Category Archives: Reviews

Hear Me Say Words on the Cool Tools Podcast

The latest Cool Tools podcast has just been released, and I am extremely humbled and honored to be the featured guest. It was so exciting to speak about several of my favorite and most fun tools with hosts Kevin Kelly and Mark Frauenfelder. We discussed juggling balls, kite winders, a caricature drawing guide, and more!

The podcast is part of the fantastic Cool Tools web site, which features a uniquely wonderful tool each weekday. I love how the site focuses on user-generated reviews of tried and tested tools that people are passionate about.

In late 2013, Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities, was announced. It’s a mammoth paperback companion book to Cool Tools, featuring 10 years of reviews featured on the site. Unable to ignore my enthusiasm about the upcoming book, my wife immediately pre-ordered it for me as a gift, and I’ve been happily perusing its giant pages ever since.

Cool Tools

You can download the latest Cool Tools podcast to your device via iTunes, or listen directly from the Cool Tools website.



The Datexx Miracle Cube Timer

We just got a Datexx miracle cube timer to help the kids with things like toy sharing and limiting their screen time. We love it! I may have to pick up another one just for myself to use for exercising, instrument and juggling practice, gaming, or other activities. It would also be great for personal productivity, meditation, or time management strategies such as the pomodoro technique. You just turn it on, flip it so the desired number of minutes is on top, and do your thing until the alarm sounds. Flipping it over to “0” turns the alarm off.  Overall, it’s very easy to use for kids.Datexx 2
These are way better than your average kitchen timers, especially because there is no ticking sound to stress you out or break your concentration. If you do need to keep track of time, there is a small digital display on one side that counts down to zero. The miracle cube timer comes in a variety of different colors which relate to varying combinations of timed increments, going up to an hour. It is perfect for managing kids at home or in the classroom, or for anyone looking for a simple, fun, and easy way to time their activities.

Maker Dad, Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects

As my daughter has grown, we’ve moved up from simple paper and glue crafts to working through more involved project books. I’m now always on the lookout for good project books suitable for the whole family. One of our favorites that we’ve found is Mad Professor, by Mark Frauenfelder. We’ve done several of the projects, such as the Shrunken Head, Old Tyme Robot, and Mini Glideabout, which the kids loved, but the dog–not so much. 

Shrunken Head project from Mad Professor

Shrunken Head project from Mad Professor

Now Mark has a new book that we’re even more excited about, called Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects. We’ve already completed our first project–astro ice cream. When I was young, I only remember completing a handful of projects from the project books that I had. Many were too complicated, used exotic chemicals, or were just plain boring. I’d pick the coolest ones (often repeating them) and then move on to something else.

When I flipped through Maker Dad with my daughter and asked her which projects she wanted to tackle, she said all of them! So did I! For a family project to work, everyone has to be interested and engaged, and this is where I think this book stands out. All of the projects seem challenging, educational, and fun for kids as well as parents.

We’re especially excited to make a Friendstrument – an instrument you play with a friend. We’ll be  sure to post our finished product. If you’re looking for a great family project book, be sure to check out Maker Dad.

Fashion for Fashionless Dads: Lee Modern Series Jeans Review

Lee Modern Series StraightIt seems that the conventional sentiment regarding fashion sensibilities of new dads is: they have none. Sadly enough, I often have no right debating this common assertion. I used to believe that I had exceptional style, but lately I’ve been delighted with myself just for getting into clothes that pass the “sniff test.”

Can you relate, dads? Do you reach for your favorite “holy” jogging pants and highly stained “World’s Best Dad” t-shirts so you can switch from rough-housing with the kids, to mowing the lawn, to taking out the trash? Has raising kids reinforced your stance of comfort over style? What’s the point of wearing a suit when your son is going to fling a banana peel at your front side, while your daughter is stamping you with markers on your backside, and your wife is pointing out the half-eaten meatball currently stuck to your bottom side? Yes, that may have actually happened.

During our newborn days in particular, I committed fashion faux pas with the same regularity as taking out the trash. Once, when leaving for work, I forgot to swap my red slippers with my dress shoes. I can now state with authority that Dorothy is a nickname that never gets old with co-workers.

Far worse was the time I was running late to work and left wearing two hats. I was on my way out the door when I spotted my favorite hat on the floor. My arms were too full to carry everything, so I threw it on top of the hat I was already wearing, thinking I’d stop and drop it off as I passed the coat rack. Efficient thinking, right? My irritation due to lack of sleep and always being late would soon be supplemented by the rude people who kept staring at me as I pumped gas. People have no manners nowadays, I thought. It wasn’t until after I paid my bill and was getting back into my car that I caught the reflection of the idiot wearing two hats.


Granted, fashion takes a back seat when it comes to parenting, but there are times when you’ve got to step it up. The good news is clothing designers are beginning to cater to such needs. Take, for example, the Lees Modern Series line of jeans, which I had the opportunity to test out on a music gig last weekend. When playing music, comfort is a must, but it also has to be balanced with the reality that you’re on stage for all to see. Indeed, this would be the ultimate test!

So, how did my Lee Modern Series jeans rate providing style and comfort on stage? Well, the modern style wasn’t uncomfortable at all, as I had previously feared. The fabric had some stretch in it, unlike my usual baggy jeans. They were also softer than my old jeans right out of the box. I had some reservations when I realized that the waistline was lower than what I’m used to, but I adjusted quickly and the thought left my mind. Now, I don’t want to give the impression that I work the stage like dance fitness instructor, but I do need to move around quite a bit, and I was able to do so with ease and comfort. Because I can always be certain that I’ll look and feel great when I wear these, it will make being confident on stage that much easier.


All in all, I’m extremely happy to find a pair of snazzy, modern jeans that don’t sacrifice comfort. I’m making them my go-to pair of jeans for casual music gigs, as well as for any other times when I need to look and feel my best. The only things I don’t plan on wearing my new Lee jeans with are red slippers or multiple hats.


Final verdict: I give the Lee Modern Series jeans a Secret Dad Society seal of approval for both style and comfort!

Disclosure: Lee provided me with a pair of jeans for this review.

Find me on Facebook and Twitter for more Secret Dad Society content!