Category Archives: Gadgets


DSC_8031 (1600x1060)A friend brought by a stick of his deer sausage the other day.  He’s big into smoked and cured meats, going so far as to build a smokehouse in his backyard.  He makes his own bacon, butchers his own beef, and is a general handyman.  On top of farming and working a full time job at the local electric generating plant.DSC_8017 (1600x1060)This is the last of that over cooked chicken that was left too long in the smoker.  It was smokey enough that the flavor came through even with the generous addition of Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce.DSC_4540 (1600x1060)I’m a little slow getting this new coffee brewing stuff up, TaMara’s new coffee machine reminded me I needed to say something.  We replaced our old coffee grinder with a better one.  This one has a more consistent grind, and the grind timer is good enough to use its settings instead of a separate measuring spoon.  The Bunn pourover brewer will be familiar to anyone who has ever ordered coffee in a greasy spoon.DSC_4545 (1600x1060)Bitsy is doing some thinking, outside of the box.  Sorry, LOLIMG_4623 (1600x1060)A couple of shelter kittehs, a momma and her boy.  She came into the shelter with four kittens, this is the last to be adopted.  You, too, can has a Ginger kitteh!

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Gadget Post: Hamilton Beach BrewStation Coffeemaker


Brewmaster 1a

Last week my coffeemaker died, mid-brew. That is a code red emergency in my house. I stumbled across this carafe-less coffeemaker, on sale, in a pretty cherry red and decided the price was right. I wasn’t sure if I would like it, but I must say it has exceeded my expectations and I’m very pleased with the Hamilton Beach BrewStation.

It claims to keep your coffee piping hot without burning it or turning it bitter for 4 hours. And that was my first test. I usually brew 4-cups at intervals during the day when I’m working at home, because I’m a slow coffee drinker. I often poured out the last cup because at the 90 minute to 2 hour mark the taste was off.  After running vinegar through the machine, I brewed up 6 cups of coffee. It made a really decent first cup of coffee. I set the warmer to 4 hours and went about my day, grabbing a cup now and then along the way. At the four hour mark, the cup I poured tasted as good and fresh as the first cup.

And if you’re worried about BPA in the warming station, as I was, Hamilton Beach has several PDF’s on their website detailing how none of their products contain BPA, including this coffeemaker.

Brewmaster Innards 1
It’s easy to use. You can either fill the warming station with water and then pour it into the coffeemaker, or since I use filtered water, I just pour the water directly into the coffeemaker. You put the warmer in, top it off with the basket, add filter and coffee and press the buttons. You can choose between bold, 1-4 cups or regular brewing styles, I’ve experimented and really like the bold setting. You can set the warmer to 0-4 hours. It is programmable, so morning coffee is ready and waiting when I wake up.

Everything is easy to read. The water level marks are large and stair-stepped up, so it’s easy to fill, the warmer clearly shows how much coffee is left and setting the clock and programming the autobrew is intuitive. If you get to the 4-hour mark and you still want to keep the coffee hot, you hold the start button for 3-seconds and it resets the warmer.

Easy Pour

And pouring the coffee is easy and quick. You hold the cup up to the bar and fill. It easily fills mugs and travel mugs, though it’s too short for my thermos, but I made do by pouring it into a mug first.

I give this high marks, for $35, it does what I need. And it’s a pretty red to boot.



Crio Bru: An Alternative to Coffee or Tea

Crio Bru

I’m not sure when I saw someone mention Crio Bru as an alternative to coffee, it may have been a recipe post at Balloon-Juice, but I thought it sounded interesting, so I went in search of some to try. It wasn’t easy to find.

I looked around locally at all the natural food groceries and one of my clients is actually a coffee shop, so I asked there, no one had heard of it, much less stocked it. Finally, I turned to Amazon and ordered it and a stainless steel, double-walled french press.  All the reviews recommended using a french press, though you can also brew it. I tried both methods and definitely had more flavor with the french press version.

Crio Bru is roasted and ground cocoa beans that you brew like coffee. It has very little caffeine, a rich, dark chocolate flavor and 10 calories. I tried it black, with cream and with a touch of sugar. Black was by far my favorite, with a rich creamy texture and dark chocolate flavor. The cream seemed to dilute it too much and the sugar seemed unnecessary.  It makes for a nice evening warm beverage when I don’t want to drink caffeine before bed.

To make it, you use 2 tbsp of the chocolate per 6 oz of water  (I use two heaping tbsps and 8 oz).  Place the chocolate in the french press, add very hot water (I usually boil it and then it cools to about the right temperature as I measure it), stir well (I use a chopstick), cover and let steep for 4 minutes. Then press the plunger down SLOWLY and serve.

If you want to brew it, you need to have a coffee maker that has a bold setting, otherwise it’s very weak.

I highly recommend it for chocolate lovers who want an alternative to hot chocolate or coffee.  Yum.


Have Frying Pan, Will Travel


I had a great time visiting friends and family in the Los Angeles area. Pictured above, good friend Jackie and new friend Thomas.

I had some awesome beach time at Zuma, Oxnard and Santa Monica beaches. I always feel better and more centered when I can spend time near the ocean. And luckily there are plenty of opportunities. (Click any photo to start slideshow)

There was a great afternoon tea with old friends and catching up with lots of family. I have the best cousins (and my Aunt and Uncle are pretty special, too).

I started my trip in Camarillo, which is a beautiful, quieter oasis north of LA.  We went out to eat some pretty amazing food – prime rib, fresh fish, fresh veggies. Then I headed down to LA for the weekend. My first night there was cooking and cooking lessons. But first we had to buy a frying pan.

Then it was a trip to Trader Joe’s for supplies for the menu of  Chicken Piccata, Butter Potato Pie and Chocolate Walnut Flourless Cookies. After that we were ready to start the cooking lesson. Chicken Piccata is definitely a good choice if you want to make something simple that looks elegant and tastes amazing. It’s usually served over buttered egg noodles, but this night I let them loose on the blog to pick what they wanted me to cook. It all went together very well. (Click any photo to start slideshow)


The after dinner view was pretty amazing, too.

Eat 4_1

The next night we went out to eat again. An amazing place, Mercado La Paloma  near USC and South Central LA. A place where restaurants can rent a small space in the food court to try out 5-star menus. Flavors abound. The atmosphere is casual and fun. Check out the link here.

We also saw Monuments Men, which despite lackluster reviews I recommend heartily. Good movie, excellent cast and an amazing piece of history. The book is now in my Kindle queue.

Then I wrapped up the trip in Santa Monica, probably my very favorite place in the Los Angeles area. I’ve been lucky enough to spend a great deal of time there and it’s always special.  I think that wraps up my travel diary for this trip. Except..

There was a cow

…did I mention there was a cow? And one final picture:


Grateful for good people in my life…..


Saturday Night Moment of Zen

LA skyline near Dodger Stadium/Four Square Church.


I really am enjoying what this little camera can do. The shot above is zoomed (42mm), the one below is not. Love how it captured the lights. As I scanned through the multiple shots, the detail is such that the traffic lights move forward down the road. The random white dots in the sky are planes heading into LAX. Click photos to embiggen and see them uncompressed.


Wait till you see the food shots from the dinner I cooked one night. I’ll post those, hopefully, tomorrow.

Until then…



PICT7838 (1600x1060)This is a photo from the back yard trail camera.  I cropped it and tweaked the brightness and contrast.  Lots of grain in the picture due to the high ISO the camera switches to for low light pictures.  It has an array of LEDs for a flash – they glow a dim red to the eye but the camera is tuned to use that wavelength.  Anyway the relatively bright horizon beyond the pines caught my eye.IMG_4202 (1600x1060)Here’s “Tanner”, he was sent out with a family for adoption but they brought him back.  They said he wanted to sleep in their bed with them and they used that as an excuse for the return.  He’s a good boy – walks well on a leash, housebroken, all the good stuff.  Knows basic commands, he’s been fixed.  I like his ears.  Better luck next time, pal, they don’t deserve you.DSC_4501 (1600x1060)This is a small tablet that is running Windows 8.1.  It’s a Dell Venue 8 Pro.  I have it set to boot to the desktop, bypassing the new tiled start screen.  The photo of Ginger is what I’m using for the desktop background right now but it’s a tad too busy and I’ll be changing it out.  I’m using it for web browsing when we are out somewhere, Googling for recipes while in the store for the ingredient list, things like that.  I have it paired with a small bluetooth keyboard that works well, and also a bluetooth mouse but that stuff is just clutter and is left behind when I am out.  At home I’m using full sized keyboards and big screens with more competent CPUs so those toys don’t see much action.DSC_7835 (1600x1060)Food Blog!  Really!DSC_7849 (1600x1060)Here’s a PB&J with bacon and cheddar.  I really wanted to put some banana slices on the thing but we didn’t have any.IMG_4197 (1600x1060)I’ll leave you with this pair of puppy girls.  The momma was found abandoned and ready to pop.  The rescuer brought her to the shelter just in time.  There is one more pup in the litter, another girl.

No Recipe Exchange Tonight

I am  so sorry, the week completely got away from me. I had a vicious cold during most of it and just as I was coming out of that, this happened:


2014 Kia Soul

My new car arrived. Woot! I ordered it in October, been planning on it since summer and finally, finally it drove up to my front door. Thankfully they delivered it, because I was not really up to par yesterday and could only muster a quick drive around a block or two.


Vroom! Vroom!

Today I was much, much better so we went out and about. Had quite the work out. High wind warnings on a treacherous section of hilly interstate, deep snow drifts and ice on country roads, and the usual bad drivers. She handled it all beautifully and getting good gas mileage to boot.



I call her Belle. (I name everything! If my test drive of my new robot vacuum turns out, I’ll write a gadget post about it and you’ll see, it has a name, too). I’m very happy. But still no recipe tonight.  - TaMara


Soul Crop

Rube Goldberg Machine with Retro Toys

I am a total sucker for Rube Goldberg machines and this one is terrific and holiday themed:




IMG_3561 (1600x1060)Here’s that puppy out of the Chow momma that looks like the daddy was a wiener dog.  Mrs J says he has been adopted already.  Cute little fellow!IMG_3573 (1600x1060)This one is a Husky mix.  Mrs J says there were several of them.  The woman who brought the litter in said that she heard that a dog chained outside wouldn’t get pregnant.  She’s wrong, though it doesn’t really seem sporting, now does it?  LOLDSC_7483 (1600x1060)I’ve mentioned these cameras before but I don’t remember if I’ve ever said much about them.  This is a new one we just bought to replace one that has its screen going bad. I left the battery cover askew to show the batteries, and there is a photo up on the little LCD screen, just to show you that feature.  All the settings are done by scrolling through menus on the screen.  Pictures are saved to a memory card and that’s the thing that we bring in to look at the pictures it has captured.DSC_7486 (1600x1060)The camera itself is housed in a waterproof case that straps to a handy post or tree.PICT5716 (1600x1060)Bonus!  Here’s a shot it took of some old fart.  The battery on the motherboard that runs the camera was dead and it wasn’t keeping the right time and date,  I’ve changed that out so it’s good now.IMG_3594 (1600x1060)More puppies!  Mrs J says this is one of a big litter that came in the other day.  [Edit to add:]  These are Border Collie/Labrador mixes.IMG_3556 (1600x1060)This one is a poodle/pug cross.  I Googled that and they are called pugapoos by some folks.  Not by me.DSC_7481 (1600x1060)Ramen!  This one has smoked pork and broccoli and mushrooms and carrots and tons of chili garlic paste. Spicy!

Full Dinner Menu:Cream of Potato Soup, Orange-Walnut Spinach Salad and Pear and Sour Cherry Crisp

The deep chill set in last week and shows no sign of leaving, so it had to be soup tonight. I just made a big pot of potato soup from leftover mashed potatoes and a few whole potatoes I sliced on my new mandolin to help get me through the big freeze. I thought it should then be the theme for tonight’s menu.


I’ve been eyeing mandolins for a while and settled on one that would be useful for how seldom I would use it. So far I really liked it. I did invest in a glove to prevent adding my fingertips to any meal prep. So between that and the new camera, I’m hoping to wow you with some pretty plates in the coming weeks.


But until then, here is tonight’s full menu and shopping list:


There’s nothing better on a cold night than Creamy Potato Cheese Soup.  I rarely peel potatoes, I scrub the skins thoroughly and that’s good enough for me. It also saves a lot of time and potato skins are full of good things. Yes, there is cheese, but milk instead of cream, and you can even use non-fat milk without noticing any loss. I threw the Pear and Sour Cherry Crisp in at the last minute, because to me, fall is all about fruit crisps.

On the board tonight:

  1. Cream of Potato Cheese Soup
  2. Orange-Walnut Spinach Salad
  3. Pear and Sour Cherry Crisp

Cream of Potato Cheese Soup

  • 6 large potatoes, cubed (peeling opt)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • ½ tsp ea: sage, rosemary, basil
  • 4 cups milk
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 8 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
  • salt & pepper to taste

Lg. saucepan (2 to 4 qt)

In saucepan or Dutch oven, cover potatoes with water and boil until fork tender, drain all but 2 cups water. Add onions, garlic and spices to potatoes*. In a bowl mix together  milk, flour, salt & pepper. Mix well, no lumps, add melted butter. Add to potatoes and mix well.  Bring to a low boil, stirring constantly, add cheese, reduce to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

*A great trick is to remove about ½ cup of the cooked potatoes and mash, then add back into soup, this gives you an extra creamy texture.

Orange-Walnut Spinach Salad

  • 10 oz spinach, washed
  • 2 oranges, peeled, remove white skin & cut into chunks (you can substitute equivalent canned mandarin orange slices)
  • ½ red onion, sliced in rings
  • 1 oz bleu cheese, crumbled
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • Raspberry-walnut dressing

large salad bowl

Tear spinach leaves. Layer in a large salad bowl. Top with orange chunks, onion, sprinkle blue cheese and walnuts. Add dressing & toss before serving.

Pears & Sour Cherry Crisp


  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 stick butter (1/2 cup)

Combine dry ingredients and cut in butter until mixture is crumbly


  • 4 large fresh pears, cored, peeled and sliced
  • 1 ½ cups frozen pitted cherries, thawed
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • ¼ cup sugar

8×8 baking dish, greased

Combine pears, cherries, sugar, & cornstarch. Spread in baking dish. Top fruit mixture with flour topping. Bake at 375° for 25 to 34 minutes, topping should be golden & pears tender.

Shopping List:

  • 6 large potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 1 red onion
  • 4 cups milk
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
  • 10 oz spinach
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 oz bleu cheese,
  • 4 oz chopped walnuts
  • Raspberry-walnut dressing
  • 1 stick + 3 tbsp butter
  • 4 large fresh pears
  • 12 oz frozen pitted cherries

Also: cornstarch, sugar, brown sugar, flour, oatmeal, cinnamon, sage, rosemary, basil, garlic

Originally posted November 2009



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