Tagged: geeking out

Cheap Kablet for your Kitchen Cabinet

It’s been some time since we’ve had a kitchen technology update, not since the the two-port usb kitchen, in fact. So pull up a chair and I’ll tell you more than you wanted to know about how I installed a dedicated kitchen tablet.

My people call them "tomahtoes"Every now and again, via some design, gadget or kitchen blog, I read about some fabulous new gizmo for using your ipad or other tablet in the kitchen. By and large these things make me laugh.

Specialized kitchen tablets seem foolishly overpriced and not all that specialized. Kitchen ipad holders are not so different from old-fashioned cookbook holders, just more expensive and sometimes far less well designed. Maybe these work for some folks, but I just don’t see it – mostly they seem to be terrible wastes of that most precious of kitchen resources, counter space.

If you’re going to have a tablet in the kitchen, it seems to me it should be mounted on the fridge or a wall or a cabinet, roughly at eye level as you work.


So I hatched a plan: try out the idea of a kitchen tablet with a cheap android tablet and mount it to the cabinet door with by some means that will leave no trace when I move out. This device will carry a handful of apps that will make cooking and cleaning up in the kitchen a little more convenient and pleasant.

Hardware & Installation

I hit a minor snag as a surprising number of “white” tablets (of course it has to be white, the kitchen cabinets are white) have black bezels on the front. Ultimately, I settled on the expansively-named iRulu X1s -Quad Core 7″ Google Android Tablet, HD IPS Screen, Quad Core (4* 1.4Ghz), 1G RAM, 8G NAND Flash, Bluetooth, Android 4.4, Google Play Preinstalled, Hottest tablet for 2015 -(White) for $66 and picked up some Command Picture Hanging Strips too. These things, by the way, contain some seriously weird and wonderful material science.

These Command Picture Hanger things are amazing.

Knowing that I wasn’t likely to actually experience the advertised 3 hour battery life on this device, I planned to keep it plugged in at all times. Luckily, I found an open outlet inside a nearby cabinet – if you have a microwave or convection oven mounted above your cooktop, there’s a good chance it’s plugged in to an outlet installed nearby for that purpose. Unluckily, the white iRulu X1s comes with two white micro-usb dongles and one black micro-usb AC charger. At some point I’ll have to paint it white or cover it up with some white electrical tape or something.

Lucky for me there was an outlet in the upper cabinet

So there you have it, a small and cheap but fully-functional tablet just about at eye level above my primary prep space, the two feet or so of counter between the oven and the sink.

Breakfast of champions: toast with avocado and chia seeds, served with iced coffee in a peanut butter jar

Software & Apps

As cheap as this tablet was, it contains a slightly more recent version of Android than my phone, which cost a bit less than 10x as much. It also has a refreshing lack of the crud that mobile phone carriers glom on to their Android devices. These are the apps I’ve installed for kitchen use:

Kitchen Timer. There are a lot of timer apps, and I didn’t spend too much time shopping around. This one’s free, has two timers you can configure with different sounds, and if you ignore the ton of buttons on the left, it looks nice enough.

Kitchen Timer App

There are a ton of recipe and nutrition apps, but for now I’m skipping them. I downloaded Chrome (why is Google Chrome not installed by default as the browser on Google Android devices?) and will most likely view recipes and other info there.

Colcannon in Chrome (it was delicious)

For shopping list management, I was already using Wunderlist on both my laptop and phone so that whenever I actually remembered something I needed, I could quickly add it to the list and have that list in my hand at the store. Accessing the list in the kitchen seems like good sense.

The other killer kitchen app, at least for me, is audio. There’s already a radio in there perma-tuned to NPR, but sometimes what’s on is not what you’re in the mood for. I added Google Play Music and NPR One. I thought the hardware would let me down on audio, especially since the tiny speaker is on the back of the device that I just mounted to the cabinet door, but the air gap created by the mounting strips seems to be just enough. It’s not hi-fi but it’s good enough for the setting.

Kablet Home Screen

And finally, in case my meal plans go down the drain, perhaps literally, there’s Foodler. I made a point of not setting up mail and instant messaging clients, but of course one could.

Summary of Findings

For well under $100, I’m pretty proud of this kablet. I can definitely see how a larger screen would be helpful, as scrolling while cooking is a bit of a drag. The cheap tablet is, well, cheap, and I’d be a little worried about how well it would hold up as a child’s tablet – neither build quality nor computing horsepower would likely be up to the task – but it seems quite sufficient for the limited role I’ve assigned it.

Having the grocery list always right there in the kitchen might be the most life-changing part of this install, since I’m prone to completely forgetting that I used the last egg the instant I leave the kitchen.  I’ve cooked up a few meals already with the recipe on screen while using the timer and music apps, and it’s working well. It turns out that music helps make washing dishes easier, too.

If I were the owner of this kitchen and handier with tools, I could see possibly mounting the kablet permanently in the cabinet door, and definitely running the power cable through some holes to get it out of sight.

I’m not a very messy cook and the tablet is probably far enough from the stovetop and sink to get splashed or spattered, but maybe a layer of plastic wrap would be a smart addition to the setup. I’m not about to buy a fancy kitchen ipad stylus, but I will report back at some point if vegetarian sausage can activate a capacitive touch screen.

Fun-sized statistics that melt in your mouth

I’m told that there are treatments available for those of us who are compelled like to count and sort our candy by color before eating it. I can stop any time I want, of course, but today’s fun-sized pack of M&Ms gave me pause.

This Unit Not Labeled for Individual Retail Sale

No yellow. There’s a yellow guy on the package, but he’s a peanut M&M. Do the regular chocolate ones still come in yellow? Yes, they do, but not in this pack. What are the odds?

Well, assuming that the little packages are filled from an effectively bottomless vat of M&Ms representing the official color distribution (24% blue, 14% brown, 16% green, 20% orange, 13% red, and 14% yellow) and that every fun-sized pack has 17 candies like this one, the odds of no yellow should be (1-p(yellow))^17, or 0.84^17, which is about 5.16%.

In a much more rigorous and costly investigation, the estimable Josh Madison bought 48 packages (larger than mine, each had an average of 55 candies) of M&Ms and ran the numbers. No word on the number of pepcid tablets he needed, but not one of this 48 bags was bereft of any single color. Madison did, however, find that the actual distribution in his sample was not so close to the published ratio, with a lot less blue and more of all the others, especially green.

On the off chance that you’re still with me, I bet you’re wondering, “ok, professor chocoholic OCD, is there something I can use here?” Well, I think there are two ideas worth remembering if you’re in the business of counting or estimating or forecasting things:

Size Matters. Sample size, that is. If you based your view of the M&M world on my single 17-candy packet, you’d have a pretty messed up view of reality. If you used one of Josh’s 55-candy packs, you’d be a lot better off, but even with 48 such packs, you’d have only partially cracked the code.

Seemingly Rare Events aren’t always as rare as you think. Intuitively, a small pack of M&Ms missing a color feels like a rare thing – how often have you seen it? But the math puts it at 5%, one pack in 20. Huge businesses are built on the preferences of market segments smaller than 5% of the population. The United States contains about 4.5% of the world’s people.  And sometimes rare events are even rarer than you think. What are the odds of picking up a fun-sized pack that’s all blue (the most common color by the official stats)? Do you think that would be 100 times rarer, maybe 10,000 times less common than no yellow? How about 0.0000000029% or about 1 all-blue pack in 34 billion, compared to 1 pack in 5 for yellow-deficiency? If all 400 million M&Ms made each day were put into 17-candy packs, they’d make only 8.5 billion packs a year. That would be a rare event.

The odds of a rare event happening are 1.0 after it happens. No matter how crazy it might seem, events with long odds can happen, and once they happen, they have happened. You could choose to believe something’s not right in your calculations or in the world, and you’d probably be smart to check. But once the all-blue pack is in your hands, there it is. Just remember that the odds of getting another one are just as small as they were before.

So think hard next time you put M&Ms into some kid’s trick or treat bag. Who knows what might happen?

Three and a half hours in a single step, more at the pole

We all know that parallel lines never meet, and it’s convenient to think of the lines of longitude and timezones as parallel, but they really aren’t. The former because they’re inscribed on the (more or less) spherical Earth, and the latter because they’re entirely made up, a construct of how we measure time. This trippy insight, acquired whilst contemplating the stunning entirely of Bruce Myren’s 40th Parallel project at Gallery Kayafas, led me to some interesting trivia about time zones.

Also, I was trying to sort out lead assignment for various shifts of telesales reps, but that’s a lot less interesting.

Leaving aside the puzzlement that is the International Date Line, it turns out there are places where you can travel more than one timezone at once, and relatedly, places where three timezones converge at a single point.

Take for example the convergence of Norway, Finland, and Russia. At that point you can hop from UTC +1 in Norway, UTC +2 in Finland, and UTC +3 in Russia, if the border guards let you. There are some similar spots in the middle of Russia, if you want to do the Time Warp without crossing international boundaries. The CIA has an awesome timezone map available in PDF, from which these are clipped:

Three timezones in the North Lots of timezones to the West of China

China has just one time zone from end to end, even though in neighboring counties, that span covers several time zones. So when leaving China to the West, you can go jump back two hours to Kazakstan, three to Kyrgyz-, Tajiki- and/or Pakistan, or even three and a half hours, to Afghanistan via the treacherous Wakhjir Pass. The web of timezones that are more or less than a whole hour from their neighbors make South and Central Asia even more confusing.

I thought that 3.5 hours was the biggest jump possible, and wikipedia says it is in the above linked article, but I think it’s more complicated that that. Around the South pole, in Antarctica, in theory all time zones would converge on that point, but that would be very tricky on a practical level.

It turns out that various parts of Antarctica observe a range of time zones from UTC -6 through UTC +12, and the borders of these zones could cause some even bigger jumps in time for people there, if they were ever to traverse those frozen boundaries.

Time in Antarctica, via Wikipedia

I got a headache (and maybe brain freeze) looking at this, but I think you can gain or lose at least ten hours going in and out of the inland zone, which is oddly labeled “Vostok” which I’m pretty sure means “East” in Russian (Восток). Which way is East at the South pole?? Without even opening the can of worms that is Daylight Saving Time, let’s just say you’re going to need more watches than you wore back in the 80s.

Not confused enough? Check out the largest island in a lake on an island in a lake on an island. If you’re already there, please send me a postcard!

Rooting for an e-ink tablet

I’ve been a huge fan of E ink for ten years now.  I visited the company’s Cambridge office back when I was in business school and was very impressed with the technology.   So when the original Kindle hit the market a couple of years ago, I was very interested.  Not interested enough at that price, but soon enough competition and innovation brought us the Nook and touch screens and front-lights and more.  But they were still just ebook readers, and readers that locked you into their makers’ stores.  And that’s why their prices have fallen so far, too.

Recent versions of these devices have been based on the Android OS, and that has opened them up to rooting and other monkeying around.  So I figured with the release of the Kindle Paperwhite, I might catch a cast-off Nook GlowLight on the cheap and see what I could hack out of it.

An ebay auction, a few google searches, some downloads, a micro SD card and complete willingness to brick the gadget all added up to this:

Not bad, eh?  Well, there are some clear pros and cons I can see from using the device for just a couple of days:


  • I’ve got a wifi tablet running Android for under $100
  • It’s nice and light, easy to hold, and the battery lasts a long long time
  • I can still use the native Nook software, including the GlowLight thing (it works during regular Android operation, not only when reading Nook books)
  • It was pretty easy to do, and if you didn’t ignore the bit about making a backup (I would certainly never do that!), pretty easy to undo if you change your mind


  • The Android OS is stuck at version 2.1 and not quite all the stuff works
  • Many apps are not available because of the old version, don’t work right for whatever reason, or are simply unusable because…
  • The display is really not good for tasks involving color, scrolling, animation… much of anything besides reading black text on white or vice versa – it’s pretty low-contrast and has a very slow refresh
  • Although it can run the Kindle software (ha!), it won’t run my killer app, Google Books (but you can export Google Books to epub files and pull them into the Nook)
  • Things you’ve come to expect in a phone/tablet – GPS, auto-rotation to landscape mode when you turn the device, sound, vibration for haptic feedback – are just not present

In short, it was a fun project, but it’s not really the ultra-light, battery-sipping, cool monochrome tablet I envisioned when I first got to see e-ink technology.  And I’m guessing that nobody really wants to build such a thing for a few weirdos like me.  After all, you can get a regular  7″ Android tablet with color, sound and an up to date OS for about $200.

Mappy diversion: the 40th parallel, Ana Ng's Peruvian lover, and globe-spanning sandwiches

I’m back from a trip almost halfway around the world in terms of longitude, but a pretty short hop in latitude. A weather diversion on the way over brought me to Oklahoma City airport, what would have been my second time ever setting foot on Oklahoma soil, but as you may have the misfortune to know, a “diversion” means you don’t get off the plane, at least not until the passenger bill of rights two hour limit expires.

That’s the long way around to say, I thought perhaps I was near the 40th parallel, the subject of the estimable Bruce Myren’s photo project and kickstarter campaign, which is widgetized at right. I was off by at least five degrees of latitude, which shows my level of familiarity with the middle of this country.

Which brings us back to maps. (Bet you didn’t see that coming) Here’s another clip from the Great Circle Mapper, which I touted some time ago. They’ve made some spiffy improvements. I often think of flights to Asia from the central USA as going “over the pole” but it seems that this one didn’t even break the arctic circle. Of course, the great circles mapped are the most direct routes, not necessarily the actual flight paths.

That’s a good 15,000 miles and will likely leave me soulless for almost two weeks. Thoughts of global mapping also bring me back to a vintage limeduck post where I wondered about the places alluded to in TMBG’s Ana Ng:

Make a hole with a gun perpendicular
To the name of this town in a desktop globe
Exit wound in a foreign nation
Showing the home of the one this was written for

These places, I’ve learned, are called antipodes, and it turns out that it’s pretty unlikely that any town in the continental USA has a dry land antipode. If we assume that Ana Ng is in Vietnam, then the song’s narrator could be in Peru. Locating Ana in various other parts of Asia can put the singer in other parts of South America, but with more than 2/3 the globe covered in water, there just aren’t that many inhabitable antipodes. So you don’t have to shoot your globe. Kudos to the smarties at Free Map Tools and Antipode Map for making this sort of cutting-edge research so easy, and also to the ever-alert Strange Maps blog.

In case anybody is still reading, I’ve got to bring up one more map-related wonder, the Earth Sandwich. According to Ze Frank, the creator (discoverer?) of the Earth Sandwich, “An EARTH SANDWICH is created when two slices of bread are simultaneously placed on opposite sides of the EARTH.” An excellent bookend to TMBG’s ballistic approach to antipodes, I think. If you happen to be reading this on a boat in the Indian Ocean Southwest of Australia and have bread and cheese, I propose we create the first Earth Grilled Cheese Sandwich.

120,000 blocks to Samarkand

In places like New York City, you can easily measure distance in blocks and people generally know how far that is in miles or minutes. In New York City, everybody knows that Manhattan street blocks are about 20 to the mile, and most New Yorkers can walk about one such block per minute.  Tourists travel a fraction of that rate and really should have their own lanes.  Avenue blocks are less reliably spaced but they run about 1/4 mile each.

In less griddy places like London or Boston, a block is not always a block, so it’s less of a useful measure.

If you’re getting sick of my New York City centric pondering, you’re really going to hate this next bit.  The estimable Harold Cooper has created a marvelous map mashup that extends the Manhattan street grid to “every point on earth.” It’s called extendNY, of course, and I think it’s awesome. Of course.

Now I can always know how many blocks away something is, using my beloved standard Manhattan blocks, even when not in Manhattan.  I must say, I never thought I’d be spending so much time on the Upper East Side.  I shall henceforth refer to the MBTA 1 bus as the 3,524th street crosstown, or the M3524.

For extra cartogeeky credit, check out what happens to the grid in Uzbekistan, which I shall henceforth call the North Manhattan Pole.  That’ll teach you to slap a rectangular grid on a round thing.

My squabble with Typography Scrabble

I like Scrabble, I like the Oxford comma, and I like typography.  So why does the a new Scrabble set for Typographers (or at least people who like type) have me so out of sorts?   For those not hep enough to know, Typographer’s Scrabble is a redesigned Scrabble set getting some design blog love these days.  It’s got several great features and one terrible flaw that just plain ruins it for me.

The Typography Edition has a lot going for it that has nothing to do with typography, and honestly, not a lot to do with Scrabble either.  It comes in a birch-covered walnut box and the game board is made up of six magnetically-attached cork-bottomed sections. This is winning major points with me on materials – wood and especially cork are favorites.   The board itself is nice enough but I’m a little worried that the treatment of the grid and the double/triple score spots is a little too low-key and therefore harder to read and use than the orthodox version.  But I’m ok with all of that.

What I’m not ok with is the “typography” part.  It’s not clear to me if each of the 98 letter tiles is printed in a different font or if there’s a smaller number of fonts distributed across the letters. I can see that at least some letters come in different fonts.  What we have here is not typography, it’s ransom note.

Bear in mind that anybody trying to “do” typography on a Scrabble board has an uphill battle.  Typography is not just letterforms, it’s the way letterforms work together in words and paragraphs.  In Scrabble, you have  no paragraphs or even sentences.  You have only words, and only capital letters. The spacing between letters is defined by the grid of the board, which rules out ligatures and leads to some pretty awful keming.  About half of all Scrabble plays go vertically, and hardly any fonts look good doing that.  All of those characteristics of the Scrabble game board are pretty much barriers to good typography.

Does that mean you shouldn’t try?  Certainly not.  In fact, in what I believe to be the origin of this idea, designer Andrew Clifford Capener proposes that you could buy his Scrabble set with the font of your choice or that you might even buy additional font packs.  I think that would be a much better idea than this ransom note nonsense.  Unfortunately the edition being marketed for pre-ordering now has only the ransom note available.

So, if I ran the zoo what I would do here?  Well, as I’ve outlined above it might be a fool’s errand to do typography in the confines of a Scrabble board.  But if this blog isn’t about foolish quests, what is it about?  With that in mind, I have two semi-contradictory ideas for better Scrabble typography:

1. lowercase it. I like lowercase letters for the legibility.  I DO NOT MUCH LIKE UPPERCASE IN GREAT QUANTITY.  [On a total tangent, if you visit the grave of e e cummings at the Forest Hills Cemetery you’ll learn his full name and see that his family didn’t much care for the lowercasing.]  Since Scrabble word plays exist in a vacuum outside of sentences, who’s to say they should be capitalized or not?  I realize there are practical problems with the varying heights and ascenders/descenders in the lowercase world but it might be interesting to try lowercase, it certainly would be fresh and different.

2. Choose the right font for the job. As in any design project you need to pick what works, not your pet concept or what you think will win you an award.  Redesigning a Scrabble board includes making a playable game. Given the constraints of the board and how the game is played, I’d probably go as close to a monospaced font as possible although maybe not all the way.  (Designer Capener’s nice minimal website is done in Courier, a bold choice for a website if you ask me, but a fine candidate for a Scrabble set.) Maybe something with a slab serif.  Ideally the font would fill the almost square Scrabble tile well to reduce the uneven letter spacing, and work passably in vertical play.  Poster Bodoni could be a fun choice.

Will I pre-order typography scrabble for $200?  As of now, there’s only 39 sets left out of 1,200. Would I pay $200 for a set that addressed my issues above?  I’m thinking probably not, since I already own three scrabble sets that I don’t use enough.  Perhaps I’d buy a new set of typographically enhanced tiles for a lot less money.  In any case, I hope that board game makers will pay attention to the possibilities raised here for better design and better materials in game boards.

Are you Rear Admiral of a landlocked navy?

I am a cartography nerd.  I like maps.  I like globes.  I like pondering questions like “what countries have land borders with just one other country?”  (There are 17 such nations, including two mutual pairs and two Italian enclaves. How many can you name without consulting a map or intertube?)

It was while pursuing just such an item of trivia that I stumbled on the turgid wikipedia entry, Navies of Landlocked Countries.  Just my kind of thing!  There are 10 countries floating such navies.  Most are small but all have the distinction of being independent branches of their nations’ armed forces.

  1. Azerbaijan
  2. Bolivia
  3. Central African Republic
  4. Kazakhstan
  5. Laos
  6. Paraguay
  7. Rwanda
  8. Serbia
  9. Turkmenistan
  10. Uganda

These are not all as totally loony as you might think. Three have coastlines on the Caspian sea (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan), three have major border lakes (Bolivia/Titicaca, Rwanda/Kivu and Uganda/Victoria), and four float their navies on big rivers (Laos/Mekong, Paraguay/Paraguay, Serbia/Danube, CAR/Ubangi). Imagine if you will, an independent landlocked Illinois having a navy on Lake Michigan or on the mighty Mississippi.  But one of these landlocked navies stands out to me for its Quixotic irredentist nature: Bolivia.

Sure, Bolivia’s navy patrols Lake Titicaca – which is about half the surface area of Lake Ontario, the smallest of the North American Great Lakes – and keeps its shores safe from drug smugglers and invading Pervian frogmen.  But the real reason for Bolivia’s navy is the hope that one day they will float free in the Pacific, an ocean whose coast Bolivia lost to Chile over 100 years ago in the War of the Pacific.  That’s right, generations of Bolivian sailors have come and gone, motoring about on Lake Titicaca (I never get tired of typing that), pining for a chance to chip off a chunk of Chilean coast and ply the Pacific.

I don’t mean to make light of a nation’s historical wounds or dreams, and I commend Bolivia for not taking any rash military action against Chile, but don’t you think that maintaining a navy is a bit much?  Does inner tubing around Lake Titicaca really prepare you for the Pacific Ocean?  Or does focusing the nation on regaining lost coastline take people’s minds off other problems?

At any rate, I’ll conclude this curious cartographic lesson with a deeper head-scratcher:  what impossible dream are you devoting resources to?  Are you to be commended for holding fast, or mocked for living in the past?

Goog line extension

I was excited to hear that Google maps had finally added Boston’s public transit system.  Now you can get directions around Boston for driving, walking, and public transit.  Of course, the MBTA website has been providing a trip planning service for some time.  So I figured I would compare the two services recommendations.  Too lazy to do anything particularly scientific, I asked both to tell me how to get from limeduck world headquarters (a secure undisclosed location in Central Square) to Modern Pastry in the North End at 8:30pm tomorrow.  The variance is shocking.

Another kind of Green Line Extension, seen at North Station

The defending champ, the MBTA Trip planner coughed up two suggestions:

  • Red line to Orange line to Haymarket in 23 minutes
  • Red line to Green line to Haymarket in 28 minutes

This pretty conclusively reinforced my preference for the Orange line to the Green, even if it means an extra stop on the Red.

The contender, Google Maps, brought four different routes, although two of them are essentially identical.

  • Red line to Green line to Haymarket in 19 minutes
  • Red line to Downtown Crossing, then walk the rest of the way in 22 minutes (duplicated with different Red line departures)
  • Red line to Green E line (at Symphony) to Haymarket in 37 minutes

Both sets of times include the walking time on each end.  I don’t know which of these plans is more accurate.  I have to believe that the MBTA should know the schedule better, but I also believe that Google might be reporting more realistic data.  Both systems agree that the Red line departing Central at 8:33 will arrive at Park Street at 8:39, but it all goes haywire after that, with a whopping nine minute difference in estimating the same trip, with Google saying it’s quicker to hoof it than to take either of MBTA’s Green or Orange legs.

I checked, the Orange line does show up in some Google routes at different times, but it looks like it doesn’t arrive very often, which might skew things.  Google’s last suggestion is so off the wall that it makes me doubt the whole system – take the #1 bus down Mass ave past the B C & D Green line station at Hynes and the Orange line station at Mass Ave to get on the E branch of the Green line at Symphony??  Feh.

Poor Google, has Boston’s beany maze bested your mapping mojo?

Processing those food photos with Photoshop Elements

The last three posts were all about choosing the right digital camera for photographing food.  Despite that, we all know that what you do with the equipment is the important part.  Here, I present a pretty simple set of steps for making decent blogworthy photos from whatever camera you have.  Some steps refer specifically to features of Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 for Windows (currently in version 7 for Windows and some other version for Mac), which I recommend highly.  It’s not nearly as full-featured as the CS version, but it’s more than sufficient for our purposes, and it even has some convenient “auto” features not found in the professional product.  I have both, but use Elements almost exclusively for my blog photos.

Here’s a sample photo of a succulent duck leg from J’s kitchen with turnip puree, potato threads, onion strings, wild rice crispies, broccoli rabe and a veal sauce.  It’s fresh from the camera, unchanged except for resizing.

(A quick note on reszing: know how big in pixels you want your picture to be ahead of time, it’ll save you some hassle and grief.)

First thing I do is crop the photo.  Sometimes it was perfectly composed in the camera, but not often.  I’m a stickler for keeping the original aspect ratio, but that’s up to you.  Here it is cropped in just a bit.  This is also a good time to resize to your final desired dimensions.

Next, basic color and contrast correction.  If you really want to, you can adjust a lot of different things separately, but in Photoshop Elements, I usually just use “auto smart fix” which is sufficient in the majority of cases.  I’ll talk another time about advanced color repair for those candle-lit shots.

The change is subtle in this case, but you can see some change in the white of the plate and the green of the broccoli.  The next step is a little vague, but here is where I touch up anything that still looks off.  Sometimes this means using the clone stamp tool to eradicate a stray grain of rice.  In this case, I used the burn tool to darken some of the distracting elements in the upper background, notably that lemon.

Almost there.  The final step (and its important that this be the last step in most cases) is to use the Auto Sharpen function.  Just to be clear, photoshop cannot actually sharpen a blurry photo, it’s just an approximation.  But I use this even if the image is already sharp (which is rare with low-light hand-held pics) because it brings up the highlights in wet and juicy textures common in food.  See for yourself.

Got it?  Don’t worry, I’ll review some of the tools at the end.  Here are slices of the above photos for some side-by-side comparison.  The final result isn’t far from the original, but you shouldn’t have to do a lot of post work just to get servicable blog photos.

  1. Original photo
  2. Crop and resize
  3. Auto smart fix
  4. Touch ups
  5. Auto sharpen

That doesn’t look to hard, does it?  Here’s a screenshot showing the Enhance menu where most of the functions I refer to are located.

Good luck, and have fun with it!