Archive for August, 2010

Friendly oven mitts

30 Aug

Happy oven mittsMost oven mitts are either utilitarian (functional but undecorated) or are decorated in some bizarre country farmhouse motif. I took plain oven mitts and made the kitchen a little friendlier by giving them an easy makeover with buttons for eyes. If you’ve ever made a sock puppet, you should be smacking yourself for not having thought of this one.

A cutesy, childish craft? Of course. Effective in producing smiles and chuckles from folk of all ages? You bet. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted in Art?, Kitchen


Eat Poo, You Cat – A party game that people actually like

23 Aug

Party games have upsides and downsides. On the upside, they add structure to a party, helping break the ice and turning strangers into new friends. On the downside, most people HATE party games (or at least think they do). That’s because they haven’t played the goofy game I like to call “Eat Poo, You Cat.”

This little drawing game is equal parts Pictionary and Telephone and will keep any group of five or more entertained for at least half an hour. It’s great for parties of all kinds because it is easy to learn, fun to play, and non-competitive; the game is all about the experience and reviewing the oft-ridiculous results. I learned this game from a newspaper column by Orson Scott Card (a great author of speculative fiction); as he puts it, the ridiculous name is taken from a “particularly hilarious final caption” from a game session long ago. You’ll understand once you play it. Read the rest of this entry »


Build a camping stove from empty cans

16 Aug

When I’m camping, I much rather build a fire than fuss with a camping stove. A campfire becomes a center for the evening, while a stove is efficient by nature and doesn’t provide much of a hearth. Still, there are places where wood is scarce (wood-gathering is illegal in many state and national parks), and a lightweight stove is essential for many backpacking trips.

All a camping stove really needs to do is burn some kind of inexpensive fuel to heat a grill, a pot of water, or a frying pan. Punching careful holes in an empty can makes a perfectly functional stove that can burn all kinds of cheap fuels like mineral spirits (available at every hardware store in the country). I made the stove pictured here from a pair of aluminum cans. It actually burns so hot that can melt cheap aluminum grills; it left permanent dips in my backpacking grid after I let it cook a little too long. How’s that for do-it-yourself value?

My stove mostly followed this model, which combines aspects of the models described here and here. I left it unsanded and unpainted, so you can really see the seams where the parts come together. The flattened can top acts as a simmer ring; when it is placed atop the stove, it cuts off most of the jets while letting a limited flame come through the hole. You can also just build a second stove with fewer holes to use only for simmering. The stoves are so lightweight and cheap to make that having two of them isn’t a big deal.

If I were to make a new one today, I think I would follow the Super Cat design, which is so simple that it cannot fail. There is also a variation known as the Simmer Cat that would suffice for slower-cooking recipes.


Eat your own cereal, not Kellogg’s

10 Aug

Bowl of cerealEveryone I know has breakfast cereal in their house. I can’t assume this is a universal trait, but there’s something wholesome and American about a bowl of cornflakes, not to mention great pleasures in Chocolate-Frosted Sugar Bombs and the like. It’s more fun to eat a breakfast cereal you invented than one someone else invented. I’ll tell you a secret, too: it’s easy.

Having been a near-connoisseur on the breakfast cereal scene in the late 1990s (I’m surprised you haven’t heard of me), my gluten-free diet put shocking limitations on my cereal options. After all, tasty gluten-free cereals are few and far between…and never cheap. It also stinks to buy a $5 box of cereal only to dislike it on the first bite. Desperate, I went the organic-health route and found making my own blend was easy, delicious, and cost-effective. That’s a rare win-win-win. You don’t even have to go gluten-free to see the benefits of mixing your own cereal. Read the rest of this entry »


Make a bottle of mint juleps

03 Aug

If you want a mint julep, the easiest thing to do is to tackle the nearest gentleman in a white suit and hat. In the rare event that you aren’t at a horse race and can’t find any southern gentlemen to relieve of their beverages, you could make your own at home. In fact, you can keep an entire decanter of mint juleps steeping in your liquor cabinet at all times. It’s a good way to talk yourself out of a duel with a pistol-packing Colonel Sanders, especially if you just knocked him down and stole his drink. All you need is a bottle and a desire for sweet, minty whiskey. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted in Recipes