Holiday housewares shopping best bets
A perfect cup of coffee starts with fresh roasted beans. Grinding your coffee just before brewing can also make it taste better.
Burr grinders are best and the Cuisinart Supreme Grind is a good inexpensive choice.
With trial and error you can adjust the grind to exactly match your coffeemaker, according to Vincent Gentile of Casa Del Caffe in Vancouver, a coffee roasting retail and wholesale company.
"Too coarse what's going to happen is the water is going to go right through and you won't get good extraction," he says. "If it's too fine the coffee will be over extracted and will actually become bitter."
Among coffee makers, the Cuisinart Brew Central consistently tops the ratings and is programmable.
"Green" non-stick cookware is all the rage these days, but how does it measure up?
After a battery of tests, some -- like a set from Earth Pan -- outperformed regular non-stick. And among uncoated sets the Emeril Ware 10 piece stainless steel is a good choice.
Celebrity knives may feature recognized names but none actually made Consumer Reports' top 10.
Wustof Trident and Henkels Professional were the best knives tested. And full sets from Ginsu and Chicago Cutlery are also worth considering, but are only available online.
If you like wine but find taking out the cork is a pain, two rechargeable electric corkscrews from Oster and Emerson can make the job much easier.
If you don't want another electric gadget a continuous turning corkscrew is the simplest to use.
The TV show Project Runway has sparked renewed interest in sewing.
The Project Runway sewing machine from Brother is a Consumer Reports Best Buy at $400. It has 40 pre-programmed stitches.
Hair dryers and straighteners
If you want a salon quality hair dryer, it's a Bespoke Labs T3. It's quiet, fast, but costs $400.
Top-rated among less expensive dryers is the quiet $130 model from Chi and the Revlon Tourmaline Ionic RV 544 for just $30.
Straighteners are a must have for those who want straight hair -- or a high shine curl style. Most salons use high end straighteners from Chi. But if you want a bargain, consider the Revlon Perfect Heat Ceramic at just $30.
Mascara can be a great stocking stuffer.
A waterproof Covergirl Professional costs less than $6 and performs very well.
Follow these links for recommendations about toys and books for kids:
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Chris Olsen