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Archive for September, 2010

Chalkboard drawing: “Reservations”

30 Sep

ReservationsIt didn’t take long for this reminder to make dinner reservations to turn into unkind social commentary. Enjoy the mid-week palate cleanser.

Context: I’m a fan of having a “landing strip” near the front door for storing keys, wallet, mail, and similar things that people need to grab before leaving the house. I recommend Ikea’s LUNS chalkboard/magnetboard as a great, cost-effective option. Besides hooks for keys and a storage space for everything else, it also provides a place to leave messages, shopping lists, or anything else that you can hang up with a magnet or draw with chalk. In my house, the chalkboard oscillates between simple reminders and a venue for the macabre. It’s like Pictionary (or “Eat Poo, You Cat”) based on a to-do list.

See more chalkboard drawings

 
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How to make magnetic LEGO® blocks

26 Sep

Magnet and postcardLet’s just admit it: magnets are fun. There is something inherently entertaining about playing with invisible forces that satisfies the inner child that still longs for Jedi powers and hoverboards. Therefore, I pounce on any chance to buy cheap magnets, and I never throw a magnet away without trying to find a new use for it. I recommend you do the same.

I think Lego® blocks are just as irresistible as magnets, so combining the two is win-win situation. I insist on high-quality, entertaining magnets on my fridge, and these meet my standards (as usual, my rules for what is entertaining or high quality are exacting and bizarre). Read the rest of this entry »

 

The best dart-style paper airplane you’ve ever met

19 Sep

Some paper airplanes do loops and tricks. Some glide lazily along from the weakest toss. This one? It’s a hot rod, a competition-winner streamlined for speed and distance. It’s a simple design perfected over many bored geography classes in my middle-school years. It has narrow wings, so it cuts through the air rather than gliding atop it. Grab yourself a standard piece of letter-sized paper (8.5″ x 11″) and follow along to make your own. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Make flavored ice for instant cocktails

12 Sep

Flavored ice cubesManhattan in progress

Ice-cube trays are far more versatile than they get credit for. When it comes to cocktails, ice cubes containing liqueurs, coffee, or even chunks of fruit have an advantage over regular ice: they add flavor to your drink rather than watering it down. I’ll give you three good examples:

  • Maraschino cubes: Put a Maraschino cherry and a generous splash of the accompanying juice into each section of an ice-cube tray and top the tray off with water. The cubes will freeze solid, although they will have a softer consistency than pure ice cubes. A few cubes in a glass of soda can make a cherry Coke or a Shirley Temple, complete with a cherry at the bottom. For a cocktail party, you can make instant Manhattans by serving bourbon and bitters over a Maraschino cube in a snifter or other small glass. By the time you finish your drink, you’ll have a delicious whiskey-soaked cherry for dessert.
  • Coffee cubes: Save old coffee and freeze it in an ice-cube tray. You can keep iced coffee cold (or even faux-Frappuccinos) without watering it down. Coffee cubes are also great additions to creamy or Kahlua-based drinks like White Russians, making them a hit at Lebowski parties.
  • Lime cubes: This versatile cube can go in all kinds of drinks, from Coke to tonic water and from whiskey to vodka. Just take an ice-cube tray full of water and add small wedges of lime to each compartment before freezing.

Shirley Temple

The possibilities go on and on. Flavored ice is great for parties and punch bowls but also for day-to-day treats. I make batches of various flavored ice cubes periodically and keep them in separate containers so the trays can get back to making regular ice.

Embrace the ice-cube tray! It has a lot more tricks to come.

 
 

Cider Recipe – Panda Beer

07 Sep

Panda beer in bottles

Time for a darker, richer cider! The Panda Beer has a more well-rounded flavor than the Shane Classic, owing mostly to the use of brown sugar and honey as sweeteners instead of white sugar. This basic recipe has repeatedly been the favorite at every cider tasting I’ve run, despite the fact that it has little relation to beer and even less to do with pandas. Try it out for yourself.

(If you’ve never brewed before, you may want to start with the equipment review, the review of possible ingredients, or the basic brewing procedures described here.)

Ingredients:

  • 5 gallons Kirkland apple juice
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 cups honey
  • 2 Camden tablets (150 ppm)
  • 1 packet wine yeast (I like Lalvin D-47)
  • 2 Tbs. malic acid
  • 1 tsp. wine tannins
  • Dissolved in two cups of warm water and added right before bottling:
    • 2/3 cup priming sugar
    • ½ cup lactose
    • ½ cup maltodextrin
  • Honey is reluctant to dissolve in cold water, so I suggest heating up a couple of quarts of cider on the stove and stirring in the honey until it is a smooth mixture. Otherwise, follow standard brewing procedures.