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Customer Reviews: 189
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Julia James RSS Feed (Harrisburg, PA)
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OXO Good Grips Butter Dish, White/Clear
OXO Good Grips Butter Dish, White/Clear
Price: $15.94

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yep, it's a butter dish, September 19, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
So, I read a bunch of the reviews on this page before I ordered this butter dish. People seemed to have way more complaints about traditional butter dishes than I knew existed. It made me think I just hadn't been paying attention, but if I got this fancy butter dish I'd have some kind of butter-dish epiphany and understand what was wrong with all those other butter dishes I've owned over the years.

Alas, I have had no butter-dish epiphany. This butter dish is fine. We use the short, fat butter, mostly, and there is still butter all over the sides of the top. I don't need lines on the dish to tell me how much a tablespoon is, as estimating a tablespoon of butter was one of the first cooking skills I mastered. I've never had such big problems with my butter sliding around on the dish that I care about the bumpers.

So anyway, this gets four stars because it is definitely at least as serviceable as any other butter dish I've ever used, but it doesn't get five because it didn't make me think any less of the other butter dishes I've used in my life.


Contigo SnapSeal Vacuum-Insulated Stainless Steel Travel Mug, 20-Ounce, Gunmetal
Contigo SnapSeal Vacuum-Insulated Stainless Steel Travel Mug, 20-Ounce, Gunmetal
Price: $12.99
3 used & new from $9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Very close to perfect, September 19, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I had pretty much given up on travel mugs because every one I've ever owned has either a) leaked, or b) been impossible to clean and had to be thrown away after an unreasonable amount of time due to funk. I think I'll have this Contigo for a long time.

The SnapSeal is simple but effective. It stays in place, doesn't leak, and is very easy to clean because there are no inaccessible areas.

The insulation on the mug is good. My hot coffee stays hot, my iced coffee stays iced.

My only complaints, which are minor, are that the seal does sometimes spray liquid at you when you open or close it, and when I wash the mug itself water gets between the grippy part and the metal and then dumps all over my face when I take my first sip of coffee. This latter problem could be solved by me washing the mug when I'm done using it, rather than immediately before I'm about to use it again, but that seems like a lot to ask.

Even so, this is the closest-to-perfect travel mug I've ever owned.


JAM Touch Wireless Portable Speaker (Charcoal) HX-P550BK
JAM Touch Wireless Portable Speaker (Charcoal) HX-P550BK
Price: $39.99
9 used & new from $39.97

4.0 out of 5 stars A fun little speaker, September 19, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I first encountered a Jam speaker a little over a year ago, and will always remember it because it happened to be my wedding day. My girls and I went out for crepes in the morning, and the proprietor placed a little speaker on our table. So cute! This one, the Jam Touch, is an evolution from that, and a very nice product itself.

-The sound is good. Obviously this is a small speaker, but it is loud and clear for its size.

-Range is good, not great. I tried to hide it on a co-worker's bookshelf, maybe 20 feet (and on the other side of a concrete wall) from my desk, but it didn't play unless I was right outside the door. This may have had more to do with the concrete than the distance, but since I need to be near the speaker for me to care if it's playing, and I usually have my phone on me, range isn't often going to be an issue. Exception is if I need to charge my phone and want to leave it plugged in inside while I'm out on the porch listening to my tunes.

-Easy to use, almost. I thought it was super easy to use. But then I loaned it to a friend and she gave it back saying the battery had died before she even got to use it. No, turned out she'd just had the volume all the way down, so she wasn't hearing it say "Powering on". She's in IT, so not an electronics idiot, but I did think it was more intuitive than that.

-Sucks the life right outta your phone. This is true for all bluetooth stuff, but the limiting factor for me is really my phone's battery, not the Jam's battery.

-Easy to sync. I've paired it with three iPhones -- a 4, a 4S, and a 5. All were quick and easy.

Only you know if you have enough use for a portable speaker to make it worthwhile, but this is a good little product. Love it for sitting on the porch on warm summer evenings!


Defender 21161 Sentinel Pro Widescreen 150-Feet 16CH Security DVR with 2TB Storage and 8 Surveillance 800TVL Cameras with Night Vision (Black)
Defender 21161 Sentinel Pro Widescreen 150-Feet 16CH Security DVR with 2TB Storage and 8 Surveillance 800TVL Cameras with Night Vision (Black)
Price: $599.99
9 used & new from $552.41

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not worth the price, July 27, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I live in the 'hood, and my husband frequently works out of town. A few months ago, I ordered the LaView 4 Channel Complete 960H Security System w/Remote Viewing, 500 HDD, 4 x 600TVL Bullet Cameras, LV-KDV1404B6BP-500GB during a lightning deal. When we started planning where the cameras would go, though, we realized that four cameras were insufficient to cover the three exterior doors, front porch, and the cars, so I jumped at the opportunity to review this eight-camera, sixteen-channel system. I was hopeful that the fact that this system was retailing for nearly seven hundred bucks (or over six times) more than what I'd paid would also mean higher video quality, as I wasn't completely convinced that the system we had offered a clear enough view to be able to identify people we didn't already know well enough to be able to use clues like style of movement, etc. It isn't clear enough to be able to decipher license plates of cars parked right in front of our house.

Unfortunately, these cameras offer only very slightly better quality, such that license plates are still undecipherable. Faces -- since you can see them a hair closer up -- are a little more recognizable than with the cheaper LaView cameras, largely because color fidelity with these is hugely better. We put a Defender camera side-by-side with a LaView, and the field of vision is not noticeably wider, despite the "widescreen" claims of these. The Defender night vision is markedly better, so perhaps that accounts for the huge price difference, and certainly a noteworthy difference since I'm far more afraid of things that go bump in the night than in the day.

DVR functionality is similar, though I think the LaView on-board software is slightly more elegant. Setting up remote viewing was *far* easier with the LaView, even though the ports were already open when we started trying to get this setup. The "1 step" thing is complete BS -- you go to a URL, download something, run the program, go to the IP address/port number the program tells you (which you ALREADY HAVE TO KNOW), click on the link (which opens in IE, and won't work in Chrome), futz with your IE security settings, get a blank blue screen in IE, futz with the settings some more, keep getting a blank screen, download and follow precise directions from Defender, keep getting a blank screen, TURN ON COMPATIBILITY MODE in IE, and *then* it'll work. Defender also provides client software, which offers identical functionality to the browser access. Neither allows you to configure much about the system from the client, whereas there is quite a bit you can do remotely with the LaView.

There are quite a few "ASee" apps that'll allow access from the iPhone, none of which appear to be made by Defender. The free ones have loads of terrible reviews; the one that costs $10 has no reviews, so I'm not ready to try it. I got one that had seven reviews averaging four stars, and other than it includes ads, it seems fine. I mean, it works. LaView offers their own app, which also works, but is totally free, no ads.

I haven't looked into LaView systems at other price points, but I bet they have stuff that's higher end than what I have, so you can have the better software and the better cameras. I would be using the Defender cameras with the LaView DVR if I'd bought an 8-channel LaView. Oh well.

Bottom line: The price tag on this is current a little less than four times the regular price tag on the LaView system I purchased. It's about twice the system in terms of cameras included, but it is four times the system in terms of DVR capacity and number of channels. While this offers some incremental improvements in day-time quality, and significant improvements in night-time quality, I don't think that the difference in price tag is justified, and I can't recommend this system when I look at what it would cost to get the same number of cameras and channels from other brands. I do highly recommend shopping around before settling on anything.


No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind
No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind
by Daniel J. Siegel
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.26
32 used & new from $14.39

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting perspective, not necessarily a new approach, July 25, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I don't have children myself, but grew up in and now work at a small democratic integral school where we rely heavily on respectful communication ala Haim Ginott and "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen...". I knew from hearing about (though I haven't read) Siegel's "The Whole-Brain Child" that this was in the same vein. It certainly is, and if you're a fan of Ginott and/or Faber & Mazlish, I highly recommend "No-Drama Discipline".

Siegel and Bryson begin by defining "discipline" as "teaching" -- that the aim of discipline is (or at least should be) teaching. It's not about punishing every infraction, or about instilling blind obedience, but about helping children learn valuable self-regulation and relationship skills. I agree with this. If you don't, this book is probably not for you.

They go on to define their approach as "Connect and Redirect". That is, work to emotionally connect with your child, to bring him or her (and maybe yourself) into a place where they are calm and secure enough to use their "upstairs" brain to process what's going on. Once you've made this connection, you can choose whether the situation/incident requires further discussion, or if it's just time to move on.

This will be familiar to readers of "How To Talk..." and other similar respect-based parenting strategies. It's an active listening approach, with an emphasis on recognizing emotions, affirming emotions, and helping children develop their own strategies for handling those emotions when they lead to inappropriate behaviors. In my experience, this approach often garners impressive results. Siegel and Bryson connect this with neuroscience in interesting ways, and for those who need a scientific foundation to want to emotionally connect with their children, this will offer it. It's certainly not heavy science, or tedious in any way, just woven throughout the narrative.

The other nice thing about this book is that it offers a reference sheet at the back for posting on your refrigerator to remind yourself in times of crisis that you really want to take a better approach than yelling, as well as a brief overview of the method to share with grandparents and other caregivers who might think "no punishment" means you aren't setting boundaries, or who would be inclined to use counterproductive methods when they're the present adults. Both of these will probably get limited use, but could be invaluable.

Overall, I feel similarly about this book as I do about many self-help books -- there's nothing earth-shatteringly new here, but no matter how much we believe a particular approach is the way to go, sometimes it's nice to read about it from a different perspective, have the ideas refreshed, and get some additional insights. In my case, I *loved* the hand brain model (google it, along with the author's name), and want to get a poster of the diagram made to hang at school.


CrossWays: The Path to Victory is Not Always a Straight Line
CrossWays: The Path to Victory is Not Always a Straight Line
Price: $23.45
16 used & new from $15.38

3.0 out of 5 stars Better with a younger audience than for adults alone, July 25, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I think this is a great game to play with mixed ages, but not likely to keep the attention of an all-adult group. The game seems confusing at first, but is pretty straight forward once you get the hang of it. Played with a large (double?) deck of regular cards on a checkers-like board with numbers printed on each square, the goal is to get your pieces from one side of the board (any side) to the other. Different cards and combinations of cards dictate where you place your pieces, or allow you to remove other players' pieces from the board.

I played first with a friend and her 11-year-old son. The first round was completely devoid of strategy as we were figuring out (or, really, trying to keep track of) what we could do with different combinations of cards. The more we played, the more we got the hang of it, and the more fun we had, although I realized later that we had misunderstood some of the rules -- we're a group of three pretty literate folks, so I blame the directions for this. Still, when bedtime dictated that we had to stop, we all agreed that although we weren't *quite* having fun, we were just a few games away from really liking it.

My husband and I played together a few days later -- no kids -- and I had the same thought after the second game, that I would start really liking it any minute. So we kept playing. But we never did start to like it. It wasn't bad, but with five cards and two players, you often just have nothing strategic you can do, and that's no fun. We tried with seven cards, and suddenly there was so much we could do there was no challenge. Maybe six cards would be a sweet spot, but we decided to switch to Qwirkle Cubes rather than trying to force CrossWays to be fun.

It may be that CrossWays would be more fun with four players, when you'd really start having options to block other players, etc, but most of my game-playing happens with two or three. It was also more fun -- relatively -- with an 11-year-old, because the adults didn't have an advantage, and he's still (just barely) young enough that that's not true with every game.

On the other hand, my husband and I really enjoyed Qwirkle Cubes, and I bet the 11-year-old could kick our butts in that (I know he kicks his mom's butt in Set all the time), so I'd recommend those two before trying this probably no matter what age your players are. If you're sick of everything but generally like games that combine strategy and luck -- heavy on the luck -- this is certainly worth a try.


Micra Digital 2-Pack Anti-Glare Screen Protector for iPhone 5 / 5S / 5c
Micra Digital 2-Pack Anti-Glare Screen Protector for iPhone 5 / 5S / 5c
Price: $6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars No cleaning cloth or bubble-scraper included, July 16, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
My husband bought a very fancy expensive screen protector with a "lifetime" warranty for his iPhone 5, and now, however many years it's been since the iPhone 5 was first released, it's totally scratched and beat. So four of these at a third the price of the fancy one seemed like a good deal. And it is a fine deal, even if these don't hold up as well (hah) as the fancy ones. These do look fantastic when applied properly. Only time will tell how well they hold up, but certainly the $$ aren't the reason to mind if they need to be replaced more often.

The hassle of installation, though, it probably reason to mind. They might not be any worse than other protectors, but they don't come with a cleaning rag or a bubble-scraper, so it's hard to compare. Anyway, it's a good thing they come in multiples, because I think the third try was the trick. Kind of ridiculous.

Again, once it was on it's great. It fits perfectly and looks great. But it's probably worth going with one of the many other screen protectors that fits and looks great *and* comes with the accessories needed for (somewhat) easier installation.


OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Sponge Holder
OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Sponge Holder
Offered by Wire Whisk
Price: $9.99
3 used & new from $9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it., July 8, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I mean, this is a sponge holder, and I've never owned a designed-for-the-purpose sponge holder, so I don't know if it *really* is better than others -- but I'm finding it to be life-changingly wonderful. I was worried that it might not fit in the very small space where we normally keep the sponge, but the base is really only about the size of a normal sponge, so if you can fit a single sponge now, with this you can fit two. And they won't keep sliding off into the sink! Your sponge will stay dry!

The holes in the bottom are great. The sponge really does dry out quickly. I have a normal sponge in the front, and then a dobie pad thing in the back. They didn't both fit before. I'm in love.

I haven't had to take it apart yet, but it does look like this design will make for easy cleaning. The ability to pour water out is nice.

I love it.


Domino Scorepad for Mexican Train - 50 Sheets
Domino Scorepad for Mexican Train - 50 Sheets
Offered by Yellow Mountain Imports
Price: $5.99

2.0 out of 5 stars No way to subtotal, May 25, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I got these for my in-laws, who taught me Mexican Train and play regularly. But they're worse than just keeping score on a piece of scrap paper, because there's no space to total each player's points at the end of each round, just one row for it halfway through the game. Not worth any $$ at all, even if you're looking for a stocking stuffer for someone who loves Mexican Train -- you'll just feel silly every time they pull it out to play with you, knowing that if they didn't feel a need to show you how much they like your gift, they'd just have chucked it in the recycling by now.


The Complete Beer Course: Boot Camp for Beer Geeks: From Novice to Expert in Twelve Tasting Classes
The Complete Beer Course: Boot Camp for Beer Geeks: From Novice to Expert in Twelve Tasting Classes
by Joshua M. Bernstein
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.07
46 used & new from $9.07

4.0 out of 5 stars A great gift or coffee table book, May 25, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I am torn about what to say about this book. It is handsome, inside and out, and would look great on a coffee table. It's chock-full of information about both the general brewing process and what makes different beers what they are, in terms of both brewing and taste. It would make a great textbook for a course in which someone else did the legwork to acquire and serve to you the "Two to Try" beers that accompany each section. I would happily give this book as a gift for a burgeoning beer connoisseur.

For my husband and me, though, mature(ish) beer enthusiasts but maybe not quite as obsessive as the ideal audience for the book, it was both a little too basic and a little too detailed to earn the fifth star. That is, I do actually already understand the brewing process, and the introductory chapter, while containing some nuggets I didn't already know, simply didn't offer me much that was new. The in-depth sections about different kinds of beer were interesting, but I doubt I'll remember which beers I'm supposed to try from each style even if I encounter them "in the wild." If I were absolutely determined to become a beer expert, I could make lists on my phone, but I'm a beer enthusiast, not a beer geek. I thought a few times while reading that if the book had a companion iPhone app -- or even a tear out pocket card I could stick in my purse -- I'd be much more likely to try Bernstein's recommendations and then return to the book to re-read the section about the style.

As it is, this book's four stars are really for its value as a gift. I think the ideal recipient has discovered an interest in craft beer, but only recently begun exploring; bonus points if the recipient is of a personality inclined to make their own lists and go through them methodically, since tasting is really the most meaningful way to learn about beer, no matter how beautiful the book.


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