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Cool tools for school

From a 7-day alarm clock to a blender express. By Teri Goldberg

Let’s get real. College students have come a long way from pop tarts (requiring only a classic toaster) and tang (just add some tap water) as late-night snacks. These days, the Foreman grill, even when contraband, is the norm, and bottled water is standard fare.

Of course, some kids will bring along top-of-the-line blenders, bread machines and even flat-screen televisions, none of which are necessary. But a few new gadgets could make dorm life just a little bit more “civilized.”

Rise and shineGetting up in the morning seems to be a challenge for even the most tech-savvy students, especially when their schedules vary each day. But no more. The Neverlate 7-day Alarm Clock is designed so that students can set a different alarm for each day of the week. Physics at 8 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday? English lit, Tuesday and Thursday at 9 a.m.? No sweat. Just turn a dial to display that day of the week and set a time with another dial. Saturday/Sunday sleep in. Forget about it. But there is a snooze feature, to extend those precious REMs for 1 to 30 minutes. There’s also a nap button, which can be set for 1 to 120 minutes, to catch some much-needed zzz’s, say between a class lecture and the lab.

The boxy clock, encased in silver-and-black plastic, also has a cool design characterized by the company as “retro yet modern with a clean look and a small footprint.”

Priced at $35, the clock is sold at American Innovative, Think Geek and Linens 'n Things brick-and mortar stores. It may just be one of the best investments in your college student’s future.

Hot java or tea
Coffee machines in dorm rooms still may be “illegal.” But coffee in a pot may be ancient history. One alternative to brewing coffee into a pot is Hamilton Beach’s Brew Station. The brewing technique is similar to traditional drip machines — pour in water, add coffee and flip a switch. But instead of dripping into a pot on a burner, the coffee is stored in the machine. To dispense, press up against a lever that releases the java into cup or thermos. Brew Stations hold up to 12 cups of coffee, enough for an all-nighter or a large study group.

Low-temperature heating technology prevents the coffee from getting “burnt” when sitting on the burner. There are also four brewing modes: normal, decaf, flavor plus and 1-to-4 cups. Unlike traditional coffee machines, the brew station makes iced coffee — you supply the ice.

The Deluxe model retails for $79.95 and features a programmable clock/timer with adjustable auto shutoff. Brew Stations are sold at department stores and house ware shops nationwide, such as Kohl’s, Sears, Target, J. C. Penney and Bed, Bath & Beyond.

What are even trendier than coffee-by-the-cup-on-demand are pod machines, which makes one cup at a time. Melitta’s One:One Pod Brewing System even lets the home barista select European- or American-style coffee. Pressing the European style button yields a 5-ounce cup of a slightly stronger than the American style at 8 ounces.

Once again, brewing is not that different from traditional drip machines, except of course the pod. Simply put, pods are individually wrapped sacs of coffee, which come in a nitrogen-flushed foil pouch to maintain freshness.

In addition to java pods, there are tea pods. Coffee brews in less than 60 seconds. Tea takes less time at about 25 seconds. The wonders of the new technology are such that you can make iced coffee or tea.

The pod machine, which comes in black, white, red and mango, will match almost any dorm room décor.  Priced at $49.99, Melitta’s One:One is sold at department stores and houseware shops nationwide.

Disadvantages to the pod machine include: 1. It has to be primed before use, if it has not been used for three days; 2. The pods are pricier at $4.99 for 18 pods than buying coffee or tea in bulk; and 3. You’re limited to Melitta’s coffee and tea blends.

In the end, does the Brew Station or the One:One make a better cup of coffee than the old drip machines? Not necessarily — at least I didn’t notice a significant difference — but they are so much more fun to use, and look quite cool on the counter.

Something salty, sweet, smooth
Even in the cyber age, you can’t go to college without popping some corn. This year’s hot popper is Cusinart’s PartyPop Popcorn Maker. The retro-style popper makes up to 10 cups (1/2 cup of kernels and 1 tablespoon of oil) in five minutes. You supply the corn and the oil. Watch the corn pop into the clear plastic container mounted on the stainless steel base. An auto shutoff device that ensures the heater will turn off when the popping is complete. Flip the 4–quart bowl and serve.

In theory, the popped corn is healthier than the microwave variety, at least according to company literature. It’s a bit pricey at $49.99 but who knows? Watching corn pop may even be more entertaining than turning on the tube or surfing the Net.

You can go to college without making a blended drink but dorm life would be so much smoother with a blender in toe. One of the best deals out there is Back to Basics Blender Express. Designed to make smoothies, at $19.99, it’s a no-brainer. I mean, how much does a smoothie cost? In New York City, smoothies start at $3 to $4 a pop or more.

It’s also simple to use and takes up little space. Just throw some juice, a little yogurt and fresh fruit into the 24-ounce clear plastic container, which mounts onto the base of the machine, and pulse, then spin on low, then high. Voila! Drink straight out of the travel mug or pour into a glass.

Also suited for dorm room décor, the express blender comes in white, brushed chrome and blue.

A few tips: Freeze the fruit. Makes a huge difference. The container bounces around a bit when you first start pulsing, so at least initially, hold the top of the container with the palm of your hand. Stick to healthy, nutritional ingredients and hopefully you’ll live a long, healthy productive life. And of course, study hard!