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Laser Pegs 12-in-1 Indy Car Building Set
Laser Pegs 12-in-1 Indy Car Building Set
Price: $27.36
11 used & new from $27.14

5.0 out of 5 stars More Laser Peg fun, September 18, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
We have a couple of these Laser Peg sets and this has proven to be a great addition. For starters Laser Pegs are a great creative toy, think Legos with lights. They are one of the few toys that can entertain all four of our kids. It's pretty fun for anyone from about 3-15. My kids seem to enjoy just having a box of these to play around with, so it didn't stay a separate set for long. My son built a car. The wheels don't roll all that well but it was fun for the five minutes it stayed a car. Now it's part of some kind of transformer looking dinosaur thing. All I care about is that he's using his hands and imagination instead of sitting in front of a screen.

I think as a starter set it's okay, but maybe not the best "first set". We have about six other sets but the hands down favorites were the Laser Pegs 6-in-1 Monster Truck Building Set and the Laser Pegs 57-in-1 Dragon Building Set. If you are just starting out with Laser Pegs I'd get the Dragon set first, but this is definitely a fun addition that will give your kids plenty of imagination play.

Minecraft Animal Toy (6-Pack)
Minecraft Animal Toy (6-Pack)
Offered by The Gaming Broker
Price: $21.36
125 used & new from $15.32

4.0 out of 5 stars For die-hard Minecraft fans, September 15, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have two boys, 7 and 8, who are absolutely crazy about Minecraft. I don't mind that too much since it's one of the better games out there. At least they're using their imaginations and creating stuff. One recently had a birthday and Minecraft toys were tops on his list. So far they are both getting pretty good use out of them. Between action figures like this and some Minecraft Legos they have created a pretty good "pretend" Minecraft world they can play in (when they don't have screen time).

The quality of these toys are pretty good. We've have a bunch of these for a few weeks with no causalities yet. The tail on the ocelot is thin and I expect it to break off any day now, but so far, so good. The legs and head move and usually something else. The favorite so far is the sheep: it has spring-loaded legs, and if you hit it just right it falls over side-ways, just like in the game. This is highly entertaining to my kids.

I did dock a star for the price. This is honestly more like a $10-$15 toy than a $20-25 toy. I would only buy it for a die-hard Minecraft fan, because the value really comes from the kid excitement level. As a toy alone it's overpriced.

AmazonBasics On-Ear Headphones
AmazonBasics On-Ear Headphones
Price: $14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best you can do at this price, September 12, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
These are replacing a set of Sony MDR-V150 Monitor Series Headphones which sell for about $30. Those were a nice basic set of headphones I used for my computer. These Amazon Headphones absolutely destroy those, especially on the low end. No these aren't studio quality cans, but for $15 I think you'll find these impossible to beat. I've gone through a ton of cheap headphones between my four kids. The last thing I bought them was a pair of $16 Sony MDRZX100/BLK ZX Series Stereo Headphones for their computer and these Amazon headphones eliminate any need for those pieces of junk to exist. These are sturdier and sound way better. I would recommend these for anywhere you need a cheap set of headphones for anything other than "serious" music listening. If you are looking to relax to your favorite music, you are going to want to spend at least $80-$100 for a decent set of headphones. Audiophiles will drop far more than that, but if you are over 25 you probably can't hear what really expensive headphones can do anyway. If you are looking for cheap headphones go ahead and get these, you are going to be pleasantly surprised by what $15 is going to buy you.

Motorola MBP33S Wireless Video Baby Monitor with 2.8-Inch Color LCD, Zoom and Enhanced Two-Way Audio
Motorola MBP33S Wireless Video Baby Monitor with 2.8-Inch Color LCD, Zoom and Enhanced Two-Way Audio
Offered by Holidaydiscount
Price: $169.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The MBP33 or the MBP36S may be better options, but otherwise a great monitor, September 11, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've got four kids. I've had the chance to try out a lot of baby monitors and in my experience none of them are perfect. So far the Motorola MBP line is the best for our needs (we use a Motorola MBP36 which has a 3.5 inch screen). This MBP33S is an update of the Motorola MBP33. The "S" appears to stand for "Simultaneous Viewing" because that seems to be the main change over the MBP33. That means with the "S" models you can to have Picture-In-Picture so you can watch up to four cameras at once. It also seems to have a newer camera. The video quality seems about the same and the specs don't seem to have changed (color CMOS 0.3M Pixels f2.5mm camera) so I'm not sure what, if anything has changed about the camera. There is a Motorola MBP36S if you prefer the larger screen and need multi-camera support (we like our 3.5 inch screen, but it does drain the battery faster than the 2.8 inch screen).

The MBP33 is $20 cheaper than the MBP33S so if you don't plan to have cameras in multiple rooms I would just buy the cheaper one. And if you have multiple cameras your are probably going to want the larger screen provided by the MBP36S, so while I like this line, I'm not sure I'd buy this model unless you needed really good battery life *and* multi-camera support.

So why do I say the MBP models are the best? They simply do the important stuff well:
1. Day vision is excellent
2. Night vision is good
3. The sound is clear
4. It's easy to control the camera
5. It shows the room temperature
6. It has good battery life and you can buy replacement batteries for about $10.

Annoying things? Volume control is via a menu. Not a big deal since we don't normally change it.

Stuff we don't use:
1. Two-way communication. If your baby wakes up, a talking camera isn't going to get it back to sleep. We've tried.
2. Built-in lullabies. These are a great tool for keeping your baby awake. Yeah.

So overall a great line of baby monitors, it's just a matter of figuring out what features you value. The basic hardware seems to be about the same, so don't be afraid to buy the older, cheaper models if you don't need multi-camera support.

The Make Ahead Cook
The Make Ahead Cook
by Editors at America's Test Kitchen
Edition: Paperback
Price: $17.97
29 used & new from $15.93

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For me, a real education, September 11, 2014
This review is from: The Make Ahead Cook (Paperback)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
My wife and I both work full time. Putting a healthy dinner on the table for our family is something we've managed to pull off with varying degrees of success. We've done a good job at getting the logistics down for quick meals (pre-chopping and freezing basic ingredients) but we've never really mastered many "make ahead meals". The main problem isn't making it advance, it's doing that and getting the textures and flavors right. To often a night in the fridge or a month in the freezer just ruins the dish.

This cookbook has allowed us to pick up some new "cooking science" we can apply. The recipes are, as you would expect from Cook's Illustrated, very well tested. If you want, you could just use this as a manual for executing the meals listed in the book. We've done that with about a dozen recipes so far and we've been pretty happy with the result. But to be honest, I wouldn't buy this book for the recipes. For me at least, many of them aren't things that appeal to me one their own.

What this cookbook offers are techniques to replace traditional methods of cooking for methods that hold up for advance preparation. Learning those lessons is what are really getting out this cookbook. The recipes are just teaching tools. We are quickly finding we are learning things we can apply to other recipes we like, as opposed to what is in this cookbook.

One simple example: the recipe for chicken fingers which are breaded, cooked and frozen for up a month in advance showed us that using ultra-crisp panko bread crumbs and a quick brine gave you a nice crisp-on-the-outside, juicy-on-the -inside chicken finger. We've already applied that to pork cutlets as well. There are several variations on foil-wrapped meals that once you've mastered you can apply to a wide variety of traditional recipes. For each recipe you learn what "didn't work" for advance prep and "what did." Again, you take that and apply it to your "family favorites." This is less like a cookbook and more like a cooking school.

The key to that is you have to be ready to do just that: use it as a learning tool. If you just buy it to use occasionally I don't think it's a good value. If however, you are desperate to find new and better ways to put a good meal on the table night after night, this is an *invaluable* tool that will save you a lot of trial and error. Two weeks with this cookbook is changing how I cook. I think it will take me two months of diligence to really master what they are teaching, but I've got easily 15 years of family cooking still in front of me. It's worth my time.

The book itself contains just over 150 recipes, each with a basic "why this works" intro (familiar to anyone who has seen their other cookbooks) and a color picture for almost every dish. I wish they had a picture for each dish but what they have are well executed. It's divided up based on different systems:
* Make Ahead 101
* Prep Ahead
* Reheat and Eat
* Bake and Serve
* From Fridge to Table
* Shop Smart
* The Sunday Cook
* Come Home to Dinner
* Stock the Freezer

If you are cooking for a family, this is a great resource that can make you a more effective cook if you are willing to put in the time to learn what they have to teach. One last tip: if you don't already have a deep freezer, get one, because you are going to be able to put it to work.

Hot Wheels Super Loop Chase Race Trackset
Hot Wheels Super Loop Chase Race Trackset
Price: $44.99
15 used & new from $29.56

3.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't work well on it's own, but a decent add-on set, September 5, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is not my favorite Hot Wheel set and unless you find it on sale (say $30 or less) I probably wouldn't buy it.

Don't get me wrong, I love Hot Wheels sets as a kid toy. It's one of the few toys that all four of my kids can play with together (boys and girls ages 2-9). My oldest kid can put pretty much anything together and I can usually hand him the Hot Wheel set and he put's it together with "help" from his younger siblings. It's a great bonding thing for them. This was the first set I've found he had trouble with. With a little help from me we got it together, but the wall mounts didn't hold up to rough play. None of the wall mounted sets have worked for us, and I'm just going to avoid them in the future.

In the end we took it down off the wall and the kids used the parts to add on to their existing Hot Wheels sets. That's how I prefer them to use it anyway, since they get a lot of great "engineering" play as they tear stuff up and make new and crazier sets. Most end up being total disasters, but who cares? There's lots of gleeful screaming as cars wreck or go flying off the tracks. And no computer or TV screens are involved.

So as an add on set, this has some cool stuff, but I can't quite justify spending $45 on it. But if you can find it on sale, there is enough track and cool equipment to make it worth your while *if* you have other Hot Wheel gear to add it to.

Mead Trapper Keeper Snapper Trapper Binder, 1.5-Inch Capacity, 12 x 11.75 Inches, Red (72680)
Mead Trapper Keeper Snapper Trapper Binder, 1.5-Inch Capacity, 12 x 11.75 Inches, Red (72680)
Price: $15.81

3.0 out of 5 stars Well made but not for everyone, September 5, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is an okay binder, but I the accessories you see in the pictures don't actually come with it. Buying them could easily double the cost of this. For than kind of money you can buy a much nice binder with nicer accessories. Or you can save your money and buy a basic binder for a little as $3.

Also my kids love to make "covers" for their notebooks and insert them in the plastic sleeve you find on many binders. With this binder the cover is sealed. They may not matter to some, but for my kids it takes some of the fun away.

That being said it is well made. The snap and the three metal rings are almost too well made. A small child may actually have trouble opening them. I can easily see a scenario where a kid ends up spilling stuff everywhere trying to get stuff out of the binder. If you are an adult looking for a good quality binder this would be fine, but I wouldn't get if for anyone who wasn't at least in middle school.

Scotts EZ Seed Sun and Shade Seed Mix, 3.75-Pound Jug
Scotts EZ Seed Sun and Shade Seed Mix, 3.75-Pound Jug
Price: $15.49
7 used & new from $15.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Great for small repairs, September 2, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've been using Scotts EZ Seen Sun and Shade mix all summer to repair patches in my yard, which gets more than it's fair share of damage from kids and dogs. I've found it's great for doing small repairs, just because it's so easy to just prep the area quickly with a small rake and pour out the mixture. I like it enough that I'm on my second jug. However I've found that for larger areas it's worth my time to use a separate mix of garden soil that I till in along with good quality grass seed from a local company better suited to my climate. I get "good enough" results from the Scott's, but I get far better results using better quality soil and seed.

So if you are looking to do a quick repair on a small area, you can't beat the convenience of the EZ Seed. However if you need to do more serious repair I find you are better off using local products that are more likely to match up well with your soil conditions and weather.

LeapFrog LeapReader Book: Disney Planes Fire and Rescue
LeapFrog LeapReader Book: Disney Planes Fire and Rescue
Price: $13.99
8 used & new from $13.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good choice for fans of the movies, August 29, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
If you've got a kid who enjoyed the "Planes" movies, this book is good choice for you. These are good adjuncts to reading with your child. If we're fixing dinner you can't really stop to read your kid a book, at which point these LeapReaders are just what we need. They still can't match the fun of having your kids snuggle up while you read them a story, but it's good to have around as a back-up.

The art work is really well done and the text is bold and easy on the eyes. But that's been consistently true of all the LeapReader books we've owned. We occasionally run into bugs with the games and this book is no exception. We haven't been able to complete one of the games, but other than that things have worked fine. For the price I think it's a reasonably good value, but I wouldn't go out of my way to buy unless you have a fan of the movies in your house. I think most kids over the age of 6 will find this too basic, but if you've got an 8-10 year old struggling a bit with reading but is a fan of the movies, then this would be a good option for you. If they aren't into the movies, the bugs would make me look for something else.

TP-LINK TL-PB10400 10400mAh Dual-Port Ultra External Battery Portable USB Charger Power Bank, Fast Charging, High Capacity, Compatible with iOS and Android Devices, One Micro USB Cable, Practical Flashlight
TP-LINK TL-PB10400 10400mAh Dual-Port Ultra External Battery Portable USB Charger Power Bank, Fast Charging, High Capacity, Compatible with iOS and Android Devices, One Micro USB Cable, Practical Flashlight
Offered by Network Giant
Price: $49.99
26 used & new from $45.96

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-have for travelers, August 28, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There's one thing I hate when I'm traveling, and that's finding out my phone or tablet is about to die while I'm running from one end of an airport to another. I've tried a couple of "instant chargers" but this is by far the best. Most of my previous chargers were as temperamental to keep charged as my phone. Forget for a few days and boom, I'm out of charge again. I had another that held a charge well enough, but I had to keep feeding it batteries. And it was easily twice as large as this TP-link.

Charging time seems slightly slower than my regular wall charger which seems reasonable enough. With my phone at around 50%-75% charge it takes about 30-45 minutes to charge up.

To test this out I charged it once right out of the box and nothing since. It's been the only thing keeping my phone charged for three days in a row and I charged my iPad once. I'm down to two lights on the battery indicator.

It has a small LED flashlight - not entirely useless, but I've never found a need to really use it.

Overall a great gadget to toss in your carry-on bag. If you don't travel a lot... well, I'm not sure I could see much use for this around the house, especially at this price. There are far better options for back-up home power. It could be handy to keep in the glove compartment for emergencies, but you would need to be disciplined enough to take it out and charge it, and there are better options for back-up power in a car. So it would be hard to recommend this for anyone who wasn't on the go a lot.

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