The Ferrari GTC4Lusso

Post by Mark

Around six years ago, Ferrari launched the Ferrari FF model. It was a hatchback Ferrari with rear seats that could comfortably carry two large adults, but could also be folded down creating a ton of storage space for those ever important trips to IKEA. It was a very practical Ferrari and quickly became the daily driver for a lot of serious car guys including Chris Harris and YouTube car blogger Shmee. Then two years ago, Ferrari released an updated FF and called it the GTC4Lusso. The car pretty much looked the same with just a minor exterior facelift and the biggest changes coming under the hood and the interior.

People either loved or hated the way the FF looked like and it’s the same with the GTC4Lusso. Personally, I think its a great looking car and it reminds me a lot of the now classic BMW Z3 Coupe which was also controversial in the looks department.

Five minutes after driving out of the dealership I felt right at home in the Lusso. The car didn’t feel intimidating at all and I right away understood why so many people chose it as their daily driver. This is going to sound strange but the last time I remember a car being this comfortable to drive was the Mercedes S-Class. The way the Lusso drove over potholes and road imperfections, the way it took speedbumps and ate up cobblestone roads was just incredible, beyond anything I would expect from a high-end sedan let alone a Ferrari. Then you have the interior cabin which is fairly spacious, quiet and really comfortable to be in. The model I drove also had the panoramic sunroof which beautifully lit up the interior space. The most visual change in the GTC4Lusso over the FF is the interior since the center console now has a very large and sleek looking screen.

Oh yeah and my favorite part of the interior is probably the small screen in front of the front passenger, right over the glovebox. The touchscreen allows the passenger to control the stereo but also allows the passenger access to information like the speedometer, RPM and other car related information. A gimmick of course, but a well-executed one.

I had the car pretty much the whole day to do what I wanted with it, and yet I spent most of the day looking for traffic to drive into or backroads that might prove to be too rough for the car. I wanted to see how good a daily driver the Lusso was, and it just ate whatever I threw at it. In traffic it was comfortable to drive and no backroad turned out to be too much to handle. I completely get it now why a lot of people previously chose the FF and now the GTC4Lusso as their daily and sometimes their only car.

After spending the day with the Lusso I fell in love it with, so much so that I want one now. I test drive a lot of cars and not a lot of them capture my heart the way the Lusso did. Even when I took out the Ferrari 488GTB in January, it was a great car but I didn’t really want one. The way the Lusso made me feel reminded me a lot of how the Lotus made me feel when I first test drove it, and I eventually ended up getting one. The only problem in this case is the GTC4Lusso costs around KD100,000. That’s a lot of money to spend on a car and it would only make sense if I was in a much higher income class. But there is hope! I was at the Ferrari dealer a few days back checking out their used cars and they actually have 2 Ferrari FF’s for sale including a gorgeous silver one. Sadly the interior was a really bright red and gave me a headache so that’s a big no. But I’m not in a rush, and four or five years from now they’ll hopefully have a reasonably priced second hand Lusso for sale.

If you’ve got the budget and are looking for a sports car that you can drive daily, you really can’t go wrong with the GTC4Lusso. At 100K it’s in the price range of the extremely fast Huracán Performante and the hottest looking sports car right now, the McLaren 720S. But, unlike the GTC4Lusso, you couldn’t really drive those every day nor could you have them as your only car. If you’d like to find out more about Ferraris in Kuwait then you should follow the dealer on instagram @ferrarialzayanikuwait.


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Review: Lotus Exige 380 Cup

Post by Mark

Back in January I swapped out my Lotus Exige S with the Exige 380 Cup, a lighter and more powerful version of the Exige that was more track focused. I still remember when I posted about my Exige S after getting it, I had linked to a Exige 380 Sport video and I remember thinking, damn I wish I had the 380 Sport instead. It was faster, more aggressive and looked slightly better. And now, I’ve got the 380 Cup which is an even more extreme version. Someone pinch me!

Anyway, here is a rundown of the car after doing around 4,500KM on it plus taken it to the Bahrain International Circuit for a track day.

The Good
I was hoping because the car was so stiff and rough, I wouldn’t drive it a lot so I could keep the mileage low, but that didn’t happen. I’ve been driving the car daily since I got it, racking up miles like I would in any normal daily driver. I don’t have sound isolating carpeting in the car, just floor mats, so I can see the aluminum car frame as well as hear alot of the road noise. And I love the sound of the road under my car even the sounds of little pebbles hitting the underside of the car. Just makes me feel more connected to the road.

I also still love climbing in and sitting inside the tiny cockpit, and I love how the car feels on the road. Road clearance isn’t that much of an issue and since I tend to spend most of my time driving from my home to the office using the Gulf Road, I don’t have problems with crappy roads.

Unlike my previous Exige this one has a manual gearbox and I do have mix feelings about it. Not the specific manual gearbox in this car which is incredible, but more on the idea if I prefer an automatic over a manual gearbox. Car guys are going to say manual is the way to go but personally, I’m 50/50 split on this. On the one side, the thing I like most about this car is the analog feel of it. There isn’t much technology in this car, the interior is very simple and so the manual gearbox works really well with the overall feel of the car. I like the metal clunks the gearbox makes when I shift gears, I like trying to match my revs or practicing my heel and toe skills when slowing down. But, I also miss the convenience of an automatic gearbox especially when I get stuck in traffic.

The Bad
I haven’t really had any issue with the car other than the fact this past weekend while on the racetrack the hatch on the front of the car was coming loose whenever I hit 200km/h. Not fun and I had to keep coming back into the pits to push the hatch back down. You can actually see it happening in the video above, if you look at the left corner where the black carbon fiber hatch meets the blue bodywork at the 3:12 minute mark, you’ll see the front hatch lift up.

The Ugly
The only other issue I’ve had isn’t really an issue for me, but more for the cops. The car exhaust has a valve, in normal driving the car is quiet, too quiet which I don’t like. So I usually have the car in sport mode which opens up the exhaust valve. The problem then is the car becomes too loud, like I’d be driving 40km/h but from the sound of it you’d think I was doing 140km/h. It attracts tooo much attention from the cops and since I get stopped for no reason anyway, this doesn’t make life any easier. Oh and I’ve definitely been traumatized by the cops! This weekend while I was on the racetrack, I swear at some points I was worried I was gonna get pulled over or get caught by a speed camera. I’m convinced its some sort of PTSD.

Mods
There isn’t much in terms of modifications I can do to this car since Lotus already upgraded everything in it that can be upgraded. The sound system is really shit but I’m not going to upgrade it since I did that with my last Exige and the sound wasn’t that much of an improvement since the speakers that fit are pretty small. So the only upgrade I did was install a harness bar along with a 4-point racing harness for the driver’s seat. I can still use my regular seatbelt for day to day driving but for track driving, I can now use the 4-point belt instead. The advantage of the 4-point system is that it allows you to become one with the car. Once you tighten it up you can’t move anymore, you’re just glued to your seat which allows you to feel the car a lot more.

Plan B
Before I got the 380 Cup I did consider other cars. The most obvious car was the Porsche 911. They’re hot, super practical and really easy to drive. I’d love a 911 GT3 or GT3RS, and I think a black Targa is one of the most beautiful cars out there. But, the problem with Porsches is that everyone has one. They just aren’t special anymore, it’s like owning a Rolex. On track days they’re the most popular cars on track and I wouldn’t want to spend so much money and not feel special. Other cars I considered were second hand Ferrari 430’s and 458’s, as well as second-hand McLarens. My dream car right now is the baby McLaren, the 540c, but even second hand they cost around 50K. Then you’ve got the maintenance costs associated with Ferrari’s and McLarens, I don’t want to worry about that shit when I buy a car. With the 380 Cup on the other hand, because the car is so rare (1/60) it’s instantly special. On the track this past weekend it must have been the most photographed car even though there were McLarens, Ferraris, Lambos and Porsches. I like that.

So yeah, I still really love the car, I love the brand and the online Lotus community. I love the way my car looks and I love it even more with the roof off. I love the sounds it makes, the un-practicality of it, and I love watching my friends try to climb in and out of the car. Do I wish I had a McLaren 540c? For sure but I also wish I had a Ferrari F40, a Porsche 918, a Lancia Delta HF Integrale, my old Datsun 240z, a BMW E30 M3, a Golf GTI MK1 etc.. I’m a car guy so I’m always going to want more.


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Google Home Mini vs Amazon Echo Dot – Which is Better?

Post by Mark

A couple of weeks ago I got back from LA and brought back with me the Google Home Mini and the Amazon Echo Dot. I actually got two Amazon Echos, I put one in my bedroom and the other in the kitchen while I put the Google Home device in my living room. After using them for two weeks I sadly can’t tell you which is better because I don’t think there is a clear winner. But what I’ll do is explain how I’ve decided to use them and the issues I have with both of them and hopefully, that will give you an idea on which one you should get.

Firstly for those of you who have no idea what the Google Home and Amazon Echo are, they’re voice-controlled devices like Siri on the iPhone. Amazon’s assistant is called Alexa while Google’s is simply called Google Assistant. Recently Apple released the HomePod which uses Siri. The reason I didn’t get that instead is the price. At $350, the HomePod would be pretty expensive to add to every room in the house plus, I already have a legit speaker in every room of my apartment anyway the HomePod would make them redundant. On the other hand, both the Echo Dot and Home Mini cost $50 each, so the three I got cost less than half the price of one HomePod. I connected the bedroom Echo to my Bang & Olufsen Beolit 12 speaker and the kitchen one to my Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay A2 speaker. I left the Google Home as is because I wasn’t planning to use it to play music.

Let me take the opportunity now to explain how I’m using the devices.

In the morning I tend to wake up and play music on the BeoLit 12 in my bedroom. Before I got the Echo, I used to launch Spotify on my phone and then AirPlay the music onto my bedroom speaker. My phone also used to be my alarm. Now on the other hand, I set the alarm on the Echo and when I want to play music I just go “Alexa, play music everywhere”. Everywhere is a group I created that includes my bedroom and kitchen Echo. So now I get music playing in my bedroom, and my kitchen downstairs. Then just before I leave my house I go into the kitchen, get my car keys and say “Alexa stop” and it stops playing music in my apartment. I also have Alexa setup to work with both my Amazon Music account and my Spotify account. When I say for example “Alexa play jazz”, it will connect to a jazz radio station on Amazon Music, but when I say “Alexa play music” or “Alexa play my discovery weekly playlist on Spotify”, it will either continue playing where I last stopped on Spotify, or play the specific playlist I asked for.

While I use Alexa for music, I use Google for questions, like I do on the web. I have it set up in my living room where I spend 90% of my time in. So far it’s been super helpful while friends were over. For example, I was sitting talking to a friend and they asked me how long the flight from NY to LA was. I estimated at around 5 hours but then I was like “Hey Google, how long is the flight from NY to LA?”. Within an instant, Google replied that a non-stop flight was 6 hours and 15 minutes long. Another time I was watching a movie and someone mentioned a banana daiquiri. I was curious to know what alcohol is used to make a daiquiri so I was like “Hey Google, whats in a banana daiquiri?”. A second later google responded back with the ingredients of a banana daiquiri. I’m picking up my phone to google stuff a lot less now because I can just ask Google a question verbally. And unlike with Siri, it just feels more natural to talk to Google. It just understands normal dialogue like a real person while with Siri I sometimes feel like I have to talk to it knowing she’s an AI. Not only that but Siri barely understands me sometimes and a good example is now while typing this post, I just asked Siri whats in a banana daiquiri and she responded with the weather report. Like WTF Siri?!

Another cool feature with Google Home is it can tell me if there is traffic on my way to work. Since Google knows where I live and where my office is (I had this setup on Google Maps from before), I can just ask “Hey Google is there any traffic on my way to work?” and it will respond with an answer and then tell me which is the fastest route to take and how long it will take me to get there. Not only that but I could ask it where the closest McDonalds is and how far it is to walk to and it will tell me!

I haven’t really asked Alexa a lot of questions but I did try the banana daiquiri question on her and she struggled. She struggled mostly to understand what I was saying and then told me what was in a daiquiri but not a banana daiquiri.

So you’re thinking Google Home is clearly the winner here. It’s not since I’ve had some weird issues with it. Firstly I can’t seem to set Spotify as my default music player so when I tell Google to play music, it replies saying I need to set up my default music player. But when I go to that section in the app, it won’t let me pick Spotify. To play music I have to say “Hey Google, play music from Spotify” which is annoying cuz its easier to just ask “Hey Google, play music”. Then the worst part is, Google Home doesn’t work with G-Suite. Since my Gmail account is connected to my 248AM domain I have a G-Suite account and it won’t work with Google Home. I can’t connect Google Home to my Calendar or email which is so bizarre. Amazon’s Alexa, on the other hand, connects to both my Gmail and Google Calendars! How weird is that? Alexa also has a ton of plugins so say we had Uber working in Kuwait, you could install the Uber plugin and then be able to call an Uber by talking to Alexa. I’m using Uber an example here but there are plugins for everything imaginable.

So which device to get I really can’t tell you. I like having both. Between the two, the Google Home Mini sounds a lot better than the Amazon Echo Dot but really if you want to use it as a speaker, both Google and Amazon have much better-sounding devices. You can also do a lot more with both devices like control home automation, have them tell you the news and with Google Home you can even play games with it or use it as a doctor (say “hey google, virtual nurse”). But my needs are very simple as you can see above. Both Google and Amazon devices are available in Kuwait, Xcite sell both at KD20 each and you can most likely find it at other stores as well. If you have any questions, let me know below.


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Review: Shure SE215 Wireless Earphones

Post by Mark

Shure SE215 Wireless Earphones

Last month after posting my review on the Bang & Olufsen H5 wireless earphones, I got a message from the audio brand Shure asking me if I’d also like to try their wireless earphones. I’ve been a fan of Shure ever since I got my first pair of in-ears back in 2004, the Shure E2’s, so of course I said yes. A couple of weeks later I got their new SE215 wireless earphones in the mail.

I had a few issues with my H5’s and was curious to see if the Shure’s would solve them. My main problems with the H5’s were the battery life and the low volume level of the earphones. So how did the Shure’s perform?

Battery Life
While the B&O H5 promises up to 5 hours of battery life, the Shure’s promise up to 8. That doesn’t sound like much but in real-world use, it is. With the H5’s I make sure I put them back on the charger after using them for a couple of hours, with the Shure’s I charge them every couple of outings and still have enough juice for a third outing. But what I like about the Shure’s is that if I do run out of battery, I can just charge them using any standard micro-usb cable unlike the H5’s which require the use of the charging station that came with the earphones.

Volume Level
I’m sitting right now at Arabica having my coffee and typing up this post with the Shure earphones on listening to music. I have the music volume at 80% because at 100% they’re just too loud. With the H5’s I would always have the earphones at 100% and wish I could raise them by at least another 20%.

So yeah, the Shure’s do solve my two biggest issues with the H5’s in addition to solving another issue I wasn’t aware needed solving. When you first turn on the Shure’s, you get a voice prompt letting you know once they connect to a bluetooth source and then the voice lets you know how much battery life is left. With the B&O’s I need to launch the B&O app on my phone to find out the battery life which isn’t very practical. Another advantage of the Shure’s is the price, they cost half that of the B&O’s and sound as good if not slightly better.

Shure SE215 Wireless Earphones

With all the positives so far with the Shure’s, you’d think I’d prefer them over the B&O’s but that hasn’t been the case. Whenever I leave the house and need to pick a pair of earphones to take with me, I kept finding myself reaching for the H5’s over these Shure’s. The reason for that is the Shure’s are pretty bulky. The battery pack isn’t built into the earphones but instead is located on the cable so it makes wearing the earphones awkward. On top of that, the earphone wires are too thin making the Shure’s feel flimsy and messy because the wires keep getting tangled up.

But in the end, it really comes down to the person’s requirements. Are you looking for battery life or style? If I’m traveling then I’m definitely going to pick the Shure’s over the H5’s. But if I’m just going to a coffee shop for a couple of hours to get some work done, then I’m always going to pick the H5’s.

If you’re interested in picking up a pair of Shure SE215 wireless earphones, they’re available on Amazon for KD45 [Here]


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Lavan – Indian Cuisine

Post by Mark

Lavan is a new Indian restaurant that opened up in the city last month. When I first got invited to Lavan I didn’t really have high expectations. Lots of Indian restaurants pop up all the time and most tend to be average so I wasn’t expecting Lavan to be any different. When I got to the place I realized my expectations might be right, the interior was bland, so much so that I wasn’t even sure I had walked into the right restaurant. There was nothing Indian about the interior and the fact the restaurant didn’t have a sign outside didn’t help either. We definitely didn’t start off on the right foot.

But once the food started coming out my view of completely changed. Every single dish we had ordered was just delicious. I left so impressed that first time, I went back three more times since then. I’ve now practically tried every dish on the menu and it’s my favorite Indian spot at the moment. Here are some of my favorite dishes:

Starters
Sweet Potato Chat
Prawns Amritsari

Tandoor
Humour Tikka
Tiger Prawns
Lamb Tikka

Biryani
Chicken
Mutton
Lavan Special (Goat)

Pricing is on par with the likes of Asha’s and Copper Chimney which I think is very reasonable. You can get a better idea by checking their menu which I’ve uploaded [Here]

Like I mentioned earlier, Lavan is currently my favorite Indian restaurant. I still find the interior bland and lacking charm, but the food makes up for it which is why I keep going back. For a map of the location as well as more photos, you can check out their instagram account @houseoflavan


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The Ferrari 488 GTB

Post by Mark

I haven’t reviewed a car for some time now mostly because there really hasn’t been a car I’ve been interested in, but also because I love my Lotus so much I’d rather be in it than any other car. But, since my Lotus isn’t with me at the moment (more on that soon), I decided to take advantage of the situation by test driving the Ferrari 488 GTB.

Driving off in a car for the first time that costs as much as a home is a pretty nerve-wracking experience. The fact the car is also super low, and the roads around the dealership in pretty bad shape didn’t help the situation either. But the Ferrari 488 I was driving had the option to raise the suspension to give it a bit more ground clearance, so I managed to make my way out onto the main road without too much drama. It was pretty early in the morning so the first thing I did was head to Arabica in the city for some coffee. I took the long way by going through a bit of traffic on the 4th all the way to the 30th, and then from the 30th exiting onto the Gulf Road. I spent most of my day taking the longest way everywhere I went. Instead of grabbing my usual acai bowl for example from Liquid near Arabica in the city, for example, I decided to drive all the way to Bida’a and pick one up from Be Cafe. After spending the day zigzagging across Kuwait, I headed out to the desert to get some shots before the sunset.

After driving the Ferrari 488 GTB for a day I’ve come to the conclusion that the car has just two speeds, fast, and I’m going to get deported fast. I’m being serious here. The Ferrari 488 hits 0 to 100km/h in just 3 seconds. That’s just 0.8 seconds faster than my Lotus but damn what a difference that 0.8 makes. But that’s not even the impressive part, if you keep your foot down on the gas for just one more tiny second, you’re suddenly in the getting your license revoked territory. The car is insanely powerful, so much so that there just isn’t enough road for it. Usually, when I take out a sports car to review, I tend to drive it like I stole it. The 488 is probably the first car that I drove decently just because stepping on it would get me in a lot of trouble. Ferrari 488 owners are really going to love our racetrack once it opens up, its the only way to really enjoy and take advantage of all the power the car has to offer.

Other than the speed, a few other things impressed me quite a bit. The brakes on the car impressed me more than the speed of the car, the pedal feel is just so on point and the car stops in an instant. The interior of the car is also a wonderful place to be in. The interior is covered in leather with beautiful stitchwork and lots of carbon fiber trimming. I never felt uncomfortable, and even on my long trip with my friend into the desert, we spoke about how great the car would be on super long trips. Even though the 488 is a sports car first, you’re not sacrificing with comfort or amenities. The sound system was impressively good and the car I drove even came with front and rear parking cameras. It’s a luxury car that just happens to also be crazy ass fast.

So are there any downsides? Well yeah, the car costs as much as a house. The 488 GTB starts at KD78,000 which means I’m not really going to end up owning one anytime soon. But on the bright side, the Ferrari 488 GTB does come with a 5-year warranty (that can be extended up to 15) and 7-years free maintenance. So really the only costs you’ll have to factor in down the line are tires and brake pads. Not bad.

If you’d like to find out more about Ferraris in Kuwait then you should follow the dealer on instagram @ferrarialzayanikuwait. You can also go ahead and build your own 488 by visiting the Ferrari online car configurator [Here]


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Review: Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H5 Wireless Earphones

Post by Mark

The last time I reviewed earphones on my blog was back in 2016 when I purchased the Sennheiser IE80 earphones. I still have them, I still love them, and I still constantly use them when I travel. But, since getting an iPhone X and losing the headphone jack, I decided to explore my wireless options. I mean I don’t mind using the dongle to connect my earphones to my phone, but I was just curious to try and go wireless.

I don’t like the way the Apple AirPods look so I didn’t even consider getting them, so after a bit of research, I narrowed down my options to the Beats X and the Beats PowerBeats 3. I really didn’t want to be cliche and go with a pair of Beats, but both pairs contained Apple’s W1 chip to make connecting across all my Apple products easier, and honestly, the X looked pretty minimal and slick. But, I decided I’d go with the PowerBeats 3 because they were better for working out and had a much longer battery life (11 hours). Just before getting them, I decided to check out the reviews on Amazon and damn, they were terrible. Loads of people were complaining about the reliability and how they would suddenly stop working, so I decided I was just not gonna bother with wireless and stick to my IE80s.

Then, a friend of mine decided to get a pair of beautiful Bang & Olufsen wireless earphones, the BeoPlay H5. I was with her when she purchased them and so was kinda tempted to buy a pair for myself, but at KD85, they were just more than I wanted to spend, especially since I really loved my IE80s. Luckily for me though, after using them for a couple of days, she decided she didn’t like them. The earphone cable kept getting tangled up in her hair and so she decided to stick to her AirPods and offered to sell me the H5’s for half the price. So I got them.

Now that I’ve been using them for around 10 days, I’m not sure how I feel about them mostly because I’ve got two main issues with them:

Battery Life
B&O say the H5’s last for up to 5 hours and that’s just too little for me. If I’m traveling to Beirut, that’s a flight that’s just over two hours long. Add two more hours of use on top of that at the airport, and if I’m listening at full blast (which I always do) the batteries are going to be dead by the fourth hour. And this is a short flight, forget about using these on longer flights. You can’t even charge the earphones with a standard USB plug which means if you want to charge the earphones on the go, you would need to carry around the included charging stand which has a pretty long cable attached to it.

Volume Level
The second issue and what is probably annoying me more than the short battery life is the volume level, it’s just not that high. I tend to listen to my music at pretty loud levels and the H5 are not loud enough. Whenever a good part of a track kicks in I keep reaching for the volume to try and increase it only to realize it’s already on max. The H5 feels like it needs to be at least 25% louder.. all the time.

But, on the bright side, the sound quality of the earphones is pretty good, they’re not bassy but they’re also not too bright which I was worried they would be. They’re also super stylish, I’ve got the “Moss Green” version and I just love the way they look. These are definitely the nicest pair of wireless earphones you can get.

But, I’m not sure if these are enough reasons for me to keep the earphones since they definitely won’t be replacing my IE80s. Right now I’m sitting at Arabica listening to my music with the H5’s, and I appreciate that they’re wireless since I’m moving around freely without having to keep disconnecting my headphones from the computer or getting the wire tangled up with the other items on the table. But I’m also constantly hitting the volume up button trying to make them louder, and I’ve already been here for 3 hours so not sure how much longer they’re going to play before shutting down. They sure do look good though…

If you’re interested in a pair, you can find them at the B&O dealer in Symphony mall or on Amazon for slightly cheaper [Link]


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Pantry Tips: The Anova Sous Vide Precision Cooker

Post by Hind

I’m not normally a presents kinda girl but I did ask for one thing last year; the Anova. If you aren’t familiar, the Anova is a home sous vide machine. With sous vide cooking you stick food in a vacuum sealed bag and cook it in a controlled water bath to ensure your meats (typically) come out at optimal juiciness.

The Anova is a great kitchen tool for anyone who loves home cooking. It’s extremely affordable at 100USD and super easy to use. You can control the temperatures from the app on your phone and the cooker itself will easily attach to anything from pots, to big plastic Ikea containers if you’re planning on going to town.

The results are amazing but it does take time, so don’t expect to be using your Anova daily. Though I have made sous vide eggs, which were spectacular, I’ve only done it twice in the past year. Why? Because it’s a 45 min process and lets be honest, eggs are eggs, and ain’t nobody got time for that.

The Anova is amazing though for proteins, your steaks will always come out picture perfect and your chicken breasts juicy as ever. I have a bunch of friends that have gotten Anova’s recently and they all seem to enjoy it too, it’s a tool that really makes you feel like a pro-chef in the kitchen at a fraction of the cost of most other kitchen gadgets. [Amazon Link]

Post by Hind
CoFounder of PantryBee where home cooking is made easy.


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Flying Wataniya Airways

Post by Mark

Over the weekend I flew to Bahrain for one night and decided to take Wataniya Airways. I had booked my ticket fairly late, around 3 days before my trip and when I checked ticket prices, Gulf Air was KD68, Kuwait Airways KD50 and Wataniya Airways was KD40. Since its a short flight I went with the cheapest priced ticket. I hadn’t flown Wataniya Airways since they relaunched and so was curious to see if it was any good.

The first issue popped up 24 hours before my flight, I couldn’t check-in online. The online check-in button on their website didn’t work and when I contacted customer support they told me online check-in wasn’t possible yet. So Friday morning I woke up early and headed to the Sheikh Saad terminal so I could check-in early and choose my seat. When I got to Sheikh Saad Terminal I found out Wataniya Airways didn’t fly out from there. Neither my ticket nor the website had mentioned which airport they flew out from and since they used to fly out of Sheikh Saad Terminal before, I assumed that was still the case. It wasn’t and so I had to get back into my car and drive to the main airport instead. Wataniya Airways if you’re reading this, you need to mention what airport you fly out from on the website or the ticket!

My flight was empty with just 34 passengers so I didn’t have any trouble getting the seat I wanted. Speaking of the seats, the economy class seats looked pretty dated, they also don’t have screens nor USB or power ports. On the other hand, they did serve food and beverages on the flight although it was basic, just sandwiches and either a juice pack or a cup of water. The crew also had no issue with me using my electronic devices on takeoff and landing, some airlines still make a fuss out of this and it’s really annoying when they do, so it was a plus that they didn’t.

Would I use Wataniya Airways again? Possibly, their prices right now are pretty competitive and they’ve got offers running all the time. Last week you could have booked a ticket to Doha for free and now I just checked ticket prices to Beirut and it’s KD40 (using the coupon code SUNDAY). My only issue really is the online check-in since I like choosing my seats before I get to the airport. I could still do that but I’d have to pay for the seats and I think the first few rows are KD10 (I think I even saw KD20), and then keep dropping down in price the further you go back. When your whole ticket costs you just KD40, doesn’t make sense to pay KD20 as well on seats. Overall though it’s great having another airline to choose from.


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A Weekend with the iPhone X

Post by Mark

Thursday night I picked up my iPhone X from Digits in Marina Mall. They’d given me early access to buy one so that I could review it on the blog, but they made me promise that I wouldn’t turn it on until Friday morning 8AM. Apple is pretty strict with these things so I understood their concern. I know someone who had gotten an iPhone X a few days earlier, and when they turned it on, Apple sent the authorized reseller he had gotten the phone from a warning that they had 2 hours to shut it down or else. I wasn’t in a rush, I didn’t mind waiting till the next morning to play with the iPhone X, I was just glad I had my hands on one and didn’t have to wait in any line to get it.

I’m not the kind of person that upgrades phones every year, I was actually using an iPhone 6S until last week and was perfectly fine with it until my company handed me an iPhone 8. The iPhone X is the first iPhone in years that I’ve really wanted, and after using it over the weekend, here are my first impressions:

No Home Button
The iPhone X no longer has a home button and I was worried it would take time to get used to the new swipe up to go home gesture. But, I got used to it within the first few minutes of using the phone. To me it feels natural and so much slicker and faster than clicking down on the home button. So goodbye home button, you won’t be missed.

Face ID
This is probably my favorite feature in the iPhone X. It just works. The best way to describe it is that it’s as if your phone doesn’t have a passcode. To unlock your phone, you pick it up and then you swipe up to go home. Super simple, super fast. If for some reason your phone doesn’t wake up when you pick it up, you just tap the screen to wake it up and then swipe up. Again super fast. But Face ID has other advantages than just using it to log into your phone. When I get to a website that asks me to log in with my username and password, the phone checks my face and when it recognizes me automatically fills in my username and password. Another cool feature of Face ID is with notifications. When you get say a whatsapp message on your phone, you won’t see a preview. Pick up the phone and Face ID will recognize you and then show you a preview of the whatsapp messages [Example]. That’s a really smart feature because it means you can leave your phone out in the open and not worry about anyone reading your notification previews, but it also means you yourself can still read those previews. If you’re also wondering, Face ID works under different lighting so if you’re in complete darkness or out under bright sunlight, Face ID will still be able to read your face. Face ID was still able to read my face even though I had sun glasses on and even when my face was half stuffed deeply into my pillow.

The Screen
It’s huge and I’m loving it so far mostly because the blacks are so black. One of the biggest advantages of OLED screens (which is what the iPhone X uses) is the blacks are pure black. That’s because unlike LCD’s, to get the color black on an OLED screen it shuts off the pixels that are supposed to be black. So black is parts of the screen not lit up. Am I making sense? Imagine a room with no windows and one light bulb, to turn the room black you just turn off the bulb. No light = complete darkness = black. The “notch” on top of the screen isn’t annoying at all by the way, in fact I barely notice it. I mean its there, but it doesn’t hinder the experience of using the phone in any way. For those of you who are also concerned that not all apps are yet adapted to take full advantage of the iPhone X, from all the apps I use I think only 2 or 3 still display a black border on top and the bottom of the screen. The rest of my apps all display full screen and so it’s not really a big issue, and whatever apps don’t display in full screen I’m expecting them to by their next update.

Wireless Charging
I picked up a Belkin Qi charger from Xcite for around KD6 and have it on my bedside table. I noticed compared to the iPhone 8 the iPhone X has a larger wireless charging sweet spot. With the iPhone 8 it wouldn’t always start charging when I placed it on the charger but I haven’t had that issue with the iPhone X. If like me you use a magnetic mount for the phone it can still work with wireless charging. I have the metal plate sandwiched between my silicone cover and the phone, but I moved the plate all the way to the bottom of the phone and turned it sideways. That way the center of the phone is clear and the metal plate won’t interfere with charging.

Size vs iPhone 8
The iPhone 8 and X are virtually the same size. The iPhone X is slightly taller and thicker but too minor to even notice.

The Camera
Finally the camera, probably the most important aspect of the phone for me. I was always jealous of iPhone Plus owners since they had two lenses on their phones, the regular wide one and a more zoomed in one. Other than the added advantage of being able to zoom in closer to a subject (while maintaining the image quality), having two lenses allowed Apple to create the “portrait mode” feature in which it blurs the background making it look like it was shot with a DSLR. The iPhone Plus is too big a phone for me so I never considered getting it, but the iPhone X has the same camera system as the plus, with more features like a brighter aperture (f/2.4 vs f/2.8) and optical image stabilisation for both lenses not just the wide one. I haven’t really taken that many shots with it, just a few of my brothers cats and some of my friends and so far I really am loving the portrait mode.

So yeah as you can tell, I’m really loving the iPhone X so far. Although it was a big chunk of change to spend on just a phone, I think its worth it. If you’re looking to pick one up, Digits sold out their stock on launch, but are getting another shipment in around a weeks time. They currently have a waiting list so you can go and reserve a phone. The prices of the 64GB version is KD353 and the 256GB version KD405. A friend also just picked up a phone from Zain this morning but I think you have to sign up to a plan or something to get it (i.e. don’t think you can just straight up buy it from them).


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