Tool-Rank.com finds the tools; lets you watch them

There are two types of readers of Tool-Rank.com  One type comes to the site as a result of a search while looking for advice on a new worm drive circular saw, where he or she will learn the “many professionals consider the Bosch 1677M Worm Drive 7-1/4″ Circular Saw to be a good upgrade from the classic Skil 77 Worm Drive and is comparable to the Skil Mag77.”  That’s awesome.

The other type of reader is a lover or tools, and simply enjoys the prose of a true professional talking tools. Tool-Rank.com editor Chris Rodenius is a finish carpenter from Southern California with over 10 years of experience in the trade. He has done work at some of the top resorts in the state, where absolute perfection is a must. When you are working in such detail, you need tools that will match. Chris’s experiences in working with poorly designed tools on the job lead him to start Tool-Rank.com, a tool community where everyone can voice their opinions about the tools they own, and rank them accordingly.

Chris keeps a fascinated eye on new tool upgrades and introductions, and shares his finds with his avid readership. Within just the past month Chris has focused his attention and shared his opinion on a Kreg multi-purpose layout tool, the Mini-Ductor II (loosens up seized bolts by heating them), how to prepare for the zombie apocalypse with a WORX JawSaw, and how to repurpose a kitchen cake mixer lift into a tool lift. He also sniffs out rumors about forthcoming designs based on patent submissions and other industry chatter.

And, Chris has a fine appreciation for a deal, spotting good discounts and somewhat rare sales events. As part of that commitment to helping his fellow handymen (and women) keep track of tools they’d like to get someday, and at a time when the deal is right, Tool-Rank.com has incorporated the ShopAdvisor watch button. Tool fans now can spend a quick coffee break reading up on the latest tool find by Chris or a member of the Tool-Rank community and simply click the ShopAdvisor watch button, ensuring themselves a timely reminder without having to leave the comfort of the Tool-Rank.com website.

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Cheapism Uses ShopAdvisor To Watch the Best Cheap Products

One of our favorite experts for product advice is Cheapism, whose mission is “We find the best cheap products out there and tell you what they are.” I have kept Cheapism on my short list of review sites for a wide variety of products — from refrigerators to exercise bikes to living room furniture to pots and pans. And they know their audience: “many people these days are looking for inexpensive products but want to buy the best available products in the budget price range.”

There’s no better place for the ShopAdvisor watch button than a site where consumers go to learn more about high-consideration items. People don’t always move fast when they are in the market for the best and cheapest item. Time may be the enemy of all deals from a retailers perspective, but watching and waiting often works best for the consumer.

Cheapism helps consumers find the right product in the right price range, and ShopAdvisor keeps an eye on it to remind the consumer when the price has dropped or when the time has come to make the decision.

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Laptopmag.com: Watching the Pulse of Mobile Tech

Laptopmag.com is one of the most respected and trusted brands in mobile technology, providing executive decision makers, IT professionals, and tech enthusiasts with product reviews, news and tips, trusted buying advice, and helpful how-to information. The site’s 2.7 million monthly visitors are interested in smart phones, tablets, eReaders, notebooks, and generally all things new and innovative. Laptopmag.com offers daily commentary and insight into the breaking mobile tech news of the day for the informed and engaged tech shopper and owner.

Laptopmag.com recently added the ShopAdvisor watch button to its product reviews, adding deferred purchases as a valuable new aspect to the buying process for the research-intensive products its readers love.

 

As summer wanes and college and high school students (or their parents) begin to think about the return to school in the fall, Laptopmag.com is featuring 5 of the top tablets for the season. “A number of textbooks are available in interactive, digital versions, which will save room in your backpack. And, with a plethora of advanced apps now available for students, a tablet could be your ultimate study companion.” As parents and students alike seek to make their school dollars go far, it pays to “watch” these tablets during the dog days of summer. ShopAdvisor will wake you from your hammock when the price is right.

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Photo.net uses ShopAdvisor to watch cameras

Photo.net is an online community with hundreds of thousands of active members and many more casual viewers visiting daily. Since 1993 they  have made it their mission to be the best peer-to-peer educational system for people who wish to become better photographers. Their audience consists of photography enthusiasts ranging from newcomers to experienced, successful professionals; and includes includes anyone interested in becoming a better photographer, plus many folks who show up just looking for great images.

Purchasing a high-consideration item like a camera is not something most people — beginners or professionals — rush into. They typically do some research, look at different models of cameras, lenses and accessories, and talk with other knowledgeable (or more knowledgeable) photographers. Photo.net’s peer forums are a great place for newbies and experts to find each other and help each other out.

Photo.net recently added one more service — the ShopAdvisor watch button — to its site to help its community find the right product at the right time. Now, with each camera review, visitors can watch an item and be reminded of it later — when the price goes down, when they think they might have the cash-flow to make a purchase, or when they’ve gathered enough research. ShopAdvisor keeps track of the items for them, reminding them at a later date, or when there is a price shift.

You can check out how Photo.net uses the watch button in a recent roundup review of ten top waterproof cameras for underwater use. The ShopAdvisor watch button accompanies each review, and provides the reader with the current lowest price, the price history for the preceding 3-9 months, and the ability to ask for a price alert or for a reminder at a specific date in the future.

 

New Fridge: It’s Hotter’n the Hinge on the Gates to Hell!

Like my mother-in-law would say, “It’s hotter than the hinge on the gate to hell!” On sweltering days like we’ve had this summer, there’s a mad rush in my house for the ice tray in the freezer and the cold lemonade in the fridge. If your refrigerator is due for a rehaul, now may be a good time to look for one. According to the appliance-watchers at Cheapism, “July is ideal for appliance shopping; watch prices drop this month on refrigerators, microwaves, and stoves.”

It’s pretty easy to spend a month’s salary (sometimes 2 months’!) on that food monolith that always beckons me to open its doors. In my house, there are four kids, so the fridge door is often open. Our kitchen is on the small side; the fridge is on the large side. We actually stopped calling that room the kitchen, and instead refer to it as the refrigerator room: it dominates the landscape. When it’s time to look for a new model, here’s are the advisors I turn to:

I’ve gotten more home design ideas from the editors at Apartment Therapy than any other place – except perhaps from their legions of loyal readers who comment and contribute. Man, those people are not afraid of sharing their opinions. A few cycles ago, they did a roundup of “techie” fridges that included the Kenmore Elite Trio, which scored well due to its LED interior lights and its full LCD display. I’m a techie too, but what really lights me up is the peaks-and-valleys price history on this food locker. Hey, if you buy the Elite Trio when the price is up around $2,400, don’t go complaining in the comments section of Apartment Therapy about how expensive it was. Just watch it, and let ShopAdvisor let you know when you can find it for $1,999 or less.   

RefrigeratorPro. Now, where else would you go to learn about refrigerators than a site called RefrigeratorPro? Not dishwashers. Not cake mixers. Just. The. Fridge. Now, you get that close to that many fridges, and I would think picking the best one out of the hundreds of models would be like picking one child out to be the favorite. It’s just not fair to all the other refrigerators. But, RefrigeratorPro is nothing if not PROfessional, and without any guilty feelings crowns the LG French Door fridge the king of them all, wieighing in at $2,950. But, the curators of cool have a warm side to them, and they also found a couple LG siblings that are similar, and somewhat lower in price. Now, can’t we all just get along?

Our go-to guys at Cheapism understand that their audience is budget-conscious, so they leam towards fewer features in their picks – but they’re not “cheap refrigerators are available for less than $850. Although you get lots of bells and whistles with upmarket models, you aren’t guaranteed better dependability. Cheap refrigerators keep fresh foods fresh, frozen foods frozen, and penny-pinching users content. Hey, it keeps your beer cold. And it makes ice. You want a special cheese drawer? Gimme a break. The editors’ pick at Cheapism is the Maytag M1TXEMMWW.

Way back when, Cool Hunting got all excited at the imminent US arrival of a European favorite, the Smeg Fab 28. Five years later, what gets me all riled up is a price history chart with regularity like this one. Seems that every six months, like clockwork, the Smeg drops in price by $500. I don’t care how hot it gets, I will wait for that narrow window when the price drops 10 $1,500. Happy watching!

Curator of cool stuff Materialicious gives its stamp of cool approval to the Marvel refrigerated drawers. This is a departure from the fridge-as-monolith style, and tucks the appliance under a counter. Clearly, this is more suited to the man-cave than to the kitchen for most homes. Could have used this in college. Probably good I didn’t have it, though. ShopAdvisor shows that the price used to be above $2,800, and has been around $2,300 for a few months now.

And, if all else fails in your search for a fridge, Random Good Stuff always has something worth looking at. If you are hanging onto your sub-$1,000 model, you can slap this refrigerator upgrade magnet on it to impress your guests. I’m not sure a French fry dispenser in the fridge door is appealing, but I am intrigued by the LED panel that greets me as “Welcome, Master…”

Stay cool!

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10 Chairs That Make a Grown Man Cry

According to our reliable source at Cheapism, July is a good month to look for deals on furniture. “Come August, the second semi-annual wave of new furniture models will hit stores. To make room on the showroom floor, furniture retailers must rid themselves of current inventory. Look for big discounts on furniture this month.”

Now, people sometimes LOVE their chairs. Who knew a chair could evoke such passion and emotion?

Katja Prensal, decorator extraordinaire and curator of Skimbaco Lifestyle, has been furnishing her new home since this spring. “I have a feeling it’ll be a while before we have this new house decorated. Like with any house, it is better to live in first and then see what you really want to do with your space. Already now some of the things that I thought I like are not working too well, and we have already moved some furniture.” And now for the emotion: “The IKEA couch we ordered came, and while I LOVE the Barcelona chairs, I actually like it better now when we separated the two Barcelona chairs and added the couch in the living room.” The ALL CAPS exclamation is working for me, so I found a few different styles of Barcelonas to put on my ShopAdvisor watchlist.

Barcelona LOVE #1     Barcelona LOVE #2     Barcelona LOVE #3 

Our good friends at Remodelista are always on the lookout for something functional that is also pleasing to the senses. Janet, one of the Remodelista’s six curators, made the Tolix A Industrial Chair the top entry in one of her recent tried-and-true Ten Easy Pieces collections (Colorful Outdoor Dining Chairs). Janet refers to the Tolix A as legendary. That’s fairly emotional, for a chair, no?


Legendary!    Epic! 

A similar industrial style has caught the fancy of Joel Pirela (a graphic and industrial designer and edged weapons expert) of Blue Ant Studio, where the Emeco Chair is a favorite. Joel bestows the chair with the title of “aluminum icon.” You can almost hear the baited breath in the review: “Several things come thru my mind once I admire the greatest aluminum chair of all times…” One characteristic the former Navy man particularly admires: “spot welds on the top of the back bars are visible as a constant remainder that this chair is bomb proof.” Sounds perfect for my place. Time to watch.
Aluminum icon!  

Over at Bliss – the name alone conjures a racing heart – Traci French “shares her idea of pretty” and “hopes you think so too.” If the effusive comments on her site are any indication (e.g., “Oh man….heart, heart, heart!”), she has succeeded. One of her popular features, i heart monday, puts some love in the start of the work week with an always stunning collection of clothing, jewelry, shoes and household items. One find this past Monday was the Blu Dot Toro Lounge Chair. Traci’s taste is not governed by price tags, and this piece runs over $1,000 most months. According to ShopAdvisor, it can dip down to as low as $900. I’ll watch it, and will let Traci know when it drops. That ought to get a few more hearts on her site. <3

i heart this chair 

Another trustworthy source for the off-the-beaten path is BlessThisStuff, where the curators have discovered the Tip Ton chair, “a solid plastic chair that has a forward-tilt action that will help your health apparently, it straightens the pelvis and spine and thus improves circulation to the abdominal and back muscles.” Hey, anything that strengthens the pelvis, I’m all for it. I’m watching this one.

Strong pelvis, here I come! 

At Home Designing, the editors ask “Beautiful Recliners: Do They Exist?” – a dead giveaway that the usual emotive response to a barcalounger is yecch. And, indeed, the article does dig up some, uh, unusual pieces of furniture. It’s not too often one hears the words bizarre, precarious, unsettling, and collapse to describe something the observer otherwise considers beautiful. And, at almost $2,000, other vocabulary comes to mind. But, worth watching.

Beautiful, precarious and unsettling… 

The staff at Casual Living named the Mod Lounger the product of the day back in March. The designer “started with organic shapes intended to promote a fun and engaging form for children, and added to it adult ergonomics and scale.” Fun and ergonomic! According to ShopAdvisor, the price on the Mod Lounger has dipped to $400, so if you are patient, watching may pay off. Meanwhile, if you want to see emotion, catch me when one of my kids moves from lounging to cavorting on my $499 chair!

Offi Mod Lounger 

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What To Buy in May: Patio Furniture and Garden Supplies

People are cleaning and upgrading their homes, and new refrigerators are coming out soon. Grab good deals on an older-model icebox in May.” So says Whitson Gordon, one of our go-to guys at Lifehacker. And, actually, according to Whitson, you should have bought your gardening tools back in March when there were better deals, but we’ll see if we can “watch” for some finds among the recommended equipement from gardening gurus around the web.

Here’s what I’ve found around the web and on ShopAdvisor watchlists.

Patio Furniture Covers.  The Howard House. entertains its readers with a regular series of giveaways and discounts, and recently sported a 15%-off coupon code for any item at Empire Patio Covers, whose products are manufactured by Budge Indusries. One of The Howard House’s readers strongly recommends that her neighbor make use of the discount: “My neighbors never cover their grill! I refuse to eat off of it…lol.”  Could be the couple across the street from my house. :-/ Perhaps I should add this to my ShopAdvisor watchlist.

Barbecue grill cover    Patio furniture cover  

Knoll Bertoria ChairPatricia Gray writes about ‘WHAT’S HOT ‘in the world of Interior Design, new and emerging trends, modern design, architecture, and travel, as well as how your surroundings can influence the world around you. Among her “Top 25 Patio Chairs” is the Bertoria chair, by Knoll — “a truly classic and timeless design, and the appropriately named Paperclip Table. Now, I like this design too. The only thing that gives me pause is that cactus in the background, which suggest that famous southwestern “dry heat” that scares New Englanders like me. Better make sure there are ample seat cushions on those metal chairs.

Bertoria chair     Paper Clip chair 

Fiskars Telescoping 12-Foot Tree Pruner.  The popular You Grow Girl blog recommends this item, and demonstrates its long reach here. Its author, Gayla Trail, has developed a loyal readership through her blog’s 12-year run, which also includes a handful of gardening books appropriate for even “black thumb” gardeners such as myself. I like her direct style — she doesn’t mince words. “I’m not going to mince words — the weather is shit right now. It’s grey and cold and the coffee I drank two hours ago has been unable to penetrate its dreary, low energy malaise. I feel like a zombie and I look like one, too.” Looks like she was using the Fiskars tree pruner on one of those dreary Canadian spring days.

Fiskars pruner     Easy Growing  

Copper Rain Chains. Over at Dave’s Garden, a worldwide community of gardners share all sorts of information about bugs, birds, botany and more. Among the 233 discussion forums and extensive video library, community members also post reviews of favorite finds — from gardening tools, to irrigation equipment to (my favorite) “varmint pest control.”  There is also a list of patio and garden ornaments, including this recommendation of copper rain chains from one of our own neighbors here in Cambridge, Mass., who says “copper rain chains are a functional and decorative alternative to traditional gutter downspouts that help guide rainwater into basin, barrel or bowl for further reuse – today’s water harvesting mantra.”

Copper Rain Chains     Varmint Pest Control  

Outdoor Fireplace. Perhaps Gayla Train could use a fire pit to brighten and warm her dreary day. Stuart, the curator of Gardening Tips & Ideas, is partial to this Uniflame unit; the crowd at Dave’s Garden speaks favorably about the Blue Rooster Prairie Chimenea. As I read through their respective blogs, I’m not sure if Stuart shares Gayla’s back-to-basics style.

While Gayla is pruning with a 12-foot hand tool, Stuart goes all Tim-the-Toolman-Taylor with the Bosch Keo cordless garden saw. “While its main usage is designed for pruning trees and shrubs this dynamo pocket-rocket can handle a myriad of tasks… finding applications for this nifty gadget will be a source of pleasure.” More power! The unit in Stuart’s garden is only available in the U.K. The ShopAdvisor watch button below has a similar unit from Black & Decker.

Uniflame outdoor fireplace     Blue Rooster chimenea  

Cordless Electric Pruning Saw  

Heirloom Seeds.  Glenda Embree, author of the Busy at Home blog, is a homeschool veteran who puts her hand to the plow (or trowel) as well. “What I lack in experience, is made up for in crazy, wild enthusiasm and a desire to learn even more (plus eat lots and lots of tomatoes)!” Glenda is gaga over her recent delivery of Heirloom Seeds, which arrived in packets inside a utilitarian plastic bucket. “It just keeps getting better. This is heirloom garden seed heaven! did you know that properly stored, heirloom garden seeds can last several years? I love that they come in this great storage bucket!” Clearly, she meant it when she said wild enthusiasm.

Glenda offered up the bucket of Baker Creek heirloom seeds to her readers, and she quickly got over 3,000 readers to enter the giveaway. If you missed it, you can always watch for them here.

Baker Creek heirloom seeds  

Fiskars UpRoot Weeder. Another Fiskars! These are popular among the serious garden & patio set. Perhaps Genevieve at North Coast Gardening knows the secret: “Have a surly teenager in the house who needs some fresh air? Send them out with this thing. They’ll still act grouchy about it, but you’ll know they’re secretly enjoying themselves out there.”  Gen enjoys her UpRoot Weeder so much, she and her gardening buddy Amy Stewart of Garden Rant did a video review of it, in which you will hear the otherwise mild-mannered hosts use vocabulary that include “extremely violent” and “do not impale your chickens with the UpRooter!” The readers seem to love it, according to the many comments the blog posts about the tool gathered. My favorite: “This looks pretty fun! But can you hold a beer in the other hand while you weed with this thing?”

Fiskars UpRoot Weeder  

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What To Buy in May: Camping and Outdoor Gear

Camping and outdoor gear is one of the top cateogries of items on people’s ShopAdvisor watchlists. Some of those items have been there for weeks, even months. And, it looks like May could be the time when price-drop alerts start showing up on mobile device and email inboxes. According to Deal News, May is the month to “look for hiking, fishing, and camping accessories to hit appealing prices.” Here’s a look at the items at the top of the ShopAdvisor watchlist charts.

Smith Optics PIVLOCK V90 Max Interchangeable Sport Sunglasses. This is far and away the most popular outdoor gear item onShopAdvisor watchlists. I found the bestest review of the Pivlock V90s by Marc Basiliere at Bike Rumor. Now, Marc laments that “the bike industry is awash in hyperbole,” but to earn himself a place among the mostest, he indulges in his review: “the Pivlocks are so light, in fact, that they can only be described as the lightest performance interchangable, rimless sport style [eyewear] in the world today.  Beat that.” Appropriately superlative for the top-watched item.

Not ready to buy? 

Vibram KSO. A close second on ShopAdvisor lists  are these 5-toed shoes. I like reviews that have a storyline that starts with “It was a dark and stormy night….” and, barefoot shoe guy type Damien Tougas of Gear Junkie does not disappoint. “Last year on a backpacking trip, standing atop a steep descent in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, I began to have second thoughts about my footwear choice for the trip. Rain had plagued the day, and the trail was a muddy mess. On my feet, I wore the toe-equipped Vibram FiveFingers KSO shoes (yeah, I am one of those barefoot shoe guys) and the smooth soles were no match for the slick mud I was about to face.” You can read the rest of the extensive review at Gear Junkie.

Not ready to buy? 

Core Mens Rubber Watch. This watch is not only popular among the outdoor set, but it is also one of the most-watched watches on ShopAdvisor watchlists. I’ve posted all the ‘most-watched watches’ on our Pinterest board, if you want to see it among the watch-as-jewelry set. The camping world has no shortage of serious reviewers of gear. Ryan Jordan, of Backpacking Light, includes the Core watch as a representative example of a good compass/altimeter watch as part of his hailed 3-Season, 3-Day Backpavking Gear Checklist. “Backpacking Light publishes comprehensive gear reviews that are critical, honest, and founded on both sound technical analysis and rigorous field use.” Like I said: serious. But, they are quite laid back, as well. “We started Backpacking Light in our garage, have employed mostly friends and family, let people bring their dogs and babies to work, and remain committed to owning a company that values community – and a passion for restoring their soul outside.”

This gravity+soul mixture works well, as Ryan and his readers seem to be on genial and familiar terms.  Says one commenter, “Great list, Ryan! But LMF Ti Spork?!? You could save whopping 8 g by switching to Spork Original! ;) Or even 10 g with Spork Little :D”  And another playful jab, “Ryan – a canister stove! you’re getting soft in your old age.”

Not ready to buy? 

MSR Flex 3 Cooking System.  Also on the ShopAdvisor community’s watchlists is this collapsible cooking set. Busyboo‘s Avi De Leon calls it a “perfect camping cooking set [with] the basics (and so much more) for cooking in the wild: 2.3-liter pot, 3.3-liter pot, strainer lid, talon pot handle, three deep-dish plates and three stainless-steel mugs. The pots are made from hard-anodized aluminum that makes them incredibly durable but still lightweight,”  Busyboo is not your typical camping and outdoor site, though. “Our mission is to be a source of inspiration for good design, both inside and out.” Indeed, they take a look at well-designed items from bottle openers to lunch boxes to new-age insect-repelling screen doors.

Flex 3 Cooking System     Waiter’s Tools Bottle Opener 

Cool Lunch by Menu         Bug Off Instant Screen Door 

Thermarest Women’s ProLite Mattress Regular. This is a popular item among ShopAdvisor users. Now, what can I say? Did they read the reviews at Outdoor Gear Lab? Apparently not. The key to Outdoor Gear Lab’s reviews is that they make side-by-side comparisons with competing products, helping to point out differences that may matter to campers and outdoor enthusiasts. Here’s what they said about the Therm-a-Rest Women’s ProLite Plus: “[It is] a high quality, all-purpose inflatable foam pad… But it’s also quite large (3.26 liters) and heavy (21 oz.)…. The Therm-a-Rest Women’s NeoAir XLite is our top rated women’s sleeping pad. This pad is 22 percent warmer than the standard XLite, weighs a mere 11 oz. and packs down to the size of a large cucumber… The pad is 2.5” thick and cushions even the shapeliest women. Our testers with large hips loved the Xite!”

According to Outdoor Gear Labs, “Climbing Magazine once computed that three percent of [editor] Chris McNamara’s life on earth had been spent on the face of El Capitan – an accomplishment that left friends and family pondering Chris’s sanity.” Hey, any editor that can manage to put the phrases large cucumber and shapeliest women and large hips into a single review — that’s an accomplishment all on its own in my book.

Thermarest ProLite 

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite 

Marmot Plasma 30 Sleeping Bag. Marmot gear shows up in a lot of watchlists in ShopAdvisor. Among the most popular Marmot items is the Plasma 30 sleeping bag. I’ve never spent $300+ on a sleeping bag, so I can see why people want to “watch” for a better price. I guess its worth it, though, as the bag has recently won a Nat Geo Gear award, according to the Get Outdoors blog. “Sleeping bags have traditionally used horizontal baffles or channels sewn into the bags to distribute the fill, which leads to bunching at the sides, knees and feet. So basically cold extremities and uneven heat distribution from your warm core. With vertical baffling the fill is distributed more evenly so heat from your core flows across your whole body, keeping you toes and sides toasty… Big Agnes was one of the first bag makers to adopt the technology for their ’12 Spring Summer line. RAB  has also introduced vertical baffle bags.” It’s nice to get some technical education so I can sound smart when I talk to the experts in the store.

Not ready to buy? 

Marmot Limelight 2-Person Tent w/Footprint & Gear Loft. Another popular Marmot is this 2-person tent. I don’t recall seeing these tent pole engineering marvels when I was a kid, but I can hardly imagine setting up a tent without them now. Don Jurries of The Gear Caster gives an insiders view of what goes on at one of the top manufacturers of tent poles. “Korean company DAC has been at the forefront of tent pole, tent frame, and tent design for a number of years. DAC is the key supplier to most high-end tent brands, including The North Face, Sierra Designs, Marmot, Hilleberg, and Nemo. I had the privilege of sitting next to DAC’s Founder and President, Jake Lah, on a flight from Salt Lake City to Seattle after the recent Outdoor Retailer trade show. An exceptionally knowledgeable man, Mr. Lah gave me a two hour history lesson on tents over the last 20 years and his thoughts on potential tent designs for the future. He also showed me examples of how a line of pole ends, connectors, joints, hubs, stoppers, and clips, called DAC Toys, are helping tent makers create innovative new tent shapes.” I guess I will look for new tent shapes next May 2013, when it again is the best time to buy camping and outdoor gear.

Not ready to buy? 

I was particularly attracted to The Gear Caster’s mission: “We profile emerging companies and technologies in the outdoor sports industry. We also review soon to be released gear, helping you decide what to buy for your outdoor adventures.” That is another great reason to use ShopAdvisor, to watch for announced but not-yet-released products, and to use ShopAdvisor’s alerts remind you to take another look when the products finally arrive.

(Also, Amy’s picture rocks.)

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What To Buy in May: Cookware

There’s always a deal on somewhere, depending on the time of year. In May, according to Working Mother, cookware sets are a good buy because “kitchen supply stores are marketing for weddings and graduation.” If you are buying your first cookware set, or setting up a college grad or newlyweds with their first cupboard full of pots and pans, you may want to take a peek at what sort of cookware ShopAdvisor users have on their collective watchlists. Here are the most-watched cookware sets, along with some advice from around the web.

First, some of the advice. I was almost stopped in my tracks with this selection of products when I ran across this piece of wisdom among the culinariati: “We’ve never liked cookware sets,” says Cooks Illustrated.  They cite a generous variety of reasons, in fact: the sets include “pans we don’t need and not enough of the ones we do;” pans in “impractical sizes that clog your cabinets.” And they have a pet peeve about “manufacturers who count each lid and anything else that isn’t riveted on as a separate piece” in an otherwise seemingly vast 14- or 20-piece set. Clearly, these kitchen-savvy reviewers take the oven mitts off when they offer an opinion. 

Cuisinart tops the list with its 10-pc Chef’s Classic in the greatest demand, along with the heavier duty Multiclad Pro. I liked the review of the Multiclad from Tammy’s Recipes, which is as rich in imagery as a Paula Deen Bacon Dressing. Tammy notes that the inside of the Cuisinart Multiclad is shiny, but for a mirror-shine take a glance at the lids!

 Chef’s Classic          Multiclad 

The next item near the top of the ShopAdvisor watchlist is Calphalon’s Kitchen Essentials. Now, I also have a couple of Calphalon’s at home, and I do like them, but the real fans can be found among mom bloggers like Courtney of Courtney’s Sweets. “When I was asked if I’d like to do a review of a cookware set from Calphalon I was as giddy as a child getting an ice cream cone.” Personally, Courtney, I say hold the ice cream, and instead pass the meatballs.  Not ready to buy? 

Another ShopAdvisor watchlist favorite is the Anolon Nouvelle Copper   and Advanced Bronze   sets. You can read a colorful review of the Anolon line (and many other cookware sets) by Paula & Wanda over at the highly specialized Only Cookware review site, where the authors spare nothing — including husbands! — to offer a compelte assessment.

One of the things that is important to remember is that you should only use low to medium heat and if at any time you overcook your piece severely to the stage where the non stick coating begins to peel, throw the piece out and get a new one…. Now we all know that you and I won’t do this to your beautiful cookware, but this happened to one of my pieces just recently when my husband decided to cook himself some sausages while I was out. He put the pan on high heat, added the sausages and then performed the cardinal sin of walking away and not attending to the cooking process. Result:- the sausages were burnt so badly that their shape was indelibly etched into the pan. 

Note: – one frypan damaged beyond repair, one rather upset wife and one husband very much out of favor.

The pots and pans come out unscathed in the review. Family members, a little scorched. :-)

“Ever wonder if that celebrity cookware is all that it’s cracked up to be?” asks Kristi Maloney, editor of Mom’s Own Words. Two celebrity sets are also on ShopAdvisor watchlists: the Rachael Ray Hard Anodized 10 piece set    and the Wolfgang Puck 20-pc set (there must be a lot of lids!)    Kristi posts a Today Show video that takes a look at the quality of celebrity cookware as reviewed by real moms. Worth a look (note: a 30-second commercial precedes the video).

Another celebrity-branded item, Meyer Cookware’s Giada De Laurentiis For Target Pasta Lovers Gift Set also had a couple ticks on the ShopAdvisor watchlist. Mom reviewer Amanda, of Mommy of Two Little Monkeys, took a look at the full Giada De Laurentiis food, cookware and bakeware, and she’s a believer: “I received a few samples from Giada’s new line and really wanted to tell you about my favorite piece. However during the use of Giada’s new products I quickly fell in love with everything!”     Not ready to buy? 

Rounding out the ShopAdvisor watch list is the JC Penney Cooks set, which earns praise from the savvy shoppers over at Cheapism. “A good starter set for the price is the consensus view” of the JC Penney set. “Consumers say the five pots and pans cook well and don’t burn food, although a few decry poor workmanship and the hollow-tube handles that don’t seem sturdy enough.” Ouch! That’s a good honest review, but if I’m the marketing guy over at Penney’s, I’m not sure I show that one to my boss. Maybe just watch this one for now   
 

As graduations and weddings get into full swing now that May Day has come and gone, a quick glance at trusted kitchen maven sites, such as Delish, which has a slide show of the winning models of The Good Housekeeping Research Institute, “whose testers evaluated 25 lines of nonstick cookware and 10 lines of traditional cookware with stainless steel interiors.”

And, if the new husband or the recent grad burn the sausages, just throw the pans out and get new ones.

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What to Buy in April: This List Sucks!

According to the sages at Lifehacker, springtime is the time to clean up on a deal for a vacuum cleaner. “It’s time for spring cleaning, and if your vacuum just doesn’t seem to have the sucking power that it used to, it’s the perfect time to buy a new one,” writes Whitson Gordon. “New vacuums usually don’t come out until June, so grab the old models now as they’re clearing them out.”

ShopAdvisor’s analytics shows me the “most watched” vacuum cleaners and steam cleaners, and one thing is quite obvious: people really like the Dyson machines. 43% of all the machines on the watchlist are Dysons. Let’s take a look at the most popular vacuums and steam cleaners on people’s collective watch lists, and hear from some of the experts. Also, go ahead and click on the ShopAdvisor watch buttons to see the current price, the recent price history, and other product information.

Of the top 10 vacuum models, Dyson claimed eight spots. What makes Dyson so special? Well, a timeless blog post by Tanya over at MommyGoggles offers a sense of the loyalty of Dyson’s customers.

I was in Chicago for an event for a company that I have been using their product in my home, fallen in love with the product, fallen in love with the company, a company that I firmly believe in and after meeting them face to face, a company that has turned my family’s life around completely: Dyson.

I had not expected to find such passion on the subject of home appliances. Man, Dyson is a strong brand.

The top Dyson models currently “watched” include:

Dyson DC41 Animal Purple Upright Vacuum. Wendy, the author behind Sweeties Views & Reviews, struggled to find something (anything!) along the way of constructive criticism. “There are a few minor things that I thought that could be done better, but those are overshadowed by the vacuuming power. The on/off button could be located higher up the handle instead of where it currently is, near the canister release button. A couple times instead of turning the vacuum off, I released the canister. It would be nice of the cord could be retractable, but that would probably require making the vacuum cleaner larger.”      Not ready to buy?

Also high on the ShopAdvisor watch list is another in the purple family, the Dyson DC23 Animal Purple Canister Vacuum.      Not ready to buy?

Dyson DC25 All floor Yellow Upright Vacuum. What’s different about Dyson’s yellow family? Says David T. at Vacuum Wizard, “The Dyson DC25 Ball All-Floors is, for a lack of better words, a ball! As the title says, it features the Dyson Ball technology, which makes moving the vacuum around extremely easy.” Lots of great vacuum research on that site, by the way. stephicks68 offers her own perspective.

I am a busy woman. I love a clean house. Unfortunately, I have four children, two dogs and a cat. And I work. Game over, right? Not so fast! I am here to tell you that the best present I ever received is my new Dyson Ball DC25 vacuum cleaner. Perhaps you think its pathetic for me to be swooning over a vacuum, but for years, I tried and discarded model after model.

Are you feeling the love yet?      

Okay, on to the one machine that spoiled Dyson’s clean sweep of the top 10 vacuums in the ShopAdvisor watch list: Neato Robotics’ Xv-11 Gold Robotic Vacuum, which is closely followed by two rival robots, Evolution Robotics’ Mint Automatic Floor Cleaner and by iRobot’s Roomba 530 Vacuum.

The BotJunkie blog does a good job comparing the Xv-11   with a more recent edition of the Roomba 560. The review is extensive, and enteraintaining (it includes a 1-minute video of Roomba vs. Neato Jousting).

Amy Bellgardt (aka Mom Spark) is a fan of the Mint: “I think I may be in Heaven for I have a robot to clean my floors.” Amy actually gave one away last summer to one of her lucky readers. The rest of you will have to use the ShopAdvisor watch button to keep an eye out for a deal.  

 

Meanwhile, Brian (yes! a man!) says the Roomba 530 has become the cleaning robot of choice at the household of the 2millionblog: “At this point it looks like there is a clear payback in our situation for our investment in a Roomba 530. We have been able to reduce the amount of time spent keeping our floors clean and they are cleaner overall than before. However, if you can’t establish a simple routine to utilize a Roomba effectively then it may be no better than an ordinary vacuum.”  

After the robots come the Hoovers. Lots of different Hoovers on the ShopAdvisor watchlist. The two most popular Hoovers on the list are the WindTunnel Pet Rewind Plus Upright Vacuum and the Max Extract 60 Blue Carpet Cleaner. Last September, Domenic Winick started reviewing all sorts of appliances and gadgets, and the WindTunnel family of vacuums caught his eye straightaway, calling it “a sleek lightweight design with superior cleaning power that is easy to use with a practical price.”  

The Max Extract is actually in a different category — carpet cleaners. I enjoyed reading the test Vacuum Cleaner Seen used to evaluate it.

My cleaning test was a bit unfair, because the rug in question had been on the floor of a kid’s room for 18 years. She’s in college now (the kid, not the rug), and I don’t think the rug has been cleaned since grade school, buried under what my wife and I called “the rubble”. I knew the floor was still under there because the rubble didn’t just fall to the center of the earth, but I had not seen the rug in years. Turned out to be light blue, with stains that looked like paint, coffee, chocolate, and nondescript dark areas. As I mentioned, this rug made short work of the first shampooer I tried.  

Joining the Hoover on the list of carpet cleaners is the Bissell SpotBot Pet Compact Deep Cleaner and the Euro-Pro Shark Steam Pocket Mop.

Kathryn, who writes the Mommy Kat and Kids blog, has given away a Bissell to her readers. In her review she writes, “An old family friend used to say, ‘Your kids can be clean, or they can be happy.’ I couldn’t agree more.” In her evaluation, she says, “Since receiving the SpotBot Pet, I have used it to clean everything from chocolate to juice to my diaper-removing toddler’s ‘accidents’ and it has made short work of the stains every time.” That’s good enough for me, and no more questions asked.

And Steam Cleaner Guide (yes! there is a Steam-Cleaner-Guide.com; of course there is!) admires that Euro-Pro Shark “relies only on the cleaning power of hot vapor, so no chemicals are necessary. This alone makes it an ideal cleaning companion for the home…And when you’re done, you’ll be surprised to find that your floors are almost completely dry, so you won’t have to wait anymore.”  

People are passionate about their suction. It was good to see, though, that fights about them do not erupt all over the Internet. Just some robot jousting.

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