Friday, January 4, 2013

Sugru Again. But it's great stuff!

I've had this Crock Pot for ages. And the knob broke off right after I got it. I haven't used it as much as I probably would have because it was so difficult and painful to turn it on and to adjust the temperature. And with the cold weather here again, something had to be done. Just think of all those great stews I've missed out on!

But no more. Behold the before...

The before. Crock Pot sadly sans knob.
Creating a new knob with Sugru was incredibly easy. I just followed the directions, which means I washed my hands, cut the package open, kneaded the Sugru and rolled it out a bit with my fingers. I actually did this knob in a couple of stages, building up the Sugru and forming it into a pointer to point to the correct setting, but you could create this knob in many different ways.

The after...

Crock Pot newly re-knobbed.
The knob works perfectly, points correctly to the settings and seems very durable. More durable than the original knob, that's for sure. I've already made a delicious Irish stew so far. Chicken soup is next. Yum!

You can have a look at the Sugru web site to get many, many more ideas about what can be done with it.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ninja Umbrellas are Testing Emergency Response Teams

In the past year a couple of cases of Samurai Sword Umbrella sitings have sparked alarm. People have been reporting the umbrellas as suspected rifles of all things.

An entire mall in Burlington, Massachusettes was shut down because two women became alarmed at a man carrying the umbrella in Nordstrom's. They reported it as a man with a rifle. SWAT teams, ATF and customs officials were called out and over 40 police from 4 different townships showed up for the excitement. The poor guy recognized his description on the news and called in to admit carrying the dangerous-looking rain-combat device.

The News Story on CBS Boston

More recently something similar happened on a college campus when a bus driver reported a man with a rifle at the Rochester Institute of Technology in NY. Police tracked down the photography student and confiscated the offending umbrella.

News Story on YNN

The girlfriend of the student told her story on Some girls just go for the dangerous type.
Of course the authorities in these cases were just doing their jobs, and we can all appreciate their vigilance and quick response. But what about the people who are calling in these reports? A rifle? Couldn't they have just looked a little closer? Or, god forbid, asked someone's opinion about what the umbrella was? I understand they might not want to speak to a person they thought had a weapon directly, and just simply ask him what the thing was, but it just seems like paranoia is a little out of control. Because, c'mon! The Samurai Umbrella is cool.
Check out the Samurai Sword Umbrella on Amazon along with the Broadsword Umbrella and the Sabre Umbrella
And check out lots more cool stuff on!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

My First Sugru Hack

After all of the interesting things I had read about Sugru Hacking Putty, I was very excited to have some of my very own. Because if there's one thing I love to do, it's fix things. I am a salvage-crazy fool. And I like the idea of being able to make improvements to stuff, too.

What is Sugru, you say?

The short answer is that it's a silicone-based, air-curing rubber. But it's unique properties make it super useful. It sticks to almost any surface, stays flexible when it cures, can withstand high and low temperatures, is waterproof and has a nice soft, grippy texture.

The Sugru web site is a great resource for ideas and information:

I had a couple of projects lined up before I even ordered my Sugru so I knew I wanted to get a small packet of 6 black minipacks to try out.

My first project was a simple pot handle that had split, probably from the heat of the dishwasher, but the pot was still perfectly fine. It was going to come apart eventually if left to it's own devices, so I figured it was a good test of Sugru's abilities to fix and even improve on something.

I read the booklet that came with the package of Sugru. It's full of very helpful advice and suggestions. In fact, all of the packaging and marketing materials for this product are very appealing and have a sense of fun to them. It adds a lot to the product in terms of user experience. The booklet advised me that Sugru only stays good for 6 months so I should get hacking. And I did.

After washing my hands, I carefully opened the packet (mostly to take a nice picture) and kneaded the Sugru in between my fingers. It has a silicone rubber texture, pretty much exactly what I expected, but it will stick to your fingers a bit. I rolled out the Sugru into a long snakey cord. One tiny little packet goes a pretty long way. I coiled the cord of Sugru carefully around the pot handle where it was cracked, trying my best to get it even in thickness. Sugru blends into itself easily so I tore off bits and stuck them back into places to try to get as even a layer as I could. I used my thumbs to smooth the cord down and form it around the handle.

In the booklet it suggests using a bit of soapy water to get the Sugru smooth. That worked well for forming a slight ridge in the middle that I thought would add a bit of grip to the handle and make it even better than before it cracked. One packet was more than enough for this job and I even had a tiny piece left over.

Here are a couple of things I discovered. Short fingernails are better for modeling. I'm sure sculptors already know this, but I had a couple of DOH! moments and had to repair some scratches I made. Next time I will trim first. The Sugru will stick to your skin and stain a bit, but I was able to use a scrub brush and get it all off. The booklet warns that it can stain fabric. The booklet also suggests cleaning your hands with some tissue paper, but I foolishly neglected to prepare ahead.

After allowing the lid to air-cure for 24 hours I poked at it some and was quite satisfied with my handiwork. I'm very pleased with my fixed, and even improved, pot lid and it seems to be weathering the dishwasher quite well, thank you.

Buy some Sugru and lots of other fun stuff through Epic Objects. It's a whole site full of stuff you never knew you needed!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Spike Your Juice, Juice to Alcohol Kit - Part 2

White Grape Peach Mango

For the second try I went with one of the Spike Your Juice website's recommended juices, Welch's white grape peach mango. I drank and bit of the juice before spiking, just a little, to lower the level in the bottle and it was delicious. I followed the same procedure as before, to review:
  • Pour the packet (yeast and cane sugar) into the juice.
  • Do not stir.
  • Discard the original bottle cap. (I saved the cap as before, intending to use it against the product advice as I did before, since I liked the effect. But I continued to check the capped and refrigerated bottle twice a day)
  • Fill out the supplied label and affix it to the bottle. 
  • Fill the airlock with water to the fill line.
  • Seal the bottle with the airlock and stopper. 
  • Store at room temperature.
  • Wait 48 hours.
Here's what it looked like on day 2:

Day 2
The first day I began to be worried that it wasn't working. This juice didn't have any foam on top like the other juice did and I worried that I did something wrong. But on the second evening, about 48 hours later, the juice had become somewhat cloudy and when I poured a glass it was fizzy. It tasted very good, still sweet and pretty similar to the original juice taste, but I could just detect a slight alcoholic taste and the sparkling quality made the juice much better. Off to a good start.

Day 3
It was New Years Eve so I made sure we did some spiked juice tasting before we opened the champagne. It tasted great. Still quite a bit like juice, but with a very slightly stronger alcoholic taste. However, I had two glasses (with ice, by the way, which makes the juice taste better) and detected no buzz. And as a drinker, I'm a lightweight. Clearly more fermentation was needed.

Day 4
Late on day 4 and, hey, this juice is tasting very good today. Less sweet but not in a bad way at all. A little more like a grownup beverage and I think I've detected some effects from the alcohol, just from one glass. I'll give what's left one more day and see what that's like. By the way, for these 4 days I've had the juice on the counter with the airlock on it, not refrigerated at all.

Day 5
I still like the taste today, but an odd artificial aftertaste has emerged. I'm wondering if it's because the sugars are being consumed that were masking some odd flavoring. It's not bad enough to ruin the drink, but it's disconcerting. There's only about a glass left so I strained the juice with a paper towel draped in a funnel, washed the bottle and capped it with the original cap that I had saved and put it in the fridge to finish off tomorrow.

Day 6
Today the taste is similar to yesterday. That slight aftertaste is still there, but it doesn't seem as noticeable. Maybe something to do with the juice having been refrigerated since last night. I definitely can tell the alcohol content is higher than a couple of days ago. In my rough and very subjective estimate I would compare a glass of this juice to a half a glass of white wine in terms of how it makes me feel, buzz-wise. Juice all gone.

I would say this juice was a great success. I can't wait to try another one.

At the top of this article I've linked to the double pack of Spike Your Juice. I can't recommend it highly enough. I definitely wished I had bought the double pack instead of a single. It's great to have two bottles going at the same time. Getting a double pack so I can have 3 bottles going is on my list.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Spike Your Juice, Juice to Alcohol Kit

I had been curious about Spike Your Juice for a while but since it's the holidays, I decided it was time to give it a try. Drinking and holidays just go together. It's a kit that allows you to alcohol up a bottle of juice and make a fair approximation of a European beverage called Federweisser. I have never had this beverage, but it sounds delicious.

The Spike Your Juice web site explains that the kit was developed by a group of Europeans living in California who had been accustomed to having the seasonal drink around the time that nearby vineyards harvested their grapes.

There are suggestions for types of juice on the web site. In the instructions that come with the kit, it explains that you need a 64 oz. bottle of juice with
  • a minimum sugar content of 20g per serving
  • an unrefrigerated juice
  • no artificial sweeteners
  • no unfiltered juices
Cranberry Pomegranate

So it pays to read the labels carefully when shopping for your juice. The wrong kind will not work. I choose Ocean Spray Cranberry Pomegranate for my first batch. Not one of the juices recommended on the web site, but it met the criteria, so I went for it. I followed the very easy instructions...
  • Pour the packet (yeast and cane sugar) into the juice.
  • Do not stir.
  • Discard the original bottle cap. (I did, but then a comment I read on Amazon made me retrieve it. Yes, I washed it. More on that in a bit. The retrieving, not the washing.)
  • Fill out the supplied label and affix it to the bottle. 
  • Fill the airlock with water to the fill line.
  • Seal the bottle with the airlock and stopper. 
  • Store at room temperature.
  • Wait 48 hours.
Could not be easier.

Here's what it looked like:

For the next two days I checked in on the bottle periodically. It was bubbling away. On the second day some of the juice and yeast bubbled up into the airlock and it overflowed a tiny bit, so next time I might remove a little juice first. A couple of times I sniffed the product (around the airlock) and was concerned that the odor reminded me of bad old communion wine. I needn't have been concerned.

Day 2
The 48 hours was up on Christmas evening so we eagerly poured a test glass and sampled our product. It was very nice! Still tasted like juice, but it now had a light sparkling wine flavor to it. The wine flavor was slight, however, and we were interested in more dramatic results so I washed the airlock, refilled it with water and set it and the stopper back onto the bottle.

Day 3
We tried a glass on the evening of day 3, about 72 hours after the beginning. Much better! It tasted more tart, less sweet and slightly more alcoholic. This was exactly what I expected since the yeast in the mixture is hard at work turning the sugars into alcohol. We tried some with an ice cube and that was nice. It tasted very good chilled. I recapped the bottle with the washed and refilled airlock and decided to wait one more day and see what it tasted like then.

Day 4
Hmm, a little too sour for me. Not bad. It was still drinkable, and some will certainly prefer the taste, but I prefered the slightly sweeter taste of yesterday.

Now, here's where I went off the safe instructions path. I had read a bit around the web to see what others had to say about the kit. One person, Gregory King on Amazon, had an interesting tidbit of advice:

"Check it after 2 days. You'll probably want to go 3 or 4 days to get rid of a good amount of sugar and get enough alcohol. But check it daily after that, as the fermentation will be geometrically faster as the yeast multiply. After 4 days, you'll probably have a much drier taste...too dry for some.

I use a strainer to filter out the largest chunks of dead yeast, but they won't hurt you.

And I left the cap on in the fridge to have the residual yeast carbonate the drink. Yes, I was risking explosion, but it tastes MUCH better. And the cold temperature slows the fermentation...just check the bottle rigidity twice a day. If it's too stiff, HAVE A DRINK! The nice thing is, it'll repressurize itself a bit, unlike soda that goes flat after you open it."

So, based on Gregory's advice, I emptied out the juice that was left into a large cup and washed out the bottle. I then strained the juice back into the bottle using a funnel with a paper towel draped in it. It seemed to take out what was left of the yeast. I put the cap on and placed the bottle of spiked juice in the fridge. Being the careful type, I checked the bottle frequently at first, about once an hour. Since the bottle was only about half full, it was fine.

About 8 hours later (working late) I tasted the juice again and it was noticeably more sour. Even with being strained and refrigerated, it was clearly continuing to ferment. I found it unpleasantly sour. So I decided to try another type of juice.

Interesting update: We tasted the strained and refrigerated juice on day 6 and it was a little bit sour, but not a sharp sour taste, mellower and much more pleasant. It tasted more like some kind of wine, not like any wine I've tasted, but definitely not bad.

Continued in Spike Your Juice, Part 2