Over the course of the year, we’ve had the opportunity to review many products – both good and bad.  Here are a few that have impressed us enough to recommend for rewarding yourself or for placement under the Christmas tree in your home this year. Select from any of these 2016 Gift Guide selections and have a happy holiday.



Most 5.1 systems I’ve check out recently were small and sounded just as small. Not the Enclave Audio system. The cabinetry is solid and it’s a good thing, because when you crank these guys up, they are going to rock your house.  Your DVD collection never had it so good before.

After starting softly, and appreciating the full 5.1 surround sound effect, it was time to demo some DVD soundtracks, like the opening scene from Top Gun. Okay, I watched it three times in a row, loving the stereo separation and room rocking sound.

If you’ve ever looked at some of the Audio magazines on your local retailer’s shelves, you know that most systems reviewed are in the $5,000 and up category, making them out of reach for many home theater owners.  At an MSRP of just $1,199 with free shipping, this makes Enclave Audio not only attainable, but certainly the best value available at anywhere near this price point.


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Western Digital has an entire line of My Cloud products for all your hard drive storage situations.  Once you decide that you are going to take responsibility for maintaining your own files in addition to any “free” cloud storage you can get, the thing to consider is a NAS (network attached storage) drive.  With a NAS, you create your own cloud (hence the “My Cloud” designation) and now you have access to your contents from home, office or anywhere you have Internet access.

I’ve been using the My Cloud EX2 Ultra (Model WDBVKW0040JCH)  for over six months.  It’s available in 4TB, 8TB and 16TB models. It has two bays, with two hard drives, so you can create redundant backups and really be sure your data is safe. It can be configured as RAID 0, 1, JBOD and spanning for some real flexibility.  Just remember, if you choose RAID, you cut your total disk storage space in half for all practical purposes.

In addition to basic storage, you’ll be amazed at all the additional capabilities packed into this Expert Series of NAS storage devices. It comes with its own 1GB of RAM and a Marvel ARMADA 1.3 GHz dual-core processor, so it can perform some awesome functions all on its own.  In addition, there are two USB ports on the back, so it can host additional drives for additional storage and additional functions.

Western Digital My Cloud EX2 Ultra showing the USB ports

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With the rise in popularity of the tiny home or the popularity of the mobile RV lifestyle, it’s obvious that those big sprawling kitchens aren’t going to be in your future. So how do you maintain your gourmet lifestyle while trimming back your space requirements? A two-pronged attack is working for us: Circulon Ultimum cookware and a portable NuWave induction cooktop.

Check out any Kohl’s store and you’ll now find a complete set of cookware in a box. The Circulon Ultimum 11-pc. Forged Aluminum Nonstick Cookware Set (Model no. 10983) has everything you’ll need to make the majority of those recipes you most love.

The Circulon Ultimum 11-pc. Set includes:

  • 2-qt. covered saucepan
  • 3-qt. covered saucepan
  • 6-qt. covered stockpot
  • 3-qt. covered saute pan
  • 8-in. French skillet
  • 75-in. French skillet
  • 12-in. French skillet

In addition to all the flexibility from all those different size pans, they can all go in the oven and are safe up to 450°F.  Hand washing any fine pan is recommended, but the entire set of Circulon pans and lids are all rated “truly dishwasher safe.” A “hassle free” lifetime warranty backs up their claim.

circulon-ultimum cookware set in a box

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BLACK+DECKER 5-Minute Pizza Oven and Snack Maker (Model P300S)

In a hurry for pizza?  Get ready for the Lamborghini of pizza ovens. The BLACK+DECKER 5-Minute Pizza Oven and Snack Maker (Model P300S) is the ultimate speed demon. It’s called the 5-Minute Pizza Maker, but we’ve had pizzas completely done in as quick as 3-minutes. Now that’s what you need for a hungry crew!

You can cook both fresh and frozen pizzas with the same speed.  How’s that you say?  With dual heating elements, top and bottom, this baby can heat up to over 625°F.  We always let the oven preheat for five minutes or more so the ceramic tray is good and hot. Then, sliding the pizza in, you can literally watch it begin browning in less than 60-seconds.

BLACK+DECKER 5-Minute Pizza Oven and Snack Maker (Model P300S)

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If price, size and speed are scanner considerations, you might want to check out Plustek ePhoto Z300 scanner. Testing it out, I was impressed with both its speed and the quality of its scans. The feature list appeared very attractive so I was eager to try it out.

If you are looking for a photo scanner, and you don’t mind feeding your photos one at a time, the machine is available on Amazon for just $199.

If you have limited space, this is perfect.  Look how much smaller the Plustek ePhoto Z300 (right) is than my previous Epson Workforce 7520 (left).  The Epson also prints, but it takes up a ton of room on a desktop. Unfair comparison – maybe; but, the Z300 is definitely sleek and slim.


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Disclosure:  We were provided these products by the manufacturers in order to complete our reviews, but all opinions are all our own. 

Also published on Medium.