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December 14,2011- RainyDayKitchen GiftGuide...

This time of the year is all about remembrance of things past, being thankful for what we have, and looking forward to what comes next. It is also about celebrating (with) friends and family. What better gifts to give than those which will help to make celebrations more fun and festive? In today's Holiday Gift Guide, we have a few items which will help do just that.

Bubbles and fizz make any drink, alcoholic or not, more celebratory. Making your own fizzy drink is easy with the right gadgets. The Twist 'n Sparkle is such a gadget. Just insert the carbonating wand into a filled bottle, press, and violà, instant carbonation. For more precise control over the level of carbonation, there are no better machines than the onese from SodaStream. Our favorite is the SodaStream Penguin. The Penguin is the only fizzy drink-maker on the market that uses glass carafes. While plastic bottles are practical for... [more] - 2011 RainyDayKitchen GiftGuide


December 13,2011- RainyDayKitchen GiftGuide...

Waking up on Christmas morning has never been a problem, but to wake up every day with that kind of enthusiasm requires a little help. A great cup of espresso or cappuccino is a great start. For convenience and ease of clean up, machines that take pods and capsules are the way to go. Fully automated machines with integrated grinders are for those who like the freshly ground beans for their espresso drinks without the work.

However, not everyone wants push-button simplicity. Some want their beans ground to a more exacting fineness, others like their grinds tamped to a specific density, and many demand their drinks brewed at a precise water temperature. This Holiday season, we thought we would look at what's available which could make the wishes of espresso lovers come true. There are quite a few potential candidates and... [more] - 2011 RainyDayKitchen GiftGuide


October 26, 2011- SodaStream Fizz...

We stopped buying pre-made sodas and started using the Soda Stream machines to make our fizzy drinks way back when. It was not long before we each developed our own personal favorite level of carbonation for our sodas. The amount of carbonation would not only be different for each individual, it would also be different for diffent flavors. Being able to reliably replicate a carbonation level meant counting the number and duration of our presses. When SodaStream introduced the Fizz with the carbonation-level indicator, we were eager to check it out. It would put an end to the "was it four or five presses I did before you interrupted me" dialog in the RainyDayKitchen. Well mostly.

After some side-by-side comparison of the Fizz with our other soda makers, we all agreed that we like the new unit. It is compact, light weight, and great looking. Getting the bottle on and off the unit is quick and simple. Moving the gas-release mechanism to the front is a nice change and... [more] - SodaStream Fizz FirstUse


October 19, 2011- Jura Z7 Grinder Cleaning...

Yesterday we posted the first part of the teardown of our Jura Z7 coffee machine. Today, we will show how to take apart the grinder, clean it, and put it back together. The steps were pretty simple, but we have a few observations and tips which may make it easier for those interested in putting thier own things back together.

The grinder is calibrated by technicians at the factory. Since we have no idea of how to do that, the first tip is to MARK the alignment of the grinder pieces before taking anything apart. Once you are certain that you can realign the pieces to their former positions, then have at it. The top of the grinder is held in place by three tabs. Lifting the tabs will free the plastic chute from the... [more] - Jura Z7 Grinder Cleaning


October 18, 2011- Jura Z7 Grinder Teardown...

The Jura Z7 coffer maker has been in daily use since last October. While we loved our Z5, the newer Z7 unit is a lot quieter both in its grinding and coffee-making operations. It also has a lot of subtle improvements which make it more of a pleasure to use. Recently, someone (who shall remain nameless) poured water into the coffee grinder instead of the water tank, causing the grinder to stop working (in the nameless person's defense, it was because the nameless person hadn't had any coffee yet). Actually, the grinder still spun, but no coffee was coming out. We suspected that things were all gummed up inside. Blowing air into the grinder did not have any affect. A teardown to see what was going on would seem to be our only option. OK, it probably was NOT the only option, but it was the one that we could not pass up!!!

Some owners may be squeemish about possibly "bricking" their $3000 coffee maker and would have sent it back to Jura for them to deal with the problem. Readers of this magazine know that that is not how we roll. We cleared off a work surface, got out the tools, and ripped (gently) right into the guts of the unit. A word of caution, this teardown is fairly complex. We are not going to post every single step, but only the most relevant ones. You know your own skill level, so... [more] - Jura Z7 Grinder Teardown


September 28, 2011- Twist 'n Sparkle..

We have been making our own soda for years. It is economical, easy to do, and we only make what we need when we need it. The only drawback with a soda machine is that it is kind of big to just have sitting on the counter all the time. While we have lots of space in the RainyDayKitchen, not everyone might have the same in theirs. If you have limited counter space, you might not want to share it with a soda maker. The solution to your problem is the Twist 'n Sparkle.

The Twist 'n Sparkle system is very compact. It consists of a wand, a bottle, and CO2 cartridges. Each cartridge is good for one use. The entire setup will fit easily into a drawer, out of the way, until needed. Setting the wand up to make soda is very simple. Just pop the... [more] - Twist 'n Sparkle FirstLook/FirstUse


September 1, 2011- Boogie Board Hack...

The new 10.5" version of the Boogie Board is a nice follow-up to the original. We gave you a quick FirstLook of the unit last week, but thought a closer look was warranted.

Boogie Board writing tablets are a tree-friendly alternative to the traditional memo pads, sticky notes, and dry erase boards. The new unit is 50% larger, has an integrated pen holder, and is powered by user-replaceable batteries. The designers maintained the Boogie Board's thin profile by... [more] - Boogie Board Hack


August 30, 2011- New Boogie Boards...

Last September we did a write-up on Improv Electronics' Boogie Board. The item was a huge hit last Holiday season. The original Boogie Board was 8.5" and was perfect for the fridge, dorm doors, and just about anywhere someone would want to leave a note. It came in any color you wanted as long as it was black. This year there are more models, new accessories, and a rainbow of colors to choose from. The new models are based on the same Reflex LCD technology. We think they will be as popular, if not more so, this season.

Version 1.0 of the Boogie Board is thin and very portable, but iMPROV Electronics has made it better for students by making it "binder-friendly." They have also listened to customers who wanted a... [more] - New Boogie Boards FirstLook


August 15, 2011- SodaStream: Fizz...

It has been years since we purchased commercial soft drinks like Coke and Pepsi. The reason is SodaStream. Having a SodaSteam machine in the office has changed the way we think about soda. Soda is something we make when we want it, not something we buy when we run out.

The only time we can't make soda is when we run of CO2 in the gas cartridge. This is not a big deal as a quick call will get a fresh bottle delivered the next day. However, to keep even that from catching its customers by surprise, SodaStream has created a new machine called the FIZZ. This new machine has a... [more] - SodaStream: Fizz FirstLook


July 15, 2011- SoWa Open Market...

We have been fans of the SoWa Open Market since we first attended their Holiday show back in 2004. It has been great to watch them grow and get better year over year. This year the organizers of SoWa has added a few more offerings (Farmers Market, Food Trucks) in addition to the collection of "not your average" vendors.

The SoWa Farmers Market offers a variety of locally grown produce and specialty food products from the New England area. The addition of these vendors not only create a more enjoyable shopping experience, they also contribute to a... [more]- SoWa Open Market


June 21, 2011- Sunset at Wollaston Beach...

We don't know what others call Wollaston Beach, but around the office we refer to it as the "Cape Cod of the South Shore." Wollaston Beach is a 3-mile long stretch of sand in Quincy. It is only a few miles outside of Boston, but has a vibe all its own. We can get to it in less than twenty minutes if the traffic is light. When we don't want to fight the traffic to the Cape, but want a bit of the flavor, that is where we go.

One of the great things about Wollaston Beach is that it is pretty low key. There is a boardwalk that edges the beach for a few miles. Off the boardwalk are a few local yacht clubs. Sprinkled along the other side of the boardwalk are... [more]- Wollaston Beach: Sunset


June 17, 2011- Nespresso: Pixie FirstUse...

At the beginning of the month we posted our FirstLook of the Nespresso Pixie. We have had it for a over a week, have made a few cups with the unit, and are now prepared to tell you about our FirstUse experience with the unit.

Along with the Pixie, every Nespresso unit comes with a sample pack of 16 different coffee capsules: 7 espresso blends, 3 pure origin espressos, 3 blends for large cups, and 3 decaffeinated blends. The included guide explained in more detail the personalities of the various blends, their intensity, and recommended brew amount (espresso size, or coffee cup size). As we did not have enough to do any meaningful comparisons, we will not comment on the... [more]- Nespresso: Pixie FirstUse


June 8, 2011- Nespresso: Pixie...

Coffee makers are almost as irressible to us as new gadgets from Apple. Over the years, we have sampled our share of coffee machines. We generally favor coffee from machines that grind the coffee just prior to brewing, but have been impressed with Nespresso coffee when we reviewed Le Cube a few years ago. So when Nespresso came out with the Pixie, we were eager to take a look.

The Pixie from Nespresso is the smallest coffee machine we have ever tested. This single-cup machine combines a compact design with some impressive espresso-making specs:

  • Automatic brewing
  • Heats in 30 seconds
  • User-selectable shot sizes: a 1-oz / a 3-oz pour
  • Programmable duration
  • A 19-bar pressure pump
  • Thermoblock technology for precise temperature control
  • Auto shut-off

The machine feels solidly made. The side panels come in a variety of colors, a nice touch for those who like to color coordinate their appliances with their decor. The machine itself is... [more]- Nespresso: Pixie FirstLook


June 1, 2011- RDG: June...

Gardening has a lot of similarity with software development. There are a lot of ways to go about it and some of it works better than others. Take planting perennials vs annuals for instance. Planting perennials, like writing reusable code, takes a bit more planning and can cost more upfront. The payoff is that you don't have to do the same thing over and over again. Annuals are like demo code, they look great, can be done quickly, but are often a one shot deal.

The RainyDayGarden folks here plant mostly perennials, because while they love seeing the blooms and the colors, they don't really enjoy the associated physical tasks (digging, weeding, etc...) as much as the more hardcore gardeners. Another benefit of planting perennials is the ability to... [more]- RDG: June


May 31, 2011- Memorial Day: Falmouth...

We started the Memorial Day weekend by heading down to Cape like everyone else. Unlike a lot of folks, we started our trip early on Friday and managed to escape the crushing 3PM "parking lot" scene out of Boston. Our drive was top-down, leisurely, and, with Lady GaGa's latest album (only $.99 on Amazon!) on the iPod to help pass the time, quite quick. Our destination for the day was Falmouth, both because we wanted to visit Woods Hole and because there was an all-you-can-eat BBQ buffet dinner at the Coonamessett Farm in East Falmouth. We are not big people, but we are big eaters and we WILL go where the eating is good.

One of us had skipped breakfast and as we had made no stops on our drive down, we arrived in Falmouth ready for lunch. We took a quick stoll down Main Street to scope out the scene and decided on the Quaterdeck Restaurant. It looked like a place where the locals would go for lunch. The place was designed using salvaged wood from local boatyards to create the feeling of... [more]- Memorial Day: Falmouth MA


Mar 24, 2011- Gaggia Vision Platinum...

Caffeine is what keeps us going all day long here at the RainyDayMagazine office. We occupy two floors of a duplex, but have three separate espresso machines; that should tell you a little bit about the pace around here. A GOOD cup of espresso, cappucino, or coffee is never more than just a few steps away. Recently, one of the machines started acting up. We thought..."Great! A DIY repair article for the interns." Fortunately for them, a Gaggia Platinum Vision espresso machine showed up at the office. So, instead of a DIY article, the interns got to play with the new machine for a FirstLook report.

Gaggia S.p.A. is an Italian maker of coffee and espresso machines designed for both commercial and home use. Gaggia began in 1948, a decade after Achille Gaggia filed a patent (number 365726) on a machine which eventually evolved into the modern day espresso machine. Gaggia's first home espresso machine, the Baby Gaggia, was created in 1977, specifically for home use. Even today, many still regard it as... [more]- Gaggia Vision Platinum FirstLook


Mar 15, 2011- Cuisinart "Waffler"...

Last month we posted a FirstLook at Cuisinart's new waffle insert for their Griddler. Today, we report on our FirstUse efforts with what we are affectionately calling the "Waffler."

We have never made fresh waffles so we have no family recipe (secret or otherwise) on hand for the FirstUse test. We know that waffles made by any waffle iron is only as good as the recipe used to make the batter. We did a quick search on Google and got... [more]- Cuisinart "Waffler" FirstUse


Mar 8, 2011- Groupon Excursions...

If you love trying new restaurants but also like to live within your means, you have undoubtedly have heard of Groupon. We have been a member for several years and can enthusiastically recommend it. Groupon is free to join, there are no obligations to buy, and the offers come to you daily. Best of all, the deals are fantastic and are a win-win for everybody (merchants, customers, and Groupon). It is an absolutely hassle-free way to try out new restaurants, services, and other local offerings for cheap less.

Today, we will talk briefly about two of our recent Groupon excursions. The first is an outing to Osushi, a sushi restaurant located in Boston's Back Bay. We have lived in Boston for over twenty years and thought we had been to... [more]- Groupon Excursions


Feb 24, 2011- Cuisinart Waffle Iron Insert...

There's nothing more enticing than the scent of freshly made waffles waft through the house in the morning. The problem with home-made waffles is that one needs a waffle iron to make them. And unless one REALLY loves waffles a dedicated waffle iron is not something most people are willing to purchase. Fortunately for RainyDayMagazine readers (and staff), we have found an alternative.

A while back, we posted FirstLook and FirstUse reviews of a fantastic panini maker/grilling machine from Cuisinart called the Griddler. This machine has proven itself to be a true workhorse in the RainyDayKitchen. Now, Cuisinart has made the machine even more versatile by... [more]- Waffle Iron insert FirstLook


Feb 9, 2011- Shun Knives...

There is no kitchen equipment more important than a good knife. A good knife can make cutting, slicing, and chopping tasks precise, effortless, and even pleasurable. It may seem counterintuitive, but a keen edge is much safer than a dull one. A sharp blade will cut without slipping, slice without tearing, and chop without crushing. At the end of 2010, we told you that Ginsu has upped their game in kitchen knives with the Chikara and Hanaita lines. Today, we want to give readers a FirstLook at the 21-piece block set from Shun Cutlery.

Shun knives are convex ground for a long-lasting edge that also helps move food away from the blade quickly. Sharpened to a 16° angle on each side, Shun's "extreme edges" ensure that foods will not be bruised or torn during preparation. The traditional Japanese D-shaped handle offers the perfect grip and balance. The PakkaWood® used in the handles is beautiful, durable, and comfortable. PakkaWood is resin-impregnated natural hardwood designed for... [more]- Shun Knives FirstLook


Feb 4, 2011- Handpresso Outdoor Set...

Once in a while an item gets put aside and, for one reason or another, never makes it back on to the review schedule. Last March, we posted a preview of the Handpresso Outdoor Set, and promised a FirstLook of the kit in the Spring. However, we never actually followed up on that promise. Today, we aim to rectify that oversight.

We first reviewed (FirstLook/FirstUse) the Handpresso Wild in 2008. This portable espresso maker enables anyone to make rich delicious espresso and is light (476g) and compact enough (22x10x7 cm) to take anywhere. The pump itself can generate up to 16 bar of pressure. The water reservoir is large enough to hold about 50 ml of water. Along with the Handpresso Wild, we also picked up two polycarbonate cups and a thermo-formed EVA stiff case. This bundle is... [more]- Handpresso Outdoor Set FirstLook


Jan 24, 2011- Pummelo...

You say pomelo, we say Pummelo. Regardless, this is one giant fruit. While shopping at Trader Joe's last week, we came across this enormous citrus...easily twice the size of a typical grapefruit. While the pomelo is new to us, it is actually an ancestor to both grapefruits and oranges.

The pomelo may look like a grapefruit on the outside, it is clearly not when sliced open. The center of the fruit has a stem in the center which is about the size of a quarter. We had expected the pomelo to have more flesh. Instead, the amount of flesh is about the same as that of a... [more]- Pomelo or Pummelo?

Jan 1, 2011- Happy New Year

We hope all of you had a fun New Year's Eve. Ours was a low-key celebration at the office, but we did it in style with the help of a bottle of champagne by Piper-Heidsieck.

Their curvée Brut is an elegant, lively, and exceptionally well-balanced champagne. It had a fresh start, with a light aromas of citrus and flowers. The champagne was a great way to celebrate the start of a new year. Here is to a great 2011!!! [Permalink] - Happy New Year


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