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    created at: 04/30/2015

    There's some seriously special memories a Pop Tart brings to in my mind. It's like, I love these things, but as an adult, I know I'm not supposed to eat them, but then I can make my own and control the ingredients, and ta-da! They're back in my toaster. I've had a soft spot for breakfast on the go since grade school. This need for mobile morning sustenance came from my love for sleeping in until the very last possible second, so Pop Tarts were a Godsend. A while back we featured a homemade pop-tart recipe that looked delicious thanks to a filling of nutella and other delicious goodness. 


    Pop Tarts

    Here's another great recipe with the frosting and sprinkles which I happen to believe make it exactly what I want to wake up and munch on as I rush out the door.

    I'll be trying this out shortly then probably filling my freezer completely full of them soon after.

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    I recently found myself falling down a rabbit hole on YouTube of "How It's Made" style videos and I just couldn't stop! Some of them were so fascinating I had to share them with you!man pulling iron ore from melting pot

    It started with "Wooden Bowls" a short video showing the speed and accuracy one company uses to churn out beautiful hand-turned bowls.

    Then it was onto a video from Home Depot on how they manufacture plywood. Wait till you see the giant sawmill blades! 

    After watching plywood production, I got curious about how OSB was made. you know, that chipped wood-looking board they use in home construction? Here's a great promo video from Georgia Pacific on how they efficiently produce their OSB.

    Next up is how jeans are made. My favorite part is toward the end they show how the factory distresses each pair of jeans using a laser to burn in fade marks. 

    A couple of years ago I had the privilege to visit the Lodge Cast Iron plant in East Tennessee. They open it once a year during their Cornbread Festival. It was one of the coolest tours I've ever taken. Here's a video that sums up the process of making one of their legendary cast iron skillets.

    Speaking of Tennessee. One of my favorite YouTubers, Frank Howarth recently posted a stop-motion video of his Powermatic (a Tennessee brand) table saw reassembling itself. If you haven't seen any of his other stop-motion assembly videos, you should spend some time on his channel.

    This next one is one of my favorites, and one of the shortest. It's just one man making a simple felt hat, but the film makes it look like one of the coolest things in the world.

    Finally, check out this recently-posted profile of a woman who's helped make a the Superbowl Football for the last 48 years. 


    What are some of your favorite mass production videos?


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    created at: 05/01/2015

    With most things in everyday life, the ManMade argument goes: if your going to do something, you might as well do it right. And while the definition of "right" is variable, oftentimes, we look to the pros. I take care of my vehicle the way a mechanic wood, I work on my garden and lawn with the tips I learned from farmers, and I try to prep and cook food in the same way as those who doing for a living.   

    I can't remember when I first learned to dice an onion (probably from all those years of absorbing PBS cooking shows), but there's an easy way to make quick (and safe) work of breaking one down into evenly sized pieces. Primer offers this "30 second visual guide" and it does a great job of walking you through this classic method. 

    created at: 05/01/2015

    I'm sure there's some French word that describes the technique (if you know it, share in the comments below, please) but for now we'll just call it the most effective way to dice and onion.

    Check out Primer's guide in full - How to Dice an Onion Like a Chef: A 30 Second Visual Guide



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    created at: 05/01/2015 There are those tools that are exciting. The ones you look forward to using: table saws, routers, even hand planes. And then there are the tools that sit there on the peg board, unassuming, know they're perfect at the one task they were designed to do. And when you need them for that task, accept no substitutes.    And when that task is cutting bits of metal like wire, nails and hardware, screen, etc - you want a pair of cutting pliers. Note: these pliers are designed for one task - cutting - and not for turning or grabbing anything. So, if you've been using pair of needlenose or lineman's pliers for everything, it's time to embrace the joy of the flush cut.


    created at: 05/01/2015 There are two main types of pliers dedicated for cutting. The first is the diagonal pliers, also known as wirecutters, diagonal cutters, side cutters, etc. They work by indenting the material with a sharp edge, then wedging it apart (as opposed to shearing like tin snips or scissors). They allow you to cut wire or small fasteners made of almost any common metal (brass, aluminum, copper, steel, iron, tempered steel). They also work well for skinning wire (removing the insulation) when a stripper is not available. 

    created at: 05/01/2015

    Because the entire surface is dedicated to cutting, you can manipulate these guys to cut inside many different angles, such as snipping inside a small space, or, you know, dismantling a bomb, or something. 

    created at: 05/01/2015

    The other style are known as nippers, or end-cutters, and are used for trimming protruding wire, nails, or rivets close to the work. This is my go-to tool when cutting errant pneumatic nailer fasteners (nail gun nails), and their larger cutting surface make them great for around the house tasks (I used them to cut guitar strings, for example.) You can even use these to cut tile when you need to fit it around an odd shape.

    Both have a place in your tool box alongside your twisting pliers. If you only get one pair, start with the diagonal cutters, as they're a bit more versatile, but, these are not expensive, and it's great to have the right tool for the job on hand when you need it. Whatever you get, get a pair made from a manufacturer known for its high-quality, tempered steel so you don't ruin the edges. These shouldn't only cost six bucks, but thankfully, only go for about $15-20. The extra money to get a tool that will last, and can be sharpened to a new edge, is well worth it. Buy the right pair now, and you're grandkids will still be using them. 

    ManMade Recommended: 


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    created at: 05/03/2015If you've ever found yourself looking for a good project to MacGyver, building a transistor radio seems like a good place to start. This vintage design comes from 1956, and as advertised can easily be built within an hour.   

    created at: 05/04/2015The open, one-plane wiring lays everything out so it's easy to see and troubleshoot and you'll be ready for some retro radio in no time. There's even a photography printed so that you can overlay all of the electrical work. 

    Click here for the PDF from

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    Fashion trends come and go, but true class never tires. And unless it's a suede jacket with fringe on the sleeves or a pair of bondage pants, investing in quality, handmade leather goods is always a wise decision for every guy. They'll last for decades, look better with age, and simply make you look like a guy. I've rounded up fifteen quality leathergoods that particularly hit the spot this week.

    1. Wolverine 1000 Mile Boots

    2. Leather Beer Carton by WalnutStudiolo   

    3. Field Theories Leather Portfolio Case

    4. Mopha Bike Tool Roll

    5. Catchers Mitt from Rust in Peace



    6. Bicycle Wine Rack by Oopsmark

    created at: 05/31/2012

    7. Leather iPhone Covers by Sled

    8. Leather Key Snapper by Wood & Faulk

    9. Handsome Dan Footballs by Leather Head

    10. Heritage Key Fold by Hard Graft

    11. Roll Up Travel Charger from Restoration Hardware

    12. Ona Camps Camera and Laptop Bag

    13. Makr Carry Goods Wallet, in process

    14. Gunny Straps

    15. Whiskey Holster by San Fillipo


    All photos linked to original source. This post original published on May 31, 2012


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    created at: 04/29/2015
    Like most people, my family spends a lot of time in the kitchen. It’s where we start our day (coffee, papers, kids), and where we inevitably land every evening for dinner. Despite its small size and builder-grade cabinetry and appliances, it’s a space that works for us. But my wife and I have long been looking for simple kitchen upgrades to bring more personality into the space, and allow us to really expand on our passion for cooking.

    We’ve grown tired of cooking on our wonky electric range, and we’re constantly exasperated by our tiny, hard-to-keep-organized refrigerator. After enjoying a meal with friends in their very functional kitchen, we decided that the time was nigh - we were ready to do a mini overhaul. 

    We were very lucky to partner with Lowe's and Frigidaire Professional on this project. In addition to installing appliances from the new Frigidaire Professional Series, we’re also painting  the cabinetry, installing a new back splash, adding a tube skylight for more natural light, and injecting some much needed “us” to the space.

    Here’s the game plan for our week-long kitchen makeover.

    New appliances

    New Appliances

    I love cooking, but doing it on outdated, low-grade appliances make the task more difficult. Our electric range never heated pots evenly, our refrigerator was constantly overpacked, and our oven was finicky and took forever to heat up. We’ve selected the following appliances for the space:

    • Back control gas range: This range has a massively powerful 18,000 BTU burner for searing and boiling in a flash, and the convection oven has a power-plus mode that preheats in just a few minutes. Adios electric range, ever gone are the days of scorched meat that manages to be undercooked in the center! 
    • Microwave hood: The convection oven feature built into the microwave hood is great, and we’ll likely use it as a fast-access warming area for food during meal assembly. 
    • French door refrigerator: This upgrade will add a huge amount of accessible space to our current refrigerator situation. The large gallon-sized doors, adjustable shelves and drawers, and LED lighting throughout will make it easy to see and access our bounty. Additionally, with three little girls and twice as many dirty hands, the smudge-proof stainless steel was an immediate winner for both looks and easy clean-up.
    • Dishwasher: The most notable feature on our new dishwasher is the lack of buttons on the front. This makes it look clean and professional while still remaining fully functional with top access buttons. It also boasts a quick 30 minute cycle, which really cuts down on clean-up time. 

    Our kitchen upgrade mood board

    Updated DIY Design

    My wife is a Pinterest master, so we immediately created a board with inspiration ideas and a few great upgrades for making it all flow together. Here they are:

    1. Polished Natural Stone Mosaic Subway Tile

    Tile adds color and texture to the walls which give the counter-tops an appearance of more depth and character. Since we were planning on stainless steel appliances, the tile pattern with natural stone accents and grey and white marbled variations was a great way to tie them into the rest of the room. The tiles come in 10”x12” standard configurations so the wall gets covered quickly..


    1. Tiles –  allen + roth Venatino Polished Natural Stone Mosaic Subway Tile These tiles came in a 10”x12” sheet. We covered about 25sqft of wall so that meant about 28 tiles (get a few extra for filling in the ends and any odd angles).

    2. Adhesive – TEC Tile Adhesive (we used about 1 gallon for 25sqft)

    3. Grout – MAPEI Unsanded Grout (use unsanded when the grout lines are about 1/8” or less for a smoother finish, use sanded grout for any gaps over 1/8” for better spanning of the gaps).

    4. Tile installation Kit (gloves, trowel, grout float, sponge)

    5. Tile Nippers or Wet Tile Saw

    The project consists of prepping the surface, applying adhesive, attaching tiles, and final grouting. It takes between 2 and 4 hours depending on the size and complexity of the space.

    Kitchen inspirationPhoto: Better Homes & Gardens / Chantelaine

    2. Painted Cabinets

    Changing the color of the cabinets is one of the most ambitious projects that can happen in a DIY kitchen. Painting the upper cabinets white makes the space much brighter and allows for a cleaner look that feels more open. Using a darker color on the lower-cabinets really will make the appliances stand out, adding more visual interest to the space. The key to painting cabinets is preparation and even coverage. This comes from cleaning all surfaces, sanding well, and priming before the paint goes on. Adding new handles with a silver-pewter design completes the update nicely.


    1. Cleaning supplies – Using TSP, or another degreaser is important to cut through the layers of cooking grease on the cabinets. Anything left behind can bleed through the paint and ruin the finish over time.

    2. Sanding supplies – We use 120, and 140 grit sandpaper (& sanding sponges) to give the paint a good surface to stick to.

    3. Drop cloths and plastic – Keeping paint where it belongs is a huge part of the challenged when painting so many items in the garage. I layer the floor (and walls if necessary) to keep it all clean

    4. Primer – No matter what I’m told, I still prefer to use a binding primer to make sure the paint has a good seal and surface to stick to.

    5. Paint – We’re using HGTV semi-gloss paint on this project. This paint is nice and thick thanks to the primer so a few coats offer great coverage.

    6. Brushes and Rollers – I always use a brush whenever possible, with a nice foam roller it leaves a nice smooth finish. I’m partial to Purdy brushes myself.

    7. New Handles – We’re using allen + roth Pewter 3in handles that match up to the handles on the appliances.


    Skylight in kitchen

    Photo: Velux 

    3. Skylight

    Just about every space can use a bit more natural light. I love how easy the Sun Tunnel skylights are to install, the kit comes with everything needed to fully install a weatherproof tube of light in any room. The skill level necessary to complete this task is moderate to high due to the need for a tight seal on the roof, so read up ahead of time. The installation can be fully completed in just a few hours.


    1. Sun Tunnel Kit – Velux 10” rigid Sun Tunnel
    2. Hole Saw – I use my multi-saw for most of these types of holes, but a drill and small saw can also make a fully acceptable hole in the roof sheeting and drywall with some careful cutting.


    4. Faucet Replacement

    Water is a part of just about every kitchen task, and a great faucet makes it all flow a little better. The hardest part about this project is the tight quarters under the sink. A few specific tools make the task a bit easier, but no matter what at least a few hours will be spent getting everything nice and tight. A pull-out spray nozzle that secures back cleanly is a nice touch for getting water exactly where it needs to go during clean-up.


    1. Faucet – The Giagni Fresco Pull-Down Faucet has a nice look that will complement the appliances. A nice stainless finish keeps the water spots to a minimum, water saving spray is great when hosing down a big round of dishes after the party.

    2. Stainless Steel Lines – Stainless reinforced lines are a bit more expensive than PVC, but worth the cost on something that can easily flood the house.

    3. Plumbers Putty or Silicone Sealant – It’s always a good idea to get it all sealed up to keep the water where it belongs

    created at: 04/29/2015 


    We’re planning to complete this kitchen update in a single week. The bulk of that time will be dedicated to painting the cabinetry. It’s a tight timeframe, but we’ve made a rough schedule to help keep us on track and we'll report back on how well we stuck to it.

    Although it'll be a hectic week (or so), I know this project will be well worth it. We’re excited for the new look and professional series appliances that will help us cook some great meals for family and friends for years to come.

    Check back next week to see how things are coming along!


    This post is sponsored by Frigidaire Professional, but all opinions are mine alone. Thanks for supporting the brands that support ManMade.


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    created at: 05/03/2015If you've ever found yourself looking for a good project to MacGyver, building a transistor radio seems like a good place to start. This vintage design comes from 1956, and as advertised can easily be built within an hour.   

    created at: 05/04/2015The open, one-plane wiring lays everything out so it's easy to see and troubleshoot and you'll be ready for some retro radio in no time. There's even a photography printed so that you can overlay all of the electrical work. 

    Click here for the PDF from

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    Poly CoatFinishing a project with the right protective coating is the final touch and should be done right. Here's a quick look at how to protect that brand new project.   For years I didn't put much thought into the finish on my projects. After spending so much time working through the build, I would rush through the final step and get it inside the house looking good. This hurry would show up a bit later when the piece couldn't hold up to wear, water, or daily use. After plenty of research I figured out that there are actually a lot of choices out there and they're specialized for a reason. One of the best resources I found was from the DIY Network comparing the differences between polyurethane, shellac, varnish, and lacquer.Rubbing On A Finish

    Overall, I'm a fan of the water-based Polycrylic.  For the majority of my projects it's a great overall finish that is forgiving, durable, and dries fast. Also, the off-gassing from a water-based finish is much less potent, so there's less of that chemical stench afterwards. I'm also a fan of the wipe-on rubbing oil for small jobs that need a good hand polished look.

    What is your go-to finish for wrapping up your projects in durable beautiful style?

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    The last of the typewriter repair menA lot of us have nostalgia for old typewriters, regardless of how many hipsters put them on display. I have one myself and I was surprised by how much the guy in my local typewriter repair store knew about my machine and how quickly he solved my problem. This is a celebration of "a dynasty of repairmen keeping the world's typewriters from going obsolete."    

    Mary Pilon focuses her article on typewriter repairman Paul Schweitzer (and his sons) in the Flatiron District, while also granting a history of the typewriter itself. She writes, 

    "As the 19th century teetered into the 20th, the clank of typewriter keys went from solo to symphony. They were the weapon of choice for professional writers, the business elite, people with things to say and the need to say them quickly. They unintentionally provided a passageway for women to tread into workplaces from which they had long been banished, and greatly expedited the rate at which human thought could be translated into ink."

    Many of you designheads already know that the QWERTY keyboard was arranged in a purposefully difficult way in order to avoid jamming the gears by typing to quickly.  Take a little time and read the full story on

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    created at: 05/05/2015

    Oh, you know the kind. Where you pull a particular book and the whole case opens to reveal a secret passageway and all kinds of mysterious and surreptitious doings and goods behind?

    If you've got the space (and the secrets), you can have one, too.    

    Bob from I Like to Make Stuff offers his take on the secret door bookcase, constructing a custom case from MDF and pocket screws, then building a book-triggered hinge method that is, frankly, dope. 

    Bob offers the build process in the helpful video below, as well as an Instructable detailing the steps. 

    Check it out!

    For an original ManMade take on something you could put together over a weekend, check out How to: Make a Secret Bookshelf Stash and Storage Spot


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    Looking for a good way to upgrade the shop? Start with the nuisance dust that ends up coating everything (including your lungs). Here's a rundown on the ideas I'm looking at for taming that woodworking haze in my workshop.   Working in the shop has some great benefits. It relieves stress, and I get the churn out some great projects. Along with those projects, I churn out even more sawdust. To address the massive amount of shredded wood, I've installed a large dust collector for the bulk of the cuttings. Unfortunately, the rest of the garage still ends up covered with a fine layer of dust, and I have to imagine my lungs don't come out unscathed. That's where a dust filter comes in handy, from what I've heard this small box hanging from the ceiling scrubs the air nice and clean. So after I'm done with my major kitchen upgrade, this project is on the to do list.

    Here are a few ideas I'll be looking at:

    Box Fan Filter

    1. Box Fan Filter

    For about $45 this fan looks great, and does a decent job filtering the air. It won't blow enough to really scrub the air, but as a cheap measure it's a good start. The ease of getting the fan and filters makes this a good choice for the budget minded guy, or someone who wants something fast. This design can be as simple as a filter strapped to the fan, but if I'm building something I have to look at all the time the nice frame is a good touch.Hanging Filter

    2. Hanging Dust Filter

    If you can find an old squirrel cage fan from a HVAC repair shop, it's worth building a filter box around one. The fan is efficient and moves a lot of air for a fast turnover of the shop. The key with a hanging fan is to place where the majority of the sawdust air moves directly into the bottom input, and push it out horizontally to get a good circulation of the air.

    For more in-depth info, take a look at this nice resource from Popular Woodworking - Air Scrubber Trio.

    For now, I'll probably pick up a small box fan with a matching filter to start the process and upgrade to the larger squirrel cage after seeing how well it works.  What upgrades are on your to do list in your shop?


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    The music video for Son Lux's new single, "Change is Everything," features roughly 4,000 animated frames, crafted only from string and ball head pins on a foam core background. created at: 05/06/2015 As the video develops, you see the holes left from the previous shots multiply and multiply, giving an awesome ghosting effect to the moving line art images.   

    Director Nathan Johnson of The Made Shop tells NPRMusic, 

    The first day we knocked out 535 frames (out of roughly 4,000)....By day three, the pads of my fingers were so raw that it hurt to move a pin. I didn't know how I'd be able to keep going, but my wife, Katie found some rubber finger tips at Staples that helped dull the pain (though it also decreased our precision). We also didn't realize that the surface of the foam core board would be blown out by day four. We got to the point where the board was so pockmarked that the pins would randomly shoot out and fly across the studio every couple frames. After that, we stocked up on a few more boards and started wearing safety goggles.

    As for the song itself, it sounds like Station-to-Station era David Bowie to me, but with the big "whooaaa" group vocals that seem to keep popping up everywhere in the last few years.

    Perhaps even more interesting is this making of featurette, which includes discussion of the tools and materials, the sketch video projected to make the string art images, and plenty of exhausted confessions from Johnson.  

    All in all, pretty cool. See more at the All Songs Considered blog: Son Lux's New Video Is Kinda Mind-Blowing



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    created at: 05/06/2015

    We know you love your mom, but life gets busy and we all fall behind. Luckily for you it's not too late show that incredible woman how much you love her with these unique gifts from Amazon Prime that if you buy today, will still arrive in time for you be the favorite son!   

    And if you don't get to it until Friday or Saturday, that's okay. Just be sure to call on Sunday and tell her you love her, and that her gift should be there tomorrow.

    And if you don't have Amazon Prime, today might be a good day to start a trial, or find a friend who does. Here's a little something for everyone:


    The Mom who Loves Coffee, but Thinks She has to Go to Starbucks to Get It

    Pack over 80 years of design excellence into the coffee-making routine with the Bialetti Moka Express ($33.75) which produces rich and authentic espresso that serves up to 6 people. Or one very caffeinated mother. 

    The Gourmet Mom

    If your mom spends a lot of her time in the kitchen, why not buy her an apron that will be both functional and stylish? If you can get past the fact that the company is called Flirty Aprons, the 22 different apron styles ($25.16) offer a variety of choices to keep your mother feeling young and beautiful in her everyday life. 




    The Active Mom. (...Or the Aspirationally Active Mom):

    Fit Bit One - $94.27

    My mom actually has one of these and it's the perfect gift for the one who's looking to monitor her progress toward some fitness goals. It tracks your steps, the number of calories burned, and even includes a silent alarm to wake you (but not your partner) – all while syncing to your phone. 


    The Wine-Loving Mother

    If she is already a wine aficionado, chances are she's harder to buy wine for. This Sagaform Wine Carafe ($27.99) is hand-blown and comes with an oak stopper for the mother who loves wine and its accouterments, and saves you the headache of picking out the wine yourself. 


    The Master Gardener Mom

    This Japanese Hori Hori Landscaping Digging Tool with Stainless Steel Blade ($26.88) has wowed gardeners for quite awhile with its dependability and versatility, and it's one of Chris' mom's favorites. 


    The Techie Mom

    Whether she loves to live on the forefront of technology or simply has constant errands to run, this Morphie Space Pack ($149.99) not only extends her phone's battery life but also adds 16GB of memory so she can store all those adorable pictures she loves to take. 


    The Book Loving Mom

    Wild: From Lost to Found on The Pacific Crest Trail ($8.61) tells the story of one young woman's empowered from heartbreak to healing in the wake of a shattered life. In addition to being made into an Academy Award nominated movie, the book has touched thousands of lives and might be a powerful statement of how you see the strong woman that raised you.

    The Mom Who Loves Tea

    Electrical kettles boil water faster than the stovetop, and require no extra effort. She can leave it plugged into the wall on the counter top, and have a quick cuppa anytime she wants. We love the goose neck on the Bonavita 1.0L Electric Kettle 

    Good luck!


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    Wooden MagnetsThose old bottle-cap magnets on the fridge used to be cool, but it's about time to upgrade those to something a bit more in style like these smooth wooden knobs. Take a look.   One of the most cluttered spaces in my kitchen tends to be the side of the refrigerator. It's a place to put reminders, calendars, invitations and everything else we want to keep safe. Over the years I've collected an assorted mess of magnets  and it makes the hectic space even worse. With a lathe and a few hours, these little magnets will definitely go a long way to taming the mess.

    Magnet Spread

    What I like about the style is the simplicity, and the smooth look of the finish. They give a clean masculine feel to any place where you need some holding power. So take this little piece of inspiration and upgrade your kitchen magnets to match you (current) style.Magnets


    For the a little more rustic take on the wooden magnet, check out this ManMade project -  How To: Make Tree Branch Magnets


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    mint plant with title of article

    Oh, Summertime. The best time of year for delicious drinks made with fresh ingredients. In doing my research for this piece, I had a hard time not wanting to just make up a drink for each herb! 

    If you've ever wanted to have fresh herbs for all the tasty drinks you love to whip up, make this summer the summer you plant your very own cocktail garden. Don't have a green thumb? Don't worry about it. Herbs are some of the easiest things to grow! Without getting into to much botanical detail you can rest assured that growing any plant in which you only harvest the leaves or flowers is much easier than something that has a root or a fruit! You don't need seeds for most of these as well! I did some research and found several of my local and big box hardware stores carried most or all of the plants listed below.

    I'll list out each plant, a little about it and a few drink ideas (virgin too)!

    Chocolate Mint Plant1. Mint

    Ah mint, the king of cocktail herbs. It's unique flavor makes it a versatile addition to almost any liquor. Mint even has a few sister plants, like chocolate mint and pineapple mint, that you can use in special drinks to really add some fun flavors!

    With Spirits: Julep, Pineapple Mint Mojito

    Virgin: Mint Lemonade, Mint and Lime Soda


    Lavender Plant

    2. Lavender

    Lavender is my favorite drink addition. I love it's familiar earthy-sweet aroma. The color also adds a fun pop to any drink you make. It's scent can be so strong, it's best to hold the herb in your open hand, clap you other hand on top gently to release it's oils and top off you drink with it. Throwing it in to a shaker with ice could really bruise it and dilute the smell.

    With Spirits: Lavender Negroni, Lavender Collins, Honey Bee Martini

    Virgin: Lavender Mint Soda, Watermelon Auga Fresca (add lavender)

    Lemon Thyme

    3. Thyme

    My second favorite herb and a cousin to lavender is thyme. I love thyme for it's sophisticated woodsy bite that adds a touch of savory to a really sweet drink. Check out Thyme's sister, Lemon Thyme. It has the slightest hint of citrus, it's wonderful!

    With Spirits: Lemon Thyme Gin Sparkler, Raspberry Thyme Smash

    Virgin: Thyme Lemonade


    lemon verbena

    4. Lemon Verbena

    Lemon Verbena is a unique plant boasting light citrus qualities. You could use this plant to add a citrus flare when you a) are our of lemons or b) don't want to dilute your libation.

    With Spirits:  Lemon Verbena Gimlet, The Frezier Affair
    Virgin: Herbal Sodas (including lemon verbena)


    Flowering Rosemary

    5. Rosemary

    Rosemary is a delicious warming herb. It reminds me of the deep woods, a crackling fire and thanksgiving all at one time! If you love the straight gin and want more juniper flavor, you can add this juniper cousin to your drink and make it Super Gin! I love this herb in everything!

    With spirits: Rosemary Gin Fiz, Ruby Red Rosemary and Honey Cocktail

    Virgin: Rosemary Vanilla Honey coffee syrup


    Sweet Basil

    6. Sweet Basil

    Basil is another great herb you wouldn't expect to see outside of a pasta dish. I love the delicate licorice flavor it brings to drinks. Play around with relative thai basil or cinnamon basil to your drinks to hone in the perfect amount for your drinks.

    With spirits: Strawberry Basil Martini, Blackberry Gin Fiz

    Virgin: Cucumber, Mint and Basil Soda, Peach Basil Sweet Tea



    7. Tarragon

    Tarragon is another fantastic licorice-like herb that adds a unique, subtle earthiness to your drinks. In some ways, wether good or ill, I'd like to think it reminds me of certain cold medicines from my childhood! Tarragon goes best with neutrals and gins.

    With spirits: Beet me in St. Louis (beet and tarragon gin)

    Virgin: Tarragon Lemonade


    Stevia Plant

    8. Stevia

    Stevia isn't as much as a flavoring herb as it is a sweetener. It boasts zero calories and is totally natural! I add a few leaves to certain cocktails instead of sugar for a fun twist!


    A lot of my research came from The Drunken Botanist. Check out her website our her book The Drunken Botanist for more information about the plants that make up all the drinks we love! 

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    created at: 05/07/2015

    There are those basic, essential tools that everyone needs to cook awesome food at home. ManMade thinks there are a solid fifteen, and we've shared them here - The Essential Kitchen: The 15 Tools Every Man Needs to Cook Like a Pro

    But then, there are those less obvious tools... The ones that making cooking a real pleasure, and allow you to turn out restaurant-quality food with the charm of homemade.   So, we've selected ten of our favorites to expand your arsenal and perfect your technique. Let's do it. 


    created at: 05/07/2015

    1. Bamboo steamer - Want to reheat food without drying it out? Steam it, man. Want to cook fresh vegetables without robbing them of their nutrients and crunch? Steam it, man. You want to... Well, you get where we're going.

    Steaming food is an essential cooking technique, and one that's not usually part of the arsenal in U.S. kitchens, which is a real shame. Perhaps it's become too associated with healthy cooking...meaning it doesn't add any flavor. But 1) that's not true, and 2) sometimes you just need to partially cook something before grilling, searing, or sautéing. And steaming kicks boilings butt.

    An Asian-style (horizontal) steamer often beats those little folding insert things, cause you can stack up the layers and cook more food with the same amount of energy. Plus, how you gonna make something like this with a little basket?

    Recommended: Norpro Deluxe 3-Piece Bamboo Steamer Set

    Of course, to use one of these, you've got to have....

    2. A Carbon Steel Flat-Bottomed Wok - Lots of cookbooks and resources will tell you that Western stoves aren't designed for woks, and that they don't get as hot , and you might as well use a 12" nonstick skillet. While the first two are true, the latter is most certainly not. A steel wok is much bigger than a standard skillet, which allows you to push up the cooked food to the cooler sides, and focus the new ingredients near the heat. Also, the size is essential. There's no way you can make fried rice for four in a non-stick skillet. 

    created at: 05/07/2015

    Plus, there's that mysterious wok hay - the flavor compounds that form when fresh ingredients hit a hot steel wok, and make a great stir fry taste like a great stir fry. They're pretty inexpensive for their versatility, and couple with a lid and bamboo steamer (see above) you can make a whole, whole bunch of dishes in a whole new way. (It's still my favorite way to pop popcorn). 

    Recommended: Joyce Chen Uncoated Carbon Steel 14-Inch Flat Bottom Wok 

    3. Large restaurant-style food storage container: These things require a bit of cabinet space, but they make themselves worth it in the first few uses. Need to brine a bunch of chickens before grilling or smoking? Cool down a batch of stock or broth right fast? Store a large amount of soup? Ferment a big batch of pickles, kimchi, or sauerkraut? 

    This is your guy. A six-quart model is a good option for general use, and will fit on the shelves of most refrigerators. You'll love it come Thanksgiving. Just made sure to get the accompanying lid. 


      created at: 05/07/2015

    4. Stone mortar and pestle - Science: food tastes better and more flavorful when the cells are crushed rather than just cut and separated.

    Answer: use a big old mortar and pestle. Garlic, spices, herbs, seasoning pastes, salsa... anytime you can. There are two styles I'd recommend: the Mexican molcajete, made of volcanic basalt, and the Thai-style krokhin (pictured), made from granite. The molcajete is designed for grinding and smashing, and the krokhin more for pounding. The latter is a bit more versatile if you're only going to own one, as the surface is smooth and little bits of spices won't get stuck in the coarser cracks. But I have, and use, both on at least a weekly basis, and won't make guacamole or a curry without them. 

    Whichever you get, get a big one. 


    5. Boning knife - You can break down meat and fish with a chef's knife or even a paring knife, but it'll be much easier with a tool designed for the job. These have flexible blades that will ease around bones and other solid bits, allowing you to get the most meat from the carcass. The blades are also slightly offset and curved to allow the most access while keeping your hand out of the way. 

    This is $20 well spent. 

    Recommended: Victorinox Cutlery 6-Inch Curved Boning Knife, Black Fibrox Handle


    6. Digital Scale - Good for baking, good for foodcrafts like canning and pickling and making beer, and many modern chef-y cookbooks list ingredients by weight. Be sure you get one with a nice broad plate, a standard and metric switch, and use it often.

    Recommended: OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale with Pull-Out Display

    created at: 05/07/2015

    7. Rice cooker - Yes, you can cook rice in a saucepan on the stove, or in the oven. No, it won't be as easy as a rice cooker. The real benefit here it - with one of these guys, you'll be willing to try to cook more Asian and Southeastern Asian dishes. With the rice aspect handled, you can focus on the other, less-familiar components of the dish. Knowing you can pull off a perfect jasmine to accompany that Thai curry, or some Chinese long-grain to match those new pantry staples you snagged at the international market means you get to learn more about cooking, not focus on not burning the side dish. And I wouldn't cook brown rice any other way. 

    Look for an Asian-style model in the four-six cup range, with both a cook and warm function.

     Recommended: Zojirushi NHS-10 6-Cup (Uncooked) Rice Cooker

    8. Cast iron grill pan + griddle: Turns your stove top into a griddle and a grill, and your grill into a stovetop (and a griddle). Not just for pancakes and bacon, this will make quick work of a batch of fajita veggies, cooking 3-4 steaks a la plancha, or to even out the heat on a charcoal grill to use a saucepan. 

    Recommended: Lodge LPGI3 Cast-Iron Reversible Grill/Griddle, 20-inch x 10.44-inch


    created at: 05/07/2015

    9. High End Instant Read Thermometer: Can I really recommend spending a hundred dollars on a thermometer? Yep, for two reasons:

    • It's really fast, and really accurate, and really well-built. That means you'll use it. 
    • It's bigger than just a tiny metal probe, which means it's easy to find. That means you'll use it.

    I've owned my fair share of digital thermometers. They'd last a year or two, and I'd use them maybe six or seven times when grilling chicken thighs and the like. Then they'd get misplaced, or break, or stop working, and I'd buy another one.

    Then, I bit the bullet and bought the (hopefully) last one I ever need. It's so fast, I'm willing to grab it to check everything from the water temp of my morning tea to my homebrew mash to the ambient temperature of my garage. And I know I've spent more than $100 total on those $30 jobs that break after a year or so. 

    I wish I'd done it years ago. I didn't buy it because I had a million needs for a high end digital thermometer; I found those needs because this thing works, and makes me a better cook.  It'll help you, too. 

    Recommended: ThermoWorks Thermapen

    10. Electric Kettle: Makes quick work of coffee, tea, and noodles. The gooseneck design is essential for pourover techniques, and helps you keep the scalding hot water where you want it to go, not on your hands. 

    Recommended: Bonavita 1.0L Electric Kettle BV3825B


    What next-level kitchen tools would you recommend? Share your picks in the comments below!


    Just starting out? Be sure to check out The Essential Kitchen: The 15 Tools Every Man Needs to Cook Like a Pro





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    It's always worth it to make quality investments in your everyday tools. And let's be honest, a fair number of us use bottle openers on a regular basis. So why not make your quotidian experience a little more exciting?   

    The builder who designed this clearly used some scrap wood but a little bit of imagination could bring out the marauder in you. I'd also suggest setting up a bottle-cap specific trash can to catch them across the room. 

    Check out the full instructions here and witness the catapult in action below.

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    created at: 05/08/2015 Of all the "big" power tools, I think the bandsaw is my favorite. (I love you, too, router table.) It's the most creative of the bunch, and one of the more versatile, and with its relatively low speed and thin blade, it's among the least dangerous. 

    Tuned up properly, it can make all kinds of cuts, and really bring your projects to life and out of the square and boxy. 

    Jimmy DiResta's series of tips-based videos are all excellent, but this most recent collection of bandsaw practices and ideas really just nails it. It's definitely the only 20-minute YouTube video I've ever watched. 

    There's some cat business at the beginning (in which a puppet actually cuts stuff on the band saw, so that's kinda cool), but the goods start about a minute in. One thing you'll note in the video that Jimmy doesn't mention - having a direct task light on your bandsaw table makes a world of difference. 

    Check out the rest of Jimmy's channel for lots of inspiration. 

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    A list of great songs.

    You know...the ones that change your life.     

    Fake Plastic Trees - Radiohead
    Thirteen, under the covers, tuned to the local top 40 station with my little portable radio, very late on a school night. Remember when they used to play Radiohead on the radio?
    (iTunes, Amazon )


    California - Mason Jennings  
    DiscMan gryoscoping in my left hand, suitcase dragging with my right, walking down the jetway to board a plane, college-bound.
    (iTunes, Amazon)


    Hardline - Heiruspecs
    From the tape deck of my tan 1984 Honda Civic, rolling through University Avenue and Snelling after a late-night summer storm, rearview mirror trailing starry green stoplights, young and wondrous.
    (iTunes, Amazon )


    I’ll Believe in Anything - Wolf Parade
    White iPod headphones, khakis and a button-up, exiting a hulking suburban office building after quitting my first job, bouncing on the balls of my feet a little more with each step closer to the car.
    (iTunes, Amazon )


    Tired of Sex - Weezer
    Eighth floor dorm room, freshman Thanksgiving break, downloaded off Napster and nearly blowing out my roommate’s speakers. Everyone was gone for the holiday, so we turned it up and rocked out in our underwear. 

    (iTunes, Amazon)


    The Abusing of The Rib - Atmosphere
    On stage at the Dinkytowner in Minneapolis, singing into a microphone, covering this song on an acoustic guitar, (probably mistakenly) thinking someone in the audience was yelling ‘Yeah!’. 
    (iTunes, Amazon )

    Slug performing at First Avenue in 2001

    Scapegoat - Atmosphere
    On stage at First Avenue, in Minneapolis, taking pictures of Slug sneering into the microphone, lights bright, a thousand hands up in the audience.
    (iTunes, Amazon)


    Arches National Park

    Two of Us - The Beatles
    Rounding curves of umber sandstone, emerging from a cool shady tunnel of rock into Arches National Park, my girlfriend’s bare feet on the dash, two years into our (so far) fourteen, road-tripping to the Pacific and back.


    running into the Pacific

    California Stars - Billy Bragg & Wilco
    Pants rolled up, car doors left open, holding her hand as we ran into the sea and fading sunlight.
    (iTunes, Amazon )


    Thug Luv - Bone Thugs-N-Harmony feat. Tupac
    Glory Bound
    - Martin Sexton
    Blurring past a highway-side sunflower ocean, in northwestern Minnesota, elbow out the window, bag of baby carrots on my lap, halfway through a ten hour drive to the Winnipeg Folk Festival, age 19.  
    (Yes, weirdly, these two songs are forever intertwined because of that trip)
    (Glory Bound: iTunes, Amazon)
    (Thug Luv: iTunes, Amazon )


    Your Ex-Lover is Dead - Stars
    In her basement apartment, roommate gone for the weekend, that woven rug at the foot of the bed, white comforter freshly washed and piled in heaps. 
    (iTunes, Amazon )


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