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May 22, 2020

How to: Sharpen a Pencil with a Pocketknife

Let's say you've read up on the merits of woodcase pencils and you've decided to become an inveterate pencil carrier. You've sorted your B's from your HB's, you've picked your favorite finishes and ferrules.  You've bought your dozen (or two) and are scribbling smoothly... until one day you find yourself with a dull point and no sharpener. 

But if you've got your pocketknife, you're just a few minutes from a fresh point! Let's take a look at how to sharpen a pencil by hand.

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May 20, 2020

How to Make a Cocktail from a Tree

During spring time, pine, fir, and other evergreen trees grow by producing new tips at the end of each branch. The new growth is a lighter, vibrant green, and you can (and should!) eat it. The tips have a wonderful citrus-y, woodsy flavor that tastes awesome in all kinds of sautes, seafood, and roasted dishes. But the easiest way to preserve their flavor is steep them gently in a syrup, which will last in your fridge for weeks. 

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May 18, 2020

To Build a Garden is to Embrace that Some Projects are Unfinishable. And That's the Point.

The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway.

— Michael Pollan

If you've never gardened before, but you would consider yourself a DIY-er/craftsperson/maker or what have you, there may be some things about gardening that are very different than other kinds of projects. To build a garden entails some kinds of making that are very ordinary and along the lines of any other plan–>materials–>product kind of project. But in other ways, it requires craft and technique that are completely beyond other kinds of skills. But, to build a garden is not to simply make something. It is to embark on an un-finishable

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May 12, 2020

What the Heck is Apfelschorle? And Here's How to Make It

After I graduated from high school in the early 2000's, I had the privilege of taking a Wanderjahr in Germany before college, spending a year as a foreign exchange student with a host family about an hour's train ride west from Berlin. Two things from that year still stick with me 15 years after packing up my stuff and touching back down on American soil: 1) German, which my firm-but-kind host family helped me learn, and 2) German food. 

I had no idea about German cuisine prior to that year, but I've loved it ever since. Traditional German food is hearty, full of bread, meat, cheese, beer, and hardy vegetables like potatoes. It's the ultimate comfort food. The king of fruit in Germany is the apple, which lends its juice to the delightful, concoction known as Apfelschorle.

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May 11, 2020

Put This on Everything: DIY Sriracha Powder Recipe

We would never want to actually judge this competition, but if you were to pit all the mass market hot sauces against each other in a taste test, the classic green nozzled sriracha sauce with the rooster on the label might very well come out on top. It's extremely versatile stuff, and offers heaps of complexity and flavors other than heat and vinegar tang.   

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May 05, 2020

How to Build a Floating Shelf for Less Than $10

Completed floating shelves

Floating shelves can be built in a myriad of different ways and with any lumber you can get your hands on, but if you’re buying blind shelf supports for each shelf, the amount of money spent can add up quickly.  Enter: this inexpensive and rustic option for building floating shelves will materials you likely have on hand in your shop. This is a relatively simple project and it can be completed in an afternoon for less than $10 in materials. There are three simple parts of the process to making these floating shelves.   

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Apr 28, 2020

Lazy Food: 7 Weeknight Dinners to Keep in Mind When You Don't Feel Like Cooking

This happens to me way more often than it should––the day has gone longer than expected, I didn't plan carefully enough for what I was going to eat, and now I am home and hungry, without a plan. For much of my life, this has been a recipe to order something, pick up something, or heat up something frozen and in a box. But now I live in a place where few things deliver, the only foods close by are not conducive to living (or sleeping) well, and I have stopped allowing myself to buy things that come in frozen boxes, no matter how lazy I may be feeling.

If I have all the time and money in the world, I love to shop and cook. But my foodie

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Apr 22, 2020

How to: Make an Inexpensive DIY Rain Barrel

One of the first big projects I completed when I bought my house was digging a large garden in the backyard, and we just barely made it in time for a summer full of tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, eggplant, peppers, and squash. The 20 x 30' patch somehow wasn't big enough for both eating and canning, so when spring rolled around again, I set out to expand our patch. Gardens are never finished, after all! (Check out our tutorial on how to hand-dig a garden here.) 

The only thing I wasn't interested in expanding, though, was my water bill. Since we get on average 4 inches of rain per month during the growing season here in North Carolina (Apr–Nov), it was time to let the clouds handle the water supply rather than the city. Since this is mostly a money-saving project, I kept my budget really low because I preferred to have the materials pay for themselves as quickly as possible.

Read on for how to make a rain barrel on a budget!

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Apr 21, 2020

How to: Make Your Own Iced Coffee Soda

coffee soda

Now that the days are warming up the thought of a hot latte with milk and cinnamon sure adds a drop of sweat to my brow. It's usually this time of year, I swap my typical addiction to hot coffee to sweet, syrupy iced coffee. I just can't get enough of the stuff!

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Apr 17, 2020

Ten Great Food Moments from Ten Great Books (with Recipes!)

The best kind of writing, fiction or otherwise, is the kind that produces a strong mental image of what you're reading about. It's vivid and concrete; it's why metaphors and parables exist. To quote Strunk & White: "The greatest writers—Homer, Dante, Shakespeare—are effective largely because they deal in particulars and report the details that matter. Their words call up pictures."

One of my favorite ways that writers bring their stories closer to reality is when they plop descriptions onto my mental dinner table. Maybe it's because I just love eating, so I don't need a lot of arm-twisting to think about food; maybe it's that I like it when the lines between fiction and reality blur, like Mac Barnett waxes about in his TED talk "Why a good book is like a secret door." Regardless, I'm fascinated with collecting moments of characters interacting with their victuals.

Here are some of my favorite food mentions in books, linked up with recipes.

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Apr 16, 2020

How To: Make a $2 Nautical Knotted Rope Bracelet

The sun is out, sleeves are getting short, and that means: it's time to update your look for the season.

We have created two easy DIY projects that will add a nautical touch to your wardrobe without breaking the bank or having to buy a boat. Learn how to make your own knotted bracelet and...come sail, uh, away?

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Apr 09, 2020

How to: Make Your Own Typographic Illustrations and Artwork

Everyone likes a nice motivational quote with a fine adventurous backdrop and some nice typography that reminds us to get outside.   

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Apr 07, 2020

Level Up Your Kitchen Game With These Two Simple Supplies

If someone were to ask you what your crucial, go-to, stranded-on-a-desert-island cooking gear includes, how would you reply?

Would you mention a chef's knife and cutting board? How about a large sauté pan and a flat-edged wood spoon, or a large, nonreactive heatproof bowl? (Incidentally, these are Michael Ruhlman's top five in his fantastic comprehensive guide The Elements of Cooking.)

What if I were to add that the addition of two inexpensive pieces of equipment can dramatically level up your cooking game, and that you could actually get these at an office supply store?

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Apr 06, 2020

This is the Only Way You Should Be Wrapping Up Your Headphones

Previously, I offered the thesis that if you're only going to learn to tie one knot, it should be the bowline: it's simple, can be easily untied, and is incredibly versatile for all sorts of situations. 

And all that is true. But, it's not the "knot" I employ most often. Because the reality is, most of us don't handle rope on a daily basis. We do, however, in the age of smartphones and podcasts and the entire history of recorded music available at your fingertips, engage with another long, stringy thing that needs to be dealt with on the regular: your headphones.

Or ear buds. Or ear phones. Or whatever you call those wired transducers that deliver all that sweet, sweet audio to your brain. And because you take them with your everywhere, they regularly get knotted and tangled up in your pocket or bag.

This is completely unnecessary. Because there's a five-second "knot" that can completely eliminate this problem, and it doesn't take any longer than other storage methods. So, now, I present to you, the actual most useful knot in the world.    

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Apr 03, 2020

Weekend Aftenoon Project: How to Make a DIY Clothesline

This just in: there's a giant ball of fire up in the sky, and it's really hot. 

When it's 80 degrees and sunny, I have a hard time finding a good reason not to harness that free energy, instead of pulling in electricity from the burning fuel at my local power station (in my case, I think it's the nuclear plant just south of Raleigh) all to just dry some clothes.

A clothesline is a fantastic supplement to your laundry routine, so if you're like me and you've been putting off building one, here's a simple plan you can follow on a single Saturday—a shopping trip in the morning, a building session the afternoon.

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