Thursday, December 22, 2016

Willow Creek Northshore Church - 2016 Christmas Service

My wife and I attended the first Christmas service at the new church building at Willow Creek North Shore this evening.  As always, it was a wonderful program filled with music and worship.  This was the first of four services that will be held for this year's Christmas!  The worship team did a great job as usual and the message from Pastor Steve Gillen was very appropriate as well.

The new building is very interesting.  It's a circular building with huge windows on either side of the main auditorium that open up into a courtyard.  You can see one side of the auditorium with Christmas trees in one of the photos above.  Be sure to visit the church one day during one of the worship services!

Images were taken in manual mode on a Nikon D4 and Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VRII lens.  I was located at the back of the sanctuary.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Lodge 3.5" Cast Iron Skillet - Perfect for Homemade "Egg McMuffins"!

I made my own "Egg McMuffin" using my very small Lodge 3.5 inch skillet. Flipped it over onto a Griswold #3 to fry the second side. Too bad I didn't have some sausage to make it a Sausage McMuffin! But with just scrambled eggs, American cheese and a toasted English Muffin (buttered), it wasn't too bad! 

I start out with oil in the small Lodge skillet. Usually, it's too much oil in there, so then I drain it by dumping out the heated oil onto the Griswold #3. After the egg has set up in the small Lodge, I flip the egg onto the oiled Griswold. I could use butter, but since I butter the English muffin, I don't bother to butter the skillets and use vegetable oil instead. I found the key is to use low to medium heat on the skillets (like any other cast iron). I used a medium sized egg, but I really think even a small sized egg would work for an Egg McMuffin. I use a small silicone spatula to help guide the egg out since my other metal spatulas are too large.

Photos taken with an Apple iPhone 6s+

Below is a comparison of the Lodge 3.5 inch skillet to a Griswold #3 and Griswold #8 skillet.  Plus, I had to take a photo of the 3.5 inch skillet with a sunny side up egg in it too... just so it looks like the Lodge logo!  There's also a photo of one that I made with a ham slice, so honey mustard for sauce, an egg, cheese and an English muffin.  Not bad!

Monday, December 12, 2016

iRobot - Roomba 805 - Roomba 880

The iRobot Roomba has been around for about 10 years, but I finally got one for our home.  It works great!

I purchased it from Costco and it's the Roomba 805 model (I believe this model was made just for Costco members.)  It's really just like any other 800 series robot, but they include two Dual Mode Virtual Wall Barriers so you can keep the robot away from vacuuming certain areas.

I found that the Roomba vacuums in a very random pattern and it takes about 1 - 1.5 hours to finish before it heads back to its charging base.  I watched a number of YouTube videos and found that perhaps the $499 Neato robots actually do a better job at vacuuming in a more orderly pattern and also do it quicker.  But what worried me was the numerous reviews of the Neato products indicating that they tended to break down.  Not good.  So, while the Roomba does not move in an orderly pattern and takes longer to vacuum, I decided it still might be the better choice.  The two 900 series iRobot Roombas move in the same orderly pattern as a Neato, but they cost $699 and $899.  They also have WiFi ability, but I don't really need that.
The Roomba 805 is normally $399 at Costco, but they had it on sale for $50 off, so it's not a bad deal at $349.  But if you are not a Costco member, look for the 800 series of machines at Bed Bath and Beyond and get theirs at 20% off with one of their coupons.  The Roomba 860 machine sells for $499.99 but has a $50 discount at $449.99 this holiday season.  If you take off 20% with the coupon, that brings it to $359.99!  The main difference in the Costco version and the one at Bed Bath and Beyond is that the Costco version comes with TWO Virtual Wall Barriers whereas the one sold at Bed Bath and Beyond comes with only one. The Costco version is the better deal.

The Roomba goes from room to room and covered most if not all of our floors on both levels of our home.  The sad part is that you need to pick up the machine and bring it upstairs and downstairs if you want both levels cleaned.  Some people buy two Roombas so they don't need to do that, but that's just too costly for us!

I highly recommend the iRobot Roomba, but this is not a device for any home that has a lot of things like power cords on the floor or for people with kids who have lots of toys like Legos on the floor.  You need to keep the floors spotless of these types of things so the robot won't try running over it and damaging the item or itself.

Done on a daily basis, your floors will be very clean!  It's programmable so you can have it clean while you are away at work.  I have programmed our Roomba to vacuum on the lower level of our home on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  We will vacuum the upper level on Thursday and Sunday.  This is a lot more often than we would ever vacuum the home manually ourselves!

Many people name their Roombas, so we named ours "Rosie" after the robot from the cartoon, "The Jetsons".  It seemed appropriate to name it after the futuristic "maid" who cleans for the Jetsons! 

Update:  The thing I've heard most from people who have considered a traditional vacuum over the Roomba is that the traditional vacuum is a lot more powerful than a Roomba.  That's true.  But consider that the Roomba can vacuum daily without you doing anything whereas you'd probably not want to do that yourself with a traditional vacuum.  The fact that you do it daily could mean that you would have a home that is more consistently dust free whereas you might wait a week before doing a manual vacuuming.  On the long run, your home would be cleaner on a daily basis.

I have also heard from others that they don't consider the iRobot Roomba a vacuum, but rather a really good sweeper.  I would have to say I agree with that observation.  The Roomba doesn't really suck up, but rather sweeps the dirt into the machine.  Still, it does a very good job of that!  Call it what you may, but it is still a very good machine.

Update: See my update on the Roomba by clicking here.

Here is a site that compares various robots that might be interesting to you:


Also, I know many are searching for information on the Roomba by looking at this blog post, but let me also highly recommend a product for your home that would greatly enhance the security of your deadbolts.  It's called the Flip Guard and you can read about it here:  

Here is a link for it as well on Amazon:

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Etekcity 1080 Laser Infrared Thermometer

I purchased one of these Etekcity 1080 Laser infrared thermometers on during their Cyber Monday deals and have been having a bunch of fun measuring the temperature of all sorts of things!

I check the food in my refrigerator and freezer, just to see if it is at a safe temperature.  I check the heat distribution on my cast iron skillets and dutch oven.  I check the temperature of the food in the skillets and dutch oven too!  When the weather gets good again so that I can cook on my Weber grill, I'll check that too.

Even when not on sale for Cyber Monday, at a regular price of $17.88 on Amazon, how can you go wrong?

I use a ThermoWorks Super-Fast Pocket Thermometer when measuring the internal temperature of foods while cooking and recommend their products highly as well.  It's great to be in control while cooking!

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Chicago Cubs - World Series Champions 2016

Better late than never, but I finally got my 2016 World Series Champions cap!  Go Cubs Go!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Oak Creek Power Plant and Racine Harbor

Fished both the Oak Creek Power Plant and Racine Harbor today.  No luck.  Got rained on too!  And I had to stay up late since the Cubs' and Giants' third playoff game ran 13 innings.  Cubs lost  :(

These images were taken with an Apple iPhone 6s+.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Final Day in San Francisco

I went back to Ocean Beach in San Francisco to watch surfers and shore fishing.  Nobody caught anything, but I watched anyway.  The surfers had some good waves, but most were only riding for a few seconds.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Ocean Beach San Francisco - Golden Gate Bridge

Views from Ocean Beach in San Francisco, CA.  The iconic bridge makes for a great post card photo every time!  Spent the whole day there just taking in the scenery.  The Navy's Blue Angels were flying in formation over the bridge today.  At least the planes looked like theirs!  They were blue planes with yellow markings... kind of like these I took at the Air and Water show in Chicago!

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Alcatraz - "The Rock"

This was my third visit to Alcatraz.  I've been to a Juvenile Detention Center, City and County Jails, and holding cells in Police Departments, but Alcatraz is the only Federal Prison I've ever been to.  Each one feels similar to me, but Alcatraz has its own unique interest due to its history.

If you ever get to San Francisco, don't miss the Alcatraz tour.  And be sure to get locked up in solitary confinement to see how it feels.  Totally pitch black darkness and locked up with no bed to sit on.  You only have a toilet in there.  You get a mattress to sleep on, but after you wake up, they take that away.  And if you are especially bad, you don't even get a mattress!  Plus they strip you naked.  So if you want to sleep and not freeze on the cold cell floor, you have to sleep standing up and lean on the wall.  See those doors to the right on the bottom image?  That's solitary confinement.

The second image to the bottom shows TWO cells, not one.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

More San Francisco Images

Images from Ocean Beach in San Francisco, California.  I guess I just like the ocean since I gravitate to water all the time!  Saw some guys doing some surf fishing!  Made me wish I had some gear with me so I could give it a try.  Maybe someday.  These images were taken with my Apple iPhone 6S+.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Splash at Racine Harbor

Gets a little wet when fishing sometimes!  Image was taken back on September 13, 2016 with a Lumix DMC-LX5 camera.  Racine Harbor at Racine, Wisconsin.

San Francisco - Oct 3, 2016

Saw this elderly Chinese gentleman playing a traditional Chinese instrument called the Erhu at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco today. A lot of people took his photo but didn't give him a tip. I dropped in my tip... twice! Another guy was paying a nylon string guitar several hundred feet away, but was amplified. He got tips. I also tipped him, but only once.  I think he kinda overpowered the Chinese man.  Come on!  It's San Francisco!  I think I'd rather see the Chinese man play!  Although the guitarist was rather good playing Flamenco Guitar...  Interestingly, later that day, I saw another street guitarist hanging around to listen to the guitar guy.  That guitarist only had a steel string guitar with him that was not amplified.  Not too good either.  I think he was scoping out his competition!

The top photo was also taken at Fisherman's Wharf.  Sailing with Alcatraz in the background!

By the way, doesn't the guy with the guitar remind you of Heisenberg from "Breaking Bad"? (Image borrowed from the internet)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Salmon from Racine Wisconsin

Once again, my friends Gayle, Jim and I went fishing at Racine Harbor in Racine Wisconsin.  Gayle got there before us around 3 AM and we got there around 3:45 AM.  Ken, a friend of my brother's arrived later, perhaps around 6 AM.

By the time we arrived, Gayle had just caught her first male King Salmon (Chinook Salmon) which weighed in at 9 lbs!  She said it took her by surprise...

Her King Salmon looks a little strange in the photo where she is holding the fish with the scale because it had been laying on the ground for several hours and blood had already pooled in certain areas causing the skin to look a bit different (lividity).

Jim and I both had a fish on our hooks, but we lost them.  Ken did not get anything today.  Later, I helped another angler out there net his 4 lb male King Salmon and he gave the fish to me to keep.  (We originally thought it was a Coho, but my cousin-in-law identified it as a small King Salmon.)  Jim and I brought it to my home and cooked it up on the barbecue for lunch using soy sauce with brown sugar, ginger and green onions.

We decided to keep the fish whole rather than fillet it like we usually do and then we put it in a pan on the barbecue.  The fish was great, just like my other fish last week!  By keeping the fish whole, we had less loss of meat due to filleting.

I also cooked up some fried rice using my new wok and 65,000 BTU burner.  That rice cooked up in less than 4 minutes!!  The wok is FAST with that much heat!

It was a colder day fishing out there today with some drizzling, but we survived.  Just before we left, we saw a double rainbow!  If you look closely, you faintly see another rainbow to the right of the larger one.