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Steamfast SF-520 Fabric Steamer with Insulated Hose and Clothes Hanger
Steamfast SF-520 Fabric Steamer with Insulated Hose and Clothes Hanger
Price: $73.39
3 used & new from $73.39

4.0 out of 5 stars Way better than the steamy bathroom maneuver, April 15, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'm a t-shirt and jeans kind of person, which means the "good" clothes spend a long time in the closet between wearing. This steamer is much easier than ironing, and more effective than hanging your suit in the bathroom when you take a shower (my usual method for emergency de-wrinkling).

FORM FACTOR: The steamer goes together easily - the only foible is that the side of the pole with the hanger has to be on the side with the water tank (to act as a counterweight), or the steamer will fall over when you put weight on it. The included hanger is a bit narrower than a standard suit hanger, but there are also hooks on either side so you can use your own hanger if this is an issue. The whole thing collapses nicely - hanger folds down, pole telescopes, etc. There are hooks on the steamer body to hold the cord, and a hook at the top of the pole to hold the steamer head - useful if you want to set it down while you get out the next shirt.

USE: Basically, it works like a humidifier. Fill the reservoir, turn it on, wait about 15 seconds, and begin. The steamer does spit the occasional drop of water, so consider that if you want it for very delicate fabrics. It also won't make crisp creases (obviously), though I did get it to work on bunched up plackets by holding the bottom end of the fabric in one hand, with the top end supported by the hanger, and running the steamer head tightly over the cloth.

BUGS: Before putting the steamer away you need to empty the water tank, which is a minor pain (the bottom is flat for some reason, so you can't get the last few drops). I solve this by leaving the cap off and setting the tank upside down (see picture). There is a small valve to empty the last of the water out of the body of the unit (see the same picture, bottom center), but it's easier to just upend the base over the sink. I do leave the valve open so the last few drops can dry (remember to close that before you try to fill it again).

Overall, this has earned its place in my hall closet.
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Energizer Vision HD 3AAA Performance Metal Light
Energizer Vision HD 3AAA Performance Metal Light
Price: $14.99
2 used & new from $14.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keeping it simple, April 12, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
(This review is for the 3AAA version. I can't speak to the quality of the other models.)

I have a love-hate relationship with LED flashlights. On the one hand, the battery life is WAY better than the old incandescent bulbs. On the other hand, using a pushbutton instead of a slider switch is a minor pain. Even more so when the flashlight designer decides to give in to creeping featuritis. Do you really need a light with six different intensity levels, strobe, disco, and SOS modes, and the manufacturer's NASDAQ sign in Morse code? Probably not. Should you need a degree from MIT to use your goddam flashlight? No.

This light has three modes. High, which is what you get from the first button press. Low, which is what you get from the second. Strobe, which is what you get when you press the button and hold it for a couple of seconds. That's it. Bravo.

Otherwise, the light is made out of actual metal, is slightly longer than a fist is wide, has a knurled grip on the body, has three flattened spots on the light bezel to keep it from rolling, and screws apart easily to add the batteries (and the battery case has a diagram to show you how to orient those). No muss, no fuss, no bother. There is a yellow gasket-looking ring on the handle that I was hoping would render the case waterproof, but this is just cosmetic ("Energizer." Yellow stripe. I get it.).

If this were a thirty dollar flashlight I would expect a sexier design, and maybe a holster. For Amazon's price, as a simple flashlight, five stars.

(UPDATE: Some people seem to be having trouble opening the package. It's a cardboard clamshell with plastic inserts - just cut or tear along the bottom edge of the cardboard and it will open like a change purse. See picture.)
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 16, 2016 11:31 AM PDT


Compaclite Multi-Use Outdoor Table/Stool/Footrest for Camping/Hiking/Fishing/Hunting/Picnic/Fishing/Garden/BBQ/Beach/Patio with Carry Bag
Compaclite Multi-Use Outdoor Table/Stool/Footrest for Camping/Hiking/Fishing/Hunting/Picnic/Fishing/Garden/BBQ/Beach/Patio with Carry Bag
Price: $28.52
2 used & new from $27.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Hold my beer and watch this, March 31, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Really, who hasn't wanted to traipse the gentle woodland, accompanied only by their loyal footstool? And oh what a footstool this is, equipped with a comfy cloth top, adorned with its own not-quite-camo forest scene, four sturdy legs, that come apart into eight sturdy half-legs, two side pockets, each just the right size for a beer and a Kindle paperwhite, and a carry bag, with a carry strap. You carry the footstool, and then the footstool carries you - balance is maintained in the universe.

As a table, the footstool is a table the way the empty couch cushion next to you is a table - suitable for a tray or a bag of chips, but your beer can is going to fall over. As a chair, well, it's only 12 inches off the ground (19 wide by 16 long), and backless. So really more of a camping ottoman. If you were looking for a zabuton, the lotus position is much more comfortable when facing the long way, so as to avoid hard edges and sag.

The stool is otherwise very well made, with edging covering the exposed seams and sewn-in webbing pull tabs to help when putting the legs into their sockets under the cloth seat. It will be MUCH easier to attach the legs if you only put together the two halves of the first two legs, on one side, put them into their sockets, then put the tops of the second two legs into their respective sockets before putting the two halves of the second two legs together (sounds confusing, will make sense when you see it in person).

I am underwhelmed by the quality of the storage bag (lots of stitching errors, exposed raw edges on the cloth), and this really is an ottoman, not a table or chair. It's also nicely compact, but too heavy for serious hiking - more of a car camping thing. Otherwise, no complaints.


Rubbermaid FreshWorks 6.3 Cup Medium Produce Saver, Green
Rubbermaid FreshWorks 6.3 Cup Medium Produce Saver, Green
Price: $10.92
14 used & new from $10.92

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good for clamshell herbs, mostly., March 21, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I buy fresh herbs in the plastic clamshell at the supermarket, but after about a week in the fridge they go from "fresh" to "moldy," and I realize I just paid two dollars for one sprig of rosemary. As such, I had high hopes for this box.

I bought two clamshells of Jacob's Farm mixed herbs (regular and "poultry"), put them in the box unwashed straight from the grocery bag, poked some of the larger stems through the removable grid at the bottom of the box to keep those upright, and set the box on a shelf in the fridge for two weeks.

Conclusion: There is a lot of condensation on the sides of the box, both under the vent and elsewhere. Sage and rosemary, both stiff-twig herbs, stayed perfectly fresh, soft, and un-moldy. I expected that, inasmuch as those were the stems that got stuck upright (so, lots of airflow around the leaves). Thyme, which is a small leaf/small twig herb, also stayed perfectly fresh, even though it wasn't stuck through the grid (but the twigs are stiff, so it wasn't trapping moisture). Mint and oregano weren't so lucky - I lost about half the leaves to rot. Both mint and oregano have thin and delicate leaves, and both were in the middle, so not enough airflow. This can be worked around by carefully spacing out the sprigs.

The box, grid, and lid are made in Malaysia. The fancy vent in the lid consists of a fine mesh inside covered by wider holes outside (that vent cover does pop off and back on). The entire box assembly is supposedly dishwasher safe, but it would be possible for small bits of crud to get pushed through the wider holes and get trapped in the mesh. So I would recommend washing the lid by hand.

Overall, if you want to keep fresh herbs, and you're willing to spend the time to fuss and experiment, this box will work. But it does require some fussing.

UPDATE: Through the miracle of Amazon I now also have the large and small sized boxes. I was hoping the large would be the right size for carrots, but it's too short. It is, however, just the right size for small bakery bread loaves - 6"x8", and about 5" high. After more than a week the current loaf has a chewy (not crisp) crust, but it's not stale or moldy. I tried the small box with some ginger and had no such luck - the freshly broken end did get moldy. Whole pieces brought home already dry would probably be ok.
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North Point Sleep Master Jacquard Velour Hotel Cabana Stripe Beach Towel, 30 by 60", Sky Blue
North Point Sleep Master Jacquard Velour Hotel Cabana Stripe Beach Towel, 30 by 60", Sky Blue
Price: $10.99
2 used & new from $8.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars But what if you wash it in hot water?, March 12, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
We wash our towels and bedding in hot water (actually on a "sanitize" cycle), so when I read that this towel's care instructions say "cold water/gentle cycle" I knew I was going to push the envelope.

Here are my results:

- Fresh out of the package: The towel measures 29.5 x 59.5 inches. The blue stripes and edges are very bold, and the white is white. The terrycloth loops on the non-velour side of the towel are very easy to snag and pull (I created a small run just taking the towel out of its plastic bag and unfolding it). No lint.

- After washing in my front-loader, on "Sanitize": The towel measures roughly 27 x 57 inches. Lots of lint. White strips are now very pale blue, as is a sacrificial t-shirt I washed with the towel.

- After drying, on "Normal": The towel measures roughly 25 x 55. The terrycloth loops have shortened, and the weave has tightened up, and the towel feels like a typical towel (with one terrycloth side and one softer velour side). The short edges look a tiny bit contracted, perhaps because of differential shrinkage. There is more lint, and the white stripes are still a very pale blue.

Overall, I think this is a decent towel for the price. Despite the tag there's no need to wash it on cold. (The hang tag says cold, but the sewn-on cloth tag just says "machine wash." It's possible they got complaints about shrinkage and this was the fix.) If other towels are any indication, the lint problem will resolve after the first few washings. I note that the towel is hemmed on all four sides, which I do consider to be a sign of a quality towel.
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The Farm on the Roof: What Brooklyn Grange Taught Us About Entrepreneurship, Community, and Growing a Sustainable Business
The Farm on the Roof: What Brooklyn Grange Taught Us About Entrepreneurship, Community, and Growing a Sustainable Business
by Anastasia Cole Plakias
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.79
64 used & new from $7.56

5.0 out of 5 stars Green roof, not (thankfully) blue sky, February 28, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
When I started studying sustainable design, green roofs (or, lord help us, Vertical Farms) were mostly just a nice idea. And I wish my classes back then had included this book.

The author presents the story of the Brooklyn Grange. The tale isn't really one of woo and glurge, but rather of grit and mud, with a healthy dollop of political and economic reality (like, why you shouldn't name your rooftop farm business The Brooklyn Grange before you've signed a lease, since you might wind up with a rooftop in Queens). The tale is very roughly chronological, with individual chapters focusing on things like funding (including using Kickstarter in its infant days), identifying a suitable space, and team building (in a chapter titled "We are Farmily," and this one is a bit glurgy).

The text is very readable, and the anecdotes are charming, but overall this is a book about starting and running a business. It's not quite a how-to cookbook, or a typical case study (though business schools have in fact discovered the triple-bottom-line), but it will be of interest to anyone studying sustainable design, or thinking of starting a green-oriented brick-and-mortar company.


Granite Ware F0627 Better Browning 13 by 9-Inch Muffin Pan
Granite Ware F0627 Better Browning 13 by 9-Inch Muffin Pan
Price: $14.00
6 used & new from $14.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two of these pans hold a loaf pan's worth of batter (plus some other tips), February 23, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I looked for an alternative to thin teflon crap-chinese pans for years before finding these. They are just the right thing:

- Made in USA.

- Heavy gauge so they cook evenly.

- Dishwasher safe.

- Enamel over steel, so minimal stick and they soak clean (you still need to grease the pans - solid shortening with an extra finger-tip-full around the bottom edge of each cup works best).

- If You Care JUMBO Baking Cups fit perfectly for cupcakes.

- They hold half a loaf's worth! These are jumbo cups, so one six-cup muffin pan holds 3/4 of a quart of batter filled not quite to the top. The Granite Ware F0623 Better Browning 9 by 5-Inch Loaf Pan holds 1.5 quarts filled not quite to the top. Halve the recipe (or use two muffin pans) and halve the bake time and you can make any quick bread as muffins.

I have three of these pans, and use them constantly.

(NON-DISCLAIMER: I actually PAID for the three pans. I didn't get them for free in exchange for a review.)


Dell SE2416HX 23.8" Screen LED-Lit IPS Monitor
Dell SE2416HX 23.8" Screen LED-Lit IPS Monitor
Price: $135.99
24 used & new from $117.87

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK for the price, definitely not for professionals (ghosting and aliasing issues), February 17, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Hubby has a Dell monitor at work that he likes very much, so I was happy to get this one to review and compare. It's an OK monitor for the price, but the keyword here, unfortunately, is "for the price."

- Form Factor - The usable screen area is not quite 21" wide by not quite 12" high, which makes it easy to put two pages side-by-side for text editing (but see my comment about font size below). The screen tilts about 15 degrees upward and about 5 degrees downward, which may not be enough if, like me, you like to scunch down in your desk chair with your feet on your desk. The connections are on the back of the screen, but situated on a small bump-out and pointing downward, which is a minor pain if you are doing a lot of swapping (I guess this would make wall mounting easier, though the bump-out itself would interfere with this). Hubby's first comment when we unpacked the monitor was about how light it was. Part of this is the base, which is actually mostly plastic, despite looking like metal.

- Controls - The monitor display can be fine-tuned (color, refresh, etc.) via a small menu interface, accessed via a set of four buttons on the bottom right of the front bezel. There are presets for "Graphics," "Media," "Paper," etc., and I was pleased to note that these provide information about energy usage.

- Display - I am underwhelmed by the display. First, because there is noticeable dark space around the pixels, which means small text has aliasing issues, and very small text is basically unreadable. Second, because there is noticeable static ghosting in graphics mode. For example, if you put a thin sharp black line on a saturated blue background, you will see a fuzzy white line on either side of the black line. (I recreated that in MS Paint, Adobe Illustrator, and Corel Painter Essentials). No monitor is ghost-free, and this can be mitigated somewhat by adjusting the settings, but I really don't want to do graphic work on a dim monitor with a weird color balance.

- Other - Microsoft Windows 8.1 had no trouble finding the monitor, and setting up in dual-display mode. Jacking in the monitor did disable my onboard laptop speakers, and none of the obvious fixes seems to work to address this , but I can believe I just haven't found the right set of tweaks in settings.

Overall, this monitor is acceptable for home use, and OK for the price. I would not recommend it for any kind of professional work.


Fiskars Fast-Prep Kitchen Shears, 7", Gray
Fiskars Fast-Prep Kitchen Shears, 7", Gray
Price: $17.97
11 used & new from $13.83

2 of 2 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: $16.96
55 used & new from $11.00

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.


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