Spring is technically here but we still have some cold nights ahead before things warm up so I’m going to tell you about one of my very favorite things in our house: the heated rug. Our living room has this cotton chenille shag rug for a few reasons: it wasn’t terribly expensive, it’s easy to clean (I’ve only spilled wine on it twice but both times the splatter was spectacular and far reaching) and it’s very comfortable to sprawl out on with laptops or game controllers. And most importantly it nicely covers a rug heater, which is glorious on cold nights.
When we were looking for houses to buy our realtor seemed to have heated flooring on the brain because she suggested putting in heated floors in every other place we toured. When we moved in I looked into installing heated floors and, whoa, it’s expensive. So I did the next best thing and got an under rug heater. There are a few options out there and we went with the SpeedHeat Rugbuddy which we got from Amazon (affiliate link). It has made the last three winters much more cozy. We have an open plan area around the living room so I can’t tell if it heats the room up but I can say that after a while I’m warm enough to take off a sweater, especially if we’re camped out binge watching something or if we’re sitting on the floor playing a video game. I love it and have found myself recommending rug heaters to a lot of people this year.
Some details: We have the 3’x5′ and it’s large enough for the area in front of a couch but I do wish we’d gone for a larger version. The mat will shift around under the rug as you scoot an ottoman or coffee table back and forth so do use rug tape the way the instructions recommend. I put a heatproof fabric between the heater and the room’s carpet (not needed, but I’m paranoid), I use the fabric that is sold to insulate ironing boards which I found at a local fabric store. The rug heater plugs into the wall (our cord is hidden under the couch) and has an on/off button. I cannot say with any certainty that it’s saved on heating bills, but I can say that we are much less likely to turn up the heat in the house if the area around the couch is warm. They come in in several sizes (up to 8’x11’!) and I’m considering getting this 3’x2′ mat for under my desk.
I’m really, really glad we bought this. It’s seems silly but it makes me very happy.
· comments  · 03-28-2014 · categories:the home ·
secret-ish art adventures | Ask MetaFilter.
The Exploratorium’s Tinkering Studio and new book! – Boing Boing. I loved the Exploratorium when we lived in San Francisco and am looking forward to seeing it’s new space next time I go back. Which will be any day now. Promise.
2 Lanes, 1 Life: The America Far From the Freeway – Pacific Standard. Her description of driving through the Palouse makes me want to take another Washington road trip.
What’s the best credit card for saving for a trip to France? | Ask MetaFilter. The advice given here applies to travel in general and there are lots of great suggestions for which cards are worth signing up for.
the UGC: Austin, Keeping it Gluten-Free. A tour of all the gf spots in Austin which makes me want to go there very very soon.
Portland Streets That Inspired the Names of Simpsons’ Characters | The Everywhereist. I had no idea!
· comments  · 03-26-2014 · categories:links · travel ·
I love brown rice but I’m too impatient to make it for dinner so I borrowed an idea from Trader Joe’s and cook it in advance and keep it in the freezer so it’s just a microwave away from being ready to eat. It’s also great to have around for a fast breakfast of an over easy egg on rice, which I default to a lot when I’m feeling lazy.
I’m terrible at cooking rice in a pot (burned rice, melted pots, other tragic results) so instead I bake it using instructions from Alton Brown and Good Eats and no pots have been ruined since.
To make: Put 1.5 cups brown rice and a teaspoon of salt in an 8×8 baking dish. Pour 2.5 cups boiling water over the top, stir and cover tightly with tin foil. Bake in a 375 degree oven for one hour. Allow to cool, divide into portions and freeze.
I do two or three batches at the same time and I’ve used larger baking dishes and even pie plates with good results, no need to have multiple 8×8 baking dishes hanging around. If you’re a rice texture snob this cooking method probably won’t make you happy, but hey, convenience.
· comments  · 03-24-2014 · categories:food · freezerpantry ·
I’ve mentioned before that I have a knack for finding four-leaf clovers but I didn’t talk about how that skill was a huge part of my identity growing up. It was. Any time when I was a kid bored at a community picnic in a park? Instant treasure hunt. When I went to summer camp and my cabin was sent on a scavenger hunt that included a four-leaf clover? I had that covered. I was the Irish girl with an Irish name who could find four-leaf clovers. My fixation even got me a boyfriend in college. (He wrote a poem about it! It was true love except for the fact that it really, really wasn’t.)
Before Go Mighty and the Life List I never really considered what things I wanted to do before I died except for this: as a kid I decided that one day I wanted to find a four-leaf clover in Ireland. And last November I did!
Last year Scott and I took a work/travel trip to the UK and Ireland. We only spent six days total in Ireland and on the second to last day I, ecstatically, found my four-leaf clover. It turns out that the urban parks, national monuments and historical locations in Ireland are very well tended — which means that patches of weeds (like clover) are not allowed to take over. So I felt that much more lucky to spy a four-leaf clover outside the Kilmalkeder Christian Site in Kerry, Ireland. According to the Rick Steves guide book it was a Norman center of worship that became a 12th-century church where the old graveyard is rising spookily above the soil line while on the other side there are new gravestones being inscribed. We visited as the sun was setting on our second to last day in Ireland and I was beginning to fear I’d be leaving cloverless.
I found a few four-leaf clovers in that precious patch and have them pressed inside a book. They aren’t the prettiest of clovers but they are my favorite because every time I see them middle school aged me is giddy.
· comments  · 03-19-2014 · categories:travel ·
DIY Travel Size Toiletries in Drinking Straws | Mighty Girl. So smart.
Hot Male Cellists’ ‘Thunderstruck’ Cover Will Blow You Away (VIDEO) | The Stir. I had never heard of these two who do covers of modern songs. For this one in particular they really get into it near the middle of the video.
So You Think You Want to Open a Brewery… | Serious Eats. From my summer spent with Spinnaker Bay Brewing I can tell you everything he says here is spot on.
defective yeti — Board Games via Skype.
Lammily, a doll based on the average size of actual human girls. From what started as an idea to find out what the Barbie doll might look like if it were scaled to an average human comes this doll ready to be produced. The arms and legs articulate so she can were flats or heels, play sports and sit. It’s already 400% funded with 23 days to go. I might buy one for my office to remind myself that people are good.
Tagalongs vs. Peanut Butter Patties: The Great Girl Scout Cookie Regional Naming Rift | The Hairpin. See also: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Girl Scout Cookies at Baking Bites. “One of the two bakeries, ABC Bakers, produces four completely vegan cookie varieties: Lemonades, Thanks-A-Lot, Thin Mints and Peanut Butter Patties. These same cookie varieties are not vegan when they come from Little Brownie Bakers.”
· comments  · 03-12-2014 · categories:links · misc ·
· comments  · 03-5-2014 · categories:craft · links ·
I recently received a KitchenAid pasta roller attachment as a gift. I asked for just the single pasta roller, none of the other cutter attachments, because my kitchen is tiny and I’m happy enough to cut my own noodles into wide strips. And if it comes down to something as thin as linguine I’m far more likely to used a boxed pasta anyhow.
It is so much fun to make pasta but with all the flour being scattered about it’s worth making a whole lot of noodles at the same time. A little research tells me that freezing fresh pasta will preserve the flavor better than drying it and the best way to freeze it is in bundles or nests.
Technique: Toss your just-made pasta with extra flour so it won’t stick together. Let it dry for a few minutes then fold and twist into bundles. Freeze those on a parchment lined baking sheet, then transfer to an airtight container. When you are ready to cook simply drop one bundle into boiling water, the noodles should separate from each other easily. Also, voilà, fresh homemade pasta appears before you like magic!
Before I did nests I decided that individual pasta strands rolled up, frozen and stacked together would be charming. And they were, but obviously they stuck together like mad in the boiling water. Oops.
· comments  · 03-4-2014 · categories:food · freezerpantry ·
Here are the games that I’ve been playing on my iPad which have been keeping me distracted from the cold, wet darkness of winter.
In this game you burn things. Toys and bricks and food and batteries and planets. For everything you burn you build up credit to buy more things to burn, which you order from catalogs. There is a plot that unfolds as you progress in the form of notes from your neighbor and updates from the weatherman as you cower indoors. This game is a criticism on video games and it skewers the way that modern games get you to obsessively play against odds and (spoiler alert) ultimately chides you for wasting your time playing this game. That said, I enjoyed every moment. The fire sound effects are soothing, each thing you burn has a different aspect or reaction (some scream, some explode) and it remains amusing throughout. The graphics are all lovingly created fun to toss around. You get a bonus when you burn things together from a pun-tastic list you can check off when you guess what “Duck Season” or “Nuclear Shave” means, which adds an extra completionist layer and will have you looking back through old objects to find a match.
This game manages to be simple fun while having you looking extra hard to find a deeper story, and you won’t be disappointed. The humor and a few subjects inside are not for young children. $4.99 in the App Store, see more at the Tomorrow Corporation website. Also for Windows, Mac and Linux.
This is a mysterious and emotionally dark exploration game based on Swedish folk tales. It starts without any guidance on how to play or where you are or what you are doing, all things you’ll uncover as you progress. It’s graphics and spooky atmosphere had me continue to poke around instead of giving up in frustration. The first time I played it I was on a plane and the guy next to me made a point to ask what I was playing, it really is that pretty.
One of the first objects you encounter doesn’t end up being used in the completion of the game but it does tie into the Companion game ,which is easy to simply not know about. The companion game is short but adds some explanation and depth to the original story and it, apparently, wasn’t released for a good long time after the main game which was a very interesting move.
This game deals with murder and ghost horses and dead babies and is really, really not for the young. $3.99 in the App Store, Year Walk Companion is free. Year Walk will also be available on Steam soon, see the Year Walk website.
This is a recent addition to the app store but I’d had a preview of it last year at the Seattle Indies Expo. The graphic in this game are all inspired by origami and in the game you actually unfold objects to go deeper, it’s a fresh and intuative and frankly gorgeous form of gameplay. That said the unhappy reviews of this game focus on the fact that it’s short, which is true (but it’s worth the price) and slow, also true but the only aspect I had a problem with. Your character moves from location to location at a fairly slow pace and the first time you run through a new land it’s great to have a chance to look around and admire the origami landscape. When you backtrack to solve a try something it takes a little patience, when you have to go back for the eighth time to move something into another position in the midst of solving a puzzle you get downright impatient. A form of double-click-to-run option would solve all this and in the end it’s a trivial complaint in the midst of a deeply beautiful game. Available in the App Store now, $4.99, pre-order for OS X and Windows is on now. See more at the Nyamyam site.
This is a new adventure game in the old school point and click style. Everything is hand drawn in a charming cartoon style and it’s set in a completely different world which is underground and dying out and guess what? That’s right! Your character is unwittingly set on the path to save it. I’ve loved this style of game since King’s Quest 1 and a thoroughly enjoyed this game, the gather-and-combine puzzles aren’t too obvious and aren’t too incomprehensible, the conversations with characters are funny (and skippable if you find yourself asking the same question), the world is quirky and unexpected. It’s a bit of a slower pace than (affect a “kids these days” tone of voice here) games these days but I loved it and played it in short bits as a sort of bedtime story for myself. There isn’t much objectionable in this game (it’s Despicable Me type grown up inside joke humor) but it probably won’t interest younger kids. $0.99 in the App store. Also available, DRM-free, for Windows and Mac on the Studio Fizbin website, it comes in German and English.
· comments  · 03-3-2014 · categories:technology ·