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Sep 01, 2018

How to Make a Concrete Desktop Planter (+ a $250 Gift Card Giveaway!)

Concrete. It's a universal building material so ubiquitous, we tend to take it completely for granted. Yet it has a fascinating history that stretches back before the time of Roman Empire. No need to fire up the Delorean today, though; we're sticking to the current trend of using industrial materials in domestic interiors with our concrete desktop planter.

We're also giving away a $250 Lowe's gift card that you can use to buy your supplies to make your own concrete desktop planter (and then some). Read on to find out how to enter (giveaway details at the end of the post) ...

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Aug 31, 2018

5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Inner DIYer

created at: 08/11/2015

When you're new to the world of DIY, starting even the smallest of projects can be a daunting task. How much money will it cost me? How much time will I waste? Do I even know what I'm doing? Questions like these can easily deflate a well planned weekend of hard work when you're not comfortable with yourself and your abilities. 

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Aug 30, 2018

How to: Build an Outdoor Sofa

For the last couple of years, we had two ugly rocking chairs on our patio that I never really liked.  They were a little awkward to get into, the fabric was hideous, and they took up way too much space when they were reclined.  So, when my wife asked me to build an outdoor sofa for our patio, I didn’t have any hesitation to say “yes”!  

outdoor sofa feature

To figure out what style of seating we wanted, I searched “outdoor sofa” on Pinterest to get some inspiration and figure out a basic design.  Once that was decided, I tasked my wife with finding the outdoor sofa cushions. I wanted to find the cushions first and then build the couch based on the

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Aug 29, 2018

Truth, Justice, and the American Cheese

Image: Andrey Arkusha/Shutterstock

I remember when the cheese lovers started telling me what was "real" cheese and what was "fake." I remember taking them seriously because they were talking about cheese cultures (ha. pun!) I knew to be important: Italian, French, Swiss, Spanish, etc. "Cheese is alive!" these experts insisted. And anything that was not the product of natural fermentation and cave-aging was unacceptable. Eating the rind was important. The worship of bacteria in the process was expected. The presence of insect larvae was not necessarily a negative. Out of a world that had room for Cheeze Whiz, handi-snacks, and this bit by Mitch Hedberg, the celebration of authentic, non-adulterated cheeses was completely legitimate. 

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Aug 27, 2018

Clever Cocktail Presentation Trick: How to Make an Ice Wedge Glass (for Free!)

diy whiskey wedge

A few weekends ago, my wife and I went out for a special dinner to celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary. We opted to enjoy a few beers with our meal, but the table next to us had ordered cocktails. They each showed up with the glass half full of color - slanted, with the liquid on top. Initially, I thought it was simply a triangular shaped glass, where the bottom angle was simply solid. But as I looked closer, I realized, in fact: it was a frozen wedge of solid ice, attached to the glass so it maintained the effect. 

I asked the server how it was done, and she told me the bartender had a bunch of little rubber molds that fit the glass, and the whole thing goes into the freezer. She said they were cool, but only fit the certain glass they came with; so only a certain number of cocktail recipes are served in them, and they run out each night.

A few days later, I looked it up to see if I could pick up one or two. I found the product - it's a glass with a custom silicone insert that freezes the ice at a perfect 45° angle, cutting right down the center. They cost about $20 each, and are kinda cool.

But - they're also unnecessary. Because you can achieve the same effect without spending a dime, using any rocks glass you already have. Here's how to do it.       

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Aug 24, 2018

How to: Easy Wooden Mountain Wall Art

Cover photo

Several months ago, I moved offices at my job. I threw up a couple pictures of the family and brought all my documents into my new space. And that's how it's been since. Fast forward six month,s and my walls are still barren.  I travel a little bit for work and I spend a lot of time at my client’s offices, so I don’t always notice how empty the walls look.  Finally, my office administrator walked into my office and told me that it was time to hang something up to make my office look a little more personable. 

Most of the people in my office have artwork that was bought online or a stock photo of a beautiful scenery, but that’s not really my style. I wasn’t sure what I wanted, but I knew I wanted to build it myself and make it unique.  So, I searched Pinterest and finally found something that I thought had a nice professional but masculine look that fit my style. 

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Aug 23, 2018

Essential Life Skill: How to Make Perfect Stovetop Popcorn

perfect stovetop popcorn

I've got favorite foods, in every category imaginable. In my head, I write little Pablo Neruda-style odes to each one of my cravings.

And in the snack world, popcorn reigns supreme. As long as it's still crunchy, I'll eat just about every form of burst corn kernel—air popped, microwaved, butter/cheese/caramel split into a holiday tin, warmed under a heat lamp at the movie theater concession stand and drenched in butter "topping." (OK, so I actually skip the butter.)

But the Great Emperor of the Popcorn Realm is now, and will always be, freshly oil-popped stovetop popcorn. As early 90's kid, I grew up on the microwaveable stuff, but I got the entrance to the backstage party from my cooking wizard mother-in-law, and I've never looked back. Nothing can cook the starch in popcorn kernels quite like hot oil, and it's so convenient to be able to salt it perfectly when the thin sheen of oil is still glisten atop each little puff.

Read on for the time-honored technique of making the best stovetop popcorn you've ever had!

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Aug 22, 2018

How to: Set Up an Inexpensive DIY Garden Irrigation System

diy inexpensive irrigation system

What's not to love about a vegetable garden at the zenith of the growing season? More than a sum of its parts—a patch of dirt with some roots sending shoots out of it—a garden gives more than it takes. The average American spends 90% of his or her day indoors, and I use my garden to beat that statistic. I revel in its smells and textures and the satisfaction that comes from the results of tangible work. However, there are certain tasks I find needlessly tedious, and when I expanded my garden by about a hundred square feet this year, I began to count manually watering it with a hose as one of those tasks to eliminate with a timesaver.

But after I decided to set up my own DIY irrigation system, I quickly figured out that I didn't want to use soaker hoses (too expensive for the quantities I'd have to buy) or a rigid structure of PVC pipes (too permanent for the constantly changing setup in my current plot).

The solution was a pleasant surprise:

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Aug 21, 2018

Keeping Up With the Quotes! 10 Movies that People Love To Reference

Keeping up with pop culture can feel like a chore, especially if you find yourself in crowds where making casual reference to what you watch and listen to is part of day-to-day communication. Some aspects of the culture are just too vast to ever totally simplify. (Call me old, but I can never keep track with how quickly pop singers come into huge popularity and then seem to disappear.)

But more manageable than music are movies, which don't tend to get to reference-able level until it has not only saturated the audience, but also soaked deep into our memetic fibers. But in some cases, this takes a long time, and some of the films people

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Aug 17, 2018

How to Enlarge a Hole in Wood without Ruining Your Project

how to enlarge a hole

To the non-DIYer, dedicating an entire blog post to this process may seem like overkill. But anyone who wields their cordless drill on the regular can attest: the issue of making an existing hole larger comes up all. the. time. Whether repairing something around the house, replacing a part or piece of hardware, or just because you didn't quite get it right the first time, any maker, woodworker, or generally handy person knows how frequently one needs to enlarge a hole, and how surprisingly difficult it can be to pull off. 

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Aug 16, 2018

How to Tie the Most Useful Knot in the World

The bowline knot is not just for sailors. Nor anglers, mountaineers, first responders, or anyone else who need to know a huge diversity of knots, their strengths and weaknesses, and what situation calls for each.

This is for the rest of us. Those of us who go through normal life and its adventures, and encounter rope, twine, string, line, paracord, and the like, and when we need to secure it, say "Should I tie this like my shoes, or in a square know that I know will be nearly impossible to get off when I'm done."

Bowline knot tutorial

The truth is, at this point in our lives, we're probably not going to learn how to tie a complex cavalcade of knots, and even if we did, would probably not have enough opportunity to practice them in real world situations in order to commit them to long term memory.

But, still, we should all know how to tie at least one pro-level option, and so we say to you — if you're only going to know how to tie one kind of knot, let it be the Bowline Knot  

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Aug 16, 2018

Pickled Cherry Tomatoes are Definitely a Thing You Need to Know About

We love our pickles here at ManMade. Whether we're fridge pickling veg or tossing a dill cuke in our beer, we're fans of the vinegary tang of natural food preservation.

Now, tomatoes are no stranger to canning; homemade pasta sauce is one of the handmade life's greatest joys, and pickled green tomatoes are delicious in that check-out-the-awesome-secret-restaurant-in-the-hidden-alley kind of way. But I've barely seen pickled cherry tomatoes register on the pickle scene, and it's a rotten shame.

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Aug 14, 2018

ManMade Recommended: This is, Hands Down, the Best Dust Mask for Woodworking

best dust mask woodworking

Hopefully, you're already a committed safety glass wearer. Grabbing a pair for even the simplest drilling/driving task is good practice, and a part of your DIY routine. Even better, if you use power tools, you're also protecting your hearing from those roaring 85-90 dB motors.

Last in that great triumvirate, and perhaps the most often overlooked, is protection for your respiratory system. Too many of us don't wear a dust mask, respirator, or sealed face shield when working on projects for one simple reason: they are extremely uncomfortable, a total hassle, and more irritating than your second cousin's toddler at the Thanksgiving table

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Aug 13, 2018

This Is the Best Way to Salt Your Food

Salt of the earth. Worth his salt. Take it with a grain of salt...

It doesn't take much digging into English idioms to recognize a pattern here: salt is valuable. As an essential mineral? Sure. As a time-honored method of food preservation? Yep. But most importantly? It makes your food tasty. I quote Michael Ruhlman in The Elements of Cooking, distilling a conversation with award-winning chef Thomas Keller: "It is true not just for cooks in professional kitchens, but for all cooks in all kitchens, everywhere: learning to salt food properly is the most important skill you can possess." It doesn't get any more definitive than that. 

The pursuit of properly seasoned food calls for action beyond just salting at the table. See, in my home, salt shakers are mostly for 1) decoration and 2) the occasional ear of corn in July. The reason is that my wife and I salt our food while cooking it. We caution guests to taste their food before they reach for the shaker because if they try to season it at the table, it'll taste oversalted.

In fact, when we're cooking, we actually dispense with a shaker entirely... and by the way, forget about the 1/4 teaspoon measure. We use an even simpler set of fundamental tools:

 

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Aug 09, 2018

Repair is a Radical Act

One of the books in my current stack is Let My People Go Surfing, written by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard. The book is structured into two parts: the first half is a brief history of the company from its origins as a beachside blacksmith shop producing climbing equipment. The other is a company handbook on the founding principles and values on which the billion-dollar company makes its decisions.    

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Aug 01, 2018

My Total DIY Mudroom Remodel + Makeover

Most people refer to the “heart of the home” as the kitchen, and for good reason. However, the first thing you see when you walk into my house is the mudroom, and its honestly the space that gets the most action.  We moved into our house about fifteen months ago, and ever since we first walked through the house, I wanted to make the mudroom/laundry room more functional.  Not only did I want to add more storage, I wanted the room to be an area that I was proud to welcome people into when showing them our home.

my mudroom, the before

 

As you can see, before I started the project our mudroom worked on many levels but it was very boring and it seemed to get cluttered easily. After completing some other more important projects on our home during the first year, I knew this summer was the time to tackle this space. 

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Jul 31, 2018

One of the Best Ways to Use Your Grill This Summer

Photo:  Kim Takhyz/Shutterstock

For most dedicated eaters, the summer means grilling. If you are not firing up some flames to roast some summer sweet corn or a blacken a hanger steak or (at least) a hot dog, you are missing out on one of the greatest joys of the season. There is so much potential and tradition in a simple kettle grill, a chimney full of carbonized wood, and the possibility of what to put on top. But in between the pork chops and burgers and corn cobs and zucchini, there's something else you should absolutely be putting on your grill: a wok.    

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Jul 28, 2018

How to Create Secure Passwords You'll Actually Remember

How to create secure passwords you'll likely remember

Remember that old clubhouse in the vacant lot of your childhood neighborhood that the local kids hand-built from scrap wood and castoff rusted sheet metal, with "KEEP OUT" scrawled in red paint on a sign nailed over the threshold, which you could only cross by whispering the secret phrase of the day?

OK, my childhood never really had that, either. But as this millennium's second decade blazes to a close and the tangible machinery of my life increasingly vanishes into the vapory world of binary code, it feels like several new secret forts pop up every month. Not only does each online account demand its own covert entry key, but with cybercriminals stomping on the gas for data breaches every year, it's becoming more and more important to be able to create unique, hard-to-crack passwords for each one. It's a tall order to balance security with memorability—let's explore how to do it!            

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Jul 24, 2018

My Tears: Reflections on Crying as a Grown Man

My tears. Since I was in my late 20s at least, they've come more easily than ever before. Sad things can bring them on, sure. But mostly, it's the beautiful things. The profound things. And things that are just poignant and stirring. But whatever the cause, they come with frankness and in real earnest. 

Sometimes I wonder if I should listen to Sufjan in public anymore. Always an emotional songwriter, his last few efforts, Carrie and Lowell and Planetarium, have been especially frank, incisively autobiographical and completely leveling (especially when you get clued into his autobiography.) It is inevitable that my eyes will become wells in a coffeeshop. But I guess I believe that it's not reasonable to blubber in public or have a crying fit while I'm at work, there is a deeper sense of shame that, if I'm honest, rests down in the nether regions of my psyche, and it is activated when my tears come. I am brought to tears in public by openness, but then shame comes and closes me up again. 

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Jul 19, 2018

A Guide to Grocery Shopping at Local Your Asian Market

Chances are that somewhere in your town––either far away from the big box stores or in some area that is under-visited or out of the way––there is an amazing Asian market nearby. They exist in towns and cities of all sizes, so don't assume there isn't one near you until you actually look into it. Asian grocery stores are an immigrant's lifeboat, and they are one of the few, authentic cross-cultural locations you can find in most of America that isn't a temple or cultural center. They tend to have an array of products that confuse nearly all shoppers due to the sheer diversity of products that fall under the category of "Asian." 

asian market vegetables
Photo:  Edmund Lowe/Shutterstock

While the meat offerings and seafood tends to be absolutely exceptional and exceptionally inexpensive, the thing that routinely blows me away at my local Asian market is the produce. My god, the produce! Where your standard grocery store will have a small range of Asian ingredients, an Asian market will stagger you just in its section of radishes. Its refreshingly overwhelming, especially when you see something familiar––a bunch of cilantro or garlic or something––and recognize their exceptional quality. This is a place you should certainly familiarize yourself with, and return often.

And while you're there, you should use some of the wonderful vegetables that are, unfortunately, out of our Western culinary vocabulary. In an effort to help you navigate, here are some of the tastiest ones to look out for. This list is anywhere near exhaustive (we love you, too, ong choy), but a great way to start to learn to use some of the classic produce you just can't find at you local megamart.    

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