Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Goodbye Mop and Bucket: Black and Decker Steam Mop

The power of steam deep cleans floors killing 99.9-Percent of germs, mites, and bacteria without using chemicals Smart Select dial automatically releases the right amount of steam according to the floor type Safe on all sealed hard floors - even delicate enough for hardwoods Swivel steering for easy maneuverability around furniture and in tight spaces Large, easy-fill water tank provides over 25 minutes of cleaning Black & Decker Steam Mop with Smart Select Technology Move over mop and bucket-- Black & Decker introduces the intuitive steam mop with Smart Select technology. Smart Select ensures a thorough yet delicate cleaning on all sealed hard floors including tile, vinyl, stone, marble and even hardwoods and laminate. Simply select your floor type on the Smart Select dial and the steam mop automatically releases the right amount of steam for the perfect clean. It cleans dirt you can see and kills germs you can’t, including 99.9% of bacteria and dust mites. Easier than a mop and bucket, the steam does the work for you--killing 99.9% of germs--while the microfiber pad traps dust and dirt. Designed to clean floors throughout your household, the steam mop includes settings for stone/marble, tile/vinyl and wood/laminate floors. Smart Select technology ensures a thorough, safe cleaning--even on sealed hardwood floor. The low profile design allows you to clean under furniture without moving it. Simply move the mop into the standing position if you need to take a quick break while cleaning and place it on the included mat-- the steam will automatically stop flowing to prevent floor damage. The steam mop uses regular tap water to provide a deep down clean throughout your household--no need to worry about harsh chemicals, fumes or residue. The included microfiber cleaning pads effortlessly glide across the floor to lock in dirt and grime. Specially engineered swivel steering allows you to easily maneuvers around furniture and into corners, making it simple to clean hard-to-reach places. Steam evaporates quickly to leaving your floors sparkling clean and streak-free. Unique low-profile design allows you to easily clean under furniture without moving it, so mopping is never a chore. Safe for pets and children-- uses only water to create steam. No need for chemicals to kill germs and bacteria, the heat of steam alone can kill 99.9% of germs and dust mites. Environmentally friendly steam cleaning allows for a thorough cleaning experience without using toxic chemicals. Tank heats up in 15 seconds and changes from red to blue to alert you as soon as the mop is ready to steam. Cleaning pads are washable and reusable to reduce waste and save you money. Simply machine wash, dry and reuse. Mop automatically stops steam when parked upright so you don’t have to turn steam off and on every time you pause. With hands-free pad removal, dirt sticks to the mop and not to your hands. Just step on the tag to release the cleaning pad. Pads are machine washable and reusable-- just throw them in the washing machine after your clean. Large water tank allows you to clean uninterrupted for more than 25 minutes on one fill-up. The steam mop is designed to store easily, either standing upright on its own or hanging on a wall. Cup and lid are attached so there is no need to worry about losing them when not in use. What’s in the Box: • Steam Mop • 25-foot power cord • Two washable/reusable microfiber cleaning pads • Resting/storage mat • Water cup • Two Year Warranty

Superbowl Cajun Chicken Wings

Looking for some fantastic snacks for your Superbowl Party? I will be running some great dip recipes and appetizer type foods from now until the big game!

These are such a favorite we could eat them every day. I usually serve them as an appetizer, but have served them as an entree (serves 10 as an appetizer; 4 as an entrée).

Yield: 40 Pieces

* 3/4 cup peanut oil, divided
* 4 pounds chicken wings (about 20 wings)
* 10 tablespoons butter
* 3 tablespoons Tabasco sauce
* 2 teaspoons salt
* 1 teaspoon black pepper
* 1 teaspoon white pepper
* 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Grease two large baking sheets using 2 tablespoons of the oil on each one.

Cut the wings into 3 pieces; discard the wing tips (or save for stock), and cut the wings at the joint into two pieces.

To make the marinade, heat the remaining 1/2 cup peanut oil with the rest of the ingredients in a small saucepan, stir until the butter melts.

Add the chicken wing pieces to a large bowl, add the marinade, and toss to coat the chicken wings evenly. Marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature, or up to several hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Stir a few times while marinating to evenly coat wings.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Place the wings on the greased baking sheets and put in the preheated oven. Cook for 30 minutes, then pour off excess liquid. Loosen the wings with a metal spatula and turn, repositioning the wings so they all cook evenly. Cook 20 minutes longer.

The cooking time may vary according to the size of the wings. If the wings are small, bake for 20 minutes, loosen and turn as directed above, and cook 20 minutes longer.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Saint John Bosco

Feastday: January 31
b. 1815 d: 1888

What do dreams have to with prayer? Aren't they just random images of our mind?

In 1867 Pope Pius IX was upset with John Bosco because he wouldn't take his dreams seriously enough. Nine years earlier when Pope Pius IX met with the future saint who worked with neglected boys, he learned of the dreams that John had been having since the age of nine, dreams that had revealed God's will for John's life. So Pius IX had made a request, "Write down these dreams and everything else you have told me, minutely and in their natural sense." Pius IX saw John's dreams as a legacy for those John worked with and as an inspiration for those he ministered to.

Despite Scripture evidence and Church tradition respecting dreams, John had encountered skepticism when he had his first dream at the age of nine. The young Bosco dreamed that he was in a field with a crowd of children. The children started cursing and misbehaving. John jumped into the crowd to try to stop them -- by fighting and shouting. Suddenly a man with a face filled with light appeared dressed in a white flowing mantle. The man called John over and made him leader of the boys. John was stunned at being put in charge of these unruly gang. The man said, "You will have to win these friends of yours not with blows but with gentleness and kindness." As adults, most of us would be reluctant to take on such a mission -- and nine year old John was even less pleased. "I'm just a boy," he argued, "how can you order me to do something that looks impossible." The man answered, "What seems so impossible you must achieve by being obedient and acquiring knowledge." Thenthe boys turned into the wild animals they had been acting like. The man told John that this is the field of John's life work. Once John changed and grew in humility, faithfulness, and strength, he would see a change in the children -- a change that the man now demonstrated. The wild animals suddenly turned into gentle lambs.

When John told his family about his dream, his brothers just laughed at him. Everyone had a different interpretation of what it meant: he would become a shepherd, a priest, a gang leader. His own grandmother echoed the sage advice we have heard through the years, "You mustn't pay any attention to dreams." John said, "I felt the same way about it, yet I could never get that dream out of my head."

Eventually that first dream led him to minister to poor and neglected boys, to use the love and guidance that seemed so impossible at age nine to lead them to faithful and fulfilled lives. He started out by learning how to juggle and do tricks to catch the attention of the children. Once he had their attention he would teach them and take them to Mass. It wasn't always easy -- few people wanted a crowd of loud, bedraggled boys hanging around. And he had so little money and help that people thought he was crazy. Priests who promised to help would get frustrated and leave.

Two "friends" even tried to commit him to an institution for the mentally ill. They brought a carriage and were planning to trick him into coming with him. But instead of getting in, John said, "After you" and politely let them go ahead. When his friends were in the carriage he slammed the door and told the drive to take off as fast as he could go!

Through it all he found encouragement and support through his dreams. In one dream, Mary led him into a beautiful garden. There were roses everywhere, crowding the ground with their blooms and the air with their scent. He was told to take off his shoes and walk along a path through a rose arbor. Before he had walked more than a few steps, his naked feet were cut and bleeding from the thorns. When he said he would have to wear shoes or turn back, Mary told him to put on sturdy shoes. As he stepped forward a second time, he was followed by helpers. But the walls of the arbor closed on him, the roof sank lower and the roses crept onto the path. Thorns caught at him from all around. When he pushed them aside he only got more cuts, until he was tangled in thorns. Yet those who watched said, "How lucky Don John is! His path is forever strewn with roses! He hasn't a worry in the world. No troubles at all!" Many of the helpers, who had been expecting an easy journey, turned back, but some stayed with him. Finally he climbed through the roses and thorns to find another incredible garden. A cool breeze soothed his torn skin and healed his wounds.

In his interpretation, the path was his mission, the roses were his charity to the boys, and the thorns were the distractions, the obstacles, and frustrations that would stand in his way. The message of the dream was clear to John: he must keep going, not lose faith in God or his mission, and he would come through to the place he belonged.

Often John acted on his dreams simply by sharing them, sometimes repeating them to several different individuals or groups he thought would be affected by the dream. "Let me tell you about a dream that has absorbed my mind," he would say.

The groups he most often shared with were the boys he helped -- because so many of the dreams involved them. For example, he used several dreams to remind the boys to keep to a good and moral life. In one dream he saw the boys eating bread of four kinds -- tasty rolls, ordinary bread, coarse bread, and moldy bread, which represented the state of the boys' souls. He said he would be glad to talk to any boys who wanted to know which bread they were eating and then proceeded to use the occasion to give them moral guidance.

He died in 1888, at the age of seventy-two. His work lives on in the Salesian order he founded.

Get a Clean, Organized Garage: Wall Control 30-WRK-400WB Standard Workbench

Wall Control 30-WRK-400WB Standard Workbench Metal Pegboard Tool Organizer
  • More than ten times stronger than conventional pegboard
  • Galvanized steel pegboard panels accept slotted, stable, and more secure hooks, pegs, brackets, and shelves
  • Magnetic panels prevent the pegboard holes from fraying and wearing out over time
  • Steel pegboards are constructed with a pre-formed 3/4-inch flange that separates the panel storage surface from the wall
  • Pegboard panels mount directly into studs or sheet rock with no framework required
The Standard Workbench Metal Pegboard organizer kit offers over 10.5 Square feet of storage space and an all-steel construction that will not warp, fray or crack. The patented double offset hook engagement improves hook stability securing any variety of tool or job aid and prevents hooks from falling out of their slot when tools are removed. The metal pegboard's attractive, scratch resistant, baked-on powder coat finish wipes clean for long-lasting aesthetic appeal for any shop or work area. Installation is easy and absolutely no framework is required due to the metal pegboard's pre-formed flange which spaces the panel face off of the wall. These metal pegboard panels are magnetic and accept wall control hooks, brackets, and shelves as well as traditional standard 1/4" pegboard pegs. This kit includes: (3) combo metal pegboard panels 32" x 16" (covers 32" x 48") (1) 9" shelf assembly with shelf dividers (1) 6" shelf assembly (3) plastic bins with bin hanger (1) screwdriver holder assembly (holds 6) (1) hammer bracket (20) assorted hooks and brackets Be sure to check out also  Wall Control 30-P-3232GV Galvanized Steel Pegboard Pack and the Wall Control 30-WGL-200GVB Galvanized Steel Pegboard Tool Organizer

Superbowl Crab and Avocado Dip

This is definitely one that your Superbowl Party guests will want the recipe for!

30 mins total 15 mins prep


* 4 whole firm but ripe avocados (peeled pitted and roughly chopped)
* 1/4 cup sour cream
* 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
* 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
* salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 15 ounces fresh crabmeat
* 1/2 cup mayonnaise
* 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
* 1 whole red jalapeno chili (finely chopped)
* canola oil for deep frying
* 12 fresh corn tortillas (cut into wedges)
* fresh basil leaves for garnish


* Mash the avocados sour cream 3 tablespoons of lime juice and the chives in a large bowl.
* Season the avocado mixture to taste with salt and pepper.
* Spoon the avocado mixture evenly into the bottom of a clear glass serving bowl forming an even layer and smoothing the top.
* Squeeze the crabmeat gently to exude any excess liquid.
* Mix the crabmeat mayonnaise sliced basil chili pepper and the remaining 1 tablespoon of lime juice in another bowl.
* Season the crab mixture to taste with salt and pepper.
* Spoon the crab mixture over the avocado mixture forming a second even layer and smoothing the top.
* Cover and refrigerate the dip until ready to serve.
* Heat 3 inches of oil in a wok over medium-high heat.
* Working in batches fry the tortilla wedges for about 3 minutes or until they are crisp and golden brown stirring often so that they cook evenly on both sides.
* Using a slotted spoon or mesh strainer transfer the corn chips to paper towels to drain any excess oil.
* While the chips are still hot sprinkle them lightly with salt.
* Garnish the dip with basil leaves and serve with the tortilla chips.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Superbowl Artichoke and Scallion Dip

One more awesome dip recipe in my series of Superbowl Party foods!

1 14 oz (390 g) can artichoke hearts, drained
3 scallions, white and green parts, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, halved
1/4 cup mayonnaise
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the artichokes, scallions, garlic, and mayonnaise in a food processor or blender and process to form a smooth puree.
Season to taste with salt and pepper, then spoon into a serving bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
The dip can be made up to 24 hours in advance, covered with plastic wrap, and chilled until ready to serve.
Good with pita bread, vegetable crudites, or bread sticks, or spread on baguette slices and broil until lightly browned.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Kindle Fire- My latest loved tech gadget

Kindle Fire, Full Color 7" Multi-touch Display, Wi-Fi

Still haven't been won over by e-Readers? Take a look at the Kindle Fire. Amazon is selling them really cheap (which makes sense- they are willing to take a loss on them because you'll be getting your e-books from them!)

The first and most important thing that should be said about the Kindle Fire is that this is not an "iPad-killer." It is not designed to be. I have seen so many articles and comments comparing this to the iPad, and surveys where people are asked if they will be buying a Kindle Fire over an iPad this Christmas. If you are expecting an iPad, or even a tablet, you will be disappointed. The main purpose of this device is to deliver Amazon content to you more effectively. It is designed for consumption, not creation. That is the reason it is so cheap and why Amazon is taking a loss on it. They are hoping to make up for that loss through sales of videos, music, books, and apps through Amazon's Web Services. You can also use it to view your own movies and media, but will find that it is more limited in that way than a regular tablet. Personally, as someone who has ordered several rentals from Amazon Video, and had to contact customer support for every single one of them due to problems with Amazon's Unbox player or purchases not appearing in my downloads, I can really appreciate this. But if you don't plan on using Amazon at all to obtain your media, you may want to take this into consideration before purchasing the Fire. Additionally, the reason this product is so hyped, and one of the reasons I like it so much, is due to the ridiculously low price. Amazon reviews shouldn't focus on price, but it is hard not to with this device. On price alone, this is a five star device. However when looked at the Fire overall, and when compared with other touch devices (what little there is to compare it to), I have to give it four stars, since there are a few areas I feel could use definite improvement.

FORM FACTOR - The Kindle Fire feels almost the same in my hand as my 3rd generation Kindle but it is a bit heavier. It might be difficult to hold it one handed and read a book for an hour or watch a movie. You're going to need to rest it on something. The display is made of Gorilla Glass, which is a highly damage-resistant. You can still crack it, but I have used a phone with Gorilla Glass for two years on it and it has zero scratches on it despite being kept daily in my pocket with my keys. The back of the tablet is rubberized, so it won't slide around and won't get scratched easily. It also feels good in my hand. Despite all the companies that will be selling them, I do not think you need a screen protector. I have scratched Gorilla Glass before, but it is very difficult to do.

CONNECTIONS/STORAGE - On the bottom are a headphone port (which will accept external speakers), micro-USB (for charging and file transfer), and power button. The Fire doesn't come with an SD card slot, with good reason. As mentioned, Amazon wants you to get content directly from them. It also reduces the production costs. You can transfer your own content to the device through the USB connection from your home computer. The Fire comes with 8Gb of storage, which is enough to hold about 8 downloaded movies, 80 apps, 800 songs, or 6,000 books. I filled mine up right away so I never checked it out of the box, but apparently it is closer to 6.5Gb as the OS is going to take up some of this. You have to really become adept at managing your content through the Cloud. Books won't take up much room, but magazines are around 250Mb and movies are a little under 1 Gb. Free videos available through Amazon Prime cannot be downloaded, only streamed. So unless you buy a movie from Amazon or transfer one of your own, you must be connected through a wi-fi connection in order to watch your movie.

AMAZON CLOUD - If you have not tried out the Amazon Cloud Drive, you will be pleasantly surprised. You get 5Gb (which they will probably increase in the near future) of free online storage to store anything you want, and you can access it from anywhere. This combines very nicely with the Fire. 5Gb isn't much for my collection, so I upgraded to a higher plan (rates are $1 per extra gigabyte per year). I can upload a playlist to it and listen to it on my home computer, then when I get to work the Fire can access it and pick it up where I left off. Any songs you get from Amazon Mp3 are automatically stored on the Cloud and don't contribute to the 5Gb storage space.

E-READER - This was going to be the big determination in whether I should get a Fire or the new Kindle Touch. Ultimately I ended up getting both since I prefer the E-Ink technology to the backlit display of the Fire. If you are the type of person who reads a lot and expect to spend at least 50% of your use on reading books, I don't think you will be satisfied with the Fire over your Kindle 3 or the Kindle Touch, Wi-Fi, 6" E Ink Display - includes Special Offers & Sponsored Screensavers. It just isn't the same, and after hours of reading, the display would make my eyes hurt a bit (just like with any tablet). However it is nice not to have to use a lighted cover to see my books in the dark. The Kindle Fire is difficult to read in bright sunlight or on the beach. The touch navigation is very nice, but it doesn't function as nicely or quickly as it does on the iPad or even the Kindle Touch. This can be a problem for me, and the main reason I am using the Kindle Touch for reading books. Additionally, the Fire doesn't support real page numbers, even though the Touch does. So you have to use that ridiculous "location 121 of 16077 - 2%" format. A year of that with my last Kindle and I still don't understand what that means. They need to fix this in an update. Being able to touch a word and have it bring up the dictionary is incredibly convenient and takes less than 2 seconds. But still, the Kindle Touch handily beats the Fire for reading.

MAGAZINES - The Kindle Fire can also handle magazines, however the display is just too small to be an enjoyable reading experience. I tried out several different magazines, and the main problem I had was with the formatting. I tried to read an issue of Bon Appetit and my eyes were straining after three pages. There is no way to read a single article without zooming. The Fire handles magazines two ways: with Page View, which shows the original magazine display, and with Text View, which attempts to just provide the text of the article. A lot of magazines these days have several things going on in one page, with multiple columns, little sidebars and boxes everywhere, etc. I couldn't view a lot of this without zooming, the text is just too small. So Page View did not work very well for magazines like this. It is especially tough with magazines like Entertainment Weekly, Men's Health, GQ, etc. I found magazines like that unreadable on the 7" display. Magazines that focused mostly on the article, like Nature, Wired, etc, were handled much better. Some magazines even come integrated with embedded video and audio, which is a very nice feature, and one I can see being very useful for things like Men's Health, but I haven't had as much of a chance to use it yet. Text View is a very nice feature that works mostly well, but seems to get a bit confused with magazines that have complicated formatting, so it pretty much defeats the purpose since those are the ones I need it for the most.

COMIC READER - This is one of the main reasons I purchased the Fire. Amazon has a fairly extensive collection of comic books available for the Fire, including an exclusive deal with DC to publish many of their books. In addition to a proprietary comic reader that comes on the Fire, Amazon also has a Comics by ComiXology app available to purchase issues and subscriptions through. Although I initially thought the 7" display would be too small, it is actually decent enough to serve as a comic reader. I would definitely prefer a 10" version if they came out with one in the future. A 10" tablet is still the way to go for comics, but if you're looking for a cheaper option and portability, the Fire isn't too bad, and definitely beats a smart phone. It has a "panel by panel" feature that lets you scroll through the issue by different panels, which it will then zoom in on. You tap the panel when done, and it moves to the next panel. This is great for getting a larger view and working around the size restriction, especially since some of the text in the comics is just too small to read. Although it is fairly decent, if you are considering the Fire just for comic books, and you are a Marvel fan, you may want to hold off and look at another retailer's device which I think has a few more options. You can load your own .cbr comic files on the Kindle, but you'll need to use a third party app, like Comicat to do it.

AMAZON MP3/VIDEO - Amazon hopes that you will get the majority of your content from them. That is why the Fire is so reasonably-priced. Amazon music is DRM-free. DRM is copy protection. That means that the record labels haven't locked down the music you buy from Amazon to restrict how you use it. Amazon MP3 music is playable anywhere, even on your Apple devices. It also has a very high bitrate so you are getting great quality. You don't have to worry about not being able to listen to your music 15 years from now if Amazon goes under. It's yours forever. As far as video, I have always disliked Amazon's Video services. The prices are very reasonable and they now have a huge selection, but obtaining the videos is a huge pain due to Amazon's terrible Unbox player. That changes with the Fire, as everything is native and streams/downloads beautifully. If you make a lot of purchases with Amazon, or if you have several Amazon customers in your household, you should take advantage of their Prime program. In addition to the large selection of free videos now available to Prime members, the shipping advantages are amazing. I once had a 200 lb exercise bike overnighted to my house for only $3.99. Everything I order I get within 2 days. The Prime program seems expensive but it has certainly paid for itself over the years for me, and now is even better that it is integrated more with the Fire. The only problem I have with video playback is that everything I watched did not fully expand to the screen, and was letterboxed. Considering the small 7" display size, this was an annoyance for me. I know shows have different aspect ratios, but some should fit the display, and I think many users will be annoyed that they can't zoom or stretch the display to fit.

WEB BROWSING - This is another feature I was initially excited about. I like the idea of being able to use the Fire as a netbook. Amazon advertises "ultra fast web browsing" using Amazon's Silk browser. It is based off of technology that is designed to increase page loading times by pre-fetching part of the content. Sounds like a great idea, but doesn't work as well in practice. I tried out the Fire on several different connections and compared page loading times with other devices (all connected wirelessly). The Fire was one of the slowest. Amazon's own web page, which has actually recently been optimized to work with the Fire, takes an average of 7 seconds to load. Other major portals took a similar amount of time or slower. My iPad and my Xoom both load pages much faster. It is not slow enough to be a problem, but not fast enough to impress me or be worthy of Amazon's marketing regarding it. This needs to be improved.

BATTERY LIFE - Amazon advertises 8 hours of reading or 7.5 hours of video playback. As an average, that's probably fairly accurate. During testing I got an average of 7.4 hours of continuous reading, and 7 hours of video playback over five tests for each. This is a big change over the roughly 30 days of continuous reading with the traditional kindle, so it may hamper you a bit if you're a voracious reader. I just got into the habit of charging it every night with my cell phone. You can shut down the Kindle or put it in sleep mode. I keep mine in sleep mode all the time because it is so efficient that it uses almost no battery. I can leave it in sleep mode for 2 days and come back and not notice any change in battery life, and since I don't have to reboot, it starts up immediately.

VS IPAD - As said, this isn't designed to be an iPad. I have an iPad and there is so much more I can do with it compared to the Kindle. The Fire serves a different (but sometimes similar) function. I just don't ever see Amazon building up the type of app store that Apple has, and that's where you're going to find the major differences. Additionally, the 10" display on the iPad makes a huge difference to me over the Fire's 7" display when it comes to watching movies and TV, and reading magazines and comic books. However, I think there is definitely room for the Fire to steal some of iPad's market share, as many people (I am one of them), will find the functions they want in a tablet can be covered by the Fire.

USER INTERFACE - The Fire uses a heavily modified version of Android. I really liked the interface, however I don't think it works as well on the Fire as it does on a full tablet device like the Motorola Xoom. Occasionally I would try to make a page turn and have it not register on the Fire, or have it register more slowly than I am used to. If you have a lot of experience with the iPad, you are going to notice that the software doesn't respond as quickly on the Fire as it does with other tablets. Although this is an inconvenience and something I definitely feel needs to be addressed, I can accept it given the lower price point. I will have a problem though if this is not resolved through a firmware upgrade in the future. The Fire's custom version of Android is very nice. The most recent applications or files accessed will display in a carousel format that you can rotate through. You can also set up commonly-used applications as favorites.

- No bluetooth and no HDMI. I could really use bluetooth for integration with bluetooth-capable speakers and so I can use bluetooth audio in my car. As a media player, I feel this really should have been included, and I imagine it will with future versions. This is especially important since the audio from the speakers is a bit tinny and weak. I have been using headphones with all my media-playing, which significantly improves the sound. There is also no physical volume button, which is a pain when you need to silence the device quickly. I also would like HDMI output so I can take my Amazon video purchases and watch them on my big screen TV. Another big disadvantage in a device that is made for media. This will also likely be included in a future edition, so at $200, I don't feel bad about possibly having to upgrade a year from now to get it.
- Only 8Gb storage space. As mentioned, this device is mainly designed to integrate with Amazon's Cloud, so 8 should be enough, but it would be nice to have at least 16. I imagine Amazon did this on purpose to force people to use their Cloud service.
- Touch capability can sometimes be sluggish. iPad and other tablet owners may be disappointed with the touch reaction time and some aspects of the software.
- Video doesn't include option to zoom or stretch the display to fit the screen.
- Web "Accelerator" is not as fast as other tablets.
- No Micro-USB transfer cable included with it. Another way for Amazon to discourage you from transferring your own files to the device. If you want to do that, you will need to purchase one separately, like the AmazonBasics USB Cable - 2.0 A Male to Micro B (6 Feet / 1.8 Meters).

SUMMARY: Bottom line, you will not find a cheaper device out there for streaming music, video, and books than the Kindle Fire. The reason that this device is so amazing is not for what it can do, but for what it can do at such a cheap price. The price tag, not the technology, is the story here. Although I definitely feel there is room for improvement and will be interested in seeing Amazon's second generation of this device (which I think will be significantly improved), the Kindle Fire is a solid start. If you can wait a year or more for Amazon to work out the kinks with the Fire (like it did with its 1st generation of the Kindle), you should definitely do that. The next version should fix a lot of the problems that keep the current Fire from being a "Five Star" product. Unfortunately, reviews shouldn't focus on price, so due to some issues with the form factor and touch interface, I can only give it four stars. It is just not "perfect" enough for me to say it is a five star product without taking price into consideration. But aside for that, there is really only one device you can compare the Fire to - The Nook. So for what it is, I would have no problems recommending the Fire to consumers who can take advantage of it. This product more than lives up to what it is DESIGNED to do. If you plan on getting most of your content from Amazon AND you have a Prime membership, I think you will really find this is a pretty incredible device for the money.

After getting a new case for the Fire that makes it easier to hold, I'm starting to use it more for reading (although I still prefer my Kindle Touch for anything over about 45 minutes). Some magazines are now better adapted to the Fire liked my subscription to Wired, and some are still terrible and just compressed PDFs. An update released last week adds more privacy features so you can delete recent history form the carousel, and does improve noticeably on the touch sensitivity, although it can still be frustrating at times and not as smooth as something like an iPad. Browser loading times are still disappointing, but not as bad as they were at first release, and I don't notice them as much. I am continually impressed at battery usage for this device. Despite using it less than an hour a day, I never turn it off and only charge it a couple times a week. The rest of the time it sits in standby mode which is extremely efficient. If they could improve a couple more options I'd be closer to giving the Fire five stars.

Ceremonials by Florence and the Machine

Ceremonials by Florence and the Machine

A lot can happen to a daydreaming girl in the world, and in the last few years, it's all happened for Florence. The debut album she dreamt up in her bedroom in South London burst into being and swept the planet, selling over three million copies, winning the coveted Brits 'Best Album' award and etching itself indelibly into the popular consciousness. Now she has been everywhere: the girl has seen the world and the world has seen the girl. And after months of lying low on home turf, writing and recording in the London she's long been in love with, Florence returns with her triumphant second album. Ceremonials is a stunningly accomplished record by an artist teetering on the wind-blown top of her game, an extraordinary testament to what Florence refers to as "my incorrigible maximalism". The pounding epiphanic positivism of `Spectrum'; the galloping massed-ranks majesty of `All This And Heaven Too' and `Shake It Out'; the triumphant emotional battle cries of `No Light No Light' and `Heartlines'. Spend a little time with Ceremonials and what strikes you first and foremost is the apparent confidence of its execution. "This is the first time I've made a record with a sort of overarching, cohesive sound" says Florence: "It's a proper studio album in that sense: a group of songs that paint a unified picture of where I am in my life right now." Recorded with her full band over five weeks this summer in Abbey Road's legendary Studio 3, 'Ceremonials' is another product of her long-running collaboration with producer Paul Epworth. Together they've created an expansive art-pop vision that can be both captivatingly tender while still frequently soaring to places where it can overwhelm the senses like an emotive tidal wave. It's a rich tapestry that unpicks the conventions of classic pop, shoots them through a black hole and reconstitutes them into a multi-layered, future-primitive stomp. And underpinning it all, Florence's beguiling, epic vocals. A mature masterpiece that confirms its creator is in for the long haul. "I feel like it's a record made by someone becoming a woman, becoming a grown-up. And it's about all the problems that go hand-in-hand with that" says Florence. "Lungs was very much the work of someone wrestling with sort of simultaneously being a teenager and being an adult. This is the work of someone who's trying to grow up I guess? But probably failing." At twenty five, the art-school dropout has done much of her growing up amid the maelstrom of her whirling worldwide success. In 2010 she broke America in spectacular style, her monster hit Dog Days blazing a trail across the nation, taking the charts and the airwaves by storm. She wrote and recorded a heart-stopping track for the Twilight: Eclipse soundtrack and performed Dog Days to a rapt and truly global audience at the MTV VMA awards. The viewing figures were almost a billion, and the following day Florence was the most Googled person on the planet. In the last year she's graced the stages of Saturday Night Live, Good Morning America, The Colbert Report, the 53rd Grammy Awards - where she performed as part of an all-girl, all-star Aretha Franklin tribute and was nominated for Best New Artist - the 83rd Academy Awards, Anna Wintour's obscenely star-studded annual Met Ball, and the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo. Time Magazine ranked her at number fifty-one in their 2011 list of the one hundred most influential people in the world. She has officially graduated from up-and-coming fashion influence to full-blown style icon. She's hung out with her musical heroes and heard their blessings and gushing praise. Even Beyoncé has acknowledged that Florence and The Machine was a key influence on her last album.

"It's certainly a very different thing this time around: making an album that you know a lot of people are anticipating" reflects Florence; "...but I've just tried to do what I would've done anyway. This one is a real attempt to just make exactly the kind of music I want to hear: dramatic and really huge and kind of spooky. I want it more than anything to have an overwhelming effect on the listener: I want it to make people feel something." Feel something you irrefutably will. Far from being one of those sell-out-and-go-pop second records that so many promising new artists settle for, Ceremonials is a wholly more experimental and challenging body of work. "I wanted to push the aggression of the sound" Florence says; "Bigger drums, bigger bass sounds: as big and as powerful as we could go. We did much more experimenting this time with electronic sounds, but overall I think we've ended up with a more organic-sounding album. It's a kind of organized chaos." Since her days of art college and squat parties and gigs in grotty pubs, the life of Florence Welch has gone all the way into the stratosphere. With Ceremonials, Florence is back from outer space and back to what it is she does best, making forward-thinking, unclassifiable, truly overwhelming music. Some artists respond to a successful debut album by reacting against it; attempting to disown the very qualities that drew people to them in the first place. "I couldn't do that if I tried!" says Florence. "Lungs seemed like so many records rolled into one that I wouldn't even know what I'd be reacting against." Instead, Florence Welch has dramatically delivered on the promises of Lungs. "It's a big-sounding album? I guess there's no getting around that. I'm attracted to that sense of being overwhelmed by something. If there's a chance that I might respond that way while these songs are playing around me, then someone else might too. And that's surely the point, isn't it?"

Ceremonials is a *really* great album.

When I was a teenager, I used to sit in my bedroom for hours and listen to music. Sometimes I'd draw, sometimes I'd do homework, sometimes I'd read, but listening to music was the primary activity. As I have gotten older, less and less music has inspired me to devote my full attention to it. Now music has become more of an accompaniment to my life, a sort of background thing.

Florence + The Machine changed that- when "Lungs" first came out, it took back my whole attention. Every time I heard it, I found something new. Every few weeks, my favorite parts of the album would change. I'm still listening to it all the time.

Now I feel EXACTLY the same way about "Ceremonials"- I can't stop listening to it, every time I do I hear something new, and several of the songs give me goosebumps. When I'm away from it, I sing the songs to myself and get excited about being able to turn it back on again. It's sort of like a place I want to keep visiting- I know that sounds hokey, but it's been so long since I've felt so excited about music, I am kind of giddy about it.

As a whole, "Ceremonials" is a bit darker than "Lungs"- there's less twinkling of the harp (don't get me wrong, there is still plenty of beautiful harp!), less hopeful whispering about happiness, but in its place are soaring moments of Florence Welch's FULL voice (she's a powerhouse) and range. Wow.

If you liked "Lungs" at all, then I would absolutely recommend "Ceremonials". There's no doubt that Welch is the exception to the rule when it comes to the second album curse- this is the perfect followup to "Lungs" and not only does it sound perfectly right, it also *feels* perfectly right. It's dreamy and bittersweet and sweeping and epic.

I highly highly recommend this album.

Superbowl 7 Layer Dip

Looking for some fantastic snacks for your Superbowl Party? I will be running some great dip recipes and appetizer type foods from now until the big game!

Seven Layer Dip


* 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
* 1 (16 ounce) can refried beans
* 4 cups shredded Cheddar-Monterey Jack cheese blend
* 1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
* 1 cup guacamole
* 1 cup salsa
* 1 (2.25 ounce) can black olives, chopped
* 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
* 1/2 cup chopped green onions


1. In a large skillet, brown ground beef. Set aside to drain and cool to room temperature.
2. Spread the beans into the bottom of a 9x13 inch serving tray that is about 1 1/2 inches deep. Sprinkle 2 cups of shredded cheese on top of beans. Sprinkle beef on top of cheese. Spread sour cream very slowly on top of beef. Spread guacamole on top of sour cream. Pour salsa over guacamole and spread evenly. Sprinkle remaining shredded cheese. Sprinkle black olives, tomatoes, and green onions on top.
3. You can serve this dish immediately, or refrigerate it over night and serve cold. I think it tastes better at room temperature.

Sundesa Blenderbottle with Blenderball

Sundesa BB28-SC08 28-Ounce BlenderBottle with BlenderBall

Want a great and handy gadget for your kitchen? I just discovered this and LOVE it.

  • Effortlessly mix protein drinks, pancake batter, sauces, dressings and more by shaking bottle with patented BlenderBall
  • 28-ounce capacity is great for 8-20 ounce drinks; includes black top
  • Stay-open flip cap, GripperBars make it easy to hold
  • Cup made of BPA-free plasic; BlenderBall made of surgical grade stainless steel
  • Dishwasher safe; do not use in microwave or with hot or warm liquids

As effective as it is unique, the patented BlenderBottle by Sundesa is a great way to mix protein and meal replacement drinks while on the go, but it's also handy for mixing pancake batter while camping, mixing salad dressings and marinades, or just using as a water bottle. This 28-ounce BlenderBottle is great for 8- to 20-ounce drinks. The BlenderBottle is made of BPA-free plastic, while the lid and flip cap are made of #2 HDPE (high density polyethylene).

The key to the BlenderBottle is the BlenderBall wire whisk--simply drop it in with your ingredients, screw on the lid, and shake. The surgical-grade stainless-steel BlenderBall moves freely throughout the bottle as you shake it, mixing the thickest ingredients with ease, and it's designed to remain in the cup until you've enjoyed your ingredients. Before shaking, screw lid firmly onto cup and press flip cap down until you hear it snap closed. For best mixing action, hold gripper bars and shake from the wrist. Powders mix best when liquid is added first.

The BlenderBottle is not for use with hot liquids. Hot or warm liquids (and other ingredients such as pancake batter, soda, etc.) may build up pressure within the bottle and cause the flip cap to open unexpectedly and spray contents. Not for use in microwave. Dishwasher safe (with BlenderBottle on top rack and BlenderBall in the silverware bin).

St. Thomas Aquinas, The Dumb Ox

Feastday: January 28

St. Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church, patron of all universities and of students. His feast day is January 28th. He was born toward the end of the year 1226. He was the son of Landulph, Count of Aquino, who, when St. Thomas was five years old, placed him under the care of the Benedictines of Monte Casino. His teachers were surprised at the progress he made, for he surpassed all his fellow pupils in learning as well as in the practice of virtue.

When he became of age to choose his state of life, St. Thomas renounced the things of this world and resolved to enter the Order of St. Dominic in spite of the opposition of his family. In 1243, at the age of seventeen, he joined the Dominicans of Naples. Some members of his family resorted to all manner of means over a two year period to break his constancy. They even went so far as to send an impure woman to tempt him. But all their efforts were in vain and St. Thomas persevered in his vocation. As a reward for his fidelity, God conferred upon him the gift of perfect chastity, which has merited for him the title of the "Angelic Doctor".

After making his profession at Naples, he studied at Cologne under the celebrated St. Albert the Great. Here he was nicknamed the "dumb ox" because of his silent ways and huge size, but he was really a brilliant student. At the age of twenty-two, he was appointed to teach in the same city. At the same time, he also began to publish his first works. After four years he was sent to Paris. The saint was then a priest. At the age of thirty-one, he received his doctorate.

At Paris he was honored with the friendship of the King, St. Louis, with whom he frequently dined. In 1261, Urban IV called him to Rome where he was appointed to teach, but he positively declined to accept any ecclesiastical dignity. St. Thomas not only wrote (his writings filled twenty hefty tomes characterized by brilliance of thought and lucidity of language), but he preached often and with greatest fruit. Clement IV offered him the archbishopric of Naples which he also refused. He left the great monument of his learning, the "Summa Theologica", unfinished, for on his way to the second Council of Lyons, ordered there by Gregory X, he fell sick and died at the Cistercian monastery of Fossa Nuova in 1274.

St. Thomas was one of the greatest and most influential theologians of all time. He was canonized in 1323 and declared Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius V.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Mylo Xyloto by Coldplay

Mylo Xyloto by Coldplay

Coldplay's fifth studio album, Mylo Xyloto (pronounced my-lo zy-letoe), will be released in the U.S. on October 24th by Capitol Records. Produced by Markus Dravs, Daniel Green and Rik Simpson, with enoxification and additional composition by Brian Eno, Mylo Xyloto follows 2008's Viva La Vida, which charted at No. 1 in 36 countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.

Wow. I am really shocked how much I like Mylo Xyloto. I am a long-time Coldplay fan and just love their music, but I wasn't sure about this record due to the slight change in style. The first half of the record I was mostly familiar with due to the singles, live versions and the side A sampler. The only song on side B that I had heard was Major Minus. Obviously, the second part of the record was what I was looking forward to the most as it was mostly new, unheard Coldplay!

I can definitely see why this record has fans divided. It is a new sound for Coldplay in terms of production and direction. However, there are many tracks where 'early' Coldplay is still there, just under new layers. Utimately, I gave the record a 4/5, with a point deducted for some unnecessary over-production. I do truly feel it deserves it though. It is a good mix of all the previous records, while still moving forward.

Mylo Xyloto:
Just beautiful. I love this as the opening track and the transition into Hurts Like Heaven. Although, I am with others who have said it's hard to listen to just MX or HLH by themselves...

Hurts Like Heaven:
Probably the track I was most fearing as I love the live version and people were saying it was so different on the record. I was pleasantly surprised that it did not crush my enjoyment of the track! I LOVE this song! Yes, it is a bit over-produced, but I also think that makes it interesting. There are so many sounds and layers to the track that a good set of headphones brings out.

No surprises here. The second single. It's definitely a grower. I liked it when I first heard it, but the introduction is just fantastic the more I listen to it. It fits so well on the record now I have heard it in context.

Charlie Brown:
This is my favourite track on the record. It is such a great track and should definitely be released as the next single! The piano part at the end is just fantastic. This will be a big hit and crowd-pleaser!

Us Against The World:
LOVE! This is such an amazing song! I adore the introduction. I loved this track live and this version just makes it all the better. Only quip is I wish Will's duet portion was more pronounced. The first song on the record that sounds like 'early' Coldplay material.

This instrumental makes Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall flow within the context of the record. If this was not here, it would be such an abrupt change from UATW.

Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall:
Again, no surprises. The first single and a really upbeat and optimistic song. It is pretty dancey for Coldplay, but it's a great song nonetheless.

Major Minus:
I had already heard this from the Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall EP. It's a fantastic track and really like it. I would have preferred less distortion on the verse vocals, but Jonny's guitar solo is awesome!

This is such a lovely acoustic track and reminds me so much of 'early' Coldplay. The melody is great, but I just wish it was a tad bit longer.

Princess of China:
I was really surprised by this one! First, Rihanna being on the track is strange. I think this might be one of her better vocal performances though. The song itself is very RnB to me, but I don't mind it. I am surprised to be honest as I was going in thinking I was going to really dislike it, but I think if this is released as a single, it will probably be a big hit. However, it's definitely one of my least favourite tracks on the record.

Up In Flames:
I really didn't think I was going to like this song. I had heard a clip of the Austin City Limits live version and it just didn't do anything for me. However, within the context of the record and with the added production (think Massive Attack style beat), I think this is a good track. Again, it reminds me of 'early' Coldplay but it's not up to par with the rest of the album. I consider this track and Princess of China to be the low point of the record really.

A Hopeful Transmission:
Probably the best instrumental on the record. It's basically a more upbeat 'Mylo Xyloto' with a sort of Latin vibe. It flows so well into Don't Let It Break Your Heart.

Don't Let It Break Your Heart:
Wow. One of my favourite tracks! As with Hurts Like Heaven and Major Minus, I wish there wasn't as much distortion on Chris' voice, but really that's the only negative I see on this stellar track!

Up With The Birds:
A fantastic closer! Again, like 'early' Coldplay but with a modern twist. It starts so atmospheric, I had no clue what direction it was going to go! It's a beautiful track and such a great way to close the record!

Superbowl Reuben Dip

Looking for some fantastic snacks for your Superbowl Party? I will be running some great dip recipes and appetizer type foods from now until the big game!


* 1/2 cup mayonnaise
* 1/2 cup Thousand Island dressing
* 16 ounces sauerkraut, rinsed and squeezed dry
* 8 ounces shredded corned beef
* 16 ounces shredded Swiss cheese


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise and dressing.
3. Spread sauerkraut into a 9x13-inch baking dish. Layer corned beef, Swiss cheese, and the mayonnaise-dressing mixture on top of the sauerkraut.
4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Torches by Foster the People

Torches by Foster the People

Torches, the highly anticipated debut album by Foster The People, is the soundtrack for an eternal summer. Produced by Paul Epworth (Adele + Florence and the Machine), Rich Costey (Muse + Interpol), and Greg Kurstin (Beck + Red Hot Chili Peppers), Torches delivers on both the promise of their breakthrough chart-topping single Pumped Up Kicks and the promise of this young band out of Los Angeles. "We just want people to feel better about their lives." The sound is universally uplifting combining influences from alternative's greats mixed with songs that make you dance. "Accessible yet challenging, gleaming yet gritty, pop yet petrifying: Foster The People are a fresh evolution of modern music."

I first heard of Foster the People early one morning while laying in bed half asleep listening to an NPR interview with Mark Foster, founder of the group. The interviewer peppered the piece with clips of songs from the "Torches" album, which was just about to be released. I remember finding the tunes very catchy even in my half-dazed slumber. I made a mental note to listen to the album tracks more thoroughly on iTunes before making a decision to buy "Torches". I loved what I heard and quickly purchased the album here on Amazon. I've listened to it nonstop ever since it arrived several days ago. I'm really amazed that I'm so taken with this work particularly in light of the obvious fact that it is somewhere between shameless bubble gum and light pop. Some have called it "alternative", but I honestly don't see it. Anyway, I think my attraction to "Torches" is it's infectiously upbeat Southern California sunniness. It just makes me happy (even the relatively disturbing subject matter of "Pumped Up Kicks"). I think this band is going to be immensely popular for pretty much the same reason someone like Katie Perry is much loved - they put big smiles on the faces of their followers. They're not for everyone, but they're definitely for me!

Superbowl Guacamole

Looking for some fantastic snacks for your Superbowl Party? I will be running some great dip recipes and appetizer type foods from now until the big game!


* 2 avocados
* 1/2 lemon, juiced
* 2 tablespoons chopped onion
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 2 tablespoons olive oil


1. Cut the avocados into halves. Remove the seeds, and scoop out the pulp into a small bowl. Use a fork to mash the avocado. Stir in lemon juice, onion, salt, and olive oil. Cover the bowl, and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Superbowl Beef and Sausage Po' Boys

Looking for some fantastic snacks for your Superbowl Party? I will be running some great dip recipes and appetizer type foods from now until the big game!

Yield: 6

* 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
* 3/4 cup chopped onion
* 1/3 cup chopped parsley
* 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
* 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
* 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
* 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
* 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
* 1/4 cup peanut oil
* 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced onion, packed,
* 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced green bell pepper, packed
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
* 6 sandwich rolls
* Garnishes: tomatoes, lettuce, pickles

Mix first nine ingredients and form into 6 sausage shapes, about the size of the sandwich rolls. Heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. When oil is hot, add the onion, bell pepper, salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until vegetables are tender and softened; remove vegetables from pan with a slotted spoon, leaving skillet on burner and heat on. Add sausages back to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, turn, and cook 5 minutes longer. Serve the sausages on rolls with the sautéed vegetables and garnishes

Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons

Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons
Mumford & Sons, West London indie rock quartet, have created a gutsy, old-time sound that marries the magic of Crosby, Stills & Nash with the might of Kings of Leon and the harmonies of Fleet Foxes. Sigh No More was recorded at Eastcoast Studios, where Arctic Monkeys, Brian Eno, Tindersticks and Laura Marling have honored their sound. The band teamed with producer Markus Dravs who has worked with such superstar acts as Arcade Fire, Bjork and Peter Gabriel. Sigh No More was recently released in the UK to critical accolades. The album debut in the UK iTunes Top 10 recently and is being lauded by tastemaker publications. The first single, Little Lion Man , is already being boasted as The Hottest Record in the World by Radio 1's Zane Lowe, and the band has been long listed for the BBC Sounds of 2008 Pool, which features the most promising new music talent.
Formed in 2007, that band's goal since day one has been to make music that matters. Before recording their debut, Mumford & Sons self produced three EP's and toured the UK extensively, bringing their rootsy rock across the country. The band recently wrapped a handful of well-received performances during the annual CMJ Music Marathon in New York, which left Time Out NY to comment, The Brit combo has a spine-tingling way to harmony.

Those of us who have been anxiously awaiting the U.S. release of Sigh No More are rejoicing! This truly amazing album is finally here.

Having come out in October in the U.K. and most everywhere else, Mumford & Son's debut album Sigh No More is without a doubt one of the best albums I've ever had the pleasure of hearing. The London-based quartet will sweep you off your feet with their stunning harmonies and musical craftsmanship.

For fans of "new-folk" or "indie-folk" or whatever you want to call it, this album will soon be set to repeat on your MP3 player. If you're new to the genre, this album might seem just a tad to "folky," but I would definitely give it a listen (or a dozen).

The album starts with the title track, Sigh No More. The song starts slow with sparse instrumentation, swelling into something you'd expect to hear at a full on hoedown (in London) and serves as a wonderful introduction to Marcus Mumford's voice; not pretty or soothing, but strong and with the ability to evoke powerful emotion.

This album flows really well, changing pace from roaring, slamming on the banjo fast to soft, slow, sitting in front of a window as it rains and you sip a cup of earl grey. Every song on this album is a masterpiece and truly unique. The first single, of course, Little Lion Man, possibly stands out as the best. I certainly love it. As far as the slower tempo songs, I'd say I Gave You All stands out with a raw, gripping, sadness stirred rage.

Already one of my favorite albums of all time, from an amazing band. Superb. Do your ears a favor and click the "Purchase" button.

Make your own juice for a healthier life!

Omega J8005 Nutrition Center Single-Gear Commercial Masticating Juicer

I know this is probably not what people think of when they think of cooking, but I do love fresh juice and the current juice craze is a big national movement that I am whole-heartedly in support of. This is a fantastic juicer! Equipped with a 1/3-horsepower single-phase induction motor, this powerful masticating juicer thoroughly chews up plant fibers to fully extract vitamins, enzymes, and minerals from fruits and vegetables, including wheatgrass and leafy greens. The unit's dual-stage juicing system ensures maximum efficiency, while its low rotation speed of 80 RPMs means no foaming, no clogging, and no heat build-up. In addition to juicing fruits and vegetables, the multi-purpose machine can also be used, just as effectively, to make peanut butter or natural baby food, grind coffee beans and flour, mince herbs and spices, and extrude homemade pasta including spaghetti and linguini with the included pasta nozzles. Other highlights include a high juice yield with very dry pulp, an automatic pulp-ejection function for continuous juicing, a built-in "reverse" mode to prevent food from getting stuck, heavy-duty construction, and quiet operation.

I got this Omega 8005 juicer because I wanted to be able to juice greens and wheat grass as well as root vegetables. I read on a forum that this new Omega juicer is the best there is for under $400. This Omega juicer is even easier to clean than the ACME, which is a big issue because in the long run you won't use a juicer if its a hassle to clean. And it squeezes all the juice out of anything I put in it. The pulp comes out very dry. It is super quiet too.
The Omega runs at a low rpm so it doesn't kill enzymes and stuff like that, so its supposed to make healthier juice than a Champion or centrifugal juicer.
Its a pleasure to use. I make juice every day now. I love getting all the nutrients that I need regularly. It helps my body recover from surfing everyday.
The juicer is very well built and very simple. It seems like it will last a long time and it has a very long warranty.
You can tell that I love this juicer, eh?

Some juicing resources you might also like:

The Juicing Bible by Pat Crocker

The first edition of The Juicing Bible won the 2000 International Cookbook Revue Award and has over 300,00 copies in print. It continues to be one of the bestselling juicing books in the marketplace. In response to consumer demand, we've decided to reissue this successful seller with an additional 16 color photographs, which takes the total photo count up to 32. All the outstanding elements in this essential guide for anyone who wants to explore the wide-ranging nutritional and health benefits of juicing are still here:

* An astonishing 350 recipes -- delicious fruit and vegetable juices, tonics, cleansers, digestives, teas, roughies, smoothies, milk and coffee substitutes and frozen treats.
* Information on the seven body systems, including their importance to good health along with diet and lifestyle changes that will keep each system working as well as it can.
* Details on 80 common health concerns, with recommendations on how to use natural foods to combat each condition.
* 128 illustrations of fruits, vegetables and herbs, plus information on their uses and healing properties, and advice on purchasing and storage.

The Big Book of Juices: More Than 400 Natural Blends for Health and Vitality Every Day

With some 405 recipes for fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, and quenchers, this newly updated and expanded edition of Natalie Savona’s essential kitchen guide to juicing now offers health-conscious readers even more. A clever indexing system sorts the juices by key ingredients, by nutrients, and by health benefits. Plus, a simple five-star system rates the effectiveness of the drinks in boosting energy and detoxifying the body, as well as potential benefits for the immune system, digestion, and even skin quality. 

Lonesome Dove- Watch it Again

Lonesome Dove

This week I made my family watch Lonesome Dove, the eight hour television mini-series from 1989. I hadn't seen it since it was originally on television, though in the years since I've read the novel (and all the other books in the series too, Dead Man's Walk, Comanche Moon and Streets of Laredo) (Heck, I even went on to read most of Larry McMurtry's other novels too).

Anyhow, I was nervous because my family isn't into Westerns, and they weren't thrilled at the idea of committing to four two-hour movies. I was also nervous because you never know how something you haven't seen in twenty years has aged- it could be cheesey now or something.

I need not have worried. By the third night they were settling into the couches to watch the movie before I was even ready to start it, and they wanted to watch the fourth episode right after the third one. It was totally an awesome experience and for those of you who haven't seen it in a while, Lonesome Dove stands up as beautifully as it did in 1989, even in HD.

What a cast. Robert Duvall IS Gus McCrae, and Tommy Lee Jones is amazing as Captain Woodrow Call. Danny Glover, Anjelica Huston, Robert Urich, Rick Schroder and even a very young and creepy Steve Buscemi all give fantastic performances.

It's a magical story of the Hat Creek Cattle Company, "Uva Uvam Videndo Varia Fit" (Which means roughly "We are changed by the lives around us")

Did you know that McMurtry originally developed the tale in 1972 for a feature film entitled The Streets of Laredo (a title later used for the sequel), which would have been directed by Peter Bogdanovich and would have starred James Stewart as Augustus McCrae, John Wayne as W.F. Call, and Henry Fonda as Jake Spoon. But plans fell through when Wayne turned it down, leading Stewart to back out, and the project was eventually shelved. Ten years later McMurtry resurrected the screenplay as a full-length novel, which became a bestseller and won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver

For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver

It's hard to believe that For Emma, Forever Ago is the work of one man. But when Justin Vernon's old band split he hauled himself (and presumably plenty of instruments and recording equipment) to his dad's hunting cabin in the woods of Wisconsin for the coldest season and worked through his issues in musical form. (The name comes from the French for "good winter"--"bon hiver"). By the start of the spring thaw he had recorded the bulk of this stunning debut, originally self-issued to acclaim last year in the USA and now picked up for a British release. Vernon's voice grabs the ear from the start, switching easily into a smooth falsetto (and unusually for a white indie lad, without the slightest intent of emulating Prince). The formula is straightforward. He layers his vocal harmonies, while a gently strummed acoustic rhythm guitar just about holds the centre. All else from horns to slide guitar is mere detail. The quality is rough and ready but the effect is strangely similar though to the slick vocal confections of European women like Bjork and Camille, all mystery and distance. It's the musical equivalent of reading someone else's diary. In code. Through a dirty window. Enigmatic songs like the elegantly stumbling "Creature Fear" with its rowdy horn parts, the resolute opener "Flume" and the evanescent "Team" are just so pretty they seem to glide by without leaving a mark in the snow. Vernon is apparently a straightforward and friendly guy, but For Emma, Forever Ago genuinely sounds like something from a far off place.

Saint Francis de Sales

Feastday: January 24
Patron Saint of Journalists, Writers
b: 1567 d: 1622

Born in France in 1567, Francis was a patient man. He knew for thirteen years that he had a vocation to the priesthood before he mentioned it to his family. When his father said that he wanted Francis to be a soldier and sent him to Paris to study, Francis said nothing. Then when he went to Padua to get a doctorate in law, he still kept quiet, but he studied theology and practiced mental prayer while getting into swordfights and going to parties. Even when his bishop told him if he wanted to be a priest that he thought that he would have a miter waiting for him someday, Francis uttered not a word. Why did Francis wait so long? Throughout his life he waited for God's will to be clear. He never wanted to push his wishes on God, to the point where most of us would have been afraid that God would give up!

God finally made God's will clear to Francis while he was riding. Francis fell from his horse three times. Every time he fell the sword came out of the scabbard. Every time it came out the sword and scabbard came to rest on the ground in the shape of the cross. And then, Francis, without knowing about it, was appointed provost of his diocese, second in rank to the bishop.

Perhaps he was wise to wait, for he wasn't a natural pastor. His biggest concern on being ordained that he had to have his lovely curly gold hair cut off. And his preaching left the listeners thinking he was making fun of him. Others reported to the bishop that this noble-turned- priest was conceited and controlling.

Then Francis had a bad idea -- at least that's what everyone else thought. This was during the time of the Protestant reformation and just over the mountains from where Francis lived was Switzerland -- Calvinist territory. Francis decided that he should lead an expedition to convert the 60,000 Calvinists back to Catholicism. But by the time he left his expedition consisted of himself and his cousin. His father refused to give him any aid for this crazy plan and the diocese was too poor to support him.

For three years, he trudged through the countryside, had doors slammed in his face and rocks thrown at him. In the bitter winters, his feet froze so badly they bled as he tramped through the snow. He slept in haylofts if he could, but once he slept in a tree to avoid wolves. He tied himself to a branch to keep from falling out and was so frozen the next morning he had to be cut down. And after three years, his cousin had left him alone and he had not made one convert.

Francis' unusual patience kept him working. No one would listen to him, no one would even open their door. So Francis found a way to get under the door. He wrote out his sermons, copied them by hand, and slipped them under the doors. This is the first record we have of religious tracts being used to communicate with people.

The parents wouldn't come to him out of fear. So Francis went to the children. When the parents saw how kind he was as he played with the children, they began to talk to him.

By the time, Francis left to go home he is said to have converted 40,000 people back to Catholicism.

In 1602 he was made bishop of the diocese of Geneva, in Calvinist territory. He only set foot in the city of Geneva twice -- once when the Pope sent him to try to convert Calvin's successor, Beza, and another when he traveled through it.

It was in 1604 that Francis took one of the most important steps in his life, the step toward holiness and mystical union with God.

In Dijon that year Francis saw a widow listening closely to his sermon -- a woman he had seen already in a dream. Jane de Chantal was a person on her own, as Francis was, but it was only when they became friends that they began to become saints. Jane wanted him to take over her spiritual direction, but, not surprisingly, Francis wanted to wait. "I had to know fully what God himself wanted. I had to be sure that everything in this should be done as though his hand had done it." Jane was on a path to mystical union with God and, in directing her, Francis was compelled to follow her and become a mystic himself.

Three years after working with Jane, he finally made up his mind to form a new religious order. But where would they get a convent for their contemplative Visitation nuns? A man came to Francis without knowing of his plans and told him he was thinking of donating a place for use by pious women. In his typical way of not pushing God, Francis said nothing. When the man brought it up again, Francis still kept quiet, telling Jane, "God will be with us if he approves." Finally the man offered Francis the convent.

Francis was overworked and often ill because of his constant load of preaching, visiting, and instruction -- even catechizing a deaf man so he could take first Communion. He believed the first duty of a bishop was spiritual direction and wrote to Jane, "So many have come to me that I might serve them, leaving me no time to think of myself. However, I assure you that I do feel deep-down- within-me, God be praised. For the truth is that this kind of work is infinitely profitable to me." For him active work did not weaken his spiritual inner peace but strengthened it. He directed most people through letters, which tested his remarkable patience. "I have more than fifty letters to answer. If I tried to hurry over it all, i would be lost. So I intend neither to hurry or to worry. This evening, I shall answer as many as I can. Tomorrow I shall do the same and so I shall go on until I have finished."

At that time, the way of holiness was only for monks and nuns -- not for ordinary people. Francis changed all that by giving spiritual direction to lay people living ordinary lives in the world. But he had proven with his own life that people could grow in holiness while involved in a very active occupation. Why couldn't others do the same? His most famous book, INTRODUCTION TO THE DEVOUT LIFE, was written for these ordinary people in 1608. Written originally as letters, it became an instant success all over Europe -- though some preachers tore it up because he tolerated dancing and jokes!

For Francis, the love of God was like romantic love. He said, "The thoughts of those moved by natural human love are almost completely fastened on the beloved, their hearts are filled with passion for it, and their mouths full of its praises. When it is gone they express their feelings in letters, and can't pass by a tree without carving the name of their beloved in its bark. Thus too those who love God can never stop thinking about him, longing for him, aspiring to him, and speaking about him. If they could, they would engrave the name of Jesus on the hearts of all humankind."

The key to love of God was prayer. "By turning your eyes on God in meditation, your whole soul will be filled with God. Begin all your prayers in the presence of God."

For busy people of the world, he advised "Retire at various times into the solitude of your own heart, even while outwardly engaged in discussions or transactions with others and talk to God."

The test of prayer was a person's actions: "To be an angel in prayer and a beast in one's relations with people is to go lame on both legs."

He believed the worst sin was to judge someone or to gossip about them. Even if we say we do it out of love we're still doing it to look better ourselves. But we should be as gentle and forgiving with ourselves as we should be with others.

As he became older and more ill he said, "I have to drive myself but the more I try the slower I go." He wanted to be a hermit but he was more in demand than ever. The Pope needed him, then a princess, then Louis XIII. "Now I really feel that I am only attached to the earth by one foot..." He died on December 28, 1622, after giving a nun his last word of advice: "Humility."

He is patron saint of journalists because of the tracts and books he wrote.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes

Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes are from Seattle and the members of the band are Robin Pecknold, Skye Skjelset, Josh Tillman, Casey Wescott, Christian Wargo, and Morgan Henderson. The first Fleet Foxes album (Fleet Foxes) was released on Sub Pop in 2008, and though the band s intention was to record a new album in the 6-8 months following its release, the reception of the record was such that Fleet Foxes found themselves very busy, touring consistently through the end of 2009.

Engineered and mixed by Phil Ek and co-produced by Phil and the band, the new Fleet Foxes record is called Helplessness Blues. Recording for Helplessness Blues began in April 2010 at Dreamland Recording in Woodstock, NY and continued off and on through November of that same year back in Seattle at numerous studios, including Bear Creek, Reciprocal Recording and Avast. Like very nearly every worthwhile thing, making this album was not easy; it was a difficult second album to make. Drawing inspiration from folk/rock from about 1965 to 1973, and Van Morrison s Astral Weeks in particular, Helplessness Blues sees Fleet Foxes heighten and extend themselves, adding instrumentation (clarinet, the music box, pedal steel guitar, lap steel guitar, Tibetan singing bowls, vibraphone, etc., along with more traditional band instrumentation), with a focus on clear, direct lyrics, and an emphasis on group vocal harmonies. We have it on good authority that the album is called Helplessness Blues for at least a couple of reasons. One, it's kind of a funny title. Secondly, one of the prevailing themes of the album is the struggle between who you are and who you want to be or who you want to end up, and how sometimes you are the only thing getting in the way of that.

Having heard Helplessness Blues, we mean to get out of its way.

Something remarkable is going on here and its great to watch and listen. Two observations to start with, if as suggested in the music press that Fleet Foxes main man Robin Pecknold has poured his heart and soul into their second album "Helplessness blues" it has paid off and this not only equals their great debut but surpasses it. The second reflection is that New Musical Express has given this album a paltry two stars in a hideously awful review from an increasingly irrelevant music magazine. This in itself should encourage you to buy it since "Helplessness blues" is a triumphant classic and while its stays firmly within the orbit of harmony heavy folk rock of "Ragged Wood" it marks a substantial and mature progression for this Seattle band. This is particularly pronounced in terms of Pecknold's songwriting skills which take off into the stratosphere and the band produce some of the greatest soaring harmony singing this side of Simon and Garfunkel's "Bookends" and the great debut by Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Start with the brilliant title track. This song is divided into two parts firstly a introspective set of lyrics by Pecknold leads to a vocal tour de force which at 2.58 then moves into a sublime Fleet Foxes harmony workout. It is easily one of the best songs released this year but is matched on the album but equally bold contributions. "Sim Sala Bim" is delightful haunting folk song which splits into two parts with the CSN influence especially pronounced in its forceful second part. The reflective opener "Montezuma" sees Pecknold in a pensive mood questioning, "So now I am older/Than my mother and father/, When they had their daughter/Now what does that say about me" over almost warm religious style harmonies. It contrasts with the joyous "Battery Kinzie" probably the song that could have sat most happily on their debut. The albums centerpieces are two episodic songs of which first up is "The Plains/Bitter Dancer" a six minute journey containing some of the albums best harmonies and the albums longest track "The Shrine/An argument" a sort of baroque "Paranoid Android' with a powerful vocal by Pecknold which takes us on a journey from folk to a wig out free jazz conclusion. It is stirring perfection and will take audiences by storm on the forthcoming UK tour.

Other highlights include "Lorelai" which owes a huge debt to one of Dylan's best but not always most heralded songs "4th Time Round" from "Blonde on Blonde". Then there is the intriguing instrumental "Cascades", the slightly jazzy "Bedouin Dress" and two of the most gorgeous songs Pecknold has penned. First the lush "Something to admire" and the truly sublime sparse acoustics of "Blue Spotted Tail" where we can forgive Pecknold's "hippy" affectations for the wonderful sweet yearning which underpins it. The whole thing is topped off with the cherry on the cake that is "Grown Ocean" which was the highlight of the set they performed on Jools Holland with Pecknold's voice cracking as the songs pace picked up and surged. It starts with him announcing "In that dream I'm as old as the mountains/Still is starlight reflected in fountains/Children grown on the edge of the ocean/Kept like jewellery kept with devotion". It builds to a massive acoustic crescendo with the band firing on all cylinders and concludes with a gentle verse.

It is a fitting ending to an album, which sees the band radically redefine as oppose to reinvent their sound, but by doing so build on the brilliance of their debut and actually "outpunch" it. This album is a flashbulb moment for music in 2011. It sets down an American benchmark for others to aspire towards, in the same way that PJ Harvey's "Let England Shake" has done in the UK. God knows how the Fleet Foxes follow this album (although we thought that after "Ragged Wood" and the "Sun Giant EP") for as it stands "Helplessness Blues" is the sound of rock music redemption.

3D animation of 1957 Chevy Convertible

I think this is the coolest video ever, it's a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible driving itself through a parking garage. The artist made it in 3D animation software called 3d Studio Max or 3ds max, it's by Autodesk, and then rendered it from four different camera views. I would LOVE to be able to do stuff like this!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The King Is Dead by The Decemberists

The King Is Dead by The Decemberists

The Decemberists have called their new album The King Is Dead. The album--a set of 10 concise, country-based songs--marks a deliberate turn towards simplicity after the band's wildly ambitious and widely acclaimed 2009 song-cycle The Hazards of Love. Produced once again by Tucker Martine, The King Is Dead features special guest appearances by Americana luminary Gillian Welch on seven tracks and legendary R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck on three tracks.

The King Is Dead showcases the ways in which The Decemberists--Colin Meloy, Chris Funk, Jenny Conlee, Nate Query, and John Moen--sound just as glorious in simple, stripped-down compositions as they do on the elaborate structures that have defined their work for years.

Meloy points out, however, that creating straightforward, unadorned songs can be at least as hard as building complicated musical epics. "For all my talk about how complex those records were, this one may have been harder to do," he says. "It's a real challenge to make simple music, and lot of times we had to deliberately hold off and keep more space. This record is an exercise in restraint."

The album was recorded in a converted barn at Pendarvis Farm, an 80-acre estate of lush meadows, forest, and Mt. Hood views outside of Portland, and it was the concept of the barn--as recording space and as attitude--that informed the making of The King Is Dead. "We wanted that ethos," he says. "That was the color we wanted the record to have."

To Meloy, in some ways The King Is Dead also represents his own musical journey coming full circle. "Over the last eleven years or so, since I moved to Portland, I feel like I've been mining mostly English traditions for influence", he says. "I guess I've kind of come back to a lot of the more American music that got me going in the first place - R.E.M. and Camper Van Beethoven and all these bands that borrowed from more American traditions like Neil Young and the Byrds."

"Sometimes I kind of miss the epic-ness of the other albums," he continues, "but it's nice to get all of the information across in three minutes. It's like going from reading a novel to reading a bunch of short stories."

It took this album to make me admit I haven't loved The Decemberists more recent work as much as I would have liked. For all the great moments on The Hazards of Love and The Crane Wife (and there are many), there were also copious amounts of convolution and sort of awkward prog rock (see: The Island/...). The result was never strong enough to rob The Decemberists of their title as my favorite band, it just left me feeling like I should still be loving them more.

One listen of The King is Dead is all it took for me to remember why I still love this band, and it took none of the effort I had to invest in their bigger albums. The Decemberists, to me, don't write pretty music or clever lyrics as much as they conjure up a portal to somewhere far more romantic and beautifully tragic. Songs like Grace Cathedral Hill or On The Bus Mall still never fail to pull me into their worlds. This time around, things are far simpler than they ever have been, but the effect is similar. There are no long songs, nothing that will require 15 minutes of focus and a dictionary to figure out, nothing set in the late 1800s, and no tragically doomed romance. The result is a beautifully coherent album that may not pull you out of reality like their past works, but it will wrap this world in a gauzy glow for the sublime 40 minutes it sticks around.

I'm once again very excited to see where they go from here, but so grateful to have this in the meantime.