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Fiskars Fast-Prep Kitchen Shears, 7", Gray
Fiskars Fast-Prep Kitchen Shears, 7", Gray
Price: $16.99
15 used & new from $13.83

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars They work for lefties, February 8, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The first question I always ask about kitchen gadgets is "do they work for lefties?" These shears pass with flying colors, way better than ordinary scissors.

The shears are great for snipping scallions and chives. Harder stuff like dried herb stems tends to go flying (also true with traditional scissors), but you can mitigate that somewhat by holding the blades horizontally so things fly straight downward. There is a nice holster included in the package to keep the blades closed and covered for storage.

My only complaint is that, while the shears are dishwasher-safe, the bases of the blades stay in contact with each other when the shears are fully open. This does trap some liquid, so I wouldn't use these for something that could rot, like chicken. The spring is also pretty stiff, so I'm not sure someone with arthritis could really use these comfortably.

Recipes From Many Kitchens: Celebrated Local Food Artisans Share Their Signature Dishes
Recipes From Many Kitchens: Celebrated Local Food Artisans Share Their Signature Dishes
by Valentina Rice
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.16
50 used & new from $10.60

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stuff you might actually cook, February 6, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There are two kinds of cookbooks - the food porn type, with full-page glossy pictures and cute little blurbs, and the reference type, with useful cooking tips and recipes you might actually make. At first glance I did this book a disservice, and put it completely in the food-porn category. Not so. There are also cooking tips, and recipes you might actually make.

General comments:

- The recipes are arranged into a series of twelve "Menus" ("Tex-Mex Brunch," "Italian Supper," etc.). This includes drink (usually alcoholic) and dessert recipes. There is a decent index (the recipe for "Kachumber Raita" is also listed under "Cucumber" and "Yogurt," for example).

- The recipes are mostly from scratch (things like bullion, ketchup, tortillas, or puff pastry dough being the exceptions) and mostly not too far out (ghee, matcha, and mango chutney were the oddest ingredients I saw, and sometimes easier alternatives are listed). Prep ranges from elaborate (chicken and waffles), to simple but delicious (tomates provincales).

- Similarly, the equipment is typical for a well-stocked kitchen. Pots, pans, mandoline, mixer, blender, immersion blender, commercial espresso machine (ok, that last one was a joke).

- There is a skew toward Tex-Mex/Mexican/Spanish, but there are also Asian, German, Indian, English, and French "menus."

- There are the obligatory full-page glossy pictures, if you like that sort of thing. I was more pleased that most of the individual recipes were arranged to fit on a single page, and that some ingredients had both volume (tsp, tbsp) and weight (gram) measures.

Overall, this is a charming cookbook.

AtmosFlare 3D Pen Set
AtmosFlare 3D Pen Set
Offered by Toys US
Price: $41.73
8 used & new from $37.35

4.0 out of 5 stars "Results vary depending on level of skill", January 20, 2016
This review is from: AtmosFlare 3D Pen Set (Toy)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"Results vary depending on level of skill." Yeah, no kidding.

The idea of this toy is pretty straightforward - there are two pouches full of UV-sensitive goo, you put one pouch into the pen, squeeze, and the goo oozes out of the nozzle, past a ring of UV lights, which sets the goo into hard strings of plastic. 3D printing! Woot! (Or maybe dental repair).

In reality, you have to squeeze the pouch REALLY slowly and steadily or the goo wont set, the pen isn't particularly comfortable in the hand, and the process won't actually let you defy gravity - the strings only sorta stand up under their own weight (there's a reason the demo makes a little Eiffel Tower, engineering miracle that it is). Well ok, it's a toy after all, not an actual 3D printer.

My main beefs with this are that there are four identical drawing nozzles included (so only strings, no ribbons), and, while there are two colors, there is only one storage cap. You can work around the storage cap issue by taking off the drawing nozzle and reusing the cap that was on the unopened cartridge, but it's messy. The finished product also has a waxy/sticky feel to it, so if you were planning on home dentistry you should probably pass.

I never managed to make an Eiffel Tower, but I did have fun with the "how tall can I make this before it falls over" game. Which is probably what this toy is best for.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 27, 2016 11:06 AM PST

ClosetMaid 97537 Over-the-Door Adjustable Hanging Organizer, White
ClosetMaid 97537 Over-the-Door Adjustable Hanging Organizer, White
Price: $43.30
3 used & new from $43.30

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not compatable with Elfa shelving or thick doors, January 13, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
You can never have too much storage, so I was thrilled to receive this hook rack to review. It's very nicely done, with some caveats.


- WALL OR DOOR compatible (or wall AND door compatible) - The standards (upright pieces) are actually made up of four shorter lengths, which attach together to make two door-height pieces. Inasmuch as the set also comes with several different kinds of hardware (over-the-door hooks, molly bolts for drywall, and screws with or without anchors) you could in theory put one shorter pair of standards on your door, and use the other pair on a wall.

- HARD COATING - The hoods and standards are covered with a hard enamel-ish coating, not a soft vinyl dip. More expensive to make, but I don't expect to be replacing this in five years when the coating falls apart.


- NO ELFA SHELVING - Nope, not compatible. The standards look like Elfa, so I had high hopes for hook-swapping. The slots are completely different, however, so it's not possible.

- THIN DOORS ONLY - The over-the-door hangers are suitable for doors that are 1-7/16" thick, which is pretty standard for closets. Exterior doors and (sometimes) room doors are thicker than that, so measure carefully before buying.

Overall, I found these to be well made, and useful. I hope ClosetMaid will make hangers available for thicker doors.

Smead Stick-N-Store Poly Pouch, 6 x 11-1/4 Inches, 5 per Pack (68180)
Smead Stick-N-Store Poly Pouch, 6 x 11-1/4 Inches, 5 per Pack (68180)
Price: $7.53
9 used & new from $6.30

4.0 out of 5 stars Fits two DVDs. Woot., December 30, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
My client files pretty much always include a DVD, so I've been looking for a way to store those in the same folder as papers and such while still keeping everything tidy. This pouch works well.

The pouch is a bit narrower than a hanging folder or file envelope (both shown in the picture), but still wide enough to hold two DVD envelopes side-by-side. My only beef is that the sticky strip on the pouch is on the side away from the zipper. On the one hand that keeps stuff from getting stuck underneath, but on the other hand the pouch can fall forward and get in the way when you're going digging in the file. Still pretty useful.
Comment Comment | Permalink

Tommie Copper Men's Recovery Nexus Compression Undershorts, Black, Large
Tommie Copper Men's Recovery Nexus Compression Undershorts, Black, Large
Price: $34.13

3.0 out of 5 stars Not enough compression where it matters, December 7, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Hubby goes jogging every morning, in tightie-whities and sweatpants. Since he also has occasional pain in his hip joint from an old injury, I was hoping he would prefer these instead. However, he says they don't have enough support in the crotch (he said that a different way, but I don't want Amazon to bounce the review).

We got the size large compression shorts to try out, and he usually wears Jockey or Calvin Klein briefs, size 34 or 36.

Caleb's Kola, Fair Trade Cane Sugar, Real Kola Nut Extract and Spices, 10 Ounce Glass Bottles (Pack of 8)
Caleb's Kola, Fair Trade Cane Sugar, Real Kola Nut Extract and Spices, 10 Ounce Glass Bottles (Pack of 8)
Price: $18.50

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sweet and Light, December 6, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I usually buy Mexican Coke (glass bottles, all sugar), so I was happy to get this to compare. It is somewhat sweeter than the Coke I'm used to, with less vanilla and more citrus notes. It also tastes lighter and less syrupy. (The promo pictures show coriander seed, cardamon, and star anise - none of these is overtly obvious in the taste).

The bottles were well-packed, with extra cardboard layers on all six sides of the box (not just four).

Symbolic Logic
Symbolic Logic
Price: $0.00

1.0 out of 5 stars Kindle edition has no diagrams, December 6, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Symbolic Logic (Kindle Edition)
When Amazon offered the Kindle edition of this classic work for free, I thought it was too good to be true. It is. The Kindle edition doesn't have any diagrams, which makes this pretty much unusable. Don't bother.

(And I wish there were a way to review the media separately from the content. The book itself is not the problem here).

Learn Spanish: Instant Immersion Family Edition Language Software Set  - 2016 Edition
Learn Spanish: Instant Immersion Family Edition Language Software Set  - 2016 Edition
Price: $59.99
2 used & new from $55.27

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Instant Immersion vs Rosetta Stone - an actual comparison, December 5, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I reviewed Rosetta Stone Spanish a few years ago on Amazon, and have also used a much older version of Instant Immersion, so I was happy to get this newer version to compare to RS. Instant Immersion has some useful aspects, but it is nowhere near Rosetta Stone, despite the company's claims to the contrary.

The Instant Immersion program is made up of three parts:

* COMPUTER PROGRAM. The Instant Immersion program is actually four programs in one, titled "Talk Now," "Talk More," "Talk the Talk," and "Talk Business." Each of the four programs contains ten sections, and a typical section presents a series of vocabulary words and/or phrases, written and spoken (up to 41 vocabulary words, though for some sections only five phrases). You can listen to the words or phrases, record yourself saying them so you can play back and evaluate yourself, play some games to test your knowledge ("choose the correct word," "choose the correct picture," "choose the appropriate phrase," etc.) and there are even flashcards to print out. OK.

The programs superficially resemble Rosetta Stone in that there are picture- and word-matching games to play on your computer, and a series of new words presented in each section. However, Rosetta Stone differs in three important ways - First, RS uses the computer interaction to teach grammar, not just a list of vocabulary words (for example you have to choose the correct conjugation). Second, the RS lessons build on each other, with later lessons using and reinforcing vocabulary and grammar learned earlier. Instant Immersion only presents independent lists. Third, and most important, RS has voice recognition, whereas II only lets you record yourself and listen to the playback. According to the Instant Immersion manual, the human ear is more sensitive than a computer, so recording and playback is better. Not so. A native speaker would certainly be better at evaluating pronunciation, but a naive speaker doesn't know what to listen for.

* MP3s. The Instant Immersion package also includes a collection of MP3 tracks, arranged into 16 lessons, with the lessons being roughly between 30 minutes and an hour each. (So, a LOT of audio time). The beginning lessons are slow, deliberate, and tortuous ("The Spanish word for ___ is ___..... The Spanish word for ____ is ____.... etc.), but things do pick up quickly, with both grammar instruction and dialog/conversation to listen to. When I used a previous version of Instant Immersion the package consisted entirely of these tracks, and this is clearly still the focus of the package. The disk also has a PDF transcript, which will help with the more complex dialogs.

By comparison, the audio tracks I got with Rosetta Stone just consisted of more of the same dialog you were listening to when using the RS computer program - useful for honing your ear and accent, but incredibly boring. I do have to admit that some of Instant Immersion's audio lessons are more useful, inasmuch as they actually explain grammatical theory (something RS doesn't do at all, since their paradigm is to learn grammar from exposure and interaction, like a native speaker would). Just to throw a third player into the mix, for basic number and letter drills, and for conversations, you might actually do better streaming some episodes of Plaza Sesamo.

* VIDEO DVD. Rosetta Stone had online videos that were actually enjoyable, so I had high hopes for this DVD. It is, however, just more of the same vocabulary and games from the computer program, with slightly enhanced video. You can interact with the games using your DVD player remote, but otherwise I'm not sure what the point is here.

* OTHER STUFF. Rosetta Stone has online games to play over the Internet, and multiplayer activities. They have also apparently added native speaker instruction since I wrote my review. Instant Immersion has none of these things. Instant Immersion touts a "pocket phrase guide," but this is a two-page joke. II also supposedly offers a tablet app, but I have not been successful in downloading this. The app appears to be more of the same computer program.

Overall, Instant Immersion is a useful vocabulary drill, but I am extremely skeptical that you could actually learn Spanish using this package (beyond "How much?" and "Where is my suitcase?") Had the company not claimed to be a replacement for Rosetta Stone, I might have given it four stars.

Corel Painter 2016
Corel Painter 2016
Price: $379.00
12 used & new from $374.00

4.0 out of 5 stars The keyword here is "Paint." Not Illustrate or Draw or 'Shop., November 7, 2015
This review is from: Corel Painter 2016 (CD-ROM)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've been using other Corel products (Draw, Paintshop Pro) for a few years now (and Adobe products for a few decades), so I was thrilled to get this to review. For real artists it will be an extraordinary tool. For other types of users there are probably better choices out there.

Some specific comments:


- Painter will take in Photoshop files, but isn't a replacement for Photoshop (or Paintshop Pro). While it is possible to manipulate photos in Painter, the process isn't nearly as streamlined or versatile as in the other programs. The import process is also not perfect - among other things, text and path-edited shapes created in Photoshop are translated into non-editable bitmapped images, or are not brought in at all. For me that alone makes it a deal breaker as a Photoshop replacement. I should note, however, that in addition to saving files as Photoshop files, Painter will also export files as Illustrator files, if you want to draw first and label later.

- Painter's own path- and vector-based editing functions are basic compared to Photoshop's, though I was happy to find that splines are supported.

- Painter will also take in Photoshop brush definitions, which is a win. While you can buy some additional Painter brush packs, they can't compare with the huge number of Photoshop brushes available online (including many that are free). I should note that the translations many need some tweaking, and that there are some other limitations.


- If you don't have a pressure sensitive stylus you will lose much of the brush functionality. If your sole pointing device is a mouse, it's probably not worth buying this program.

- Every once in a while the program will hang temporarily while I'm using it. This is usually, though not always, associated with loading a new brush definition. I should note that my system has a 2.16 GHz processor, and 4 gig of ram, which is slightly faster than the minimum recommended configuration.


- Some newer features feel like they're not ready for prime time. For example, there are several different workspaces available, including one for small screens (good), but it appears that that workspace has lost the shape and vector functions in the side menu, and there is no pane you can pop up to get those back. Huh?

- The docs also have some annoying entries. For example, under the heading "To Build a 1-Rank Nozzle," you find: "In a 1-Rank nozzle, the images do not need to be in one line... For more information, see To build a 2-Rank nozzle." Under the heading "To build a 2-Rank nozzle" you then find "To paint with your new nozzle file, you’ll need to load it first. For more information, see To load a 1-Rank nozzle file." (One advantage of online docs is that this may be fixed in a later upgrade).


There is also a lite version of Painter called Painter Essentials. This is entirely bitmap based: no objects, no paths, no vectors. It's a nice toy, but not really a low-budget alternative to Painter. (And speaking of toys, I really wish Corel would spend resources on its docs and UI, and not on things like audio brushes).


So why get this program? Well, the actual painting features are amazing. Hundreds of brushes, a clone function that can be set up to work like tracing paper, watercolor emulation that includes things like variable paper bleed, several different perspective grids, and other things I'm sure I haven't found yet. Can you fake this in other programs? Yes, but Painter is designed to showcase and support them. The interaction is facile and natural.

So, if you were looking for a replacement for Photoshop, this isn't it. If you were looking for a replacement for canvas, palette, and easel? Might be.

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