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Sep 04, 2018

How to Save Seeds and Grow Better Vegetables

how to save tomato seeds

When I start my garden every spring, I like to kickstart it by heading over to the local nursery and hardware store for some pregrown plants. Seeds can be tricky to deal with, and plants that are already several weeks old are especially helpful if you're busy, don't have a ton of experience, and want to get a jump on the growing season without having a greenhouse.

For the remainder of my garden, it's all about the seeds. I love that thrill of watching those little seedlings cling to the dirt in rain and sun, and I'm ecstatic to see true leaves when they emerge. If you've been doing seed packets for a while, and you're looking to up your garden game and perhaps move into the world of heirloom vegetables, read on for our primer on how to save tomato seeds, seed pods, summer vegetables, and more!

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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 28, 2018

Designer Appreciation: Finding Inspiration in the Work of Raymond Loewy

Mid-century modern is an umbrella term that describes the popular industrial design taste ranging from the mid-1940's to the mid-1970's across all disciplines—architecture, interior design, product design, and graphic design. It was huge shift in its time, orbiting around the desire to strip away excessive ornamentation and get things down to their most basic shape elements. Despite the changing aesthetics of the 1970's onward, it continues to endure—in the words gallery owner Patrick Parrish, "It’s been the new cool thing five times in the last 50 years."

Of course, no design era is the pinnacle of perfection. Elements of mid-century interior design can oversaturate our eyeballs—does anyone else completely overlook the Eames chairs placed in the corner of perfectly-styled rooms on Pinterest—and after living in post-Soviet East Germany for a year, I gotta say that the stark minimalism of Brutalist architecture can get really depressing in a snowless winter. (I also have to admit that sometimes even the word "design" is so overused that it feels like a gnat swarm to the face on a muggy day in August.)

Yet, I can't help but love the work of French-born, NYC-based designer Raymond Loewy (1893–1986). You probably don't know the name, but the guy was so prolific that unless you've been living in a cave, I guarantee you've seen his work. Let's take a look at some of his greatest hits.

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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 20, 2018

Try This Simple Decluttering Tool and Enjoy a Less Chaotic Life

Fact: the physical space that we inhabit on a daily basis, especially our homes, is an extension of our minds and attitudes. Your thoughts influence your actions, your actions influence your environment, your thoughts respond accordingly, and so on.

I don't need to offer a strong argument that the passive life—that is, the life where other people and random events have determined your course—is no life at all. Bearing that fact in mind, your surroundings shouldn't be an afterthought, but a map of the deliberate decisions you've made to make the best use of your time, energy, and resources.

I recently wrote about how you can hack your habits by deliberately organize your home; this is one specific application of that precept. The goal here is to reduce clutter, and the tool is a simple, easy-to-memorize maxim:

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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 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 10, 2018

How To: Rebind a Vintage Paperback Book

diy book binding

I love reading. It's a passion and a pastime, a comfort when I'm stressed out, and a total compulsion—ask my wife and she'll confirm that if there's written material anywhere in my vicinity, I'll scan it. I read books from the bookstore and the library, I read articles on my phone, I print out PDFs of friends' screenplays for annotated reviews.

I also really enjoy buying vintage books, especially while traveling. My trade of choice is artisan printing, particularly in letterpress, so I love examining the craft that goes into these old books.

Most books come to me in decent condition, but every once in a while I'll come across one in a Charlie Brown Christmas tree state. Today I finally sat down to work on this 70-year-old German paperback, and I'd like to share my DIY book binding process with you.

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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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