Sky Guide

Sky Guide is the most beautiful app I have ever seen. It’s very easy to use – just point your iPhone or iPad to any part of the sky and the app aligns itself with it and displays a pristine view of the stars and planets, with names and other information. It allows you to see not only the sky above, but also the sky hidden below. The lovely images are accompanied by background music, and you also can tap on any star and listen to its own sound. What a great experience and what a wonderful design. Sky Guide


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Kansas City Steak Company

imageSome time ago I stopped buying steaks at the local supermarkets. Disappointed at the mediocre taste and quality, I decided it was best to save my money and get my steak fix at a good steakhouse.

Not ready to totally give up, I recently placed an order with Kansas City Steak Company for several 8oz USDA prime boneless beef top sirloin. The steaks arrived fully frozen and individually packaged. The instructions recommend to give the steaks 24 hours to thaw in the fridge. My experience is that they need no less than 3 full days. A good thing to keep in mind is that good steaks should never be thawed at room temperature.

I simply pan fried the steaks, cooked them to several stages of doneness, and served them with buttered boiled potatoes. Happily, they turned out delicious and juicy, with big beef flavor.

Finally – restaurant quality steaks for the home cook.

Kansas City Steak Company

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Burt’s Bees

image Having recently seen a documentary about the very successful company Burt’s Bees, I wanted to try some of its skin care products. We are in the middle of a very cold winter and my hands get very dry, so I started with the hand salve. It comes in a tin container and it’s a heavy duty moisturizer. I use it at night and wear gloves to keep the moisture in. It’s has a lovely herbal scent and a very pleasant natural oil feel – too greasy to wear during the day, but perfect for nighttime. It really helps keep your hands from chaping and drying and I would highly recommend it.

The second product I tried was the hand repair cream. A bit unusual at first, but it feels great when you apply it. It penetrates the skin and doesn’t leave a greasy residue. Unfortunately, I can’t use this product because of the scent. I can’t describe what it is, but I find it totally unpleasant.

The lip balm, by contrast, has a very subtle and pleasant scent. It’s made with bees wax and peppermint, and does a very good job of keeping your lips moisturized.

Burt’s Bees

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The Phoenician Steak House

The feeling I got when I first walked into this new restaurant in Phoenicia, NY, was one of space and comfort. High ceilings, muted colors, pleasant lighting. Nice!

We had made reservations not a half hour before we arrived and were seated at one of the booths in the area to the left of the entrance door. We found the seating uncomfortably tight and requested to be moved to a table. Even though it was a busy Saturday night, the host found a table for us near the fireplace, and came back several times during our meal to make sure we were comfortable. Much appreciated!

Our waitress was friendly and attentive. She brought our drinks promptly and took our orders using an iPad mini, which she later told us made the process a lot smoother. I ordered one of the specials, a Chilean sea bass with tomatoes and vegetables over risotto. The fish was cooked just right, with the flesh moist and the outside crispy and delicious. The plates were heated so you had plenty of time to enjoy your meal. A lovely Casillero del Diablo chardonnay was the perfect accompaniment.

For dessert I ordered a chocolate mousse cake, which was quite good and generous in size, perfect for sharing. The espresso was full flavored and served with a piece of lemon rind.

I did find the space too noisy, making conversation difficult at times, but the meal was a very good experience overall.

The website is still being worked on, but the important information is all there: phone number on the home page, clear menus with prices, and hours of operation.

The Phoenician Steak House

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Ultimate Garden Fence Solution

Keeping unwanted animals out of the garden can be a difficult and expensive project. After years of using conventional post and wire mesh fences and tired of all the digging and nailing and stapling to keep them in good shape, I came up with an unorthodox solution.

Some years back, I had kept a small flock of sheep. In the barn there were still the metal panels that enclosed the sheep yard.  These heavy duty panels have been a revelation and I would recommend them to anyone who needs a simple, unobtrusive and strong fence around their garden. The panels interlock and are self-standing, so no need to dig holes for posts. No worries about wood rotting and bringing the fence down – this fencing system is all above ground. The most critical part is to level the area as much as possible and add flat stones when necessary to make the entire fence of even height. A good coat of paint every few years is all the work you’ll need to do to keep it looking great.

If you need to add height to make sure deer won’t be tempted to jump in, add some metal tubes holding a couple strands of wire. And if rabbits are an issue, cover the lower two feet with chicken wire. It works like a charm.

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Fun with seeds

Starting plants from seed is great fun. Every spring I buy several packets of perennial flower seeds to add to the garden the following year. Some are great successes, others just languish and die. I have to report that rudbeckia “Irish Eyes” is one of the former, and a beautiful, bright, and vigorous addition to the garden as well. The pleasantly disorganized habit, the lovely yellow petals and the green eye are hard to resist. Heavy rain and wind have not bothered this plant, its thick stems have remained as upright after a storm as anyone could hope for. “Irish Eyes” is supposed to be deer resistant, but I have not tried it outside my fenced-in garden (more on fences in a future post).


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The Great Fire of London

I am a big fan of “I was there” literature. I like the feeling of the writer walking me through his time and place, where I become a direct participant in an event long gone.

Reading about the Great Fire of London through the eyes of English diarist Samuel Pepys (pronounced peeps) is pure pleasure, if it weren’t for the terrible destruction that the event inflicted on the old city.

Pepys was in his early thirties at the time, and lived in a house with his wife and several maid servants.

September 2, 1666. Some of our maids sitting up late last night to get things ready against our feast today, Jane called us up about three in the morning, to tell us of a great fire they saw in the City. So I rose, and slipped on my night gown, and went to her window.

Every body endeavouring to remove their goods, and flinging into the river, or bringing them into lighters that lay off; poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into boats, or clambering from one pair of stairs by the water-side to another.

And in a delightful insight into his priorities, Pepys tries to save some of his goods from the fire:

… the fire coming on in that narrow street, on both sides, with infinite fury… and in the evening Sir W. Pen and I did dig another [pit in the garden], and put our wine in it; and I my parmazan cheese, as well as my wine and some other things.

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