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Epson Expression Premium XP-820 Wireless Color Photo Printer with Scanner, Copier and Fax
Epson Expression Premium XP-820 Wireless Color Photo Printer with Scanner, Copier and Fax
Price: $159.99
15 used & new from $159.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Compact, fast and full-featured, October 9, 2014
Pros:
+ Very speedy printing and scanning
+ 2-sided printing AND scanning
+ Good (but not great) and fast photo printing
+ Easy to install and use software
+ Wireless and Apple AirPrint compatible
+ Compact size
Cons:
- Photos not as good as some photo printers
- Small ink tanks run out quickly?

I had been using an HP C7250 for years, but it was growing increasingly cantankerous and I decided to replace it. I wanted a printer that could do 2-sided printing, had a document feeder for scanning, and was more than just four-ink printer for photos. The Epson XP-820 met all these needs and then some.

The first thing I noticed was how much smaller the XP-820 is than the HP it replaced, yet it has the same paper size and quantity capacity. Next, the software installation was a dream compared to the exasperating ordeal the HP drivers were becoming under Windows 7. The software found the printer on my wireless network (the printer supports WPS pushbutton pairing with an access point, a feature I adore) and it was done in minutes.

There are two separate paper trays. The bottom one is for regular paper and the upper one for photo paper. One mildly annoying part is that you have to remove the tray completely to load it, unlike the HP where I could slide paper in from the front. The photo paper tray doesn't have a firm stop when you push it in, just a slight detent, so it's possible to push it in too far. The paper tray has an additional slide-out tray at the bottom that takes printable CDs/DVDs.

There's a third paper feed path on the back which can be used to single-feed envelopes, thick or continuous-feed papers. I use this as an envelope feeder, but found that I had to make multiple selections of the feed source in Microsoft Word to get it to print from there.

When you print, the output tray extends automatically and the control panel flips out (which also serves as a guide to keep the printed paper from flying. After a configurable time, the printer will go into sleep mode, turning off the display, but it won't automatically retract the tray, so you have to do that by touching the icon on the touchscreen. If that is done, the display panel will also fold back and present a neat appearance.

Printing documents is very fast, once it starts printing, that is. Like most inkjet printers, it may decide that it's time to do some sort of initialization or calibration which can take a couple of minutes. But it doesn't do this often. Photos are also printed fast, but the one I tried, on glossy photo paper, had some mottled areas of color that might be better if it slowed down. The printer software has lots of configuration, so perhaps this can be played with. There's a "Photo Black" ink in addition to the regular Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black - all individually replaceable tanks. This printer takes the "Claria 273" inks which are harder to find locally than some other styles and brands. One can use "XL" extra capacity tanks, but these are even harder to find. I'll comment that the prices on Epson's web site are quite comparable to what is here on Amazon.

Scanning on the XP-820 is also very fast, both from the glass and the document feeder. I was delighted to discover that the feeder can scan two-sided documents all on its own, but you do have to select this when the scan dialog comes up. The XP-820 can also do copying directly from the printer without a computer. It supports faxing, but I have not tried that.

I'm about three weeks in with the Epson XP-820 (which I bought from Epson's web site as Amazon was out of stock when I ordered), and I am thoroughly delighted. It does seem to run through ink quickly, as others have noticed, but that might be the initial priming. I have ordered a set of XL ink tanks and will see how long those last.


Philips Golite Blue Energy Light
Philips Golite Blue Energy Light

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compact and bright!, September 30, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have bought earlier lights intended to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), all with fluorescent bulbs and rather large and awkward to use. While the Philips Golite was small, I was skeptical that it could output sufficient light to have any effect. While I can't quantify the effectiveness, I can say this thing is BRIGHT! I first turned it on and was amazed at the amount of brilliant, blue light it put out - similar to the color of a bright sky. It was when I went to turn it off that I found I had it on the lowest of three settings! (Each push of the button cycles to the next setting and then to off.

I placed the Golite next to my computer monitor at work, in my field of view. It is small enough that it doesn't detract from my work area. I turn it on for 20-30 minutes in the morning, as the instructions recommend.

Not only is the Philips Golite bright enough to, one hopes, have an effect, it is compact enough that it fits in places you might have difficulty using a fluorescent bulb model. That the LEDs shouldn't burn out in regular use, unlike fluorescents, is an added bonus.


The Eye of Zoltar (The Chronicles of Kazam)
The Eye of Zoltar (The Chronicles of Kazam)
by Jasper Fforde
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.24
60 used & new from $8.02

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't read the last chapter, September 30, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I am a huge fan of Jasper Fforde - so much so that I bought this book from Amazon Canada months before its US availability. (Amusingly, the copy I received was printed in the US!) I wasn't able to review The Eye of Zoltar then, but now I have my chance.

This is the third in the series that started with The Last Dragonslayer and continued with "Song of the Quarkbeast" (which I also ordered from Canada.) While this series is tagged as "Young Adult", largely because it deals with a teenage Jennifer Strange, the books are eminently enjoyable by adults and there are themes of romance (but no sex) that are handled very well.

The basic plot of this one is the standard "quest" storyline, though the characters insist that it's not a quest or else they'd have to do a lot more paperwork. Jennifer has to find the title item and bring it back. As with typical stores of this kind, Jennifer brings along some interesting companions and meets more along the way. I adore the way Fforde writes both fascinating men and women in his books, and conjures fantastical creatures and situations that boggle the mind. One major character in this one, a princess, seems to undergo a rather abrupt change of personality, going from a thoroughly unlikable, stuck-up girl into a valuable member of the party.

So why do I give this book only four stars? It's the last chapter. Sadly, Fforde has started to play the same game that so many other authors do - they finish a story in what seems to be a satisfactory manner, and then throw in a completely new situation that ends in a cliffhanger. Yes, I know they do this to get you to buy the next book, and at least with the Kazam series, Fforde is cranking them out. But he did the same thing with 2010's Shades of Grey (no, not THAT one...) and I'm still waiting for the promised sequel four years later.

If you haven't read the earlier books in this series, I suggest you do so, then by all means read this one - it's delightful. Just skip the last chapter.


Raising Steam (Discworld)
Raising Steam (Discworld)
by Terry Pratchett
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.54
91 used & new from $8.30

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another fine addition to the Discworld series, September 7, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I think I've read every work of fiction Sir Terry has published, and while some I've liked better than others, even the least is very good indeed. Raising Steam revisits scoundrel Moist von Lipwig and his (now) wife, Adora Belle Dearheart (aka "Spike"), major characters who are fairly new to the series. As with most of the Discworld books, especially the more recent, Pratchett uses the Discworld to explore social themes - here it is majorly the effects on society of efficient and speedy transportation, but there are significant underlying themes of religious zealotry, racial intolerance and sexism.

As before, Pratchett juggles these themes expertly, with humor where needed and seriousness where appropriate. Each new book from Pratchett is a treasure - I know his Alzheimer's is slowing him down, but he is still managing to keep up the level of his work and I am grateful for that.


Fancy Feast Gourmet Dry Cat Food, Filet Mignon Flavor With Real Seafood & Shrimp, 7-Pound Bag, Pack of 1
Fancy Feast Gourmet Dry Cat Food, Filet Mignon Flavor With Real Seafood & Shrimp, 7-Pound Bag, Pack of 1
Price: $13.67
5 used & new from $12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great as a treat, September 7, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
We were looking for something to give our five cats as treats that wasn't quite as awful as much of what is sold as cat treats. We started with a small bag of this Fancy Feast flavor, and all of our cats adored it. It's available in local stores in smaller sizes, but this 7-pound bag is very cost-effective.


A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Nonfiction
A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Nonfiction
by Terry Pratchett
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.38
58 used & new from $13.31

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wit (a lot!) and Wisdom (ditto!) of Sir Terry Pratchett, September 7, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Yes, Sir Terry's fiction is delightful - all his millions of fans know that. But Pratchett also excels in the short, non-fiction form, as this book (and his previously collected essays) shows. It's a compendium of short (typically 2-4 page) works that were, for the most part, given as speeches, written as book or convention program introductions or articles for newspapers. A few were never meant for publication, such as his instructions for booksellers hosting a signing. And then there's his travel diary from a book tour in Australia, with repeated exposure to bananananana dakrys....

I'm happy to say that the self-effacing wit and poignant observations of the human condition that make his fiction so enjoyable is also found in these essays. The astute reader will find snippets of themes and ideas that were later worked into novels. If, like me, you devour anything Pratchett writes, do yourself a favor and pick up "A Slip of the Keyboard" (as well as its predecessor) - you'll have a rollicking good time, and some added insight into Pratchett's writing style.


FoodSaver FM2000-000 Vacuum Sealing System
FoodSaver FM2000-000 Vacuum Sealing System
Price: $76.69
4 used & new from $72.86

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compact, works very well, easy to store, August 31, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'd always been interested in a vacuum sealer, but many of them were large units that would take up counter space. The FoodSaver FM2000 is a compact unit that I can easily put away when not in use - the cord stores under the unit for added convenience.

I was very impressed with how quickly the FM2000 removed the air from the bag and how quickly it sealed - just a couple of seconds. The seal was tight and did not leak after several days. This is the lowest-end FoodSaver, but unless one is using it frequently, I don't see the need for the more expensive models. It's great that it includes the hose for use with canisters and other accessories

One minor irritation - the manual describes an optional "Handheld sealer with clip" that attaches to the hose, for use with zipper bags and canisters. This item is nowhere to be found on the Foodsaver web site or in the accessories brochure included in the package.


einszett Cockpit Premium - 16.9 fl. oz.
einszett Cockpit Premium - 16.9 fl. oz.
Price: $11.06
7 used & new from $10.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Cleans and protects well, doesn't leave film or unwanted shine, August 23, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've been using einszett Cockpit Premium for about a year now on the interior of my car, and of all the similar-purpose products I have tried, I like Cockpit Premium the best. It cleans hard and soft plastic surfaces well, doesn't leave a film or an unwanted shine, and has a pleasant smell. It works very well on the soft vinyl panels in the doors as well as the top of the dash as well as the instrument panel, radio controls, etc.


einszett 910815 Exclusiv Gloss Shampoo
einszett 910815 Exclusiv Gloss Shampoo
Price: $12.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of suds, cleans well, August 16, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
For many years I've used Griot's Garage Car Wash which I like a lot. The einszett is at least as good if not better than the Griot's. It suds up more and seems to stay "soapy" on the car longer. It does have a rather strong odor - not unpleasant but noticeable. I washed two cars with the einszett today and it did a great job with no spotting and easy rinsing.


Frigidaire FFCE1638LB 1100-watt Countertop Microwave, 1.6 Cubic Feet, Black
Frigidaire FFCE1638LB 1100-watt Countertop Microwave, 1.6 Cubic Feet, Black
Offered by Appliances Connection
Price: $184.80
3 used & new from $163.67

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strong, handsome, quiet - pick three, August 14, 2014
Since our old Sharp microwave-convection oven died (it was 15 years old and didn't owe us anything), we've been going through multiple countertop microwaves trying to find one that we like. I got a Breville for free, but ultimately decided that its flaws outweighed its benefits (annoying controls, door that doesn't open past 90 degrees). Next up was a Panasonic "Inverter" microwave that had the most maddening user interface I had ever seen (press power level seven times to get to 30%?!?!?), was very loud and had difficult to see labels on the touchpad. A Sears Kenmore on display looked like it would do what we wanted, but when we got it home we found that the model had changed without revising the number, and it lacked several of the features we wanted. LG and Samsung models in local stores didn't make the cut either.

In desperation, I asked our local independent appliance store what they could get that might do what we wanted. Our requirements were:
- Door that opened past 90 degrees
- Ability to enter time without first pressing a "Time Cook" button
- Sensor reheat
- Legible keypad
- Not too noisy

They pulled up a listing for this Frigidaire. I don't normally think of Frigidaire as a maker of microwaves, though friends of ours have a built-in "pro-line" model that seems quite nice. Reviews here and elsewhere seemed reasonably positive, and the manual showed it had at least some of the things we wanted, so we gave it a try.

Success! The first thing we noticed was how powerful the Frigidaire was for its rating, something we had heard elsewhere. We found that we could reduce the cooking times about 5-10%. The second thing was how quiet it was while cooking - I'd say it is one of the quietest microwaves I have ever used. The controls don't have any obvious user interface failings - while the numbers 1-6 start "express cook" in minutes, there's a delay before it starts giving you a chance to punch other numbers for an exact time. The power level is simply press power and the digit for the percent. Sensor cook is pretty standard and it works well. A bonus is that the display is legible and the clock is illuminated (the Breville's isn't.)

The door doesn't open much past 90 - maybe 95-100 degrees - but it's enough so that you don't have to dodge it while putting in or taking out a heavy dish. It's taller than some competing models and isn't overly deep either - we have a dedicated shelf for the microwave and some models stuck out past the edge without being usably larger inside.

Do I have any gripes? A couple. The legends on the touchpad disappear in lower light and the start button is in the middle of other buttons so you have to pay more attention where you are pressing. And then there's the beeping that others complain about. I don't really mind that it continues to beep, but five beeps every 10 seconds is a bit much. Lastly, I wish that the display indicated the power level, but so few microwaves do that nowadays. (If you select the Defrost mode, it does light a label for that.)

I've been told that there are really only a few manufacturers of microwaves out there and a lot of relabeling, though each brand applies their own twist on things. There were a lot of similarities between this Frigidaire and the Sears model we had looked at, so I wonder. In any case, we decided that the Frigidaire is a winner for us.


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