Google Home review: How my family got hooked on a personal assistant speaker

Google Home

My Google Home patiently waiting for me to ask it something.

Ever since I heard about the Amazon Echo a couple of years ago I’ve wanted a personal assistant speaker. The idea I could just walk into my home and tell it to turn on lights or adjust my thermostat was the obvious next level in my dream of having a high-tech house.

While I waited for Amazon to release the Echo (or its cousin, the Echo Dot) in Canada, Google unleashed the Google Assistant on its line of Pixel phones. The Assistant was near perfection and was the main reason I ditched my iPhone and made the move to Android (bye, Siri). It kept getting better and better, too, with new capabilities being added frequently.

So when Google announced the Google Home, their Echo competitor, back in 2016, I was intrigued at what it could offer. It appeared to be just like the Assistant on my phone but able to do more in my home and for my entire family. And unlike the Echo, which uses Bing to look things up, Home has the almighty Google Search behind it. Then Google did something Amazon didn’t (and still hasn’t) – they released the Google Home in Canada!

Now, my excitement of having a personal assistant speaker over the years was not shared by my wife. My kids, of course, were on my side, but she was not sold on having a device “listening” in on us and told me I was never going to be allowed to bring one into our home. When Google offered to lend me a Home to review I figured it would be the only way I could convince her we needed one and, spoiler alert, it worked!

Here’s what impressed my family the most about the Google Home and why we can’t live without one now.

The speaker

I was not expecting much in the sound department from the air freshener looking Google Home. I’m used to streaming music via my Sonos system, which is still the gold standard for connected speakers in my opinion. That said, the Google Home offers really good sound quality that fills my living room quite nicely.

Being able to control Spotify (my streaming music service of choice) and raise or lower the volume via my voice is also a big benefit and a huge timesaver. This was by far the biggest selling feature for my wife, and even my kids ask it to play songs they like (although my youngest is hooked on Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” thanks to Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare and that’s all I hear now).

Home control

Controlling my lights and thermostat by voice is what I wanted the Google Home for in the first place, and it has lived up to my expectations!

The Google Home works with a majority of “smart” products and was easy to connect with my Philips Hue bulbs, Nest thermostat and Lutron switches. I can say things like “Ok, Google dim my living room lights” and ta-da, my living room Hue bulbs dim! Or I can say “Ok, Google adjust the temperature to 21” and I can see my Nest light up and adjust the temperature. It also works with the Wink hub, WeMo plugs and switches, TP-Link bulbs and Samsung’s SmartThings hub (among a slew of other devices).

Sadly, Logitech does not support the Google Home in Canada yet so users of the Harmony remote won’t be able to control their TVs via voice (this is an option in the U.S. and I still don’t understand why it doesn’t work here). If you have a Chromecast though (which, I do not) you can use the Google Home to control it via voice.

It really is an assistant

Since the Google Home is connected to your Google account it truly does act as a personal assistant. “Ok, Google what’s my day like?” will tell you things that are on your calendar, let you know how long your commute to work is and tell you the weather for the day.

You can also ask for the latest headlines and it will play you clips from news providers you’ve selected (CBC, Global News, Sportsnet and CityNews are available Canadian sources). And it works for multiple users, meaning my wife and I can both access our own info depending on who is talking.

Perfect in the kitchen

Using the Google Home to add items to our shopping list, set timers when we’re cooking, convert measurements and even find recipes are features of the Home I never expected to be hooked on. It’s pretty much the perfect kitchen gadget and has become a great motivation to get me cooking more.

General knowledge

With a six and a 10-year-old in the house we get a lot of questions about a lot of different things. We try our best to answer everything we can but when they ask a question like “how many home runs did Jackie Robinson hit?” I need to look it up. These questions usually come up at the dinner table when phones and computers are not around (and not allowed). Now we can ask the Google Home questions to get the answer and that tends to lead into more questions and more learning opportunities.

My wife also found this to be a blessing when doing homework for a class she was taking. Instead of getting distracted on her phone or computer she asked it a few questions to clarify info as she was writing notes.


The Google Home is loaded with fun word and sound games you can play. These range from trivia and math-based games to things like Mad Libs and Tic Tac Toe. Because there is no screen, you need to visualize and actually use your brain a bit more than if you were just playing a game on your phone or tablet. My kids and I find it’s great to play these around the breakfast table and I’ve even caught them forgoing their iPad time in favour of these games.

The Google Home can be purchased in Canada for $159 from the Google Store. It’s also available to purchase at Best Buy and Home Depot.

Have a Google Home or want one? Share your thoughts on it in the comments below or at

Why DeWalt’s battery-operated shop vac is a must-have tool

DeWalt 18V/20V MAX cordless wet/dry vac

DeWalt’s battery-operated shop vac. Yes, it does have a cord.

When it comes to vacuum’s (and most tools) I am an anti-cord guy. Besides delivering power, which batteries these days can do a fine job of, all a cord does is get in the way. Think of these scenarios.

Scenario 1

You’re in the middle of vacuuming up a mess and go to reach a spot that just happens to be an inch out of reach. What happens? Plug falls out of receptacle, vacuum turns off and now you’re frustrated and on a hunt for a new socket somewhere closer (or an extension cord).

Scenario 2

You need to vacuum in a place where there is no wall outlet (like in your attic or the back of your shed) and you don’t have an extension cord long enough. Or the electricity is off where you’re working and you have no generator. Do you just leave the mess in place and move on?

Scenario 3

You have electricity and solve your cord issue by running a long extension cord. Now you’re wrapped around furniture and knocking everything over (or worse, tripping over it yourself and getting injured).

While slightly exaggerated, all three scenarios have happened to me and caused me great stress. So when DeWalt offered to send over their battery-operated shop vac, I jumped at the chance to review it.

RELATED: EGO Power+ releasing 56v battery-operated snow blower fall 2016

One of the biggest surprises after I unboxed the DeWalt 18V/20V MAX cordless wet/dry vac (model DCV581H) was that there is indeed a cord! Since it can’t be used to charge a battery in the unit (which would have made more sense), I see this as a safety blanket for the generation that doesn’t fully believe in battery-operated tools yet and wish there was an option to detach it.

BELOW: Watch as I unbox the DeWalt 18V/20V MAX cordless wet/dry vac

Getting past the cord on a “cordless” wet/dry vac, I was immediately impressed with how lightweight and durable the unit is. Even after adding one of my 20V MAX batteries to power it, it was still easy to carry around.

RELATED: Ryobi’s ONE+ 18v EVERCHARGE hand vacuum a game changer

The unit has an attached vacuum hose and includes a crevice tool, wide nozzle tool and a long-life HEPA filter. What it doesn’t come with is a battery, which is to keep the cost of the unit around $100. DeWalt is banking on you to have some of their tools with a battery you can “borrow” for the vac. I used one of my 20V MAX Li-Ion drill batteries (an 18V NiCD/NiHD/Li-Lon stick battery can also be used) and have not had any issues with it running out as I use the vac.

DeWalt shop vac

The battery port on DeWalt’s 18V/20V MAX cordless wet/dry vac.

It’s only a 2-gallon unit, but it feels like I never have to dump the canister when cleaning up dry material. Since I got it, I’ve sucked up drywall dust, small pieces of concrete, sawdust and tiny wood pieces. I’ve also tackled a small basement flood with it. It’s also replaced Ryboi’s ONE+ 18V EVERCHARGE hand vac as my go-to unit for cleaning the car.

DeWalt’s battery-operated shop vac can go from dry to wet items without having to switch out the filter. DeWalt does recommend you empty the canister (which is a very simple process) before sucking up liquid, but this is just to make cleaning the canister and the filter easier. This is a huge time saver during a job and one of the best features of the unit.

Besides being a great little shop vac, the DeWalt 18V/20V MAX cordless wet/dry vac can also act as a blower, which is a bonus for getting debris out of a tight space in order to suck it up. And while it is loud, it’s not as loud as some bigger shop vacs.

DeWalt shop vac

Overall, I highly recommend the DeWalt 18V/20V MAX cordless wet/dry vac. It’s definitely a tool that will make life easier for every DIYer. And if you can find it on sale for under $100, the value is unbelievable.

For more information on the DeWalt 18V/20V MAX cordless wet/dry vac, visit

Have you used a battery-operated shop vac? Does one interest you? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at

Dave & Buster’s opening second Canadian location this November

Dave & Buster's Oakville

Dave & Buster’s is opening its second Canadian location in Oakville this November.

A second Canadian Dave & Buster’s location is opening in Oakville this November, the company announced Monday.

Dave & Buster’s is an entertainment hub with a selection of food options, arcade games to play and sports to watch (it’s basically a Chuck E. Cheese’s for adults).

RELATED: You can now swim with sharks at Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto

“Following the success of our Dave & Buster’s Vaughan location, we are excited to open the doors in Oakville this November,” General Manager Brian Light said in a statement. “We know Oakville and the surrounding communities will enjoy this one of a kind venue to eat, drink, play and watch sports.”

The Oakville location is going to take up 40,000 square feet of the Oakville Entertainment Centrum plaza at 2021 Winston Park Dr. Visitors will have multiple high-def screens to watch sports on and more than 160 games to play in the Million Dollar Midway, where they can win products from the likes of Apple and XBOX.

Food options include Dave & Buster’s popular Legendary Buffalo Wing Burger, a Caveman Combo, which includes ribs, sliders and fries piled high in a bucket and a new Whisky BBQ Half Chicken. Their delicious Pepperoni Pretzel Pull-Apart will also be on the menu.

RELATED: Let’s all go to the drive-in!

Another huge draw for Dave & Buster’s is their cocktail menu, which features tiki drinks, adult snow cones and a strawberry watermelon margarita served with strawberry ice cubes.

Dave & Buster’s Oakville is set to open sometime in November. For more information, visit

Are you excited for another Dave & Buster’s location in Canada? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at

Cinch! – the solar-powered pop-up tent you’re going to want

Cinch! tent

If you thought a tent couldn’t be exciting, you haven’t met the Cinch! yet.

UPDATE: The Cinch! Kickstarter is now live.

A pop-up tent that can be setup in seconds, has solar power capabilities, LED lights and is fully waterproof? Meet the Cinch!

Unlike any other tent on the market, creator Jake Jackson launched the Cinch! in 2009 for a small group of festival-goers because he wanted a tent campers could trust. He has expanded production each year since and now has a customer base around the world, including in Canada.

RELATED: Charge your smartphone with a solar patio umbrella

“I’ve been a keen camper for nearly 30 years, and I’ve never found an all-round tent that’s perfect for my needs and those of my friends in the camping community,” Jackson said in a media release. “It often seems that essentials like convenience and comfort, or quality and price, are mutually-exclusive in the tent market. I don’t think we should compromise on those basic ingredients, and I want to give my fellow campers a product they can really trust.”

Other features of the latest Cinch! incarnation include tent pegs with LED lights, reflective guylines, flexible fibreglass poles, an extendable canopy (which increases living space by 75 per cent), two entrances and loads of storage. A 13,000 mAh solar power bank that can charge a smartphone up to six times and a heat reflector are optional items that can be added.

Cinch! solar bank

A 13,000 mAh solar power bank that can charge a smartphone up to six times is an option that can be added to the Cinch! tent.

Available in two, three and four person models, Jackson claims the four person Cinch! is the largest tent in its class. He says it can be setup in seconds and taken down and packed into a disc-shaped rucksack in under a minute. It also only weighs 19 lbs, making it a great option for portaging.

RELATED: 5 tips for portaging with kids

In order to make the latest version of the Cinch! a reality, Jackson is turning to Kickstarter.

“I’m using Kickstarter for two main reasons,” Jackson said in the release. “Firstly to keep costs as low as possible for my customers – so they don’t have to pick up the bill for things like borrowing capital. But more immediately, to test the water and see if there’s an appetite for it – so I need to reach as many camping fanatics as possible during the Kickstarter campaign!”

If you’re as interested in the Cinch! as I am, you can make a pledge on Kickstarter beginning next week now. If the campaign raises the £20,000 (roughly CDN$35,000) Jackson needs by Thursday, Sept. 8, the Cinch! will immediately go into production and ship in early 2017 (in time for next year’s camping season).

For more information on the Cinch! and to find out details of the Kickstarter campaign, visit

Are you excited for the Cinch! tent? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at

Kashi releasing new gluten free cereal in Canada

Kashi's GOLEAN Popped Clusters Vanilla Pepita

Kashi GOLEAN Popped Clusters Vanilla Pepita contains whole grain popped sorghum, pea crisps, pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and red bean flakes.

Kashi announced Tuesday it’s adding a new gluten-free cereal option to its product line in Canada.

GOLEAN Popped Clusters Vanilla Pepita contains whole grain popped sorghum, pea crisps, pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and red bean flakes (among a few other ingredients). Besides being gluten free, it’s also vegan and non-GMO Project Verified.

The idea for GOLEAN Popped Clusters Vanilla Pepita came after Kashi conducted a survey in Canada that found 92 per cent of respondents agreed that plant-based foods and an active lifestyle go together.

RELATED: Gluten free Cheerios coming to Canada

“Our purpose at Kashi has always been to enable powerful uplifting health through plant-based foods,” Natasha Millar, Senior Director, RTEC & Beverages, Kellogg Canada Inc., said in a press release.

Kashi GOLEAN Popped Clusters Vanilla Pepita

Kashi GOLEAN Popped Clusters Vanilla Pepita.

While not gluten free, two new flavours of Kashi Organic Promise Granola are also hitting shelves, the company announced Tuesday. These are Cocoa Coconut Oat with Kamut Khorasan Wheat and Cranberry Oat Spelt and Flax, which is a blend of whole grains, flax seeds and cranberries. Both are non-GMO Project Verified, which all Kashi products will be by the end of the year.

For more information on the new offerings from Kashi, visit

Are you a fan of Kashi products? Will you try these new options? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at

The Beer Store taking online pre-orders at 25 locations

Beer Xpress

A minimum order of $20 is required to use The Beer Store’s online pre-order service.

The Beer Store is now offering online pre-orders at 25 locations across Ontario.

Using the website, customers can search for items by category, brand, container type, country of origin, what’s on sale or browse by what’s available at a specific location.

“We’re delighted to offer a digital solution that will enhance the overall customer experience. We have introduced our mobile application and in-store touch screens (Pricing Information Centres) in recent years and Beer Xpress is the latest digital innovation for customers to enjoy,” Ted Moroz, President of the Beer Store, said in a media release.

RELATED: LCBO now taking online orders

Each of the 25 locations have been outfitted with a Beer Xpress station so customers can quickly pay and pick-up online orders. A minimum order of $20 is required and customers must register for an account to use the Beer Xpress service.

The 25 locations accepting online pre-orders are:

  • Brampton – 198 Queen St. East
  • Brampton – 180 Sandalwood Pkwy.
  • Milton – 1071 Maple Ave.
  • Oakville – 511 Maple Grove Drive
  • Oakville – 104 Lakeshore Rd. West
  • Oshawa – 257 Wentworth St. West
  • Mississauga – 420 Lakeshore Rd East
  • Etobicoke – 250 Wincott Rd.
  • Scarborough – 1437 Victoria Park Ave.
  • Scarborough – 2360 Kennedy Rd.
  • London – 155 Clarke Rd.
  • London – 414 Wharncliffe Rd. South
  • Windsor – 2380 Walker Rd.
  • Barrie – 30 Anne St. South
  • Collingwood – 415 First St.
  • Guelph – 710 Woolwich St.
  • Hamilton – 959 Fennell Ave. East
  • Cambridge – 200 Franklin Blvd.
  • Waterloo – 70 Weber St. North
  • Kitchener – 875 Highland Rd. West, Unit 80
  • St. Catharines – 99 Dieppe Rd.
  • Niagara Falls – 6757 Lundy’s Lane
  • Ottawa – 1860 Bank St.
  • Ottawa – 1984 Baseline Rd.
  • Peterborough – 570 Landsdowne St. West

For more information on the Beer Xpress service or to place an online pre-order, visit

Are you excited you can now pre-order online at The Beer Store? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at

Apple Pay now available to PC Financial MasterCard customers

PC Financial Apple Pay

PC Financial MasterCard customers can now use Apple Pay with their cards.

PC Financial MasterCard customers can now use their card with Apple Pay, the bank announced Tuesday.

“We know the PC Financial customer wants simplicity, convenience and, most importantly, security when making a payment, and we look forward to offering Apple Pay as a digital option that delivers on all of these values,” Barry Columb, President of PC Bank, said in a statement.

Apple Pay allows users to easily pay for items in select stores and from within supported apps with a connected debit or credit card. Because the card number is not stored in your device (or on an Apple server), your info is secure and private.

RELATED: New Walmart Canada app aims to help customers shop better

Major Canadian retailers, including Canadian Tire, Indigo, Tim Hortons and all Loblaw grocery and drug stores (which PC Financial is a division of) all accept Apple Pay. Apps from the likes of UBER and Starbucks also accept Apple Pay.

Apple Pay works in stores on the iPhone SE, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch. The iPhone SE, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Air 2, iPad mini 3, iPad mini 4 and iPad Pro can all be used to make purchases using Apple Pay within supported apps.

CIBC, RBC, TD Bank, Scotiabank and BMO all offer Apple Pay support to their clients (as do some other Canadian banks). Tangerine also announced Apple Pay support Tuesday.

PC Financial has not indicated if they are going to extend Apple Pay to banking customers at this time, but did confirm PC Points will still be collected when using Apple Pay with a PC Financial MasterCard or PC Financial World Elite MasterCard.

For more info on Apple Pay and how to set it up on your device, visit To learn more about PC Financial services, visit

Are you excited that PC Financial MasterCard now supports Apple Pay? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at

Love with Food snack service now shipping to Canada

Love with Food Canada

Love with Food offers “natural American made snacks delivered to your door monthly”. Photo credit CNW Group/Love With Food.

Popular American snack subscription service Love with Food announced Tuesday it is now shipping to Canada.

Love with Food ships “all-natural, organic or gluten-free snacks” right to your doorstep. At launch they have two monthly options available for Canadian customers: the Deluxe Box (starting at USD$16.50 per month on an annual plan), which includes 16-20 snacks per month or the Gluten-Free Box (starting at USD$19.99 per month on an annual plan), which delivers 10-12 celiac-safe and mostly dairy-free snacks per month.

“Our mission is to help consumers discover the latest and greatest healthier snack options easily and this expansion will establish Love With Food as a global trusted brand beyond the U.S,” Aihui Ong, Founder and CEO of Love With Food, said in a media release.

RELATED: Gluten free Cheerios coming to Canada

Many brands normally not available in Canada will be included in the mix of surprise snacks each month and Love with Food will be donating a portion of their proceeds to Canadian food banks.

A special USD$3.99 per month introductory offer on shipping is available for the first 5,000 international customers. Love with Food hasn’t indicated how much regular shipping will be to Canada after the offer expires.

For more information and to sign-up for the Love with Food service, visit

Are you excited to use Love with Food in Canada? Do you use a similar service? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at

Dan Aykroyd launches Crystal Head AURORA in Canada

Crystal Head vodka

Crystal Head AURORA (L) sits next to the original Crystal Head Vodka showcasing its iridescent finish. Photo courtesy Crystal Head Vodka.

Good news Canadian vodka fans! Crystal Head AURORA is now available in Canada.

At an event in Toronto Tuesday night, Canadian actor and Crystal Head co-founder and spokesperson, Dan Aykroyd introduced the latest incarnation of the iconic vodka brand, which is inspired by the Aurora Borealis.

RELATED: LCBO now taking online orders

“Our ultra-premium vodka is one of the cleanest vodkas you’ll ever taste as we don’t use any additives such as sugar, citrus oils, or glycerol to mask or enhance the flavours. We don’t now, nor will we ever use any of these additives,” Aykroyd told the crowd.

Made from English-grown wheat from North Yorkshire and “pristine water” from St. John’s, Newfoundland, Crystal Head AURORA is described as a “drier, bolder and spicier taste” than the original. Production also includes distilling it five times and filtering it seven, including three passes through Herkimer diamonds.

On the outside, the 750ml Crystal Head AURORA bottle (which is the same skull head shape as the original) features an “iridescent design to celebrate the most vivid aerial phenomenon in the world” — meaning all bottles have a unique look.

RELATED: Ontario’s first craft shandy now available

Crystal Head AURORA sells for a suggested retail price of $79.90 at spirit shops across Canada. For more information, visit

Are you excited to try Crystal Head AURORA? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at

Ryobi beefing up product line in Canada

Ryobi demonstrated some of the new tools and accessories they’re bringing to Canada soon at an event in Toronto earlier this month. Along with the ONE+ 18v EVERCHARGE hand vac, they’re adding upwards of 20 products to their line, beefing it up to over 70 items for Canadian DIYers to play with. Here are a select few I’m excited for.

Ultra-Quiet Garage Door Opener

Ryobi garage door opener

The Ryobi Ultra-Quiet Garage Door Opener is a modular system allowing you to add accessories, such as a fan or speaker, to it.

With their new products, Ryobi appears to be focusing on tools and items around the home that need improving and the Ultra-Quiet Garage Door Opener is a prime example of this mandate.

The Ryobi Ultra-Quiet Garage Door Opener has a 2HP motor, lifetime motion-controlled LED light and sports built-in Wi-Fi, giving you control of it (via an app) even when you’re not home. It’s also compatible with HomeLink and can use a RYOBI ONE+ P108 4Ah battery as back-up in case of a power outage (since it’s on the outside of the opener you can use the battery as a spare for your tools as well).

RELATED: Ryobi’s ONE+ 18v EVERCHARGE hand vacuum a game changer

The coolest feature of the Ryobi Ultra-Quiet Garage Door Opener though is that it’s a modular unit and has accessories available that can be attached to it. These include a Bluetooth speaker, park assist unit, garage fan, a 30ft retractable extension cord and carbon monoxide detector. The unit also comes in only three pieces, making it much more easy to assemble than most garage door openers on the market.

The Ryobi Ultra-Quiet Garage Door Opener is available now for $349.

18V ONE+ P737 Power Inflator

Ryobi 18V ONE+ Power Inflator

The Ryobi 18V ONE+ Power Inflator delivers up to 150 psi.

With two kids I’m constantly inflating bike tires and balls of some sort so a cordless handheld power inflator is hugely appealing to me.

The Ryobi 18V ONE+ Power Inflator delivers up to 150 psi, has a 20-inch hose and works with any 18-volt ONE+ battery. It comes with a sports needle and two nozzle accessories (allowing you to inflate a range of items), has a comfortable pistol-grip handle and a 2-inch easy-to-read pressure gauge.

The Ryobi 18V ONE+ Power Inflator is available now for $39.99.

18V ONE+ P516 Reciprocating Saw

I’m always searching for tools to make my life easier around the house and the new Ryobi 18V ONE+ Reciprocating Saw is a great option in this domain.

With a more powerful motor than the previous model, the P516 offers smooth cutting, has a variable speed trigger, an anti-vibe handle and a 1‐1/8” stroke. It’s also cordless and uses the same 18-volt ONE+ battery as other Ryobi tools. It also feels more solid than some other battery-operated reciprocating saws available.

The best feature though is that it’s only going to be $99 when it’s released in Sept.



The Ryobi 18V ONE+ 6 Port SUPERCHARGER can be wall-mounted to save space and includes a USB port for charging a smartphone.

One of my biggest pet peeves with battery-operated tools is having multiple chargers plugged in all over my garage. Ryobi’s 18V ONE+ 6 Port SUPERCHARGER solves that problem.

As the name indicates, the SUPERCHARGER can fully charge six Ryobi 18-volt ONE+ batteries at once and can do it in as little as 30 minutes. It has a status light, a temperature indicator that warns if a battery is too cold or hot to charge and can conserve energy while also protecting battery cells.

RELATED: Ryobi’s Phone Works line brings high-tech tools to DIYers

The unit can be mounted to the wall or stand vertically and batteries lock into place so you can use it to transport them if heading over to work on a friends house. It also has a 2-amp USB port that you can charge a smartphone with.

The Ryobi 18V ONE+ 6 Port SUPERCHARGER is available now for $99.

All Ryobi tools are sold exclusively in Canada at The Home Depot. For more information on these and the other tools in the Ryobi line, visit

Are you a fan on Ryobi tools? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at