Friday, April 1, 2016

Here we go again with the "Sorry I'm a Lousy Blogger" stuff (Unboxing a New Toy!)

Yeah.  Well.  Life Happens!

I'll skip the B.S. Apologies (particularly since I'm not even sure if anybody reads my crap regularly anyway!) and just dive right into the latest Adventure!

QT, the BQ-Ho, bought a brandy-new pellet grill!

I was at the SF Garden Show a couple of weeks ago - mostly looking for inspiration/motivation to get off my @$$ and get my garden ready for spring.  I was also doing "Reconnaissance Work" for me and P - since we are contemplating setting up a ceramic garden-art sales booth at this show, next year.

Turns out, the organizers of the show have taken significant steps to make the show *much* more Vendor-Friendly.  Now attendees actually have to walk through the vendor area before viewing the Display Gardens (and I believe they've lowered the cost for booth-space)...  

Before I get too rambly (HA!), I'll say that the "walk through the vendor space" was a very effective technique because - somehow or other - I ended up getting sucked-into a sales pitch from a Traeger Pellet-grill Rep!

Now everybody knows what a Ho I am, when it comes to good BBQ.  And I have shared some of my Smoking (Mis)Adventures on this very blog.  I'm still limping along with the Pedazo-de-mierda Brinkmann Electric Smoker (did a tri-tip a few weeks ago - came out "pretty okay" - but I mis-timed everything and the meat got cooked before the smoke even got started - ooooops!), but I think I'm about ready to "graduate" to something nicer.  And - much as I hated the "Last hot dog in the ballpark" sales spiel from the Traeger-dude - I did find myself very intrigued over the whole pellet-cooker idea.

Of course, I am not one to spend $400+ on a whim (Well, except for Stormageddon!) (Although it *did* take me a month to complete that Impulse Purchase!).  The Sales-Dude was really... "motivated" (yeah, that's the word!) to sell me a cooker.  Once he determined that my Price-Point was "CHEAP," he focused on trying to get me to buy the Jr. Elite model which is little-more than a tailgate smoker in size. And he kept throwing in "extras" to entice me to buy: Free grill cover!  Cookbook (srsly?!).  I'll even throw-in a 20# bag of pellets...

Long story short:  I didn't buy it.  I wanted something bigger - *and* I wanted to do more research.  

Researching pellet-smokers is kinda like stapling Jell-O to a tree.  Broad assortment.  Many different "features."  Huge price differences (with the general consensus being "You get what you pay for.").  Many websites were surfed.  Amazon (especially the customer reviews),,, were some of the main ones.  There were others, I'm sure!  Pretty mind-boggling, to tellya the truth!

The general gist of  these pellet smokers is that you fill a hopper with hardwood cooking pellets (they look like rabbit food), and there is an auger assembly that feeds the pellets into the cooking chamber.  At the bottom of the cooking chamber is a burn pot which has a glow-plug and fan to ignite the pellets and keep them cooking.  There are also thermometers incorporated into the unit that create a feedback loop.  Basically, you dial-in the temperature you want, and the thermometer tells the auger to deliver more (or less) pellets to the cooker in order to maintain the desired temperature.

Kind-of / Almost "Set it and Forget it!"  Which is WAY better than having to constantly fuss, and add wood chunks, and hope it doesn't over-smoke, and oh-crap-need-to-soak-more-wood, and is it DONE yet?!

Some pellet smokers have less temperature control (Low-Med-Hi), some have what-are-called PID controllers which are supposed to dial-in temps even closer.  Hell, some have WiFi controls so that you can monitor (and even turn on/off) your cooker from your phone!  It seems that most of the "decent" smokers are gonna start in the $500 range, but you can easily spend thousands of dollars!

Yep.  Mind-boggling!

I ended up going with the Camp Chef PG24DLX - more than ample-enough for the two of us, but still large enough for a Pool-BQ party.  Beer-can chicken oughtta fit in there, just fine.  I bet I could even smoke a decent-sized turkey breast in there!

Some of the "features" that I liked about it were:

  • It does have a dial-in temperature control (160 - 500*, in 25* increments).  It is not PID, however.
  • It has a pellet-purge function
  • Clean-out is pretty simple. Just pull a lever that "dumps" the ashes into a cup (so you don't have to completely disassemble the grill and suck-up ashes after every use).
Size and Price seemed about right.  Big, but not huge.  And under $600 (all-in - including shipping). Spendy, but (I hope) a worthwhile investment!

I bought it from  Got a free custom grill-cover and shipping was quick and free (Not Amazon-Fast, but still very reasonable) - and I am very satisfied, so far!


Man, I have never seen a FedEx driver deliver and disappear so quickly!  He had a huge hand-truck and was able to drop the package on our front step, banged on the door and ran like hell!  Had it been my UPS guy, I have no doubt he would've stuck around and been willing to drop the (very large/very bulky/very heavy) box in my backyard.  Ah well!

w00t!  My new smoker is here!

I grabbed our hand-truck and quickly discovered that it was too heavy/bulky for me to maneuver onto the hand-truck on my own (and Hubs was out of town on business).  I texted my neighbor - to no avail.  Then - realizing that at least the box was up *one* step - I figured that MAYBE I could wrestle it onto our flatbed cart.  Yay!  Success!

I got it to the backyard and waited til late afternoon to begin The Un-Boxing!!

Oh dear, what have I gotten myself into???

Actually, I have to say that this thing was *very* well-packaged, in heavy-duty cardboard and super-sturdy styrofoam.  The cool thing was - once you lifted-off the big upper box/lid, the inner-box (which was highly resistant to my box-cutter) actually doubled as a soft assembly surface.  I gave-up on slicing the cardboard at the corners and, instead, cut the tape that was holding the bottom-box together.  Once the tape was sliced, the box fell-down flat.  Well, it would have - had I decided to assemble it in a large unobstructed area!  Instead, it was leaning-up against my table-legs and trash bins!  I was able to maneuver it around a bit, so it was mostly flat.  But bottom-line: Excellent packaging by Camp Chef because assembling it on cardboard kept me from scratching the hell out of it!

It came with a good, well-written instruction manual.  I'm pleased to say that most of the assembly was "done" before I opened it.  I just had to install the legs, chimney, handle and right shelf.  Finding all of the pieces was kind of fun:  The legs were inside of the cooking chamber.  I didn't figure that out 'til I'd already laid it on it's back.  

She's got leeeeeggggs!
She knows how to use 'em....!
(Sorry - channeling ZZ-Top!)

Nah - all things considered, this was pretty Easy-Peasy to assemble and I did it all myself in less than an hour (with plenty of margarita breaks!).  

Ain't she purdy?!

So yeah - Easy to assemble.  Well packaged. Shipped quickly.  Free cover (sorry no photo of that yet - but it's awesome!).

And since I didn't want hubbie to feel left-out, I let him deal with all the cardboard and styrofoam! See how thoughtful I am?!!  Oh, and then he gets to go 'round and tighten all the nuts and bolts that my girly wrists couldn't tighten sufficiently!

Okay, I think that's enough for one day.  I'll post more - after I finish the "christening" of my new smoker (which is happening today - Right Now, in fact!)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

"Virtual" Real Estate Shopping

Yep.  The blog's called Random Ramblings, so sometimes sh*t just comes outta left field.

Deal with it!

Here's a recent email:

More AZ Real Estate Adventures...

Okay, this one doesn't really rely on pictures so much.

Other than this one:

property photo
Which came with the email and, honestly, looks very appealing to me.

1 acre - horse property - $50K.  Not bad.

So I took the next logical step and pulled up the address on Google Maps and took a Virtual Drive of the neighborhood.  Plus this gives me the chance to check-out the mountain views - are they *really* that close, or did the realtor have a *really* good zoom on his camera, right?

So I checked out the 'hood.  Other than the redneck across the street who's storing his camper shell on the ground in the middle of his horse paddock, the neighborhood doesn't seem *too* bad.  I vaguely recall 'virtual-shopping' this property before, but anyway...

Then I do a Zillow search.  Odd.  It doesn't come up - even though the address pre-filled itself as I was typing (so yeah, I'd looked at this one before)...

Then I head to Trulia.  It shows that the property has been on the market for over 120 days - which seems odd because it *looks* like a nice piece of property, and $50K is a damn good deal for views like that!

Extremely strange that it hasn't been snatched up by now.  Hmmm.....

Then I scroll down and discover a feature that I didn't know Trulia had:

And now I've got "Bad Boys Bad Boys, What'cha Gun Do!" stuck in my head!


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