[For the Love of ‘Fee] The Endless Plight of the Perfect Perc: Stovetop vs Electric

‘For the Love of ‘Fee’ is one coffee-lover’s attempt to machete through the tangle of coffee beans and brews to find an awesome cup of coffee. Juan Valdez follows ME! 🙂

Our electric Hamilton Beach percolator started to eff up in January. Yup, that one; the one I wrote about last June. I thought we’d at least get a year out of the new one. Wow, they really don’t make ’em like they used to. Blast!

We had decided when we replaced the last percolator last summer that we’d need to have a replacement in the cupboard, but we never thought we’d need one so quickly. Then, after Christmas, for a week straight we dealt with cold half-brewed coffee. We can’t have that! What to do when the only two types of electric percolators for sale in Canada are Hamilton Beach and Cuisinart. I’ve had both, and haven’t been able to hold on to one for longer than 2 years.

I can’t say that I have been 100% satisfied with the electric perc as an appliance when they did work. Aside from the convenience of plugging it in and walking away, there are some design flaws with them that aren’t great. They are hard to keep clean. Coffee grounds go everywhere (and I am not sure how when I grind to the coarsest setting…). You can’t submerge them in water for a good soak. In some cases, there are water indicator windows that clog up with coffee that will never see a bottle brush. And some of ’em won’t even fit my lady hand in through the top for cleaning which has been the case with the Hamilton Beach. Simply for those design reasons, my percs have – on occasion – looked like they have been pumping out sludge coffee in a backroom steel mill since the 80s. Nope, plug-in percs will never get the Good Housekeeping seal from me.

Before this latest percolator passed, the hubs and I revisited the idea of a stove top one like we had when we were po’ church mice 20 years ago. Back then, we were donned this new-fangled thing called a stove top percolator…It was aluminum and had these parts that were unfamiliar. I was used to drip coffee makers! But, hey we figured it out. And, it made the best coffee; I had never tasted coffee so good! Looking back, I am sure a lot of the magic with stove top percs is you are in control of the heat and brewing time. Now that we were under the gun with getting a working perc, we pulled out our old Black and Decker drip maker (the backup of the backup ;)) while a search was on for a stove top perc on Amazon.

Amazingly, we found one in a company from Quebec – Fresco. It’s a stainless steel 12-cup perc. And since the hubs has Prime, it arrived in under two days. The experience has been great!

It looks great! No coffee grounds in the coffee! It’s easy to keep clean and it’s dishwasher safe! I have also used some cleaning vinegar to keep the insides in good order.

About the only thing I can say that would make this the PERFECT PERC is if the top knob were made of glass. Fresco thought it was a good idea to use a plastic knob on the top. The plastic cracked up within the first two weeks, and got all stained. WHY PLASTIC, FRESCO?

Others on Amazon are not satisfied with the plastic knob either. But, one guy on there had the right idea and shared he bought a glass knob that fits a wide range of percs. Amazon sells it for $15. Great idea! I found that knob for cheaper – $6 from Home Hardware down the street. Thank you very much! Works like a charm.

NOW I have the PERFECT PERC. It looks awesome and works awesome. Finally!

I concede it does take us 20 minutes to make coffee. Most people would not want any of that, but sometimes if you want great things, you got to work for it. Take that, Tims!

Waiting…waiting patiently for deliciousness


Keeping the coffee hot after brewing is an area that was a sticking point with me and what was preventing me from moving to a stove top perc in the first place: I didn’t want to keep the stove on all morning. But, I was lucky to acquire a big Stanley Thermos that holds a good amount of ‘fee and keeps it hot. So this situation has turned out to be a win-win!

Enjoy your cuppa! I certainly am!


[Book] Into thin air / Jon Krakauer (1997)

Immediately after I finished reading Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer last summer, I was left convinced that Krakauer is one of the great biographical storytellers. The yarn he spun about Chris McCandless still sticks in my memory and refuses to leave! I HAD to read more of his works, so, soon after finishing my review for Into the Wild, I decided to return to my library’s eBook portal once again and download Into Thin Air, his second offering. It’s a story I won’t soon forget.

In 1996, Krakauer was working for Outside Magazine, a publication that highlights outdoor recreation. He was sent on assignment to Mount Everest to write a piece on the over-commercialization of mountain-climbing expeditions. Evidentally, mountaineering is serious business. Companies with major sponsorship deals were popping up. People who could afford the trip got a chance to pursue a lifelong dream in a controlled and supervised environment. An experienced mountain climber, Krakauer was initially planning to climb Everest as far as base camp only; he was never to reach the summit. But, his personal desire to fulfill a lifelong dream of climbing the tallest mountain above sea level trumped all professional protocols, and he eventually convinced his editors that making it to the top would make for a good story. Little did he know that he would experience one of the most tragic events in climbing history. Into Thin Air details the fateful day when eight people lost their lives (four from Krakauer’s team) and many more were left stranded when a freak unrelenting storm blew through during the descent from Everest’s summit.

Into Thin Air is quite an immersive and suspenseful read. Krakauer’s descriptions of the majestic mountain, the crisp thin air, the crunching snow, was rich. The reader also got a look into the lives of a wide cast of mountaineering characters, including Rob Hall and Scott Fischer, duelling leaders of opposing expedition companies, whose big personalities sometimes got in the way of making sound decisions during Krakauer’s trip.

I have never been interested in pursuing the sport of climbing, and Krakauer certainly did not make it appear cool or thrilling. The endeavor is unattractive to me..and frankly a little nuts! At the same time, I can understand the appeal of perseverence that climbing affords; having a goal as hard as climbing a mountain is, how unfathomable it is to imagine reaching the summit. And then the high and satisfaction you get when ticking Mount Everest off of your bucket list.

Into Thin Air was an excellent story – I highly recommend it!


Into thin air / Jon Krakauer (1997)

Other Krakauer titles I’ve reviewed:

Into The Wild


Hanging On to More Hopeful Lists

I have a habit of holding on to things – sometimes on purpose, other times due to forgetting I still had them. Sometimes finding forgotten things is like a Eureka! moment.

A prime example is this past Christmas when I went to put the decorations away. Every year that I have put decorations up, I end the holiday by hastily packing up decorations and throwing them into storage – sort of like to say that the Holidays are over – thank God! – let’s clean this crap up and move on. It’s been at least 10 years since I took the time to take inventory of what I have. This year was different, though. This New Year’s Day, in the quietness of the day, I took the time to go through some Christmas stuff – organize it, lovingly pack it up, and be ruthless to the point of purging pretty much a whole container’s worth of it. It felt great going through it all.

Sometimes though, finding stuff can trigger some no-so-great memories.

In one of these serendipitous clean-ups, I came upon an old spiral notebook that originated from my first “grown-up” office job out of college and it dredged up a feeling or two… In this job going back a long time ago, I was an electronic media intern for a company funded by the provincial government that was responsible for creating and distributing curricula online to high schools. It was new technology that was slow to gain traction (hard to believe that online education is pretty prevalent now). The gig was my first taste of office politics and micro-management. The notebook reflected this, as it was filled with lists upon lists of tasks to complete, weekly accountability sheets, instructions on office rules, and personal pep-talks to curb my daily rising anxiety with working under what one would consider an authoritative environment.

The head of the company was a tenured high-school teacher seconded to CEO of this company, and his ego was way too big for his britches. He would breeze in and out in Bermudas, change up some rules just in time to take his mandated nine weeks off in the summer to go sailing, and then whisk away to leave the minions (me) under the thumbs of 9 other people who should never be managers… in an office of 16. Being the leader really seemed to go to this guy’s head. Protocols he created were severe and unfriendly. It was tough, because I was a Yes Ma’am, yet everything I seemed to do was wrong, and I’d get pulled in for a talking down weekly. I was trying to be a good and attentive employee, but their instructions were constantly confusing and unreasonable. They were very hard to please.

We worked in an open office environment – basically an open room full of desks without partitions. One of the protocols the Boss established was insisting that employees call each other on the phone instead of conversing in person, even though we were sitting across from each other. Having central auditory processing problems, I often have a hard time understanding people on the phone as it is. Being able to converse face-to-face was important to overcome this hurdle, so I was living in Hell.

I lasted at this company short of six months, and felt free when I quit. As I happily moved on with my life, I wasn’t surprised to learn from an ex-colleague, the funding ran dry and the company closed down a couple of years later. Having a taste of what I consider the worst job allowed me to appreciate and put into perspective the good things in my challenging career today.

I still have my old notebook from my days working at my most hellish job; the remaining paper now used to keep track of Dominoes scores and scribbling hasty errand lists. A more hopeful list comes from 2010 when I had a voracious thirst for Hidden Object games and needed to keep track of the titles to ensure I didn’t play the same game twice (because, let’s be honest…the titles start to sound the same, the plotlines are similar…). I have replayed and reviewed several of these games for this blog! Not only is this page important to me to recall what I played back then, but if you turn the page around, you’ll find something else equally nostalgic…

The page represents a typical day working for the Hell company. It lists accountability tasks of the day as well as instructions on how to answer the phone if we received a call for the CEO…

The note says, “Boss is VERY particular. If Boss is here OR not, get person’s name, phone number and reason for the call. Give Boss the option of taking the call. You may disturb him in a meeting, but be patient with him.”

How can one live up to those instructions?

What I think is important to remember is this page represents discovery on two fronts – while on the job side, I was trying to wade my way through a challenging business culture, preparing me for the future, while on the gaming side, I was trying to dig my way through this gaming thing. I can say I am still learning – on both fronts! But, I am certainly having a better times navigating it all! It’s a good reminder that life’s journey is for learning – in good and bad – and it shapes you. I appreciate what I have now, in my life and career, and continue to find pleasure in a good video game.

[Review] Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst (Nintendo 3DS / PC)

The Mystery Case Files series is an extremely popular and far reaching series that is mostly known among casual gamers. I have played several and reviewed three. Any of them I have played, I have enjoyed, and I thought it was high time I investigate other MCF games in the series. This time, we will look at Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst.

Ravenhearst tells the story of a mysterious mansion in England with a past. Inside is the long lost diary of Emma Ravenhearst who tells her tale of love and loss. Her story is slowly revealed as her diary pages are released to you after you have solved hidden object, jigsaw and elaborate domino-effect puzzles. The mansion’s many rooms and grounds are unlocked to reveal further puzzles to solve, and you must beat the clock as each puzzle gives you a time limit (I loathe time limits – what for??).

Having played several PC games as of late, I was feeling a little like my Nintendo 3DS was being neglected, so I decided to play Ravenhearst on the ol’ hand-held. It’s a game I originally bought on the Nintendo eShop. I knew going in that this was a port from PC game, released on the 3DS in 2013 (the original is from 2006 on PC), but took a chance that maybe some independent developer spit-shone it clean to make it a not-so-terrible experience (maybe?).

As I have been repeating like a mantra, ports to the Nintendo DS and 3DS are often not great, and unfortunately, this game was NO EXCEPTION. Dude, I had to make an appointment with my neurologist after playing Ravenhearst on the 3DS for an hour – eye strains and migraines abound. Each hidden object scene had objects appearing too small and blurry like smeared poo. To make it worse, the music was poorly mixed here. In one scene, I could tell where the music looped from the obvious digital “pop” I heard over and over. Really bad. I had to quit before finishing. It was a game for the senses, and not in a good way. Maybe the PC version is better?

Luckily, I hoard boxed PC games, and found a copy of Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst in my collection. I recollect a few years back, buying the Mystery Case Files boxed collection from EB Games. Once I wiped the dust off of it and loaded it onto my PC, I was ready to go to town on Ravenhearst.

Except…the game did not get along very well with my PC’s graphics card as it flashed incessantly all over my TV. After much fiddling with resolutions and compatibility modes, the only way I could get Ravenhearst to stop flashing was to play the game in windowed mode as opposed to full screen.  The mechanics and gameplay are pretty much the same in both PC and 3DS versions, although things do look better on PC. Having to play in windowed mode however, objects were small, which can be fixed by using the Ease of Access Magnifier. Still, I found playing the game a tad uncomfortable this way.

Once I got it going, Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst was an ok hidden object game for its 2006 release, if a little stale. In similar fashion to other HOGs I have played, this one offers the same scenes to search, the same objects to search… which can be a bore, especially when what you are rewarded with are diary pages to a story that is unengaging. I think this one does suffer the ravages of time especially since the genre has had a long time to hone its chops and I concede that latter Mystery Case Files games have done this a lot better. Moving on…

Nintendo 3DS (2013) – 1.5 / 5
PC (2006)- 2.5 / 5

Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst
Big Fish Games

*NOTE: Images are from the PC version of the game.

Now for other Mystery Case Files I’ve reviewed:

MCF: 13th Skull (PC)
MCF: MillionHeir (Nintendo DS)
MCF: Malgrave Incident (Wii)

[Review] Drawn: The Painted Tower (PC)

I first reviewed Drawn: the Painted Tower in October 2013, just when I started to gain traction with this blogging thang. Back then I wrote that I had just started playing adventure games three years previous…people, that was 8 YEARS AGO!!

In the summer of 2013, the hubs and I traveled to Barrie, ON to Video Time, where I found, among other dusty games, Drawn: the Painted Tower in box for $5. The artwork attracted me instantly, as well as the fact it was a Big Fish Game which was my main gaming wingman back then! This was not the first time hearing of Drawn…the game was held in high regard as one of the must-play adventure games in the casual gaming community. At its release in 2010, Drawn: the Painted Tower arrived right at the dawn of the casual gaming “golden era” when hidden object adventure games slowly began to show some decent production value with story, graphics, artistry, menu design and…most of all great puzzle play. It was a slow climb from the pixel dregs, but Drawn: the Painted Tower really gave casual gaming producers a run for their money.

Having already played it, I sort of ignored the Steam bundle sales of three Drawn games for one low price that kept popping up periodically. But, then the price of the bundle last summer became way too good to pass up. Having reviewed it over 4 years ago now, I thought it wise to take another look at Drawn: the Painted Tower. Glad it did!

Iris is a little girl who has the ability to make her drawings come to life (sort of like Simon and his chalk drawings, but this game is a lot more elaborate). She is living in an oppressed and evil kingdom, whose king would like nothing more than having Iris’s powers for himself. Her family sends her into exile to protect her. She goes into hiding in a tower she has constructed in her drawings, making even more paintings in the tower to hide in as well. There you are tasked with finding her in the labyrinth of mazes and gorgeous paintings to save her before the king finds her.

From the first title screen, Drawn: The Painted Tower was nothing but beautiful, sad, and absorbing, with a lovely soundtrack to match.

An interesting twist is being able to enter Iris’s living paintings to explore, find necessary tools and solve important puzzles. The gameplay is linear, yet I did find there was quite a bit of backtracking and some pixel hunting. However, hints are given along the way, as well as a task list to complete, so there is no question as to what you need to do next. The puzzles were not your typical fare, and are memorable; one that I particularly loved was where I got to mix paints and then use them to paint a wooden toy and stone carving!

When I originally played Drawn: the Painted Tower, I had written that I finished the game in under two hours…that can’t be right, unless I am losing my touch or they expanded on the story, because this time it was over 4 hours for me, but it was time well-spent. If you ever find the opportunity, play Drawn: the Painted Tower – I recommend it!


Now to play Drawn’s two sequels!!

Drawn: The Painted Tower
Publisher: Big Fish Games
Released: 2010

[Review] Voodoo Whisperer: Curse of a Legend (PC)

Lillian is a young girl growing up in 19th Century New Orleans; a place steeped in traditions of Black Magic. Lillian has been cutting her witchcraft chops with famed Voodoo Whisperer, Marie Leveau…and good thing, because Lillian’s friends and family have just become possessed by an evil demon and it’s up to her to save them from certain fate. Given a trusty recipe book, Lillian (you) scours the town for important ingredients to blend together using a mortar and pestle. A little alchemy…a little chant…maybe a voodoo doll…and poof! She breaks the spell.

Voodoo Whisperer: Curse of a Legend is a hidden object game that had been long forgotten about at the very dingy bottom of my Steam library, and its purchase was likely a flash Steam sale in 2014. I chose to play this one on a whim.

Developed by Gogii Games, Voodoo Whisperer tries hard to do something a little different with the hidden object genre. Sure, there are the familiar puzzles we often see with this type of game. But, being somewhat of a period piece set in the 19th century, Voodoo Whisperer never deviates from the epoch. It provides a good ambiance in decent graphics and enjoyable classical music (great oboe!). It helps too that hidden object scenes have you searching through objects of the time period (monocle, cane, felt hat, lace hanky) which shows great attention to detail.

Speaking of…Kudos to the developers for providing  an on-board magnifying glass so you can zoom in on the hidden object scenes. And, how about that in-game map? Applause!

With all these accolades, I still had a problem with Voodoo Whisperer…in that it got a little repetitive. In the game, Lillian had to save at least 5 people, and each one had a spell she had to break by finding ingredients to create a potion. The game indicates areas to search, but some areas had you look into drawers, closets and rooms only to have the game tell you “there’s nothing there” or “it’s just an empty drawer…” What? Why waste my time with that? There was also a lot of back-tracking to find certain missing ingredients which got tiresome and frankly tedious. With the outcomes of breaking the spell being the exact same with every person, I found myself hoping the end would come soon and that it would all be worth it.

Let me tell you, that ending…

Folks, the end of Voodoo Whisperer left it at quite a disturbing cliff-hanger and concluded with a “…to be continued…” slate. Reading online, there was supposed to be a part 2, but the project has been shut down indefinitely as the developer and publisher parted ways. Too bad, because the ending left Lillian in quite a terrible predicament.

[spoilers spoilers spoilers – (scroll over the area below to see)]

Lillian falls into a well, only to have an evil spirit seal the well head with a wood cap…leaving Lillian in peril.

[End of spoilers spoilers spoilers]

Overall, Voodoo Whisperer had some great gaming elements that I wish other HOG developers would implement. And about the tedium, I admit some people don’t mind the repetition in gameplay that this game offers. I only wish the developers followed through with their plan for sequel, because that ending! Yikes!

2.75 / 5

Voodoo Whisperer: Curse of a Legend
Gogii / Strategy First

[Review] 9 Clues: The Secret of Serpent Creek (PC)

The year is 1953. Journalist, Helen Hunter, reporting on the town of Serpent Creek’s yearly festival, noticed something amiss with the townfolk. For one thing, they seem to be moving around in a catatonic state. She discovers there may be a link between their behaviour and that Black Mambi drink the festival keeps pushing on the festival-goers. Funny thing though, the creepy mayor and the sheriff don’t seem affected. Helen, your best friend, almost gets to the bottom of this weirdness. But, she smells corruption, and knows she is being trailed. She fears for her safety. While on the phone with you to convey her fears and share this odd story, she is stolen away to parts unknown.

Determined to find her, you take to this snake-bitten town, looking for Helen in the hopes of finding her alive. Little does the town know, you are a sleuth with a nose for the truth; these corrupt enforcers who took Helen don’t know what hit ’em! And while you search for Helen, you discover a whole bunch of snake oil with this mayor. There is more than just a creepy air to him, but sooner or later, he “sheds his skin” to reveal his true self.

9 Clues: the Secret of Serpent Creek was sitting in my Steam Library since 2014, and it was high time I got to my neglected list of games already! A hidden object adventure game by Tap It Games, it was a short but sweet journey of under 4 hours. Now, it isn’t a very difficult game at all…the hidden object scenes are not challenging, the puzzles are simple to figure out…but, sometimes, you don’t need a big challenge to enjoy a game. 9 Clues arrived at a good time following my confused experience playing the last game, Insane Cold: Back to the Ice Age. This game had an interesting story with a linear sensibility that curbed confusion. In fact, I didn’t hit the Hint button once playing this game.

The graphics in 9 Clues were superb, giving the atmosphere an eerie dark vibe. Although the puzzles were the usual HOG fare (fix the pipe, untangle the cord, make all the lights green…) I didn’t seem to mind the repetition here, perhaps because the game had elements not often seen in casual games that added some enjoyment. How about a map where I can click on geographic areas and teleport to that area instantly – 9 Clues had it. Or achievements? Casual gamers like achievements too!  9 Clues had that! The achievements for what it’s worth are attainable (for example, solve the game without hitting the Hint button, and you get one). About the only negative comment I have for this game is the sound-acting; which was a little wooden, but at least it wasn’t used in every scene.

Ultimately, 9 Clues: the Secret of Serpent Creek is a simple but mighty hidden object game  that is worth your time. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and highly recommend it! I only wish I didn’t wait so long to play it!


9 Clues: the Secret of Serpent Creek
Tap It Games / Artifex Mundi