Snaps from the beach

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No swimsuits this time

A wintry stroll on the shores of Lake Michigan, 11-27-10.

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Awesome free music alert!!! NEW GIRL TALK!!!


Hide your kids, hide your wife, and put on your party shoes its GIRL TALK TIME!

Free ninety nine:



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New tag: Terrarium

Dear readers, you might have seen a recent post on this blog about terrariums and thought, “Weird!” and “Well, that was fun but I hope I never have to hear about terrariums here again!”

Well, while looking for something totally unrelated, I stumbled upon these terrarium-ish Christmas ornaments:

Each bulb holds tiny plants, lichens (no one knows what those are) and mosses growing on baby twigs. I know what sooooomeone is getting for Christmas!

Are terrariums so hot right now? Discuss.

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On assignment: Ned Fleetwood

Assignments for Bloom magazine, a magazine in Bloomington for which I am a freelance writer, don’t usually take me to many oddball places. Typically I go to new shops and restaurants and do a little write-up to let readers know what they can expect.

A couple of weeks ago, though, I was asked to do a story on Ned Fleetwood, a 69-year-old retiree who makes life-size-and-larger fiberglass animal. It was definitely an oddball assignment. Meet Ned:

When I met with Ned, he was painting an 18-foot-tall giraffe that was laying face down inside his red, two-story garage that is south of Bloomington. The photo on the right shows a finished giraffe, and a baby giraffe in the background.

He molds the animals in rural southern Indiana using a friend’s equipment. After painting them, he straps and bolts them to a flat-bed trailer and makes the delivery.

Ned has made pigs for BBQ restaurants, gorillas for used car lots, roosters for fast-food chicken chains, hippos for day cares. Once, he delivered an elephant, two baby elephants and a hippo to a man in Arizona who wanted them for his jungle-themed backyard pool. Everyone whips out their cell phones to snap photos of the zoo-on-wheels when Ned is on the road.

Ned’s operation is neither slick nor amateurish. There were definitely dashes of shadiness in his story — for example, he wouldn’t say where the animals were molded, only that he has an agreement with the guy who owns the equipment — but for the purposes of my 375-word story, I didn’t have to get to the bottom of it.

Ned couldn’t articulate what he liked about making fiberglass animals. He said he used to like the travel and meeting people, but not anymore. And he doesn’t really enjoy painting. I think it’s the money. A horse, the smallest animal he makes, goes for $1,000. An elephant goes for $3,000. And he estimates that he’s made about 400 animals since he started doing this five years ago. You do the math.

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Custom gum?!?!?

How many times have you thought about how awesome it would be to create your own gum? Seriously, think about the possibilities with a custom gum:  all the Jersey shore kids could get a red bull vodka flavor, the foodies could get a black truffle (although that sounds gross) gum, cheese people could get that delicate humboldt fog, etc… Well someone is at least taking a stab at the idea:  presenting an artisanal first –  A Chewing Gum Factory where you can mix and match 200 flavors to create your personalized batch of chewing gum.

How great would this be if you could tailor your entire day around fun gum… Start the day with a caffeinated vanilla coffee gum, roll into lunch chomping on a nice thyme rosemary chicken, and cap off your work afternoon with a gin and tonic.

If you happen to live in London and can make this special event before the end of the month, can you pick me up a couple sticks?

P.S. – Bompas & Parr – is the group putting this on and has some other very interesting food type projects on their site worth exploring

Via weheart

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A Modern Day Terrarium


Growing up I remember someone in my family (I think it was my grandparents) having a terrarium that had gone bad. Moldy, cloudy, and not anything that represented what the glass enclosures are supposed to be: beautiful little microcosms of space to humbly grow plants within. Fast forward 20 years and I have stumbled upon these amazing globes from Litil (out of Brooklyn – of course) that have completely changed my childhood impressions. Each of these handcrafted one of a kind pieces seem to have a perfect balance of color, space, and of course plants making them a perfect accent to any home or work place.

Check out Litil’s facebook albums for a complete picture overview that will make you drool.

Or just go and order one today:

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Microsoft Mobile 7

When I converted to an Iphone it was one part loving the newest tech gadget and another part I believe it was/is just good design. The external Iphone aesthetic and the overall interface was far superior to anything else on the market at the time. Fast forward to today and you have an extremely competitive Mobile phone market that has largely caught up with the Iphone and in some ways passed Apple (this is clearly a debatable topic). Is there room for anyone new to make a splash?

Enter the new Microsoft Mobile 7, a brand new completely redesigned mobile platform from a company who does not typically lead with outside the box design.  What makes it unique is that it steps away from the now standard visual design pioneered by Palm, perfected by Apple, and currently on most Android platforms of icon lists as your home screen and instead enlists a fresh modern visual interface. The new system promises to be constantly updated, completely customizable, and provide complete integration with the things people use most: social networking, media, and the internet.

Could this be what helps make Microsoft relevant in the current mobile environment? Time will tell, but the early indicators are that this should at least make them a part of the discussion.


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What does a $250 home coffee maker do that is so special?

This is the Technivorm Moccamaster coffee maker. It is largely agreed upon by the coffee community ( Coffeegeek, Coffee Companion, and even Cooks Illustrated ) as the best home coffee maker. It does not grind your beans for you. It does not automatically brew your coffee at 7AM in the morning. It does not use an easy to clean up pod. But what it does do is deliver one of the best cups of coffee you can get (from a machine) by paying attention to the process and the details.

Most people who know me know that I enjoy coffee, a lot. I did not start drinking coffee until about three years ago at which point I learned coffee can be like wine, filled with flavors that vary will vary by brewing process, region where the beans are from, and even how they are roasted. This blew my mind as I was used to drinking a $0.79 Speedway vanilla coffee which tasted more like candy than any properly made coffee.

Once I learned about the importance of beans being freshly roasted (best within 3-4 weeks) and that I could do this at home (more on our adventures in coffee roasting with a popcorn popper later) the seed was planted. Home roasting then lead to a lot of French pressing, research, and ultimately the purchase of the Technivorm for what I hoped to be a better cup of daily coffee.

This better cup comes from the Technivorm brewing at the right temperature (right around 200 F), completely saturating the beans, and doing this all in under six minutes. Sounds simple right? Its not, the Technivorm is one of only a few machines certified by the Specialty Coffee Association of America that actually delivers the temperature range that is ideal to brew fresh coffee beans. A lot of standard machines brew too hot or too cold producing a cup that commonly will be called bitter. Ever had a cup of coffee from a good coffee shop that did not need milk or sugar? That is a properly brewed cup and is very in line with what you get from a Technivorm.

These little details are what make me love this machine. Mix in some excellent design and a very solid build overall and your net result is a $250 coffee machine that not only brews a fantastic cup of coffee, but looks good on your counter in the process. Some folks may opt for different features on their coffee machine that make things easier, but I am happy to say that the rewards of a perfectly brewed  cup for me outweigh the lack of modern day features.

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What are you cooking this weekend?

Doesn’t chili sound good right now? You’ll have good luck with this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated.

It was so delish, we’re making it again for a pumpkin-carving party on Sunday. For bonus points, pick up some cornbread mix and bake cornbread in a cast-iron skillet.

Simple Beef Chili with Kidney Beans

Makes about 3 quarts, serving 8 to 10.   Published March 1, 2003.

Good choices for condiments include diced fresh tomatoes, diced avocado, sliced scallions, chopped red onion, chopped cilantro leaves, sour cream, and shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese. If you are a fan of spicy food, consider using a little more of the red pepper flakes or cayenne–or both. The flavor of the chili improves with age; if possible, make it a day or up to five days in advance and reheat before serving. Leftovers can be frozen for up to a month.


2 tablespoons vegetable oil or corn oil
2 medium onions , chopped fine (about 2 cups)
1 red bell pepper , cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 pounds 85 percent lean ground beef
2 (15-ounce) cans red kidney beans , drained and rinsed
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes , with juice
1 can (28 ounces) tomato puree
Table salt
2 limes , cut into wedges


  1. 1. Heat oil in large heavy-bottomed nonreactive Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking, 3 to 4 minutes. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, pepper flakes, oregano, and cayenne; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add half the beef; cook, breaking up pieces with wooden spoon, until no longer pink and just beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add remaining beef and cook, breaking up pieces with wooden spoon, until no longer pink, 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. 2. Add beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Remove cover and continue to simmer 1 hour longer, stirring occasionally (if chili begins to stick to bottom of pot, stir in 1/2 cup water and continue to simmer), until beef is tender and chili is dark, rich, and slightly thickened. Adjust seasoning with additional salt. Serve with lime wedges and condiments if desired.


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