Someone passed along this link to innovative billboards. I enjoyed it. Click on the image below to see more.
It’s been a really long time since I had an invention to post, but this week, with the return of the sun came the return of my shade problem. We have a deck with a great view. Lovely to sit out on a sunny day. But it’s hard to get shade that moves with the sun. I’ve tried several umbrellas, tilting ones, straight ones, ones with overhanging arms, Coolaroo shade triangles, sheets with bungee cords that I adjust during the day, but nothing really did the job of shading the table and chairs without blocking the view. The sun comes from too many different angles. What works best is just a standard umbrella in a stand that I move around. But the stand is so heavy.
Then I had the brilliant idea of putting the stand on a wheeled plant stand that was just sitting around. This way, I can wheel the umbrella around the deck to follow the sun. Continue reading “Shade”
The other day I made fig jam–one of my all time favorites.
But in trying to speed up the process, I scorched the bottom of my enamel pot. I scrubbed and scrubbed, but couldn’t get the fine layer of burnt jam off the bottom. I gave up and set the pot out in the sun to dry. When I went to take it in, all the scorch had lifted from the enamel and was easy to brush off. Who knew?
In other news, I stopped at a little mom and pop (mostly mom it seemed) diner the other morning for a quick bite and saw in action this wonderful pancake batter dispenser. If I made pancakes more often, I’d definitely get one.
I am a sucker for kitchen gadgets–for me the Williams Sonoma or Chef’s Catalog is a kind of kitchen porn. Many of them aren’t worth the trouble, but I have two onion gadgets that really work: the onion keeper and the onion dicer.
The onion keeper I picked up one day in the supermarket. It’s a plastic onion-shaped container that opens in the middle with a twist. You put an open onion in it, twist it shut, and your onion is saved without smelling up the fridge.
The dicer has three sets of blades, two of which (rough dice and fine dice) can handle onions. There’s also a slicer blade, which I sometimes use for mushrooms. But it’s the onion dicing that is the real timesaver, especially when you have multiple onions to dice.
Set a half or a quarter of the onion flat side down on the dicer and pushed down the lid with your palm.
The machine gives a satisfying whump and you have instant, perfectly uniform chunks of onion.
Kitchen magic! It does for onions what my corn stripper does for corn kernels. This is a little plastic module with teeth at one edge that you run along an ear of corn to remove the kernels. Continue reading “Gadgets, writing, and domestic tranquility”
Perhaps typography doesn’t interest you, but my associations with letter press printers, those odd creatures who print by taking the individual letters and putting them together into rows of type, running ink over them and creating art, has led me to enjoy and respect typographic oddities. Which brings me to the interrobang. You can find the detailed history of this mark–the only new punctuation mark of the 20th century–in a book called Shady Characters. You can get a taste of it here.
Designed to express both incredulity and overwhelming confusion of the modern age, the interrobang is both an exclamation and a question mark. Here are a few samples:
I’m having a slow recovery from the holidays, though I can hardly blame the California weather.
One of the highlights of our holiday breakfasts was an Emu egg I got at the farmers’ market. It was about 7″ long, and I calculated it was about 6 eggs worth of egg. We drilled holes in either end, blew out the egg, and made a frittata. Then I packed the shell away with the Christmas ornaments. Continue reading “Emu egg and kitchen gadgets”
It’s been a long time since I posted anything wholly practical here, so here are two first aid tips I learned this summer that have miraculous properties.
I have a weakness for seed catalogs but have discovered that most seed packages contain a nearly life-time supply of seeds–except the super-specialized ones. So I have quite a trove of seeds, all ready to plant. I look through the catalogs anyway of course, and I recently found an add for a tool that makes potting containers out of newspaper. You can see it on Youtube. They also show some made from the centers of toilet paper or paper towel rolls, but you’d have to save these up beforehand. I’ve used egg cartons in the past, too, and always recycle any seedling containers I have.
In any case, the wooden tool cost $20, so rather than order one, I took two cans (one slightly smaller diameter than the other) and basically did the same thing. Continue reading “Seed time”
I am lucky to live on a street where my neighbors love my rooster, in a town with good local businesses and a great Sunday Farmers’ Market, and a Fix-it Clinic, where you can bring your broken items and get help repairing them.
I probably could do four or five posts on kitchen gadgets. I have several on eggs alone. For example, here’s Henrietta hen, who makes perfect softboiled eggs:
A little slicer that snips off the top of said egg:
An egg separator (great for baking with children who want to separate eggs, but can’t quite manage it). Continue reading “More gadgets”
Larry’s birthday is coming up and luckily he has bought himself a present, a new Miken Ultra II bat, made of the same composite as the stealth bomber. He doesn’t usually bat left-handed but needed to here, because of the light.
This bat is so powerful that it comes with a warning label that says it is “capable of producing batted ball speeds that present a risk of serious injury or death to players, coaches and spectators.” Not to mention nagging wives.
In any case, he’s breaking it in for the spring season. Apparently composite bats start out stiff and need to be broken in for resilience and flexibility. Watch out Creakers!! Continue reading “Larry’s bat, plus kitchen gadgets”
I love my chickens, but I also love to travel. I have already set up automated feed and watering systems and thanks to a friend who came to visit, I now have an automated chicken door that opens at dawn and closes at dusk. This amazing invention is from Wells Poultry in the UK, and came to me airmail. I couldn’t quite believe it would work, but it does. I set it up at the back of the covered area where the chickens are closed in at night as opposed to on their house itself. It’s very shady by the house, and I was afraid “dusk” there would be too early. We had to make a little ramp going down from the door, as the chicken yard is steep, and they were a little reluctant at first. Several hens went out, then the rooster.
The rooster and about four of the hens went down to the area where I feed them. But three of the hens weren’t eager to try the new door. The rooster came back up and encouraged them, and soon all were out. Continue reading “Automation in the chicken coop”