Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner by Joe Kissell

cover of Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner by Joe KisselIn 2007 Joe Kissell, an able an adept technical writer about all things Macintosh with a serious interest in preparing and consuming good food, turned his geekly technical writing skills to documenting the creation of Thanksgiving dinner. Take Control of Thanksgiving, a guide to planning, shopping, and preparing Thanksgiving dinner is the book I wish I’d had the first time I produced a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

The version of Take Control of Thanksgiving I read has been updated several times since that first version. Using easily understood language, Kissell outlines exactly how and what to do if you’re responsible for Thanksgiving dinner. He covers planning a menu, organizing a shopping list, and figuring out the cooking and prep schedule for a typical Thanksgiving dinner consisting of roasted turkey with gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry relish, candied sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie.

But Kissel doesn’t stop there. One of the basic principles behind Kissell’s how-to guide is that he keeps the need for alternatives in mind. For instance, Kissell, very much aware of the importance of presentation and visual appeal in terms of creating food people want to eat, feels that, properly speaking, a traditional Thanksgiving dinner is built around “the traditional Thanksgiving colors of white, yellow, orange, red, and brown” (TCT 61),  and consequently cheerfully offers not only the “traditional” Green Bean Casserole recipe, but a nifty suggestion for roasting green beans. Throughout Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner, Kissell presents a number of alternates for dishes and cooking styles, and provides for adjusting the menu to suit the idiosyncrasies of guests.

One of the things I love about this book, aside from the easy, comfortable, and clear writing, is that there’s a lot of practical help here. Don’t have time for a day of shopping and a day of prep? Joe’s got that covered. Need to cook for more people? See the section explaining how to scale recipes. Worried about a life that includes six months of turkey tetrazzini? It doesn’t have to be that way, if you use Kissell’s very smart “Deal With Leftovers” advice. Plus, in one of the really, smart, helpful user-friendly parts of the Take Control of Thanksgiving ebook is that the book includes a file of shopping guides and prep schedules ready to print and use. Kissell really does cover all the bases—including vegetarians guests, Tofurkey Roasts, and a homemade Polenta Dome.

It’s very apparent that this is a book written by someone who knows what QA and testing means; these are recipes that have been carefully tested and even adjusted with subsequent editions to make sure that they can be successfully prepared by people besides the author.

Whether you’re an old hand at cooking the bird for friends and family, someone venturing into a holiday kitchen for the first time, or interested in exploring alternatives, there’s something here for you. And if you want something beyond the basics, this is my dead easy recipe for homemade rolls, and my mom’s Pecan pie.

Go download the free 33 page .pdf Take Control of Thanksgiving Sample and read the TOC and excerpts at Take Control Books. Or buy the book yourself in multiple formats for a mere $10.00. Take advantage of the fact that you can download the book in multiple formats, and use it while you’re in the kitchen.

Cooking with Your iPad and iPhone

I have an article up at Peachpit on using iOS in the kitchen:

Using iPads and iPhones in the kitchen may seem a little odd at first, but it’s a natural progression. You might start by using the iOS Notes app to create grocery lists; then you use apps to discover and save recipes. That leads you to enhanced cookbooks and dedicated recipe apps that are designed to be readable and functional in the kitchen. To make it easier for you to cook with iOS, I’ve become a kitchen pioneer, testing iPad and iPhone apps and tools designed for cooking. This article describes some of the best cooking apps and tools I’ve found in my explorations.

Read the rest . . .

Brydge+ with Speakers iPad Keyboard

The Brydge iPad keyboard began as a Kickstarter project. New owners based in Singapore took over in 2014, and the current models are improved. You should look at the Brydge Keyboards Website for a high resolution tour of the Brydge keyboard models. Better still check out this video.

There are three versions of the Brydge iPad keyboard:

• Brydge+ with Speakers $$99.00 USD<
• Brydge+ Speakerless $89.00 USD
• Brydge+ Polycarbonate $79.00 USD

These prices are current as of today; the usual list prices are $149.99, $139.99, and $99.99. The keyboards are compatible with the iPad 2, 3rd and 4th Generations.

Brydge sent me a Brydge+ with Speakers and the Brydge case for the covered iPad for review. I’ve tried two iPad Bluetooth keyboards that function as a cover, the Adonit and the Zagg, and the Apple Bluetooth keyboard. The Brydge Keyboard is, for me, the best of the three. There’s a lot that I like about it, but the primary feature for me is the keyboard feel. The keys can stand up to serious typing, from a rapid typer. While it’s not as comfortable in some respects as using Apple’s standard Bluetooth keyboard, the Brydge is portable, and realistically, the Apple is not.

What’s In the Box

The package comes with the keyboard, a quick start guide, a micro USB charging cable, and shims. The shims are silicon caps that slide over the aluminum hinges on the Brydge depending on whether you’re using an iPad 2 or an iPad 3 or 4.

Setup

The Brydge + is made of anodized aluminum, with a look that matches the iPad case of my iPad 3 exceedingly well—it’s very Apple like in look and in feel. The Brydge has rubber feet on the bottom of the Brydge, and small rubber pads below the keyboard on the palm rest so that the screen of your iPad doesn’t contact the keyboard. Depending on which iPad you’re pairingBrydge iPad keyboard for iPad Air the Brydge with, you slide the shims on the aluminum hinges, then slide your iPad in the slot of the hinges, turning the iPad so the camera and controls are not covered by the hinge of the Brydge.

Pairing With Bluetooth on your iPad

The instructions for pairing the Brydge and an iPad are very clear, and fairly standard. However, the built-in speakers on the Brydge need to be paired separately, though, again, the process is standard and the directions are straight forward.

Keyboard

This is not a standard keyboard layout. It has a number of special function keys for the iPad:

Home

    Displays the iPad home screen

Brightness

    Up and Down keys control the iPad screen brightness.

Keyboard

    Hide/Show Hides or shows iPad on-screen keyboard

Slide-Show

    Plays a slide-show of saved pictures

Search

    Displays the iPad search screen

International Keyboard

    Toggles between international keyboards (Depending on the iPad’s Settings International panel).

iTunes keys

    Previous Track, Play/Pause, Next Track, Mute, Volume Up and Down.

Lock

    Toggles Wake/Sleep on the iPad and displays the Lock screen.

brydge

I really like the responsive feel of the keys on the Brydge. I’m accustomed to using a laptop keyboard, and am quite comfortable typing on an 11 inch keyboard. I adjusted very quickly to the Brydge keyboard. Now, having said that, the first hour or so I used the Brydge, I twice hit the special Lock key on the top right, which triggers the iPad’s lock screen. I very quickly adjusted to being slightly more cautious about which key I hit when aiming for the Backspace key. Some reviewers had difficulty hitting the Shift key, since the up-arrow cursor key is just to the left of the Shift key; this wasn’t a problem for me http://www.macworld.com/article/1164210/macworld-buying-guide-ipad-keyboards.html, but I routinely type on small keyboards. Even placing the iPad with the Brydge on my lap and keyboarding, the Brydge feels solid and stable. I did find myself forgetting that I wasn’t using a laptop in that I would attempt to use the non-existent touchpad, instead of using the iPad screen. I especially like the presence of the standard Mac Control, Option and Command keys; it’s one of the reasons I like Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard so much. It’s enormously efficient to use keyboard commands for Copy and Paste while editing images, for instance. You have the image editing advantages of the iPad’s touch screen, and the advantages of the keyboard as well. The cursor keys are also extremely useful.

Speakers

The sound is surprisingly good, much better than I expected. It’s certainly more than adequate for watching videos or films, playing games or casual music listening. The angle of the iPad seems to affect the acoustics in positive ways. You can turn toggle the Brydge speakers off and on by pressing Control-B on the iPad keyboard. Pressing and holding Control-B will un-pair the speakers so you can pair another device. The speakers don’t automatically pair; you need to deliberately pair them if you intend to use them.

Battery and Charging

Once the Brydge is paired and connected with your iPad, the back of the iPad becomes the top of a clamshell. “Closing” the clamshell by lowering the iPad until it touches the Brydge keyboard works much like closing a magnetic-hinged iPad cover; the magnetic hinge on the Brydge tells the iPad to sleep. The Brydge automatically sleeps if it’s on and not being used for a few minutes. Pressing a key (and waiting a second) wakes the Brydge. Pressing Ctrl and B on the keyboard for a few seconds turns the speakers back on.

I used the Brydge and the iPad for most of my computing this past week. That includes lots of writing, not only blog posts, but email and longer pieces using several apps. The fact that the Brydge supports standard Mac keyboard commands for italics and high ASCII characters makes it easy and efficient for serious writing. I also listened to music, watched videos, and finally, had to resort to streaming music for the last two hours in order to run down the battery and see how long it took to recharge. The recharge to a full battery was a little over two hours. I absolutely believe that casual use would allow the battery to remain charged for weeks.

I am really impressed with the quality of the Brydge manufacturing and design. It feels really solid, though I would have expected a warranty longer than six months. This is by far my favorite of the portable iPad keyboards I’ve tried, and compares very favorably with a quality laptop keyboard. I’m now deeply curious about the low-end polycarbonate model; it strikes me as the perfect companion for a student using the iPad to take notes etc.

For more information, see the Brydge site, and especially, their Brydge FAQs. I’m impressed enough that I’m not only telling everyone I know to check them out, I’ve become an affiliate.

iPad and iPhone for the Birds

Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 1.14.53 PMPeachpit has posted an article I wrote about bird watching and bird identifying apps for iOS: iPad and iPhone for the Birds

This is a great time of year to put up a bird feeder and start trying to identify your local visitors. The beauty of iOS bird ID apps is that not only are they portable (especially those on iPhones), they include color images and and bird songs you can listen to via a headset to help ID all those birds you hear and can’t see.

I notice the my personal favorite bird field guide, The Sibley Guide to Birds, is about to be released in a second edition; I have hopes for a similar update to the The Sibley eGuide to the Birds of North America – mydigitalearth.com iOS versions. Note that there’s a free “Lite” version too.