Bambi’s mom


Heard more rusting outside my house. This time there was a bigger one┬áin the same spot. I took the picture with my cell phone through my basement window. For some reason the deer aren’t afraid of me or any noises I make, as long as I’m on my side of the window.

I’ve lived here 23 years and this never happened before. I wonder what’s changed.


Instant Pot – I guess it’s not for everyone

I’ve read a few articles or blog posts about people having bad experiences with the IP, or being afraid of the device. I suppose this is natural – the device was a hot item for the holidays and many of those devices wound up in the hands of people who really didn’t want one. Also the media likes to build things up, and then knock them down.

The IP was listed as a do-it-all device, a kitchen miracle. Now people complain that they tried it and the food wasn’t as good as they are used to, or they wound up with a big mess, burning spaghetti or shooting sauce on the ceiling.

First off, it’s not a miracle. It’s a device that applies heat to food, and given enough time, the food will cook. Just like any other cooking device.

Second, read the manual. If the manual is too hard for you to understand, return the IP. I am not trying to demean anyone, but people claim the manual was confusing. OK. Then why use it if you can’t understand the instructions? I didn’t find them to be confusing, but everyone is different. No one is required to use an IP.

Third, use natural release. That means: when the cook time is done press the off button and let the pressure subside on its own. This will take 10-15 minutes. When the valve drops you’ll be able to open the lid. There won’t be any splatter or mess. There is no reason to use quick release, unless you are cooking something that has very tight cook time requirements. But don’t cook anything like that when you are first learning how to use the IP. For stews, soups, ribs, pot roast, beans, just about everything, there is no reason to use quick release. Let the IP cool down and the pressure will release safely all by itself.

Fourth, if you are going to use quick release anyway, despite the above, move the valve slightly. Just enough to let steam release slowly. Protect your hand with a towel because … steam is hot. Don’t throw the valve wide-open at maximum pressure and let it release. Ever. Why would anyone do that??

Fifth, if you’ve burned spaghetti in the IP, you really should return the IP to the store. I don’t know what else to say. Perhaps stay out of the kitchen altogether.

Sixth, the IP can cook lots of things but not everything benefits from being pressure-cooked. Something that takes 10 minutes to cook on the stove won’t be any faster using the pressure cooker. So hard boiled eggs, spaghetti, rice, etc. are going to cook about as long in the IP as they would on the stove. It’s not as if the IP CAN’T cook these things, but what is the point? If you are happy with your current cooking method, you might as well stick with it for quick-cook dishes. Use the IP for things that take a long time – like soup, stews, pulled pork, pot roast, etc.

Seventh, for the woman who was intimidated by all the buttons – Really? I don’t know what is intimidating about a button that says “Rice” or one that says “Poultry”. Just read the manual, it’s all explained. Including the fact that you don’t need to use those buttons. There are cook times listed for every type of food, so you can just use the “Manual” button and set the time to whatever is recommended. It’s easier than using an oven.

Eighth, if you are still nervous just return it. You got along just fine all these years without one. Why bring something in your home that you are afraid of?

Alexa SMS messages – Hello Toilets

I have an Android phone and an Echo Dot, which means I can now send SMS messages to my contacts by voice. Yay!

I tried it out. I told Alexa to text my wife “Hello Toots”. She received a text that said “Hello Toilets”.

OK, so maybe “Toots” isn’t a word Alexa is familiar with. But given how clunky voice recognition is, why wouldn’t Amazon program Alexa to read the message to me before they sent it? Google Assistant checks with me. It’s an obvious feature. Does Amazon think Alexa is infallible? It’s pretty f-ing far from infallible.

I probably won’t use Alexa’s SMS feature again since I can’t rely on it to transcribe what I say, and I have no control over what it sends out.

Sonos One vs. real Alexa – the gap widens

The marketing material from Sonos states: “The new Sonos One. With Amazon Alexa built right in.” But that’s not entirely true.

Amazon has two versions of Alexa – one for itself and one for third party vendors. The third party version is missing features, like the ability to make phone calls. In other words, there is “real” Alexa and Alexa-lite.

Amazon just announced a new Echo feature – you can dictate and send SMS messages if you have an Android phone. But … not if you have an Alexa-lite device like the Sonos One.

Drip, drip, drip. Amazon is going to keep improving the Echo, feature by feature. Will those features be available on Alexa-lite? Maybe. Probably not. The Sonos One just came out, but already there is a feature gap that makes the Sonos One an inferior version of Alexa. That gap will only widen over time. At some point, if you really like using Alexa, you’re going to need an Echo in addition to the Sonos One because the Sonos will be years out of date.

The Sonos One doesn’t cost more than the Play 1 used to, so it’s not as if Sonos is charging a premium for it. So, if you think of the Sonos One as simply a speaker that uses Alexa to play music, rather than an actual Echo, it’s an improvement over the Play 1.

But I don’t plan to get a Sonos One. The best solution is to get an Echo Dot, and connect it to a good speaker via a line out cable. That way I have real Alexa, and if improvements to Echo hardware make it worthwhile to replace the Dot, I can simply swap out a new Echo for the old one without having to replace my speaker as well.

Since real Alexa has multi room capability any speaker connected to an Echo by a line out cable has that ability too.


Coffee – what I drink at the moment


I took stock of the different types of coffee-making devices we have, and I have to admit it’s excessive: Pour-over, Aeropress, Moka, Keurig, Nespresso, French Press, Cold Brew, Automatic Drip. That’s 8. We also have an urn somewhere that works like a big percolator, but I’m not including that.

I didn’t really spend a fortune on any of it. Coffee equipment is relatively cheap unless you go for electric grinders and espresso machines.

In terms of the three machines – we stopped using the Auto Drip machine when we got a Keurig, over 10 years ago. I don’t drink Keurig because of the waste factor, and the fact that the coffee tastes bland and watery to me. I rarely use the Nespresso either. I tired of the taste of it, plus it’s the most expensive home brewed coffee we have.

I’ve gone back to using the French Press exclusively. I have a Porlex hand grinder set to coarse grind. I attach my power drill to it, and grind 7 level tablespoons of Starbucks dark roast espresso beans. I add 24 oz of water, fresh off the boil. Steep for 1 minute, stir, steep for another 3 minutes. Enough for 2 10oz. mugs. Really good.

Ranking the different coffee methods, from best to worst: French Press, a tie between Moka and Aeropress, Cold Brew (cold, or microwaved hot), Nespresso, Keurig, Pour-over, Auto Drip.

I ranked Pour-over behind the machines because I don’t like standing over it for 4 minutes slowly pouring hot water, by the time I’m done a lot of the heat has already dissipated, and I don’t get consistent results.

Even with 8 different brewing methods there are still others I don’t have (yet). One of these days I’ll get a siphon. I don’t know whether siphon coffee tastes better than the other methods, but brewing it is like performance art. I think it would be fun to do.


French Press – disposing of grounds


Disposing of grounds without pouring them down the sink is usually a chore, since the grounds, when dry, stick inside the French Press. You need to spoon them out and then use a rubber spatula to get the rest.

The method I use requires some equipment, but it’s cleaner and works well.

  1. Get a filter cone. The bigger the cone the quicker the draining process will be. I use a Melitta #6 cone.
  2. Get paper cone filters. I bought a package of 12 boxes from Amazon for $25. Each box has 40 filters, so the cost per filter was $.05. #4 cones and filters are easier to find than #6, and the #4 filters cost as little as $.02 each. *
  3. Place the filter in the cone, and put them in the sink. Gently sprinkle water on the French Press’ metal plunger-filter to knock loose grounds into the paper filter.
  4. Pour a little water into the French Press’ beaker and swirl around, then pour the contents into the filter. You might need to do this a few times to get all the grounds.
  5. When the paper filter is fully drained, throw it out or put it in your compost bin.

The process takes about 2-3 minutes, without a mess.

* A filter cone and filter papers work well for draining Cold Brew coffee as well.