Friday, March 27, 2020

Gin And Jam

I asked the bartender at Figlio, one of our favorite restaurants, what was the purple cocktail she just made, and she replied a “Gin and Jam”.  Intrigued, I tried making one at home, combining a couple ounces of Bombay Sapphire Gin and two tablespoons of my favorite blackberry/black raspberry jam, shaken vigorously in an ice-filled cocktail shaker, then poured in a glass over ice.  Much to my surprise it had only a little sweetness and the gin’s floral flavors came through beautifully. Adjust the amount of jam and time shaking to achieve the sweetness you desire.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Light Map

Although calling light "pollution" is a real stretch (IMHO), this website has a fascinating view of the entire planet, showing the relative intensity of light by using different colors, with pinks and purples showing the brightest spots.  There are some surprises, like how bright Alberta, Canada is, which I believe to be caused by their oil industry.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Remote Control Labels

Communication is such a tricky thing.  Our biggest issue with remote controls wasn't really that we had too many or how to use them.  The issue was figuring out which remote control belonged to which device.  That was easily fixed using our handy label maker, as shown in the picture below, and calm was restored.  Now if just the device manufacturers would take notice...

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Extension Cord Storage

Tangled extension cords are, at best, annoying, but a free (I love free) solution is to stuff them inside the leftover cardboard core of a roll of paper towels.  Fold the cord lengthwise, back and forth, as many times as it takes and then slide it into the core.  Easy peasy.

Monday, March 23, 2020


As my wife demonstrates below, the BetterBrella folds up in two steps, appearing at first to be a conventional umbrella but then reversing course and folding upwards.  Any water remaining on the top of the umbrella is now trapped inside the umbrella instead of leaking on the floor (or you) and the umbrella stores in half of its typical length.

Big shout-out to my sister-in-law Marilou for the cool gift!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Jack’s Grill

This bad-boy tilapia sandwich came from Jack’s Grill inside Dorothy Land Market at their location at Whipp and Far Hills.  Other seafood options can be found at the link below, but there are many other selections available.  While waiting for this, I wandered over to their wine-tasting area and enjoyed a glass of red.  Quite the nice Lenten Friday lunch.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Smart TVs and Apple Airplay

As a followup to my earlier blog on options for using Facetime on a big screen, some newer (2018+) smart TVs, like the 32" Samsung I have in my home office (shown below), support Apple's Airplay.  When you go to mirror your screen from an iPhone or iPad, if you see something like what I saw, "Samsung 5 Series", tap it and you're ready to go. 

iOS Screen Mirroring

Facetime is a great way to stay in touch with friends and family, but it works best one-to-one given the usual smaller screen sizes.  But connect it to a large monitor or TV and that makes it a more immersive and multi-person experience.  You use iOS's screen mirroring capability, either wirelessly through an Apple TV (like I did) or wired with a Digital AV adapter (see the link below).  Detailed directions can be found at, which includes a few other options which I wouldn't recommend, but can't hurt to try.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Phonetic Pangrams

Say this sentence out loud...

“With tenure, Suzie’d have all the more leisure for yachting, but her publications are no good.”

You probably noticed that this sentence gave your mouth a bit of a workout.  That's because it's a phonetic pangram, a sentence that includes all 40 sounds (called phonemes to get technical about it) in the English language, packed into just 16 words.  Your mouth had to make every sound you know in a short period of time, rapidly adjusting along the way.  A few other phonetic pangrams can be found at this link.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Relabeled Circuit Breaker Panel

Gone are the written-in-pencil, inaccurate labels on our home's circuit breaker panel, replaced with laser-printed labels with large identification numbers.  I've also created a cross-reference spreadsheet which has the 77 outlets, switches, and appliances in our house mapped to these breakers, a painstaking process of turning each breaker off one at a time and then visiting each to see which of the 77 no longer had power.  It only took about 90 minutes to complete that process and now I know with certainty which breaker to turn off when working on an electrical project, avoiding the occasional "zap" and the frequent, multiple trips to the basement to turn off the right one.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Rest Areas

I stumbled upon this “Map Icons” setting on our Infiniti G37x and immediately activated the “Rest Area” option, which holds great value as I’m drinking a Starbucks Grande Dark Roast knowing I’ll need a potty stop in the near future.  As the second picture shows, one of the available map views while navigating will show the next rest area opportunity along your route.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Vermont Melt

This Vermont Melt from Cafe Eleven in Saint Augustine Beach, Florida, was even more delicious than it looks.  Ham, Brie cheese, Granny Smith apples, honey mustard on Ciabatta bread, which I assume was put in a panini press for a minute or two.  If you ever travel to Saint Augustine, put this place on your "must visit" list and come hungry.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Coffee Mugs

We've been looking for a new set of every day "drink coffee in bed" mugs for months before we found this adorable set at Peña-Peck House Woman's Exchange along St. George Street in Saint Augustine, Florida.  But in case that's a far trip for you, Walmart carries then, which you can find at this link.  My wife is the peanut butter and I the jelly, for reasons I won't go into.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Google Fonts

I've written a few past blogs on free (I love free) fonts and not to be outdone, Google has nearly one thousand families of free (ditto) fonts that you can use to snazzy up your documents, presentations, envelopes, etc.  You can search for something specific, like the sample below which turned up searching for "script", limit results using a few categories or just browse.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Photo Jigsaw Puzzles

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette app on our iPads includes this slightly addictive jigsaw puzzle game.  Every day a different set of three photos is available, which you can chop up into 16, 36 or 64 piece puzzles and then race to see how fast you can put them together, which on a good day takes 3-4 minutes each.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Living Room Tool Drawer

I keep this small collection of frequently used tools in an end table in the living room.  This avoids countless trips to the basement where the big tool boxes are located and avoids adding them to the allows-overflowing kitchen drawers or packed shelves in the office.  Since we don’t have much of anything else in these drawers, it’s a perfect solution for us.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Peace Pie

The final stop on our Food and Wine Tour in Saint Augustine, Florida was Peace Pie, located on Aviles Street (the oldest street in America) where co-owner Maryrose LaCavera explained the history of how their combination of ice cream, pie filling, and shortbread cookies turned into their delicious business.  You can hear all about it at this YouTube link.  Instead of one large cookie, which would have been too much after all the food we ate, we had the three smaller wedges seen below.  Nirvana!

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Weather Voice Announcements

Our Infiniti G37x had the annoying habit of announcing nearby weather events, shouting out things like "Gale warning 10 miles from your current location!".  Fortunately, there's a setting for that, as shown below.  We'll still get the text of the warning or watch on the display, but now the shouting will stop.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

iPad and iPhone Markup

Well, it only took me 4 1/2 years to learn about this handy feature, which became available back in iOS release 9.  Markup is available within a number of apps, including Files, Messages, Safari, and Mail and allows you to add text, shapes, and signatures to PDFs and photos.  Detailed instructions can be found at this Apple support link.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Folder Painter

Back in May of 2018, I posted about Folder Colorizer, a handy utility to change the color of Windows folder icons.  Free back then, it now costs $9.95 (boo), so a little searching turned up Folder Painter, a free (I love free) option to accomplish the same thing.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Auggie's Mini Donuts

At the north end of St. George Street in St. Augustine, Florida, you will find Auggie's Mini Donuts, where they make your order, using this cute mini-fryer, in front of your eyes.  They bag them and add your desired coating, mine being cinnamon and sugar.  There might be nothing better than a fresh, warm donut in February.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Activate FOX NOW

In order to watch Last Man Standing and other shows on Fox while spending a month in Florida, I had to add the FOX NOW app to the Fire TV Cube.  The usual process begins with going to a web site and entering an activation code like you see on the left below, which is annoying at best.  But the FOX NOW app also displayed a QR code that contained the web site link and code, so all I had to do was scan it with my Google Pixel 2 and I was on my way in a jiffy.  Directions for scanning QR codes for iOS and Android phones are at the link below.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Retirement Home Layout

This is one of the best house designs, tailored for single-floor living, that we've ever seen.  Master bedroom with back porch access, his and her walk-in closets, dual sinks in the master bath, a kitchen with a pantry and island, and a two-car garage.  Two bedrooms upstairs for guests.  But given its St. Augustine Beach locations, this runs just shy of a half-million simoleons.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Crosswalk Flag Program

There are a dozen crosswalks along A1A Beach Blvd in St. Augustine Beach that have red flags available on both sides to assist pedestrians in safety crossing this busy, and oft-times distracting, thoroughfare.  Just grab one out of a box on one side, carry it visibly as you cross and leave it in the box on the other side.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Florida Softshell Turtles

Not that ordinary turtles are going to bring home beauty awards, but the Florida softshell turtles are some of the ugliest and spookiest creatures on planet earth.  When this guy below popped its flat head out of the water looking for a handout, its bugged-out eyes would rapidly flutter causing the water to ripple, adding to its surreal appearance.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Extra-Crunchy Sheet-Pan Mac and Cheese

This recipe combines elbow macaroni with the creamy goodness of sharp Cheddar, Monterey Jack, cream cheese, and half-and-half tricked up with hot sauce and dijon mustard, then topped with panko and melted butter.  The sheet pan makes for easy cleanup, better portion control, and slices can be frozen for future helpings.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Netflix Autoplay

Scrolling through Netflix just got a lot less annoying now that autoplay can be turned off, particularly for previews.  The option is per profile, so if you don't like them but someone else does, you each can have your own way.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Pascua Florida

Every state has a story behind their name and Florida was named because of the time of year that Juan Ponce de León landed upon its eastern coast, in early April 1513.  He named it La Florida in honor of Pascua Florida ("Flowery Easter"), the traditional Spanish Easter festival that occurred at that time of year, and because the local vegetation was in full bloom.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Husband Daycare

Can you sign me up for this?

This sign outside Ann O'Malley's in Saint Augustine, Florida had me in stitches.  What a great way to advertise your restaurant/bar!  Just drop off your hubby, do a few hours of shopping down Saint George Street and pick him up for a minimal charge.  Everybody's happy!

Monday, February 17, 2020

Grammarly Chrome Extension

I've always been pretty good at spelling so built-in spell checkers don't catch a lot more that I do, but grammar is a bit more of the challenge, and that's where I find this Google Chrome extension very useful.  The free version does everything I need it to do, but there are paid enhancements for the more professional user.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Shredded Potato Waffles

The waffle maker turned store-bought shredded potatoes into a crispy side dish without much fuss and muss, just used a little melted butter.  You can mix in other ingredients, for example, eggs, cheese and garlic, to turn it into a complete breakfast.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Beach Chair Mailbox

Located on a side street in St. Augustine Beach, Florida, this mailbox "post" fits the local, laid-back beach vibe perfectly, from the sky-blue paint to the mermaid stenciled on the chair back.   I can hardly imagine how silly this would look in Ohio.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Sie Liebt Dich

One of the nice things about SiriusXM radio channels, and driving 900 miles to Florida, is that you end up hearing songs by your favorite artists that you've never before and this version of "She Loves You" by the Beatles, in German and available on YouTube at the link below, was one of the most surprising.  They only recorded a few songs in German and searching on "Beatles German Songs" will find the rest.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Mac Preview Signatures

Another nice feature of the Mac Preview app is being able to create signatures on the fly using a trackpad or camera, and then adding and sizing them to a document.  For the trackpad, you use your finger or a soft-tipped stylus, and for the camera you sign a blank, white piece of paper and place it level with a blue line in the camera window.  You also use reuse signatures you've previously created by simply clicking on it, as shown below.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Mac Speech Bubbles

The Mac's Preview app has one feature I truly love ... "Speech Bubbles".  When I'm editing articles like the snippet below, I can point right to the spot where I'm suggesting a change.  I use that in conjunction with the "Strike Through Text" feature to make it as clear as possible my intention.  Both features are found under Tools ... Annotate.  More info at this Apple support link.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Chicken Paws

Shopping in Florida can be surprising and running across chicken paws in Walmart’s meat section was a WTF moment.  I have never given a thought to where all the feet (or the heads for that matter) go after all the good parts are taken.  Frankly, they look like they belong in a B movie horror flick.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Amazon Echo Condo Setup

Warning ... serious geek speak ahead!

Yesterday I went through how I managed to connect the Amazon Fire TV Cube to the condo's WiFi and Internet, but that was nothing compared to the magic that had to happen to connect the Amazon Echo 3, which has nothing close to a keyboard or a mouse.  The trick was to turn off the Echo, change my Macbook Air's MAC (Media Access Control) address to the MAC address of the Echo (first sudo command below), login to the WiFi network, change the Macbook Air's MAC address back (second sudo command) and turn on the Echo back on.  Now that the WiFi network had authenticated the Echo's MAC, even though temporarily spoofed by the MacBook Air, it let the Echo connect to the Internet.   

I also had to hardware reset the Echo by holding its Action button for about 20-30 seconds.  Not sure why that was needed, but setting it up on the new WiFi network continually failed until I did.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Fire TV Cube Condo Setup

Our Florida condo's WiFi network requires a two-step login, first connecting to the WiFi's SSID and second entering a user and password information on a web browser screen.  That's easy enough for a smartphone, tablet or computer that has some version of a mouse and keyboard, but the Amazon Fire TV Cube has neither.  I thought I was stuck until I noticed a "Use Cursor Mode" option (circled in red below) that brought up a mouse pointer that could be moved around, little by little, using the up-down-left-right remote controls to navigate into the input fields and then pressed the circular Select button to select the input field and bring up an on-screen keyboard.

I wish I could include a link here for more details, but there is absolutely nothing to be found on the Internet regarding this option.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Saint Augustine Beach

Saint Augustine Beach, Florida reminds us more of the dune-type shorelines of North Carolina that is does the wide, flat sand found an hour south at Daytona Beach.  It's a laid-back community, located on Anastasia Island, with condos, a few hotels and a lot of delicious seafood. It's just a few miles southeast of the city of Saint Augustine, with all the history of the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement and port in the continental United States has to offer.

Monday, February 3, 2020


We had a great meal with friends at Venti in Cumming, Georgia and that started a discussion of why the restaurant was named that.  I figured, incorrectly, that it meant “large”, as a venti coffee is the largest of the three sizes (tall, grande, venti) at Starbucks  A quick smartphone search showed how wrong I was.  Venti is Italian for “twenty”, and as this restaurant is on State Route 20, that now made sense, and a Starbucks venti, being 20 ounces, revealed the simple explanation for that name.  For more information on the naming of Starbucks “tall” and “grande”, see the explanations at the following link.  "Tall" actually makes sense now.

Big shout out to Barbara and Harry for the restaurant selection and adding an answer at some future trivia challenge!

Friday, January 31, 2020

Fort Pitt Tunnel

One of the most thrilling entrances to any city comes as you exit the Fort Pitt Tunnel and enter Pittsburgh from the south.  The entire city pops out directly in front of you with the three rivers coming together at The Point on the left, its many skyscrapers on the right and the sports stadiums in front.  It’s even cooler to enter Pittsburgh at night with the city aglow. The video at this YouTube link will give you a good show of the drive.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Medicare Coverage

Enrolling in Medicare can make your head swirl, so to help us figure it out we enlisted the help of an expert at a local firm (link below) and put together the document below to track the various pieces, decisions and costs.  Including a separate dental plan offered by our dentist, the monthly cost is about $310 for each of us, but after deducting the YMCA monthly fee which was replaced by the Silver Sneakers benefit of our Medigap plan, our combined grand total is $563 monthly.  The ringer is prescription drug costs, which vary widely depending on the what you take, what plan you have and can double the total amount you’ll spend per year.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Amazon Echo Routines

I setup an Amazon Echo (aka Alexa) routine for when I head downstairs to watch TV.  I just say "Alexa, enter man cave" and the TV, soundbar and floor lamp will all turn on.  When I'm done, it's "Alexa, exit man cave" and they all turn off.  It's all done in the Alexa app and is really easy.  The only issue I ran into was I couldn't use "mancave" as a single word, but had to use "man cave" in order for Alexa to understand.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Removing the Fireplace

I thought that pulling the fireplace doors off was going to be the most difficult task of all.  I thought it was probably bolted in somehow and that years of rust was going to require a fair amount of elbow grease.  But after I shined a very bright light on the inside to see what lie ahead, I found that the whole thing was held in place by four hand-twist screws, two on each side, like shown below.  Rust wasn't a problem and the doors were off in under two minutes.  Big, happy sigh!

Monday, January 27, 2020

Fireplace Refurbish Complete

The final phase of the fireplace refurbish was painting the wall behind the TV green to match the side ascent panels, transform the bronze doors with a high-temperature black spray paint and replace the mesh screen.  What used to look so outdated we thought we would have to do an expensive replacement now looks modern and clean.  All for under $100 and a day's work.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Baked Cod Shakshuka

Shakshuka literally means “a mixture” and traditionally the sauce is poured over poached eggs, but this recipe from the Food Network pairs it with cod.  While the sauce is delicious, we thought it overwhelmed the fish.  The leftover sauce worked much better with a pork tenderloin a couple days later.  Finally, depending on your love for cumin you might want to cut that in half or more.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Body Shop Needed

As Jeff Foxworthy might say ...

“If you've cut out and duct-taped a leopard-print rug on your Ford Taurus instead of getting a new door … you might be a redneck.”