Review: Dyson’s Cinetic Big Ball Animal+Allergy

The canister is very easy to clean with no filters to wash. Image: Dyson
The canister is very easy to clean, with no filters to wash. Image: Dyson.

As the weather gets warmer, many of us are doing some spring cleaning, opening up windows, dusting, deep vacuuming (the move-the-furniture type), and more. The change of season allows us to open our windows and fill the house with fresh air. It also fills the house with plenty of allergens. When combined with the stagnant pet hair and dander, our houses can be one big allergy fest.

Enter the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal+Allergy vacuum, complete with whole-machine HEPA filtration. If you are in the market to buy a new vacuum, I can heartily recommend this one. After my long-time trusty Oreck bit the dust, I tried out a Dyson. It was much fancier than I was used to, but it works so much better. At least, once I got it assembled.

Image: Dyson
Image: Dyson.

I’ll admit to it taking me quite a while to assemble the unit. The directions weren’t very clear, and the written and visual instructions were separate. There also wasn’t a clear list of how to use all of the attachments. But, after some trial and error and bit of research, I got the thing running. It sucked up so much more than my old vacuum that I was cleaning out the canister frequently. (Oh, that’s another thing. This vacuum doesn’t use any bags, and has no filters to wash. Just lift out the canister, empty into the trash can, and reattach. Easy peasy.)

At first, I thought it wasn’t sucking up much debris, since it was so quiet. There were very few of the crackly noises I was accustomed to hearing when you vacuum up loose kitty litter or other debris. But one look at the canister and I knew how well it worked.

Easily picks up stubborn dust and pet hair. Image: Dyson
It easily picks up stubborn dust and pet hair. Image: Dyson.

Having a built-in hose on the vacuum body was also new for me. If the vacuum is reclined, you use it like an upright vacuum. But if the machine is upright (confused, yet?), you can use the on-board hose along with any of the attachments. These are great for edging, stairs, dusting, upholstery, mattresses, ceiling fans, door frames, and extra-tough pet hair. The website has plenty of ideas for how to use the attachments, but you can also use your imagination. There are also two main settings on the vacuum when not using the attachments, one for carpet and one for hard surfaces. This is the only device you need to thoroughly suck up anything on your floor, throughout your house.

The vacuum also came with a high-quality, lined canvas tote bag, which can hold all of your attachments with plenty of room to spare for other cleaning tools. Also, the vacuum body itself is sort of color-coded. Most things that you’ll need to press, check, or maneuver are colored red.

What does “Cinetic” mean? From Dyson:

Dyson Cinetic™ science

Smaller cyclones generate higher centrifugal forces, therefore capturing smaller dust particles. But the tighter the cyclone, the more likely it is to block. The solution? Flexible tips, engineered from a proprietary material, which vibrate 350 times a second. As the tips oscillate, dust is prevented from clogging the aperture. Dust as small as 0.5 microns is spun out of the airflow and into the bin – never clogging a filter.

Clean hard-to-reach areas with this clever attachment. Image: Dyson
Clean hard-to-reach areas with this clever attachment. Image: Dyson.

I have found a couple of drawbacks to the vacuum, but definitely no deal-breakers. It is quite heavy to lift (though it is easy to push, since it runs very smoothly), and I kept almost pulling it down the stairs and on top of myself while vacuuming the steps. (We have high ceilings, and the hose didn’t reach all the way to the top when I had the vacuum at the bottom.) Also, you can’t use the attachments without unwinding the power cord all the way, since the cord wraps around part of the hose. Lastly, the power button isn’t conveniently on the handle. But those are my only negative comments. I did also note that the attachments are the kind of plastic that gets very static-y, so when you’re done using them, they’ll probably be covered in hair, fur, or fluff. They’ll need to be cleaned off a bit before putting away.

Overall, however, this machine is a thing of beauty. I mean, it looks nice, which is cool, but it works. It gets the floor really clean. Walking over carpet that was just vacuumed with it makes it feel like brand new carpet. I think I’ve found my new line of vacuum.

The Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal+Allergy vacuum is the only vacuum you’ll need for all of the surfaces in your house. It’s easy to use, versatile, and easy to clean. It also never loses suction. It will clear the pet hair and allergens from your surfaces, making the air you’re breathing much cleaner. And it’s perfect for spring cleaning!

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Let Crypton Defend the Mess at Your House!

Crypton Placemat Challenge
Double-sided Crypton placemat. Photo: Maryann Goldman.

I admit it, I’m a placemat addict. I have a placemat for every holiday, season, month, and occasion that you can think of. I love changing out my kitchen table accents frequently, and the next tablescape is always on my mind! I’m always looking for new, exciting placemats at local thrift stores or department stores.

Placemat Collection
Placemat collection. Photo: Maryann Goldman.
Array of Placemats
Array of placemats. Photo: Maryann Goldman.

What I don’t enjoy about my placemats is actually letting my family use them. Seriously! I cringe as my family eats barbecue chicken. I wait for someone to miss their mouth, knock over their milk glass, or set their dirty silverware down to the side of their plate. Not messing up Mom’s placemats has turned pretty serious, as family members resort to various techniques to protect them. Some turn their placemats upside down (at least the stain will be on the back) or grab a hand towel to put on top of them. What good is a placemat that you can’t even see?!?

My luck at washing stains off placemats isn’t so good, either. Oftentimes, the oily mess won’t come off even though I pretreat. Other times, the placemat fabrics aren’t as washable as I’d like, and the placemats wrinkle or shrink. There’s just no winning, and having a table that stays looking as nice as the day I set it up eludes me.

When the people at Crypton gave me the opportunity to sample their placemats, I became an eager tester along with my family. Their motto, “Live Beautifully. Live Clean®,” was exactly what I was looking for!

Crypton Placemat Challenge
Stylish Crypton placemat. Photo: Maryann Goldman.

I already had my St. Patrick’s Day tablescape set up, and I quickly swapped out my green striped placemats for their ultra nice green suede ones. What a perfect match! All the Crypton placemats are reversible, and there’s a beautiful blue color on the other side of mine.

Crypton Placemat Challenge BBQ Sauce
Oops, I dropped it! Photo: Maryann Goldman.

I was challenged (#LifeOnCrypton) to mess up the placemats and test how easy they were to clean. I had an eager volunteer tester who was only too happy to make a mess with his barbecue sauce! The only thing better than dropping that chicken drumstick the first time was all the retakes.

The easy part was making the mess, but how did the clean up go? Great! Crypton offers several options for cleaning their fabric. Busy moms can spot-clean their Crypton placemats using a spray bottle containing water and a small amount of liquid fabric detergent. Spray on the cleaner and rub gently with a soft brush. For bigger messes, throw them in the washing machine!

I found that a small squirt of Dawn Platinum Erasing Dish Foam on a soft toothbrush worked well for me. After brushing in the detergent, I simply put that part of the placemat under the kitchen faucet and watched the stain and foam wash away. Pat dry with a clean towel.

Crypton Fabrics aren’t just for your table, either. They also make fabrics for furniture and bedding. Even your dog can have a Crypton bed!

Like what you see? Want to give them a try? Crypton is offering 10 percent off their placemats through May 1, 2015, if you use “Placemat” as the promo code when checking out.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Toys From the Attic: Have You Ever Seen Juri?

To show you just how tiny Juri toys are, I placed a quarter next to some of my collection. Photo: Rachel Cericola.

Recently, GeekMoms Cathé and Sarah talked up their various attic treasures. I’m always fascinated by these little attic adventures; it’s like your own personal Storage Wars. I’m excited to offer up something similar, but mainly because I need some help.

First, a little back-story: Back in September, my father died. Over Thanksgiving, my sister, brother, and I were together, so we made time to go through some of his things. It was all of 15 minutes.

See, my dad wasn’t much of a saver. He had a few pictures and cards, an old lighter, yearbooks, and a few other mementos. He had some blank stationary paper from when I was a kid, with pictures of animals (mostly monkeys) with funny sayings on them. It wasn’t much, but he was more about experiences than keeping actual, physical stuff.

At one point, we were up in the attic area above the garage, which was mostly packed with my brother’s college junk. However, there was one little box off to the side. Inside, we found eight smaller boxes—and I was instantly whisked back to my childhood.

Each of these teeny boxes isn’t much bigger than a matchbox. However, they are packed with the most wonderful wooden toys, in the shapes of different animals. My collection includes kangaroos, rhinos, elephants, giraffes, polar bears, monkey, tigers, and an actual zoo kit.

These toys are really small, the kind that would most certainly be deemed a choking hazard by today’s standards. I am 98-percent sure that they were sent to me from my aunt, who spent a lot of my childhood in Saudi Arabia. She would send us toys from time to time. Some were ornate and would sit upon the mantle in my room; others were downright frightening and placed in a box. However, these particular toys would be played with, cherished, and some 30-plus years down the line, found in a box in the attic above the garage.

Now, I am trying to find out more about them—and I need your help.

Once I got the toys back to New England, I did what any person would do: I looked them up on the web. I’m not interested in selling them. (I would never do that!) I just want to know more about them. It’s quite the cool find and I remember them well.

After several Google searches, I couldn’t find anything about them or the company that made them, Juri. As mentioned, each box is about the size of a matchbox, with German and English on them. Each one says the name Juri and that they’re made in Western Germany.

Giraffes and other Juri toys. Photo: Rachel Cericola.

Sadly, my aunt is also now deceased, so I asked two of her daughters if maybe they remembered them. Both initially thought they were from Sweden, until they saw the boxes, which clearly state, “Made in Western Germany.” Next, they told me that the toys were probably sent to me in the late 70s or early 80s. Late 70s probably makes the most sense, because I definitely remember playing with these things. In fact, there was actual proof inside the box.

Besides the toys, there are several slips of paper with evidence that these things were played with and well loved. One note asks, “I’d really appreciate, if you wouldn’t touch my zoo, the things are really easy to knock over. Thanx.” Those “things” were the animals. The other slips of paper show some of the names I came up with. (The “Rinos” are Archie, Veronica, and Betty, while the giraffes are Archie, Edith, and Gloria.)

Next, I turned to a good friend of mine. Her mom is originally from Witten, Germany—and is the only person I know who actually originates from Germany. She said that the toys looked vaguely familiar, but that was it.

My Google search did yield two eBay auctions and an old Etsy sale, so someone else has seen these things at some point. I am looking for anything and everything about these toys, the company, or why they are no longer in existence. Do they look familiar to you? Please sound off in the comments section below!

Let A Robot Clean Up After Your Cat

Our favorite innovation for cats. (

Recently, I warned you that robot overlords will be taking over. First sign? They’re cute and useful. Soon, we won’t be able to bear living without them. Then, if my research holds true, we humans are well on our way to becoming fuel for angry, meat-eating, self-perpetuating machines.

I’m here to report that I am now a willing victim. Yes, I’m weak. When given the opportunity to review Litter-Robot, I seized the chance to observe the threat up close. Maybe knowing my enemy better could help me in some dystopian robot-controlled future. Besides, it’s not like I need the help. I barely do any chores around here because I’ve foisted them off on my super-responsible kids. Let me tell you, those kids were excited when the robot arrived.

First impression of the Litter-Robot? It reminded us of those early diving helmets, the ones that look so steampunk now.

See the similarity? (Images: public domain,
See the similarity? (Images: public domain,

The Litter-Robot is cleverly designed. This self-cleaning enclosure senses a cat’s weight, then automatically starts the cleaning process seven minutes later. It rotates slowly, using gravity to sift litter rather than using a raking method. There’s no clogging or jamming, and only the clumped litter goes into the receptacle. When a waste bag in the collection drawer is full, you simply replace it with another bag. There’s no need for expensive custom-fit bags, because it has clips to accommodate any garbage bag you choose. Cleaning takes only few seconds. No litter dust from scooping, no yucky cleaning, no spilled litter, no fuss at all. And we haven’t noticed an odor either, thanks to its enclosed design and carbon filters.

We carefully followed the instructions for introducing our cats to the unit. It’s important to take it slowly, so they adjust. They accommodated perfectly in about a week and a half. We’re really pleased with this product’s sturdy construction and the fact that it’s made in the U.S.A. The Litter-Robot has a 90-day, money-back guarantee and an 18-month warranty, plus a customer support line. The whole unit seems pricey as an initial investment, but there are big savings over time, because you use so much less litter. The company says customers save 50 percent or more on litter. Sparing yourself the kitty litter box chore is, of course, priceless.

We couldn’t just call it a robot. No, the humans here insisted it have a name. Proposals included Cheezburger, Nyan, Max, and Wilbur. Max won. Also, the little thing has become a “him.” I will try to pretend I still call Max “it” for the purposes of this review, but it’s harder than you might imagine.

I really appreciate Max, er, the Litter-Robot. Maybe a robot-run future won’t be all that bleak. And those large googly eyes we stuck on it make it seem downright personable.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Pinbusted or Pintrusted: DIY Silver Cleaners


Every year at Christmas, I hang a set of music-box silver bells. The bells have been around for awhile, so they are no longer shiny and bright. Now that the holidays are over and the tree is down, it is that dreaded time where I must break down and clean the silver.

Bells before being cleaned. Images: Timothy Post
Bells before being cleaned. Images: Timothy Post.
You can see in the final frame there is a lone clean spot surrounded by tarnish.
You can see in the final frame, there is a lone clean spot surrounded by tarnish.

I found my silver cleaner, but it is so old, it has separated. So, I investigated Pinterest for possible DIY methods of cleaning silver. There are so many ideas out there! Now I get to figure out if any of them work.

First up, I used baking soda toothpaste. It was messy (but minty!). The supposed purpose of using the toothpaste is for cleaning an item that shouldn’t go in water. Yet, in order to get the toothpaste off the tarnished item, it has to be rinsed. The item also has to be damp when toothpaste is applied to it.

Keeping all of these things in mind, I went to town on my bell from 1984. I cleaned around the outside of the bell three times. When I rinsed it, it looked better, but it wasn’t worth the hassle and mess to clean it in this manner.

Verdict for the toothpaste cleaner: Busted.

Baking soda by itself is mildly effective when cleaning silver. But it seems to really make silver sparkly, some science and bubbles are needed in combination with the baking soda. No problem. Let’s make it happen!

Compare the before and after. Much brighter after.

Another pin I stumbled across suggested using two antacid tablets in regular temperature water. I was skeptical, but lo and behold, the results were actually quite sparkly.

The details in the silver piece were still dark, but the smooth surfaces were bright and shiny. Waiting to let all of the bubbles finish cleaning took a bit of time, but the result was usable. A chemical reaction occurs when the antacid tablets are dropped in water: the tablets contain citric acid and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). When you drop the tablet in water, the acid and the baking soda react (giving us our cleaning bubbles!).

Antacid Tablets in Water: Trusted.

Finally, I tried the pin that I found spread the most through Pinterest: Boiling water and baking soda in a container lined with tin foil. This is as easy as it sounds.

I lined a container with foil. While I had the kettle boiling my water, I poured a layer of baking soda in the bottom of the container. I placed my bell in the container and started slowly pouring in the water. It immediately started fizzing and bubbling. When the initial steam cleared, I saw a huge difference between the silver that was under the water and the silver that had not yet been cleaned. After a minute or two, I tipped over the bell, so the top would be clean too.

In the bottom left corner, you can see where the chemical reaction stopped on the bell. We soon tipped it over, so the top would be cleaned too.

The reaction works because silver tarnishes because it has a chemical reaction with sulfur-containing substances in our air. When silver combines with sulfur, it forms silver sulfide, which is what appears to us as the dark tarnish on silver. By removing the sulfide with a chemical reaction, the silver is shiny again. There are nifty chemical equations to prove what process takes place, but my chemistry is too rusty to be reliable. Rust…there’s another chemical reaction! I digress…

This worked really well. It worked faster and slightly better than the antacids. The details were pretty well cleaned and didn’t require a lot of scrubbing afterward. There are also other versions of this method involving olive oil to polish after the process and boiling the baking soda in the water, but I didn’t do those variations.

Tin Foil, Boiling Water, and Baking Soda: Trusted!

I hope this helps the next time you don’t want to dig out the chemical cream to clean your silver. Things you probably already have in your kitchen will probably work just as well without the mess!

Relics: What’s In Your Attic?


Yeah, collection…maybe even an agglomeration. Cables, electronic tethers, childhood memories, and college accomplishments were discovered when we pulled the attic plug and let the contents drain into our garage.

Though we have taken select items out of the attic recently, this adventure is set to make our lives easier and find lost items.

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