We started this year with a bit of fixing up. We had a new bumper put on our car from a little accident (we were stopped at a red light and were tapped from behind by giant pickup truck which appeared to suffer no damage whatsoever), we had our bathroom floor tiled and had a heated floor (luxurious!) put in at the same time. And just when we were settling in to having things back in order our clothes washer started leaking. Sad trombone. So we’re looking at having it fixed (do people still do this?) or getting a new one. We’re also saying goodbye to any money we had hoped to putting towards a sunshiny winter getaway. Ah well. We got to ease our disappointment while sitting at a local bar with neighbors watching our football team win the Super Bowl, which was pretty darn great.
Last month I went to the Altitude Design Summit to speak on a panel and part of that was to talk about how blogging has changed drastically over the last few years. What we talked about was put much better by Grace of Design Sponge in her State of the Blog Union post last week. I also like what Jean Aw wrote in her Restart: 2014 post for NOTCOT. Both of them come to the conclusion that though it feels like things have spread so far apart with all the social media channels there is plenty of room for more fun to be had in the upcoming year. I like that.
As for me I have a few things I want to recommend to you, I need to talk about our big trip last November and I’d like to redesign this site (it’s been far too long). I had a few small projects in mind but both failed during the proof of concept stages. (Though, those involved getting to eat cake. Even failed cake tastes good.) How has your year been going so far?
· comments  · 02-4-2014 · categories:mumbling ·
How to make a fake bag, at Kottke. The CEO of Saddleback Leather giving a crash course in leatherwork and how you can make a cheap ripoff of one of his bags.
Fall DIY Project: How to Re-Wax Your Clothing and Gear | Man Made DIY.
Cool Tools – Waterpik Water Flosser. It’s not really for flossing, it’s designed to work on “the bacterial biofilm that perpetually forms on the surface of teeth and that never quite gets cleaned away by toothbrushes, dental floss, and various gum-recess cleaning gizmos.” Good to know.
craigslistmirrors. Endlessly fascinating. For real. Via Waxy.
The Radiating Beauty of Wheel Icicles, at Visual News. This is crazy. Via Girls of a Certain Age.
From Hummingbird Heads to Poison Rings: Indulging Our Antique Jewelry Obsession | Collectors Weekly. An interview with Monica McLaughlin who writes the fascinating column on estate jewelry over at The Hairpin. One of the things shown are coach covers, hollow hinged spheres women used to cover the diamond in a drop earring to hide it from view during the day, so clever. Also, taxidermy jewelry! Via Girls of a Certain Age.
The Story Behind The Gilmore Girls Music tol by Sam Phillips. At Refinery 29. Amy Sherman-Palladino is a former professional dancer? That makes Bunheads a bit clearer.
· comments  · 01-30-2014 · categories:links · misc ·
Side sleepers: give your pillow reviews. | Ask MetaFilter. Recommendations for firm pillows that aren’t necessarily the too-warm memory foam sort.
Cool Tools – Trauma Shears. Strong enough to cut through a penny, these look great for crafters to have around.
I want the absolute best, most bombproof compact umbrella available. | Ask MetaFilter. This is a timely question for me, we managed to misplace all of our umbrellas this year.
The Best Pen | The Wirecutter. My favorite pen was given out as a freebie at a conference I attended earlier this year and I have no idea what sort it was other than it was branded Bic. None of the Wirecutter favorites are the one I love so my search goes on. This Wirecutter post shows that there are a surprising number websites dedicated to reviews of pens.
Haute High Tech: 20 Must-Have Pieces of 3D Printed Jewelry | Brit + Co..
· comments  · 01-23-2014 · categories:links · shopping ·
I read almost exclusively on the Kindle app on my iPhone these days which makes it much more difficult to insert the photograph of a stack of these books:
Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries
By Jon Ronson, obviously. I’m a fan of Ronson’s from hearing his stories on NPR but this is the first book of his that I’ve read, the sample chapter on Juggalos pulled me right in.
Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal
By Mary Roach. This is a nonfiction book about the human digestive tract, it’s entertaining and so fascinating.
Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened
By Allie Brosh. I read this one on my iPad because it’s full of her signature illustrations. Her stories about childhood and depression and things in general are hilarious and touching.
By Seanan McGuire writing as Mira Grant. It’s about a future where engineered parasites are used to keep us thin an healthy, what could possibly go wrong? I’m a fan of Seanan McGuire’s Feed trilogy (Feed, Deadline and Blackout) which is about bloggers and zombies and government conspiracy and I really love the novellas she’s released that are set in the same world (see: San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats and Apocalypse Scenario #683 among more). I’m also really enjoying her Indexing serial about fairy tales invading the modern world and her book about what superheros might really be like, Velveteen vs. The Junior Super-Patriots. Can you tell I’m a fan? I’m a fan.
Someday, Someday, Maybe
This was written by Lauren Graham, yes Loreli Gilmore, and it has the sparkling, funny, bumbling character that you would hope for. It’s about a struggling actress living in New York in the 90s when a show called Friends was just starting to air. Utterly enjoyed it.
The Cuckoo’s Calling
By Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling. I liked the first part so much I saved it for travel reading.
By Andrew Mayne. A YA novel about a secret society of battling teens between two high schools. Does love get in the way? Yes, of course. I also really liked Mayne’s two The Chronological Man novels (it’s steampunk Dr. Who, The Monster in the Mist and The Martian Emperor) and his spin on zombies called Public Enemy Zero. (His books are also nicely inexpensive.)
Daring Adventures of Lucy Smokeheart
By Andrea Phillips. This is a year-long monthly serial and each new addition contains a puzzle, the answer to which unlocks a page on the Lucy Smokeheart site. At the end of series there will be a real treasure hunt (!!!). I saved these for some serious puzzle solving time on trains while on our trip. Each part is available to download and she’s also collected parts 1-3 and parts 4-6. Here are links to each she’s published so far (and she’s not done yet!): Book of Secrets, The Mermaid’s Crown, Port St. Never, Lizards of Skull Island, Ice Storm, The Governor’s Ball. These are all short and very fun.
By Hugh Howey. This is a series of books about an apocalyptic society living inside a bunker for generations and the first set, Wool, kept me really engaged but I don’t find myself quite wanting to revisit the story in the follow up books called Shift and Dust. Still, I didn’t know how the original story ended and it was one of those times when I was glad to be free of spoilers, it was fun. Has anybody read Shift and Dust? Should I keep going?
By Peter Stenson. I feel like I’ve read my way through all the zombie novels and am quick to abandon any that don’t keep me. This one I read and enjoyed. It mixes drug addiction and zombies and, well, the end isn’t the happy sort.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette
By Maria Semple. I don’t know if I’d have liked this book as much if it wasn’t set in Seattle and I didn’t recognize some of the character types. That said, it started in Seattle and ended up very far away and I liked the journey.
And Another Thing
By Eoin Colfer. I was a huge fan of Douglas Adams (I listened to the original Hitchhiker’s radio series on road trips over and over again) and I’m also a fan of Eoin Colfer but for some reason I cannot bring myself to read past the first few pages of this book that is an extension of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. I feel like I am cheating on my celebrity crush with an imposter, even though I know that Adams’ widow chose Colfer to write this. Give me encouragement? Did you read it and love it? What am I so afraid of?
Your turn – what are you reading? What have you really enjoyed lately? Tell me because I’ve completely run out and my eyes need more words to consume!
· comments  · 01-21-2014 · categories:books · shopping ·
Years ago I received a Scanpan 8-inch frying pan as part of some conference* schwag**. Sometime after that our regular small nonstick frying pan finally went to the cookware grave and we pulled out the Scanpan. We were pretty darn impressed with it’s nonstickablility and how easy it made it to cook an over-easy egg just right every time so we continued to use it. For four years. I’m just now taking note of how awesome it is. The pan is easy to use, it’s easy to clean, nothing ever sticks, it holds up to my clumsy handling and stacking beneath dirty dishes and, despite four years of near daily egg cooking, you have to look really close to see any scratches. Thumbs up.
I have to say though, when I went to find our pan over at Amazon I was a little aghast at the price ($120, on sale for $90). And then I thought a little bit about the psychology of how we value things, or fail to value them if they’ve been handed to us. And then I thought about all the nonstick pans we’ve owned that came before it, inexpensive numbers that scratched easily and flaked horrifyingly after only a few years. Each of those was $10 to $20 and, had we been more responsible, we’d have replaced after a year of use. (And then I thought about the Great Toxic Teflon Freakout of 2008ish and did a bunch of reading which made me conclude that I am not qualified to defend nonstick but I am confident that I’m not poisoning myself.) Added up the Scanpan has nearly already been worth the price tag and I anticipate it going strong for another four years. So if you know you’re going to use it well and you have the cash, Scanpan is worth it.
* It was a hefty bag of free items that has since become the stuff of legend. I am pretty sure it was the first International Food Bloggers Conference, but not absolutely certain. I do know that I paid to attend said conference so this wasn’t a case of a blogger getting free stuff just because.
** Let’s discuss swag vs. schwag. I have a personal preference to use the word schwag because one of my theater professors in college was known to have occasional emotional outbursts over off-topic irrational things while teaching class and one of those that I had the privilege of being present for was a rant over the use of the word swag. He said: swag is used to describe the way that one drapes a curtain, schwag is the free stuff you get at a conference. The end. And so, because I believe he can still see into my very thoughts, I use the word schwag.
· comments  · 01-15-2014 · categories:food · shopping ·
· comments  · 01-14-2014 · categories:links · the home ·
Er Wang Dong cave in China so huge it has its own weather system | Mail Online. I love caves, it’s been far too long since I’ve been in one.
Three Panel Soul » On Discovery. Yup, that’d be me too.
What things cannot be made by machine? | Ask MetaFilter. “For example knitting can be duplicated by machine, but crocheted items can only be made by hand.” As a knitter who has avoided learning crochet because it seems to involve too much counting and too much paying attention at all times, this comparison is riveting. Will we eventually foil the robot takeover by communicating via crochet and macrame?
Family Outfitted in Awesome ‘Labyrinth’ Costume Ensemble. Via Laughing Squid. This is amazing all around.
Podcast Thing, short interviews with interesting people offering up their favorite podcasts. Via Swissmiss.
Dopp Kit Essentials. “Dopp kits gained their namesake from a German immigrant leatherworker named Charles Doppelt.” Tell me more.
Art of the Shim. Shims are serious, low-alcohol cocktails that are fun and delicious but won’t knock you out with booze. My friend Dinah just happens to be the author of this book and I know for certain that she has great taste in cocktails.
Damn, Gina, dramaticstart: Vacation rentals for viewing The Northern Lights. What?! I am doing this.
Testing 30 Life Hacks We Found on the Internet | Mental Floss. (Video.) I adore how delighted he is when something actually works.
How Has “Bust” Magazine Survived? – The Awl. I’m glad it has.
· comments  · 01-9-2014 · categories:links · misc ·
I have an iPad mini which I bought last year and here are the accessories that I couldn’t do without.
The Joy Factory SmartSuit iPad mini case. I bought this based on the recommendation from the Wirecutter. I snapped it on and have used it ever since. It’s held up perfectly well. The case is a hard shell with a grippy surface which helps me and my clumsy fingers from dropping it. It has a screen cover that is lined with a faux suede material that won’t scratch the screen. The screen cover folds back to sit flush against the back of the case when you’re using the iPad and it doesn’t get in the way of your fingers. Or the cover bends into a triangle that acts as a stand for the iPad in horizontal view. The cover doesn’t get in the way of any ports or switches, it does add a little bit of bulk to the iPad, not much but enough to make me feel a little more secure when holding it (I find the iPad mini startlingly thin and I’m always afraid of it slipping out of my hands). The case doesn’t have any extraneous bits or latches that get in the way of holding or using the iPad. The case is so secure that I will happily slip my iPad mini into my bag without worrying that it will be scratched.
The case works just like the Smart Case sold by Apple but it costs a lot less. The Smart Case, admittedly, comes in a bunch of enticing colors. Note: The Smart Case wasn’t yet made when I bought my SmartSuit case and I have not done a comparison of the two. (The Joy Factory also makes them for full sized iPad and iPad Air.)
Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover Mini. I had continuously used the case above until I was given the Logitech keyboard as a gift this Christmas, it’s a keyboard that also acts as a cover. The keyboard is small but surprisingly usable (note: I do have small-to-average hands and fingers) and connects to the iPad via Bluetooth. The keyboard has a rubberized slot that allows you to prop up the iPad in either a horizontal or vertical configuration, but the iPad doesn’t need to stay connected to the keyboard so you can use the keyboard with the iPad propped up anywhere or with a different case on. The keyboard has simple magnet attachment and matches the color and finish of the black iPad mini really well. The keyboard is lightweight, the keys are nicely clicky and it has a rechargeable battery. I compared this keyboard to a few others and prefer this one because you don’t need to remove the iPad from a case to lift it up and use, the iPad is simply propped in it’s grippy slot so you can lift and return it easily. When you are ready to put the iPad away the keyboard simply snaps on using magnets in the same way as a like the Smart Cover. (The keyboard cover is also available for regular sized iPad and iPad air, all options also come in white.)
FAVORITE EXTERNAL BATTERY
Mophie Powerstation External Battery Charger. This external battery has saved my sanity many times while traveling, let alone while sitting on my couch too lazy to go find an extension cord so I can continue to use my device while charging it. I keep it in my bag and use it far more often than I’d anticipated. I gave Mophie batteries as gifts this past Christmas, including this smaller model that comes on a keychain to somebody who takes long bike rides. I use it for my iPhone and my iPad and I feel a little itchy when I forget to bring it along. It recharges via mini USB and can do nearly two full charges on my iPhone. I love it so much I should probably go ahead and give it a name.
FAVORITE SCREEN PROTECTING FILM
Tech Armor screen protector films. I keep hearing about how strong and durable the iPad and iPhone glass is but I still manage to scratch it without any effort. I’m currently using Tech Armor clear films and am really happy with them. (One tip: the glare reducing film sold at Apple stores is terrible. So terrible that upon returning it the employee commented “oh yeah, I discourage people from buying this”.)
Your turn! Do you have any iPad gadgets that are particularly useful?
· comments  · 01-8-2014 · categories:uncategorized ·
· comments  · 01-7-2014 · categories:food · links ·
Merry Christmas everyone! I’m going to take the next week off and I’ll be back after the new year. I hope your holidays are warm and full of cheer and all that stuff.
How To Build An Indestructible Gingerbread House : The Salt : NPR.
Bon Appétempt: Video Attempt: How to Make a Bread Wreath. I love that something goes wrong about 3/4ths of the way through. Exactly like at my place but with far more composure and a whole lot less giving up and ordering pizza.
Orangette: From now on, a good recipe for spiced nuts. It’s not too late to make them for the holidays!
Perfect Party Wine: Sparkling Wine Under $20 | Serious Eats: Drinks.
Hot Ginger Toddy – Not Without Salt. I’ve been trying a few toddy recipes this year and this one is my favorite, I took it to a party and it was a big hit.
· comments  · 12-24-2013 · categories:christmas · links ·
· comments  · 12-17-2013 · categories:christmas · links ·
While I was in the UK I got my Kinder Surprise fix by opening an egg a day.
This is the last post in the series of Kinder Surprise egg.
This one was fun, it’s a little lock and key
When you turn the key in addition to opening the lock it releases a little panel on the back of the lock. The panel was too small to hold a coin so I figured it must be meant for secret notes.
Here are some stats on all of the Kinder Surprise eggs I opened. There were 34 total (one was a repeat, and three others were cars that I included in a single post and a few more were too poorly photographed to give their own post). I did not include the non-Kinder brand surprise eggs that I opened.
11 Girl themed toys total
4 Girl themed toys that were something to wear
11 Girl themed toys needing assembly
5 Girl themed toys with a brand tie-in
0 Girl themed toys that were educational
7 Boy themed toys total
7 Boy themed toys that were cars
7 Boy themed toys needing assembly
1 Boy themed toys with a brand tie-in
0 Boy themed toys that were educational
16 Non-gendered toys total
9 Non-gendered toys needing assembly
6 Non-gendered toys with a brand tie-in
5 Non-gendered toys that were educational
From the whole group:
8 Figurines total
5 Figurines with a brand tie-in
1 Repeat toy
All of the toys meant for boys were cars. The toys meant for girls required assembly and were the most likely to be clever or particularly charming. The toys that had an educational component only came from non gendered eggs. Overall I was impressed with the quality of the toys, I have to admit I was fearing that more of them would be brand tie-in figurines (collect them all!). I had a huge amount of fun doing this series!
· comments  · 12-16-2013 · categories:kindereggaday ·
Our Christmas tree this year is an illusion. Well, sort of. It’s created from twinkle lights reflected in a large mirror. The tree is meant to be mostly viewed at night when it is lit up. After all it’s the time of year when by the time we’re home it’s always dark and, let’s face it, we could use some cheer.
When we bought our house it came with a large mirror that we placed at one side of our dining room where it reflects the view all the way down a hall to our back door. It’s in the corner that would make the most sense to set a Christmas tree so I decided to use the mirror instead of obstructing it. I was also still thinking about floating Christmas trees; my previous ornament tree was fun but I missed the twinkly lights. So a floating, lighted, reflected light tree it was. It’s got the added benefit of taking up very little space so we didn’t have to move a pair of chairs out of the way.
Here is another view showing how the tiers of the tree appear to float (if you look really hard you can see me holding the camera):
To assemble the tree I used dowel rods and some metal wreath forms which I took apart. After it’s all together the frame that is assembled is surprisingly sturdy and lightweight but it likely won’t hold a traditional strand of Christmas lights, I went with those micro LED lights on the delicate copper wires. I secretly was looking for an excuse to buy those mini lights because they are awfully charming.
- two strands of 20-foot long micro LED lights on thin wire
- three 1/4 inch dowel rods in the 48 inch length (found at hardware stores)
- six tiny screw eyes, brass if you can find them
- gold twist ties
- 6″ box wreath form, I found these at Jo-ann
- 12″ box wreath form
- 18″ box wreath form
- 24″ box wreath form
- heavy duty wire cutter
- needle nose pliers
- regular pliers (your wire cutter tool might do double duty as this)
- black duct tape
- black electrical tape
- safety glasses (non-negotiable)
- work gloves
- paper or markable surface large enough to cover a work surface or area on the floor that is at least 48″ x 24″
- gold paint and brush (optional)
- thin gold tinsel (optional but nice to have)
- required: a mirror that is at least 48″ tall and 24″ wide
Note on the lights: The micro LED lights shown here were bought at Restoration Hardware and you can also find them over at Amazon in both warm and cool variations.
[Read more →]
· comments  · 12-12-2013 · categories:christmas ·
While I was in the UK I got my Kinder Surprise fix by opening an egg a day.
This egg was purchased at, to the best of my memory, a small grocery store on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. It was one of those spots that was so small that our very presence felt like a Huge Awkward American Tourist Trying Not To Be Conspicuous intrusion even as the two people working there were chirpily directing us, the only other souls in the place, to the nearest spot to sit and have something hot to drink without making us feel like the Huge Awkward American Tourists (etc.) that we were.
There was a whole lot in this capsule. The contents reminded me of snap bracelets that came with instructions.
The instructions had us folding over the top and bottom lengths of the plastic, tucking those into the bits provided and whacking the puck. It was surprisingly effective and amusing.
The toy inside was a sort of analog pong for two players. Except without the slow start to the real action.
I was completely amazed by how much Kinder managed to pack into my capsule until I encountered Matt’s entire toy airplane that he purchased and assembled at the Toronto airport. Later I got to hold this in my hand and it easily had a 6 inch wingspan and was so freaking impressive that I’m outright ashamed I didn’t press Scott into Vine duty. The airplane had a far more complicated fold an assemble construction than our flick game but it was clearly from the same set of Kinder toy makers. And to those toy makers I’ve got to do a sort of electronic tip of the hat, both examples were amazing.
· comments  · 12-12-2013 · categories:kindereggaday ·
While I was in the UK I got my Kinder Surprise fix by opening an egg a day.
This one also came from a Kinder Santa.
This one has bits to assemble.
It’s a penguin ornament with a snowflake base.
He looks so happy. Those earmuffs look like headphones, maybe he’s blocking out the endless Christmas music and listening to Macklemore instead.
The snowflake doubles as a spinning top which was weighted really well and will go for a long time. I’ve found that Kinder Surprise tops spin really nicely.
· comments  · 12-11-2013 · categories:kindereggaday ·