directions takes a little more effort with these wheels than the standard wide ones.  Vertically challenged people will be happy to know that these wheels will raise your chair an extra inch or so.

Despite the more effort needed to change directions, I’m still pleased with these wheels.  When we get our floors fixed and remove the throw rug covering the scuffs, we’ll be buying a couple more sets!


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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Recent Comments
Atown
How well do they roll on throw rugs or carpet tile?
Thursday, 30 March 2017 15:35
Cheryl Gress
They work good on the throw rugs in our office, like butter on the wood floors ... Read More
Thursday, 30 March 2017 17:28
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Iserlohn Garden Hose

Thank you Iserlohn for sending us this 50-foot expandable hose to review!

Last summer we had the pleasure of reviewing VicTsing’s garden hose nozzle and my kids helped in the reviewing process by washing our cars with it and getting sprayed down when it was hot outside.  While I didn’t have any issues with the nozzle in that review, my hose was definitely aging and leaking by the faucet, causing a reduction in water pressure.  A new hose was in order and now we got one to test out.  

hose

Since it’s not even spring and barely in the 50’s temperature wise, our testing options are limited.  I hooked up this flexible hose next to our deck and proceeded to spray liquid and solid forms of dog waste off of our deck.  The water leaking issue by the faucet was gone and the water pressure was strong enough to remove some of the stain from our deck that was painted only last year.  For what it’s worth it was chipping last year too and we plan on using a different brand next time.

I like the braided fabric that’s available in multiple colors including black, blue, green, and red.  No matter what color you choose, the handy carrying bag is blue.  I also like that they include twelve extra washers for when the current ones get worn out and cracked.  While not part of the Amazon package, I also received another VicTsing garden hose nozzle which sadly disintegrated upon use.  Fortunately, last year’s model is still working perfectly.

broken nozzle

The brass connectors seem sturdy, though the rubber sleeves underneath them slide out of place.  The shut off valve is nice and works as expected.  Before using the hose, it managed to get tangled a bit but untangling it wasn’t that bad.  I like how this hose doesn’t kink-up and stop the water flow like my old one did.

Overall, this is a nice $26 hose that I would recommend considering if you’re in the market for one.  I have reservations about recommending the VicTsing garden hose nozzle now though.  


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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VicTsing Garden Hose Nozzle

hose nozzle

Thank you VicTsing for sending us this product to review!

There are many uses for a garden hose nozzle and we put this eight-mode gadget to the test by using it on three children and washing two cars.  While hosing down my kids on a hot summer day, they seemed to enjoy the mist mode the best. Not only was it gentle and refreshing, it also produced rainbows as an added bonus.  The Cone mode is a little stronger than the mist and the kids liked that one as well.  If you’re looking for some more power that’s not too forceful, the flat mode is another good option to use.

The soaker mode was a disappointment and seemed to dribble more than soak anything.  It could be an issue on my end since there was water leaking out of both ends of my garden hose.  All of the other modes worked flawlessly despite the leaks.  There wasn’t any text or instructions included in the packaging.  Just the nozzle and an extra washer.  The nozzle did have a washer in place as I checked to make sure that wasn’t the source of the water leak.  The hose used is old so I blame that for the leaks and not the nozzle.

If you need a bunch of streams, the center mode is a good one to use and the aptly named shower mode has several streams as well.  The shower mode is great for watering plants.    The jet mode has a powerful beam and the rinse mode is similar but stronger and great for taking off soap from a freshly washed car.

Overall, my kids and I are very pleased with this garden hose nozzle and look forward to more car washes and summer fun with it.  It’s probably time for us to get a new hose though.


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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Layton v Wright: Dawn of Puzzles (Batman v Superman Parody)

New video out! It's a bit different from our usual Sonic Sitcom cartoons. Any Professor Layton fans out there? How about Phoenix Wright fans? I think you guys would enjoy this one:

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VicTsing Breathalyzer

Thank you VicTsing for sending us a review sample!

In all honesty, I rarely drink.  In fact, all of the alcohol in the house is used for cooking recipes only.  To test this breathalyzer out, I drank ¼ cup of soft, semi-dry white wine while preparing some braised chicken that called for it.  Setting up and using the breathalyzer is pretty easy.  The most difficult part (other than drinking wine that I’m not fond of) was putting in the three AAA batteries.  The batteries were a pretty tight fit, but I got them in by applying some pressure.  

breathalyzer

On the back side of the device is storage for five mouthpieces.  To use the device, simply insert a mouthpiece on either side of the device and press the power button.  The breathalyzer will beep and warm up for fifteen seconds.  When it’s ready it will beep again and you’ll have to blow for five to ten seconds until it beeps again to let you know that it’s done.

wine

Depending on your results, it will rate your blood alcohol level at a normal, caution, or danger level.  If it’s in the danger range, it will beep a few times to get your attention. According to the user manual, you have to wait twenty minutes after you have been drinking to get reliable results.  If you test yourself shortly after drinking, the results will be inflated.

breathalyzer

For my experiment I tested the breathalyzer before drinking and it accurately displayed at 0.000 (blood alcohol level) BAC.  After I drank the ¼ cup of wine, I tested myself again for grins and it registered at 0.101BAC and gave me the danger warning.  After waiting the recommended twenty minutes my BAC level was at 0.090.  A few minutes later it was back to 0.000.   

breathalyzer

Since I prefer not to drink, this device probably won’t get much use unless I suspect my kids in a few years.  For everyone else, the VicTsing breathalyzer is reasonably priced at less than $23 shipped on Amazon.  It’s compact and is the size of a flip phone and comes with a vinyl carrying case to keep it from getting scratched.  This breathalyzer is pretty easy to use and hopefully will save some lives.

 

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Buyus Colored Pencils

Buyus Colored Drawing Sketching Pencils
Developed by: BuyusDirect
Price: $12.95
(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Highlights:

Strong Points: Very durable pencils; sturdy container; hex-shape makes them less likely to roll
Weak Points: Faint colors unless you press hard

Thank you, BuyusDirect, for sending us a set of these pencils to review!

We were approached at Christ Centered Gamer to review a set of colored pencils from a company called BuyusDirect – not normally a product we cover, but we don't mind being experimental. It's good to branch out now and then!

The pencils came quickly from Amazon, and contain 36 pencils in a wide variety of shades. The container is a sturdy cylinder, made of yellow-covered cardboard and topped with a durable plastic cap. The writing on most of the container appears to be Chinese, and what little English that is on the container makes little sense. There is a picture of some sort of bear wearing sunglasses in the middle – presumably the "Mr. Cuya" that appears below the picture. Around the portrait of the bear is the odd phrase "CUYA STORY – They love each other and happy every day." Underneath the title of "Mr. Cuya" is another peculiar phrase, "Cool is a kind of life is also a kind of attitude." 

case

Despite the odd use of "Engrish" on the package, the pencils within are of fine quality. Each pencil is six-sided, which means they are less prone to roll off the table than your typical colored pencil. The colored lead within each is durable, and not prone to snapping or crumbling over heavy use. My daughters have enjoyed using them quite a bit, and I've even used them to try and sketch out a quiet, nature scene (which also told me that my drawing skills are sorely out of practice). The colors aren't terribly bold, though, unless you press hard. Fortunately, the lead is durable enough to withstand this kind of pressure. Unfortunately, when my wife tried to use them, it led to her having cramped fingers after just a few minutes of coloring.  

 Another thing that we found odd was the price. The Buyus pencils have a list price of $49.99, but we've seen them on sale for around $12. However, when you compare them to Faber-Castells – one of the premium names in artistic pencils – you can get a set of 48 pencils, and an eraser, for $30.79, also from Amazon. Another thing to consider – Faber-Castells often have the name of the color stamped on the side, while the Mr. Cuya pencils don't. It's a minor point, though – the hue of the paint on the outside of the pencil is going to be the hue you get when you touch it to paper. 

Buyus coloring pencils

All in all, these pencils have a very good quality, but require a bit of effort to really make the colors stand out. They can be a good deal if purchased on sale, but at their full price, you may be better off looking to one of its competitors.


(Amazon Affilate Link)

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uFashion3C Running Belt

running belt

Thank you uFashion3C for sending us a review sample!

Every morning I remember to put some pants on. However, I don’t always choose to wear sweat pants with built in pockets. As luck would have it, those are typically days with ideal weather for walking the dog or riding my bike. For short shopping trips I like to ride my bike and I need to have my phone on me for the inevitable phone call asking me to pick up another item while I’m at the store. Without pockets, what am I to do?

My fluorescent yellow fanny pack is an option, though long out of style. Even if I did have my phone in there I wouldn’t be able to interact with it without removing it from the fanny pack. The universal running waist pack solved that problem with a slim design and a plastic window that accepts your swipes without having to remove the phone. The model reviewed supports iPhone 6/6S/6S Plus, and the Samsung Galaxy S5, S6, as well as Note 4/5. My Galaxy S4 with an Otterbox cover worked just fine. 

Another great feature is the headphone jack port that lets you connect ear buds to your phone without having to remove it from the belt. The straps are adjustable up to a 48” waist and the water resistant/sweat proof material is smooth and soft to the touch. (Much softer than my fanny pack!)

There are a wide variety of colors available from fluorescent pink, green, blue to dark blue, red, white and black. My hubby was bummed that I chose hot pink. For an additional ten dollars, hydration models sporting two water bottles are available. The base model is a reasonable $9.99 on Amazon and ships free if you’re a prime member. If you’re into exercising and don’t want to miss a call, then I highly recommend picking up a running belt from uFashion3C. 


(Amazon Affiliate link)
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Two New YouTube Videos!

Two New YouTube Videos!

My siblings and I have two new videos on YouTube.

One is a continuation of our Sonic videos. It is about our versions of the characters meeting the Sonic Boom versions of the characters: 

The other is a message video from our other channel, Ordinary People. It takes Bible verses and puts them together like a story: 

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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