Stem Gem Strawberry Huller

It didn’t take me long to get the hang of the Stem Gem Strawberry Huller, and once I did, I was able remove the stem and core of strawberries much faster than I could with a knife.

To use it, you push the button on the back to extend the retractable Alien-esque jaws. The deeper you push the button, the more the jaws open. Then, plunge the jaws into the strawberry, twist, then pull. There you go, a cleanly cored berry. My kids fight over who gets to use it.


-- Mark Frauenfelder  

Chef’n Stem Gem Strawberry Huller

Available from Amazon

Chemex 6-Cup Classic Series Glass Coffee Maker

I have been using this tool for about a year. In combination with a food scale, Chemex bleached filters, a Capresso hot water kettle, great coffee (like Ruta Maya Dark Roast), and of course clean filtered water, Chemex makes consistent coffee with no bitter after taste. I watched > 10 videos on You Tube, taking the best features of each to come up with my Chemex specification for great coffee (see below). The key is to use good measurement tools to maintain day-to-day consistency and to ensure you are brewing at the correct temperature to avoid extraction of the bitter components of the coffee beans.

Chemex is superior because glass is easy to clean and does not hold odors like plastic or even stainless steel. The price is very reasonable for a tool that can produce a full body, full flavor, no bitter after taste cup of coffee!

How to make Chemex Coffee

I Equipment
– A Chemex 6 Cup Coffee Maker
– B Chemex Bonded Filter Squares (Oxygen cleansed)
– C Hario V60 Drip Scale / Timer
– D Kitchen Aid Coffee Grinder
– E Capresso H2O Pro Water Kettle

II Ingredients
– A Purified Water 56 ounces
– B Whole Coffee Beans 45 to 55 grams

III Procedure (Makes 30 ounces or 1 1/3 cup of coffee)
– A Boil Approximately 56 ounces of water in Capresso Kettle (212
– B Place Chemex Filter in Chemex Coffee Maker
– i Open filter so that three layers of paper are on one side and one layer of paper is on the other side.
– ii Orient the three layer side toward the spout of the Chemex Coffee Maker.
– C Unplug the Capresso Kettle when the water reaches 212F
– D Wait 30 seconds.
– i Critical for dropping water temperature to 200F.
– E Thoroughly wet the Chemex Filter with the hot water.
– i This also warms the vessel.
– F Pour out the hot water from the Chemex Coffee Maker.
– i Carefully hold the three layer side of the filter out of
the way.
– ii Reposition the wetted filter.
– G Turn on the Hario Scale.
– H Place the Chemex Coffee Maker on the Hario Scale.
– I Tare the Hario Scale.
– J Grind the whole bean coffee on a Medium Coarse setting.
– i 10 seconds in Kitchen Aid Grinder.
– K Pour 50 grams of Medium Coarse Coffee into the wetted Chemex
– i Gently shake the Chemex Coffee Maker to even out the
Coffee Grounds.
– L Make a small intention in the center of the grounds.
– M Tare the Hario Scale.
– N Carefully pour approximately 100 grams of hot water to wet
the coffee grounds thoroughly.
– i Start in the center indention, moving outward until
grounds are completely wet.
– O Allow the Coffee Grounds to “bloom” for 45 seconds.
– i Critical time.
– P Tare the Hario Scale.
– Q Start the main pour.
– i The main pour will total 887 grams of hot water.
– ii Gently pour starting at the edge and move in a circular
motion around the perimeter of the Chemex opening.
– iii Pour until the water is about half an inch from the top.
– iv Allow it to filter topping off occasionally until you
reach 887 grams.
– v Try to avoid “floaters” by sinking them carefully with
the pour.
– R Allow the water to filter through until the last few drops.
– S Remove the filter and place in the compost.
– T Pour the coffee.
– U Enjoy !
– V Place the optional Chemex glass top on the coffee maker to
help maintain temperature.

IV Notes
– A This procedure makes about 30 ounces of Coffee.
– B Grams of coffee can be adjusted to taste. I recommend using
the range 45 to 55 grams.
– C If the water filters very very slowly, the Grind is too fine.
Adjust to a coarser grind.
– D Time is critical to maintain water temperature within the
optimal range. Have all supplies available. Work steadily
without rushing and you’ll have no problems.
– E The scale is critical for consistency. Once you create the
perfect cup of coffee, you have the recipe.
– F This procedure was developed after observing several Chemex
videos on YouTube, combined with my own experimentation.

V Coffee (in order of preference)
– A List is limited as coffees taste different using the Chemex
method compared to my old Automatic Drip Coffee Maker. My old
database of Coffee preferences is obsolete. The Chemex
difference is in the elimination of the bitter after taste.
– B Ruta Maya Shade Grown Dark Roast
– i #1 with a bullet! $14.99 for 2.2lbs at Costco, great value
– C Columbia Caldas (Starbucks Reserve)
– i Excellent, but expensive
– D Ethiopia Medium Roast (Starbucks)
– i Excellent based on initial tasting.
– E Jamaica Blue Mountain (Starbucks Reserve)
– i I remember this tasting better in Jamaica
– ii Good coffee, but poor value for the price

-- Joe McGowan  

[Peter Schlumbohm, creator of the Chemex coffee maker, was quite a character. A Time Magazine article from November 1946 quoted him as saying, “with the Chemex, even a moron can make good coffee.” – Mark Frauenfelder]

Chemex 6-Cup Classic Series Glass Coffee Maker

Available from Amazon


iFixit Pro Magnetic Project Mat

My family members are prone to dropping their iPhones and cracking the screen. I’ve gotten pretty good at replacing the displays myself, saving a lot of money over the price Apple charges (not to mention not having to wait a week or more for Apple to complete the repair).

As you might imagine, the screws and clips in an iPhone are tiny. If one of drops to the floor, you will never find it again. I bought this iFixit Pro Magnetic Project Mat and it does a great job of keeping all the fasteners in place. It has a dry erase surface to take notes and a square grid pattern so you can organize the components in a way that makes sense.

This weekend I used it while replacing the battery in my daughter’s iPhone 5s (it wouldn’t hold a charge for more than an hour) and it worked beautifully. It has a non slip foam back, which keeps a nice grip on the table. Amazon sells a cheaper magnetic project mat, but I don’t know if it has the same kind of foam backing)

By the way, iFixit has a lot of great videos and PDF guides for repairing many different kinds of electronic gadgets.

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

iFixit Pro Magnetic Project Mat

Available from Amazon

Trendnet Powerline Power-to-Wireless Access Point

Our kitchen is a Wifi deadspot. I’ve tried using wireless extenders, but I think my walls have chicken wire in them, turning every room into a Faraday cage. This Trendnet Powerline power-to-wireless access point) is exactly what I was looking for.

Powerline is a sort-of standard for data networking over an existing electrical system. I already had a Powerline adapter (this one) that’s plugged into my router, so I simply plugged the Powerline wireless access point into an AC outlet in the kitchen and configured it up by plugging an Ethernet cable between it and my laptop. In a matter of minutes, our kitchen had Internet that is good enough for streaming HD video.

The Amazon reviews aren’t great for this, but I’ve had no problems with it whatsoever. Here’s a power-to-wirless adapter for the same price and a better Amazon rating (and also includes the Powerline adapter that you connect to your router), but I haven’t tried it.

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

TRENDnet Powerline 200 AV Adapter Wireless Access Point, TPL-310AP

Available from Amazon

Estes Proto X Mini Quadcopter

I’ve been fiddling around with the world’s smallest quadcopter now for about 2 months, and it’s been great fun! It actually introduced me into the world of remote control quadcopters, and has led to a brand new hobby and addiction. My wife was initially skeptical, until she realized it would get me out of the house occasionally and provide for some much needed “me” time – for her of course.

The Estes Proto X mini quadcopter is an amazing little flying machine to say the least. It features 6 axis stabilization, bright led light indicators, and is ready to fly out of the box (actually you’ll need to pick up a pack of AAA batteries for the remote, and a tiny screwdriver [like this one] to install them).

Although this is the quadcopter that introduced me to the world of quads, I must qualify that it takes practice to become a skilled quad pilot. Good thing is the Proto X is very durable, as I have crashed it on multiple occasions, and broke a few of the blades in the process. The blades are replaceable, but it is a good idea to have ample flying space to avoid hitting walls, chairs, computers, etc… You are able to fly the Proto X outdoors and indoors, but becareful outdoors, as it is not difficult for high winds to carry your mini quad up up and away.

Overall, the Estes Proto X is an excellent cool tool toy, and a great introduction into the world of quadcopters.

Warning: This may scare some small pets or children when flown, as it sounds like a large angry mosquito when airbound.

-- Myron  

Estes 4606 Proto X Nano R/C Quadcopter

Available from Amazon

Rake on Wheels

The Wolf Garden Tools rake scarifier removes moss and thatch from your lawn. The wheels mean the rake maintains the correct penetration. The head swings back and forth to help the rake glide over lawn when pushed, and bite into lawn when pulled. It requires a little strength to rake a lawn effectively – but we all need exercise.

The result obtained by using this tool exceeded my expectations. Within a short space of time, I had raked out quite a lot of moss and thatch. Having one in the tool shed means I can get it out at any time to touch up the lawn. Wolf claim the special hardened blades require no re-sharpening. I have not had it long enough to know if this is true. The handle fits other tools in the Wolf Garden Tools range. The range is extensive and there are plenty of other useful tool heads available. I think it’s brilliant.

-- Alan Readhead  

Wolf Garden Tools Scarifier Rake on Wheels

Requires the Wolf Garten ZMI15 150cm Multi-Change Lightweight Aluminum Handle

Available from Amazon

Sol: Sun Clock

Have you ever wanted to know exactly when the sun will rise or set or know exactly when the sun will be at its peak? This app for iOS will tell you that and more.

The interface is easy to understand and includes data such as sunrise/sunset times and durations and days from/to the last/next solar equinox or solstice. It will determine your current location by default, but you can calculate times for any location on the planet.

The nicest feature is being able to set alarms for certain solar events. I like using sunlight as much as possible and have come to rely on this app as a poor man’s curtain timer. I have set an alarm at sunrise and sunset so that I know when it’s time to open or close the curtains around the house. It changes slightly everyday, but stays in sync with the sun. Photographers will find the golden hour alarm setting useful for knowing the best time for taking outdoor photos.

It’s also interesting to see how much daylight saving time and choice of time zone have skewed the traditional notion of noon (solar noon). I live in Indiana (geographically in the Central Time Zone, but most of the state observes Eastern Time) and during the summer months, solar noon is almost 2 hours later than noon by the clock. (WTF Indiana?!)

While several weather apps now include sunrise and sunset times, the features offered by this app make it it well worth the price.

-- John Grigutis  

Transformer Pencil Case

On returning to university after a 14-year break I needed a pencil case again. I found the Kokuyo NeoCritz Transformer to be ideal as it acts a pen holder in class, at home, or work and when I move around I can just zip it up and walk off without losing pens. Its a really clever solution as the lower half is stiffened so it stands up on my desk.

I’ve has this case for about 6 months now and its holding up really well.


-- Graham Allan  

Kokuyo “NeoCritz” Transformer Pencil Case

Available from Amazon

Time Lapse and Stop Motion HD Video Camera

Interesting doesn’t come close to how incredibly cool this camera is. Exceptionally quick to set up and learn, I’ve been charging around the house and neighborhood taking high-quality time-lapse movies of everything from my cats sleeping to my neighbors going about whatever it is neighbors do.

The camera is cute, 4 1/4″ H x 2 1/2″ W x 1 3/4″ D. With batteries it is less than 1/2 pound and solid as a rock. Tripod mount on the bottom, but it sits very steadily on four rubber feet. The lens rotates up and down 120° and has settings for 1 second to 24 hours per image. Accessories like a manual shutter release for single frame photography for stop-action, a water resistant housing, wide angle lens, carrying case, and it supports up to a 32GB SD card. To use it, you turn it on, set the timer, point the camera at something interesting and walk away.

While the product information says it comes with a 2GB card, mine came with a 4GB card.

Timelapse Formosa Sunset

-- Frank Townend  

Brinno TLC200 Time Lapse and Stop Motion HD Video Camera

Available from Amazon

Screw Extractor Driver Set

I purchased this set over a year ago to remove a few stripped screws in a water damaged iPhone 4s, assuming I would need to use the included extractor blade. I was surprised to find that the Phillips head was able to remove the stripped screws without any difficulty. Since then the set has been indispensable on several other iPhone repairs. The set also comes with a lifetime warranty.

-- Philip Thomas  

6-Piece Slot/Phil/Screw Extractor Combo Reversible Driver Set

Available from Amazon