Google Home- Global radio

Hey! I’m introducing a new sub-category to this blog, as/when I discover new features on my Google Home, I’ll write all about it! Cause I’m addicted to blogging and I’m soo in love with our Google Home!

I think my passion of listening to podcasts and the radio come from my dad’s influence on me. When I was a kid my dad use to always try to convince me about the virtues of radio, and what can be learnt from being a wide listener (from the comfort of your own home). And when I was in my teens, my dad bought me a short-wave radio which promised to be able to tune in to radio stations from all over the world! But alas, it was nearly impossible to get a clear signal so in the end we ended up returning the thing to Dicky Smiths. So the other day I was absolutely blown away when I randomly chanced on this Google Home feature!

I was asking Google to play ‘NFL Live’ a podcast by ESPN, as it was the lead up to the Super Bowl and I wanted to get right into it! But instead Google started to play a replay recording of a Live NFL match! I was blown away, all of a sudden I could listen to NFL media’s radio programming. So knowing the key voice command which triggered this outcome (OK Google, play NFL live radio), I was always dropping in on the States just to see what was going on. Each time I did this, I felt a giddy feeling, like I was doing something illegal like a Russian spy eavesdropping on the US in real-time. I managed to listen to all the goings-on at NFL Super bowl media night, NFL’s awards night, the Super Bowl pre-game show, and the Aftermath show after the most snooze-inducing Super Bowl. Haaha. It was so wild, half way around the world and I can be completely tapped in!

So doing some research, I guess what Google home is doing isn’t magic, but it’s simply leveraging from apps/platforms like ‘Tune In’ and ‘I Heart Radio’- free internet radio streaming services. But the advantages are that I don’t need to download or sign-up to any new app or account, Google cuts through all those steps on your behalf. All you have to do is ask Google nicely and she’ll do the rest for you! Good SMART assistant! I’m wondering now what other global radio stations I can attach my tin-can and string to. *Strokes chin*.

Product Recommendation- Bundaberg Pineapple & Coconut/Spiced Ginger Beer

I’m aware that in 2019 it’s not en vogue to recommend ‘soft drinks’ to others, now that we’re more health conscious and aware. But what if Bundaberg sparkling soft drinks are an alternative to alcoholic beverages at a party?

The very first time I consumed Bundaberg’s Pineapple & Coconut, I seriously believed that it was alcoholic, I even exhibited the ‘glow’ of consuming something alter-holic (Oh so cringing as I think back to it…..Lucky that I’m anonymous on the web……) This embarrassing moment occurred at a friend’s birthday party and we were handed a couple of drinks in long neck glass bottles- they were Bundabergs (in their old packaging) which I associate with the Bundaberg Rum polar bear. And at first taste, it tasted so much like an alco-pop that after half a bottle I was feeling a little light headed, like after consuming an equivalent amount of beer. I remember leaning over to my wife and whispering to her that she should “go easy on the alcohol” but she hisses back at me “It’s non-alcoholic!” Then I felt so silly, especially as everyone around us heard her reply back.*Shrinks in embarrassment*.

Okay, shaking off the feelings of embarrassment……. But if you haven’t tried Bundaberg’s Pineapple & Coconut drink before, imagine the flavour of a Pina colada… and just remove the alcoholic element from it and you have Bundaberg’s sparkling pineapple and coconut drink! It’s a very summery tropical flavour, and quite natural tasting (by far our favourite sparkling offering by Bundaberg).

Over Christmas, Bundaberg released a festive flavour – Spiced Ginger Beer, and we probably grabbed one of the last 4 packs in mid-January at Coles (since then we haven’t seen them on shelves anymore). The Spiced Ginger Beer tastes less like ‘spiced’ ginger beer, but rather like a Lemon Lime Bitters? Although the spices which were added to their original ginger beer was cinnamon and clove. The taste is unfortunately a bit on the artificial side, so as they disappear from shelves for another year I guess it’s no big loss.

But no-matter, Bundaberg have other sparkling soft drink flavours like their original Ginger Beer; Lemon, Lime and Bitters; Sarsaparilla / Root Beer; Burgundy (Creaming Soda); Peach; Pink Grapefruit; Guava; Blood Orange; and more!

So if you’re heading to a house-party or back- yard BBQ, and for one reason or another you’re cutting back on the alcohol (perhaps participating in Febfast- at least the non-alcohol component), consider bringing a couple packs of the Bundaberg sparkling soft drink range for yourself and to share! Granted, you won’t be laughing at every silly joke, but you’ll feel less anti-social at least with a glass bottle in hand (be that a little bit squatter in size) – it’s as close to having alcohol while being dry!

Bundaberg 4-packs can be found at Coles or Woolworths for $6.30 for 4x 375ml bottles.

Read more about Bundaberg and how they brew their craft soft drinks at:

https://www.bundaberg.com/our-brews/

Product Recommendation- Madame Yuzu Japanese Ice Cream

Hey! We recently came across this Japanese ice cream brand – Madame Yuzu.

We found them in the ice cream section at the Market City (Haymarket) IGA ThaiKee supermarket.

We tried the Green Tea Matcha ice cream; the Lychee sorbet; and the Black Sesame ice cream. They came in small 125ml single serving tubs ($4.50 each- which we shared after dinner) and they were a nice dessert treat to end our home cooked meals. They weren’t too sweet, the flavours tasted genuine (the Lychee sorbet even had little bits of lychee in it), and it was creamy while not being too heavy-feeling, which might invoke feelings of guilt!

Afterwards we Googled them, and found out that they’re a boutique ice cream manufacturer based right here in Sydney and they pride themselves on producing traditional and modern Japanese ice cream flavours which tastefully mix East and West. Their ice creams are all gluten-free, natural (no artificial colours or flavours) and their sorbets are dairy-free and vegan friendly. So an unusual healthy (as healthy as ice cream can be) guilt-free treat!

Their offerings aren’t in the large supermarkets yet, but you can find them at your independent grocers like IGA (Glebe, Market City and UNSW); Miracle Supermarkets (Newtown, Waterloo and Alexandria); or Orange Supermarkets (Ultimo and Waterloo).

While you can find Madame Yuzu on the dessert menu at select Japanese restaurants like Mizuya, Yebisu Izakaya, Zushi Barangaroo, Lantern by Wagaya, Kura, Yebisu Bar & Grill and a number of others. On their web-site they have a ‘Find Us’ function, where you can type in your location and it’ll point you to the nearest restaurant/supermarket where you can try their tasty treats!

Check them out at:

http://madameyuzu.com.au/

If you want a tasteful guiltless dessert, pick-up a tub of Madame Yuzu Japanese ice cream, and circle back and let me know what you think! Yeah?

Product Recommendation- Audible Vs Netflix Vs Spotify

Hey, I was pondering this the other day. I’m recommending Netflix programming, Spotify features and soon I’ll recommend some titles from Audible but it has dawned on me that I’m recommending you stuff which you may not have access to. Sorry about that. And sitting down today and doing our 2019 budget,  yeah, I’m noticing how having all these paid services do start to add up! I.e. Audible is $14.95; Netflix is $9.99 and Spotify is $9.99 per month.

So when you add up all these seemingly small amounts, we’re paying $34.97 per month for discretionary entertainment. Which isn’t much, considering that is how much you’ll pay for lunch these days for two people in Sydney. But add that to your mobile phone bill (x2), Internet, etc etc. then everything starts to add up after a while! Hey?

So I guess the purpose of this post is just my musings on which streaming service has been the most beneficial and value for money, and if I really had to choose one, which one would I choose? So here we go! I’ll put on my Asian miser hat now…..

What are you getting?

The first aspect to break-down is to understand what you’re actually getting for your paid subscriptions.

Audible- You’re essentially getting one audio book per month, and from the three subscription services, Audible is already the most expensive. So on paper it does seem like you’re getting the lease amount of content for your money.

Netflix- Off the top of my head I’m not sure how many movies, TV series or documentaries you have access to on the Australian Netflix library. But let’s just say there is enough content out there that you’ll always find something to watch, and they add new titles daily. So in that respects, for less than 10 bucks a month, it’s a pretty good deal!?

Spotify premium- Put simply, you basically have access to every song in the world dating back to the start of digitalized recordings or re-recordings (at least all the good songs in the world), I think that is enough said.

So after the first go through, it almost looks like a done deal!? Who knew it would be this simple, your decision has been narrowed down to two, either Netflix or Spotify. Now you just have to decide if you’re more of a movie buff? Or are you more of a devout music fan? Is it as simple as that? Or are there other things to consider before we make this decision and cancel a few accounts?

Value for money

Being Asian, miser hat or not, I guess I always think about the dollar $$$. What value am I getting for my hard-earned cash?

As mentioned before, Audible is the most expensive at $14.99 per month, and you basically get one audio book for that price. But if I didn’t have Audible and I still wanted to read/listen to the book, I can always go out and buy the thang? Like what we used to do, say 5 years ago? For example, the book that I’m currently listening to now, if I went to Dymocks today to purchase the paperback book, it will actually cost me $22.99. And alternatively if I wanted the audio version and for this example let’s say that we’re going to avoid streaming services and we’re just going to buy the good old Compact Discs, I can buy it from Amazon for $39.62. All of a sudden, my monthly audible subscription seems pretty good value for money actually!? From this example I’m saving 53% when compared to buying the book, and saving 164% compared to acquiring the CDs! That’s pretty impressive? Yes?

With Netflix, what are my alternatives if say I wanted to watch Suits, but I didn’t want to get into a monthly subscription? I can go and buy the DVD box set from JB HiFi, the box set for season 1 is $15.98 (if I buy 2 box sets I can save a massive $1.96……… It’s unfortunate that you can’t see my ‘Yeah right’ face now). So having a Netflix subscription, I’m already saving 60% and that is only from one title! And I have access to so much more from the Netflix library, so if I tallied up everything I’ve watched this month and placed a dollar value on it……. (I actually do have better things to do with my time than to work it out). But the point that I’m trying to make is that, the dollar amount that you’re saving is almost incalculable!

And lastly let’s do the same with Spotify, let’s fictitiously purchase ‘A Star is born’ considering its No 1 in the ARIA charts, yep paying $19.99 fictitious dollars to JB HiFi (counting out my fictitious bills and coins now). So based on one CD alone, having a Spotify premium subscription I’m already saving 101%! Pretty wild hey? That is $10.01 savings after one Album, and this morning alone I’ve listened to 3 albums in their entirety. So again, the savings are incalculable, if I had to place a dollar value to every song I’ll listen to in a month. Honestly, after this little analysis I’m surprised that anyone still buys CDs in this day and age.

So after this exercise of trying to work out Value for money, I guess it has proven a point that streaming services are saving you truckloads of money! But unfortunately it doesn’t help in our attempts to work-out which subscription to cut back on. D’oh!

Frequency of use

So I guess the next question you might ask yourself, is ’How often do I use these services?’ For us, I only manage to listen to Audible for 15 mins per night (sometimes I can go for weeks without listening because I’ve got so many free podcasts to get through); thus it’s completely normal if I don’t manage to finish a book within a month. Resulting in my Audible credit piling up (and you can only accumulate a max of 10 book credits, so you’ll have to spend them or lose them).

With Netflix, we probably watch an hour a day? Usually when we’re having dinner at home. And with Spotify, it’s probably 30 mins per day during the weekday, but heaps more on the weekends, it can be as high as 3-5 hours a day?  So from the frequency of use alone, it’s Spotify, Netflix and lastly Audible. So based on this line of thought, Spotify should be the one which I keep as I use it the most often?

The alternatives

But hold on! There is still one more aspect to consider that is the replace-ability of each (or what my alternatives are?).

What I mean is this, if you didn’t pay for these services, can you still get the same thing you want for free? And if not, can you replace it with something similar?

Audible- If you don’t want to pay for the audio book, you can borrow the actual book from a library (do they still exist?). If it’s a brand new title, the library might not have it straight away, and if they do you might need to wait as someone else might have it out? So if you’re used to instant gratification, sorry there might be a bit of a wait (can you say quarter 3 of 2019?). And if you only want the audio version and you don’t want to pay. Sadly I think you’re out of luck; as libraries rarely have audio versions of popular titles. So from this aspect, Audible is the most difficult to replace.

Netflix- Well there is always free to air TV? And these days with Catch-up TV and on-demand, you too can watch free to air without the majority of ads and at a time which suits you. So let’s say if we didn’t have Netflix, we could always just watch regular old TV? Or not have the TV on while we eat dinner, and just spend that time talking/connecting? Haaha. I’ve heard that it’s marriage enriching? …..Yeah right! The only things you’ll really miss out on not having Netflix, are the Netflix originals. So Netflix is replaceable, but not with exactly the same thing. But something similar enough, besides its all American programming anyway? *Shrug*.

Spotify- And lastly, there is always the free version of Spotify! Which is still pretty good (I put up with it for 2 years before going Premium), if you don’t mind ads every 30 minutes and losing the ability to listen to what you want, when you want it, for as many times as you can take it! But while saying that, there is always Youtube, where you can find anything and everything (and probably more!). So from this point of view, Spotify is the most replaceable (and there is always the radio…..).

So where are we at after a 10,000 word musing? I think it’s going to be a cop-out if I end by saying, it all depends on your interests? Are you a TV/Movie buff? Or are you a massive music fan? Or are you a book worm? Um…… It’s up to you. Oh come on! Don’t boo me! No boos!

Okay, okay, if you want an answer, here goes. For me personally, if I really had to decide (although it’s as difficult as being made to choose one child or the other) I’d actually keep Audible! It’s for the reasons that the alternatives out there aren’t great, and there is just something magical about books! Yeah? Yeah? They can really transport you elsewhere, in a way that TV shows/movies and music just ain’t able to achieve.

Please feel free to comment below and let me know what service you’d keep if you had to choose! I’m interested to hear your thought processes.

Product Recommendation- Echo Falls Fruit Fusion

I know that ‘Real wine’ drinkers will balk at this recommendation, but over the Christmas/New Year’s period we chanced on this delightful wine. Echo Fall’s Fruit Fusion wines, the range include a Rose- Rose Wine with Summer Berries (750ml) and a White- White Wine with Tropical Fruit (750ml).

We were in Liquorland looking for Orange wine (White wine which had been fermented with white grapes with its skin), and we were in the ‘Other whites’ section and we didn’t find Orange wine. But what we did find was the Echo Falls Fruit Fusion pair of wines. What caught our eye was the promise of berry and tropical fruit flavours. And at $8 a bottle, it seemed like a risk free investment.

First impressions (we tried the Rose first), it’s sweet, it has a slight effervescence to it, the berry flavour was definitely there, and it was just very tasty and moreish. If you’d like a reference point, I’d describe the taste to be like a Spanish Sangria?

Because the next day was Christmas, we gave the White to my sister when we went over to theirs for Christmas lunch. And a couple of days later we bought a replacement bottle of the White to try, and again we were very pleased with the flavour.

Afterwards I did some research, and this is what I found:

“This delicious Rosé wine has been delicately blended with natural flavours of summer berries. The result is a bright, fruity, refreshingly sweet Rosé wine

Perfect for sharing with friends. 10.5% alcohol content and each bottle contains 6.3 standard drinks.”

“This tropical flavoured wine has been crafted with natural flavours of White Peach and Passionfruit to result in a delectable and refreshingly sweet wine,

Perfect for sharing with friends. 10.5% alcohol content and each bottle contains 6.3 standard drinks.”

Okay, no wonder it tastes like a Sangria, as they do actually mix fruit juice into it. So if you’re a wine liberalist and don’t mind the concept of a half-bred wine, check it out! $8 from Liquorland or $7 from First Choice Liquor. Both Rose and White are perfect when served chilled, ideal on a summer’s evening with friends…..or all by yourself. Hehehe.

Um, this is the part where I warn about drinking responsibly and how you have to be over the age of 18 before you can enjoy this delectable drink. Yeah Yeah?    

Product Recommendation- Google Home

The future is here! Join me in embracing a new and better way of living!

Okay, I’m compelled to tell you all about Google home, because it has honestly changed my life for the better. And I think it can do the same for you as well!

Here is an insight to my character. I’m lazy when needing to search for stuff on my phone (especially when it involves numerous apps), my phone isn’t always in reach when I’m at home, and who doesn’t like a simpler way of doing things? If this sounds like you and you currently don’t have a Smart assistant, here are 10 reasons why you should consider getting one in 2019.

  • 1. Your very own Jukebox which can play every song in the world!

Okay, if you’re as old as me, you probably remember the old school Jukeboxes? You know the ones,  their as tall as a person, with the  colourful lit-up arch, and for a few bucks you can select a song from their playlist and for the length of a song you control the vibe of a restaurant? Well, Google Home paired with a paid music streaming service like Spotify is just that! You can now request to listen to any song imaginable, just by asking Google to ‘Play….’ The response is immediate (perfect for those who expect instant gratification) as long as you know the name of the song (or some key lyrics) and the artist. And the sound quality is actually not too bad. The sound is clear (in the medium and upper volume ranges), in stereo, and loud enough to fill a large living room. The limitations is the bass, the bass sound will never match the quality of a good stereo system, and it’ll struggle if you’re asking it to produce the beats to get people moving at a house party. But these days, I’m literally being introduced to new songs and artists on a daily basis who I’ve never heard of before, and loving the fact that I can enjoy all over again the songs which shaped my formative years.

  • 2. Controlling your TV

If you have a Chrome cast, you can now control your TV without moving a single muscle. There is no need to pick-up your phone or tablet, or reach for the remote control. You can control everything with your voice alone, i.e. start streaming from Netflix, play videos from Youtube, and control all of your usual TV functions. For example, I just ask Google to start playing ‘Suits’ from Netflix, and it’ll pick-up from where I’d left it say 3 weeks ago! Before doing a home yoga workout, I just ask Google to play ‘Maggie Grove Bikram yoga from youtube’ and within seconds Maggie’s sultry tones are playing through my TV speakers, while I busy myself getting the yoga mat ready….. And turning on and off the TV is just one voice command away!

  • 3. Timer

Sure, your phone can also set a 15 minute timer for you when you’re cooking (and your hands are covered in grease) just by using your voice. But can you turn-off the timer with your voice every-time? Hey? I’ve been super annoyed when Siri isn’t able to shut off the timer when it starts to go off, either the timer’s sound itself is stopping it from hearing me, or it’s by design? But I end up needing to wash my hands, drying them quickly and then manually turning off the alarm. All the while whatever I’m cooking is smoking or boiling over. Annoying yeah?!  But Google home, its 100% hands free. And because you’re probably playing music through Google Home while you’re cooking, so when the alarm goes off, Google auto dims the music so it can easily hear your voice command to turn-off the alarm. So there ain’t no shouting at Google to get its attention in this kitchen!

  • 4. Answers to every life’s question

We as a collective are much wiser, now that the answer to any and every question (large or trivial) is known by just Googling it. But with Google Home, you’re now spoon fed answers to life’s questions in a matter of seconds, with absolutely no effort on your part. You just have to be clear and concise with what you want to know. Finding out the weather, the time etc.  They’re all givens. But it is those weird thoughts and requests which you might have, that always surprises. E.g. “Did Robert Wagner play No. 2 in Austin Powers?” Or “where is my nearest Thai restaurant?” Google knows all! And not to mention, conveys all of your answers in her polite and sexy Aussie voice. Haaha.

  • 5. News headlines

At breakfast time I like to know what’s been going on while I was asleep. Now you can get all the important news headlines/stories in quick 5 minute bursts. The ABC, SBS and Channel 7 are now clipping segments from their hourly radio/TV news updates (or they might be purposefully recording them as short podcasts) but in 15 minutes you can be kept right up-to-date with what is important. I always start off with 7 news, then ABC news, and then finish it up with SBS news (taking all 3 perspectives, you’ll eventually end-up with the whole). This eliminates the need to trawl for news, and this filters out all the ads and distractions like sensationalised headlines/fake-news. It’s all about needing what you need to know, when you need it.

  • 6. One-off podcasts

If you’re like me, from time to time you clean-up your Podcast library by unsubscribing to some shows (largely due to feeling the sense of dread when you see the tally of unlistened podcasts reach double figures). But sometimes it’s nice to listen to the occasional one-off episode from a formally pre-loved pod. And this is what Google Home is able to do for you! Just ask Google to play the podcast, and it’ll always play the most recent episode. This is particularly good for podcasts which release daily episodes which quickly become dated like news, current affairs, or sport talk shows.

7. Bluetooth

Google Home also has Bluetooth functionality, so you can connect your phone to it and use it to magnify the sound of anything you’re playing on your device. Great when playing podcasts and you want to navigate to a specific episode, or if you want to play out aloud your audiobook from Audible (just make sure it’s not a particularly ‘saucy’ part of your novel).   

8. Recipes

Google can also provide you with recipe ideas, just ask for a recipe recommendation! I’ve tried a 3 cheese pasta recipe recommended by Google. And when you’re cooking you can go step by step, prompting Google to provide you with the next step as soon as you’ve completed the previous one. But I tend to copy down the recipe, as the worst case is that you go out and buy all the ingredients and then you can’t find the recipe again to cook it that evening (it’s happened to me once).

9. Content sent to your phone

And if you request for information which is too content heavy for Google to just verbalise it out to you. Google sends the information to your phone (via the Google Home app) so you can study the information in more detail like “What is the full Merriam-Webster dictionary definition for Domineering?”

10. Novelty

And in the end, it’s a bit of a conversational starter and a hoot when you have friends over. Or if you have kids in the family. You can ask Google silly questions and wait for its answer, oftentimes it’s quite amusing (Google actually has a character, I’m sure reflective of the Google Engineers who built her). You can ask Google to translate things, e.g. ‘How do you greet someone in Mandarin?’ You can play a game of trivia with Google, just say ‘Google, let’s play Lucky trivia’, and it’ll keep score and applaud and cheer when you get the answers right. Or ask Google personal and inappropriate questions, and listen to her dodge and weave your questions, just like someone who you’ve just met at a bar who is so not interested in you! And in the  past few months the concept of ‘Interactive audio’  has been emerging. Remember back as a kid there used to be those ‘Choose your own adventure books’? Where each page was a part of the story, but at the bottom of the page you’re given two options and a corresponding page number to flip to? Well, same concept, but their professionally made audio tracks, their quite immersive actually. Try asking Google to ‘Find Dolores’. The only thing I can suggest is not to try this if you’re home alone, it’s late at night, and if you’re a little bit screamish. Haaha.

Google Home can be found at JB Hi-Fi for $149

Alternatively if you like all the functionality mentioned above, but you don’t need the sound quality, or you only have a small space e.g. kitchen or bedroom. The Google Home Mini will suffice ($49.00), which is really reasonable considering that it’s ‘life changing’!

Or if you want to connect up all of your existing technology (TV and speakers), you can connect them all together with a few Google devices. You just need Google Home Mini ($49); Chrome Cast ($59); and Chrome cast audio ($59).

Or you can get the premium product, Google Home Hub (the one with the screen). But in my opinion it’s not necessary, as we already have enough screened devices around the home, it’s not necessary to also see what Google is already verbally telling you. So yeah, the future is here! Embrace it I say……… And if you’re worried about Google ‘eves dropping on all of your conversations…….  If everyone had a Google Home, they’ll end up with too much Intel, they wouldn’t know what to do with it! Haaha.