Archive for the ‘Do it yourself’ Category

Learning to tie my shoes

Tuesday, January 10th, 2006

Ian's Shoelace SiteMy shoelaces frequently come untied while jogging, and although I always think I can just tie them tighter, it never works. A double-knot holds longer, but is kludgy and hard to untie. It was to the point that I was briefly tempted by these Speed Laces mentioned on Cool Tools, which quickly and securely fasten your shoes with a sliding catch rather than a knot.

Fortunately, we’ve been learning some basic knots, and in looking for one to lash a box closed, I came across Ian’s Shoelace Site. I love exhaustive niche sites, and this is a doozy. In five minutes, I learned to tie Ian’s Secure Shoelace Knot, and my life is better. It looks difficult, but basically you start like the classic shoe-tying knot, and then make a knot of two rabbit ears instead of doing the make-one-loop-and-tuck-the-other-one-through-the-middle thing. Or something like that. Really, the instructions are good, and this thing doesn’t come apart, even if mine isn’t quite as pretty as the photo on his page.

Once again, a bit of easily-learned skill beats out a $10 gizmo. Plus, I can use the knot with my black dress shoes as well. I’m no fashion maven, but wearing Speed Laces with a suit steps over even my line in the sand. Maybe if I’m really doing triathalons and need to shave seconds from changing shoes after the biking I’ll reconsider Speed Laces for my running shoes. But then again, there’s always “The World’s Fastest Shoelace Knot,” also courtesy of Ian.

Glass Jars

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2006

At the Container Store, they sell glass jars for a buck or more. What a hoot. You can go to Safeway and get nicer jars for not much more money, with the added advantage that they are filled with tasty jam or pickles. Anyway, we use glass jars for food storage. This helps us reduce the mound of bags filled with rice, beans, flour, sugar, etc. that end up buried and forgotten in the back of the cabinet. We use things more quickly since we can actually see everything, and jars seem to keep most foods fresher with less mess. Plus they are free, so when we move, we can just recycle them and start over again. I also like fewer garish labels confronting us every time we open the cabinet – it is really easier on the eyes. A few tips:

  1. Soak the labels to remove them. Nothing nastier than a jar covered with sticky goop. If water doesn’t work, try baking soda or rubbing alchohol. If that doesn’t work, recycle it and wait for another kind to come along.
  2. Tall jars are better than squat jars – you can fit more side-by-side in the cabinet and see what’s in them.
  3. Some jars, like Classico pasta sauce, have measurement markings on the side, which can be helpful.
  4. The plastic liner in most lids can pick up smells. We’ve soaked them with dish detergent, scrubbed them, and rubbed them with baking soda, but it is difficult to remove strong smells. It does fade over time, so just leave the lid out for a while. Someone suggested soaking with vinegar, so maybe we’ll try that next time.
  5. If the lid doesn’t have a plastic liner, it may be cardboard. Hard to clean, so just recycle and move on.
  6. If you are going to stick a knife in the jar (to get jam or something) then try to use one that has straight sides all the way up to the lid, so that stuff doesn’t get stuck when you try and scrape it out. Bonne Maman jam jars are perfect for this. (And it is good jam.) If you are going to pour stuff out of the jar (e.g. dry rice or beans) then use one that rounds at the top and has an opening smaller than the width of the jar – since it is narrower, it is easier to pour stuff out accurately into a measuring cup. This knowledge is hard-earned after many messes on the counter, so heed it well.
  7. For sanity’s sake, try and accumulate a bunch of identical jars, and discard the singletons as soon as possible. Otherwise finding the right lid is a constant irritation. Even worse, sometimes the wrong lid will feel like it fits, but actually not seal at all, making your mini-marshmallows hard and nasty.
  8. Even better, there are some jars like the smaller Mt. Olive pickle jars, that use the same lids for two different sizes. 100% goodness.

If you do something similar, we’d love to hear about any jars that nest for more compact storage. Keeping a variety on hand can get cluttered since they don’t stack well.

Since two wheels is too many on a Segway…

Wednesday, July 6th, 2005

Now this is minimalism. Obviously the big problem with the Segway is that it has too many wheels. Fortunately, Trevor Blackwell has solved this by creating a unicycle version. Whee!

Via LifeHacker.

Minimal boat building – yikes.

Tuesday, June 7th, 2005

The Minimalist Boater has a pretty scary looking minimal boat, aka Crawdad, “a 7’6″ parody of coastal workboats.” Of course, after spending only $50 in materials, you’ll have plenty left over for a life preserver and swimming lessons…