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 ·
Scott and I have schedules that mean during the workweek we only cook dinner together about two times a week. This makes it impractical to keep a lot of fresh food in our fridge (cleaning it out got depressing, so many unidentifiable items) so we tend to pick something up to cook earlier in the same day. To make it even easier I’ve been figuring out what half-prepared foods to keep in the freezer. For whatever reason if I made something complete (say lasagna) and freeze it we never seem to actually eat it, we prefer to make something we are craving so having components that will cut down on dirty dishes and chopping time have been making a big difference. It nearly makes me feel like I’m qualified to be an adult.
I’ve mentioned a few things I keep in the freezer before — kale, bacon layered so it’s easy to just grab a few slices, bolognese sauce — and the latest staple I’ve added is caramelized onions. I use the recipe from Tea and Cookies which mostly calls for “time, patience, and faith” which isn’t an exaggeration. The first time I caramelized onions I had to restrain myself from them off the stove too early. They need to be nice and dark:
Image by Tara Austen Weaver, Tea and Cookies.
Basic technique: two sliced onions in a 10-inch pan, 1/4 cup olive oil, medium high heat, stirring every five minutes and patience. It will take about 30 minutes. For a more detailed description go read the entry at Tea and Cookies and follow her tip about slicing bits a little thicker than others. I let these cool, put them in ziplock bags pressed flat and freeze them. Then I break off a tablespoon or so as I need it.
So far we’ve mostly been using them in egg dishes. For the omlette pictured above I used mushrooms, spinach and goat cheese left over from a salad with some of the caramelized onions to create a way more delicious breakfast than I usually have. Tara describes caramelized onions as the bacon of the vegetarian world, they are smoky and salty and add a hit of flavor whatever you add it to. And people, yum. Also, having them on hand will make you feel like a genius.
· comments  · 02-27-2014 · categories:food · freezerpantry ·
So, something in our house sprung a leak last weekend and I found water dripping down into my sewing room. We’ll be spending the week watching our ceiling get ripped out, dried up and rebuilt. We’ve been through this before and yes, it’s the same ceiling but a completely different cause this time. Let’s pretend none of this is happening and talk about video games instead!
I’m going to admit I have not finished this yet. I tend to play iPhone games in public situations (on the bus, waiting in line) and this one will require that you either have a keen memory or the ability to take down some visible notes (codes) to enter later on. That said, it’s worth playing with your headphones on as this mostly-text game uses audible as as well as visual cues tell a story, and the game requires you to rotate and tilt the screen to advance. This game is stylish and fun. It’s won a bunch of Best of 2013 awards and I agree. Awesomeness. $3.99 in the app store.
This is a fun combination of fill-in-the-word and future fiction. You are a viewer into a series of digital conversations between an all-seeing dictatorship, a rebel group and a friend caught in the middle. Your only clues are the context of the story you’re reading. It can be frustrating if you just cannot get one of the words and you are prevented from advancing. That said, if you just don’t know the answer it’s easy (too easy?) to Google and find a spoiler in return. This is one of those instances where if you love the story it’s worth engaging a friend to Google the answers and give you more gentle clues. $2.99 in the app store.
This is a simple game that uses Bluetooth to detect other players nearby and whoever reacts first can pick the others virtual pocket. It’s amazingly fun to get a notification of somebody nearby while you’re riding a bus or arriving at a party. But, there aren’t nearly enough players yet which is why I need you all to play. It’s got the potential to be epically fun. Free.
Home Sheep Home 2
I heart everything that Aardman Studios does so I’m a wee bit embarrassed that it took me so long to play their Home Sheep Home 2 puzzle platformer involving Shaun the Sheep and his usual suspects. In each screen you’ve got to solve some puzzles to get three sheep to the exit. Each sheep has a different ability, one jumps high, one pushes heavy things, one fits through small spaces, and you’ll need all three to solve each level. The soundtrack, humor, personalities of the sheep and the crisp sound effects make a very charming game that is balanced with just enough difficulty. As you progress there are new elements presented (gravity!) and as you play there are collectibles for us completionists. That said, if you tend to play casual games in a web browser some of the levels are available online: Underground, Lost In London, as well as the original Home Sheep Home. $.99 in the app store. (Home Sheep Home 1 is also available for $.99 but know that it’s a much shorter game.)
This is similar to Shaun the Sheep, you have to get the snail to the exit on each screen. You click to move things out of the way, manipulate gravity and the like and in each level there are three stars hiding. It’s not as stylized as Home Sheep Home but it makes my problem solving pleasure centers happy. You can play a bunch of Snail Bob games online for free and if you’d like to try it out Snail Bob 5, A Love Story is a good representation of what is in the iPhone game. $.99 in the app store.
· comments  · 02-24-2014 · categories:iphone · technology ·
Just a quick note to say that I’ve reposted my Felt Dahlia Flower Brooch tutorial here on Not Martha. It was originally posted over at a website called Holidash that shut down earlier this year and the project page disappeared with it. I pulled together the original tutorial as well as a bunch of additional notes all in one spot: Felt Dahlia Flower Brooch.
· comments  · 02-20-2014 · categories:craft ·
is this STILL the best chocolate chip cookie recipe, ever? At Shelterrific.
Orangette: A good person to know. A good steel cut oatmeal recipe, and she reports that it reheats well.
Check It Out: Ernest Hemingway’s Personal Burger Recipe | Man Made DIY.
How to: Make Edible Spoons – The Perfect Holiday Treat! | Man Made DIY.
Gin Gin Cocktail, at The Ginger People website. I’m a wee bit obsessed with their Ginger Juice and all the things it can do (ginger/lemon/bourbon toddy has been a regular this winter).
11 Healthy Kale Recipes – Health.com. I would eat every one of these, who wants to do the dishes for me? Via Swiss Miss.
Chemistry of Cast Iron Seasoning: A Science-Based How-To, and the follow up “Black Rust” and Cast Iron Seasoning. This is fantastic, the how and why and what for seasoning cast iron. Via Kottke.
Valentine’s Day Treat: Cupid’s Creme Brulee // Hostess with the Mostess®. She makes caramelized hearts inside a silicone mold, what a great use for it.
Perfect Soft Boiled Egg | Eat the Love. My only regret from getting to visit America’s Test Kitchen is not forcing them to answer their best technique for soft boiled eggs. Mine is still the Egg-Perfect Timer.
Tom’s Supermarket Picks: quality oils at good prices | Truth in Olive Oil. Great information when you want a good olive oil but are only headed to your local grocery store. The notes on inequality among lines at places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are interesting. Via Kottke.
5 More Great Cocktail Blogs You Should Read | Serious Eats.
Sprizee :: A simple girl replete with complications: Roasted Vegetable Lemon Tahini Salad. This looks delicious and it’s so simple.
· comments  · 02-18-2014 · categories:food · links ·
I’m not very focused on Valentine’s Day this year, we usually cook a fancy meal and stay in but this year we’re feeling a bit of cabin fever so we’re headed out to see the Lego movie and get cocktails at our favorite local bar. I might still get a little creative, here are some last minute Valentine’s ideas that have caught my attention.
Printable pop culture valentines over at Mighty Girl. See also: her roundup of nerdy valentines.
Valentine’s Day cocktails at Serious Eats. I’m also looking at their bitter anti-Valentines cocktails.
A simple paper heart garland that can be whipped up with office supplies, at Just Bella.
Last minute Valentine’s Day party at Oh Happy Day, a few simple things you can probably grab at Target to make staying in a celebration.
Bake a heart (or a broken heart) into a cupcake from Bake It In A Cake. (I’m still in love with all her ideas.)
I’m not a huge fan of cut flowers (because I’m thinking ahead to when I inevitably leave them too long and end up with dead flowers and a moldy vase) but my favorite Valentine’s gift remains this String Of Pearls plant (even though we’re on version #3) which Scott admits he bought me on the way home from work.
I hope you have a romantic Valentine’s Day, unless you’re dreading Valentine’s Day in which case I hope you have a really amazing Friday.
· comments  · 02-13-2014 · categories:holidays ·
These Captiva Strap boots from Merrell are waterproof and as comfortable as slippers. No really, the footbed is made of something slightly squishy so they feel really lovely. They are knee high, zip all the way up and the calf was more generously sized than a few other boots I compared it to. The soles are grippy rubber and there is plenty of support for my fussy feet. The shape of the toe box means there is lots of room for movement.
I brought these with me on a month long trip to England, Scotland and Ireland in November and I tempted fate by getting them at the last minute and not having a chance to break them in before we left. Yeah, a potentially stupid move on my part. But they were amazing, I didn’t get blisters or achey feet and I was warm and dry even after a few walks through very damp fields. The heel support did hit me a little higher than I would have liked and I was afraid they would rub but I was fine.
Here is the thing though, I wish they looked a little nicer. They are undeniably comfort boots, they will work with a cute outfit but these aren’t boots that can be dressed up. (Not that my own opinion on this point has stopped me from trying.) Still, there a few touches that bug me. There is a faux strap wrap around the ankle with a decorative buckle which I like but halfway up there is a rivet and a few inches over that there is a metal tag that says, very small, “waterproof”. Why thanks, but I don’t think I need to be reminded of that every time I put them on. There is an elastic panel at the top but it’s on the outsides of the boot, I’m sure it’s located just there for a reason but not knowing what that reason is I wonder if they couldn’t have tucked it away on the inside to hide it away a bit. There is a small logo embossed as well, just below the ankle. All these little things add up to make the boot look a little less tidy than it could.
All of that said, the other day I was waiting in line at an airport and I was admiring the pair of boots worn by a woman walking by. Turns out she was wearing these very same boots. Which I had on my feet at the time. So, maybe I’m being a little nitpicky about how I perceive that they appear.
Overall they get incredibly high marks for comfort and utility (like, Pry Them From My Cold Dead Feet high marks, or maybe just Get Another Pair In Brown high marks). They will work nicely for tromping around in muddy fields, looking cute with dresses and warm leggings as well as walking for many more hours than you anticipated in an unfamiliar city in an attempt to find that specialty beer shop you read about.
The Merrell Captiva Strap boots are available at Zappos and Amazon (affiliate link) in black and brown. I hover between a size 7 and 7.5 in shoes and I bought a size 7.5 in these, though the fit across the top of the foot has stretched and I occasionally wonder if the size 7 would have worked out as well.
(One quick note: I usually look for shoes over at Zappos and use the “You May Also Like” suggestions to browse out further, which can take a while and lead to scores of open tabs. Just now over at Amazon I typed Merrell Captiva into the search and it showed me 25 results for boots of various brands, many of them had been contenders in my search last Autumn. If I’d know Amazon was so good at laying down focused options like that it would have saved me a bunch of time. This is something I’ll have to remember and test out next time I’m looking for shoes.)
· comments  · 02-11-2014 · categories:shopping ·
Announcing The Walk Game — Andrea Phillips.
GameFace headset offers wireless, Android-powered Oculus Rift alternative | Joystiq.
The OUYA Doesn’t Actually Suck: How to Make the Indie Console Great. Emulators? PS3 controllers? Yes.
State of the Blog Union: How The Blogging World Has Changed | Design*Sponge. All these things are true, and I really like her optimistic conclusion. Still, RIP blogs as we knew them.
Cool Tools – Ulmon Offline Mobile Maps at Cool Tools. I use an app called Offmaps to save data usage and look forward to comparing these two against each other.
SteelSeries Stratus iOS 7 gamepad launches for $20 less than its pre-order price | Joystiq. Oh boy, I’d like one of these.
Size Matters | Slog. Two games to keep an eye out for.
Indie Shows Join Forces For Radiotopia | Public Radio Exchange. I seem to continuously be finding ways to seek out the best corners of public radio and so I’m thrilled that PRX has gathered them together here. Podcast lovers, this is a list you should take note of.
· comments  · 02-6-2014 · categories:links · technology ·