Archive for Category ‘Make‘

Travel Tip: Herbal Tea

I grow weary of drinking tap water when staying in hotels, though buying bottled water is inconvenient and environmentally uncouth. A single herbal tea bag placed in room temperate tap water is enough to knock the yuck off of half a litre.

My tea flavors of choice: plum spice and orange-mango-cinnamon.

Recipe – How to Make Tortillas

I have been living here in Central Europe for over a year now, and after a broad search, I can say with confidence that Mexican Food is an undiscovered commodity. When considering the handful of restaurants that offer anything with a tortilla, consider this: two of them also serve pizza, and the third charges ten bucks for a burrito.

If you’ve harbored aspirations of fame and fortune, consider opening a chain of late night taco stands in Prague (start near the dance clubs off of Wenceslaus Square), and become a taco baron. Though if you fancy a future as the Taco Baron of Bohemia, you’ll face a few challenges.

For example, the grocers in Prague do not carry cilantro. No cilantro here nor there, no cilantro anywhere. I met a short bespectacled man from Guatemala this week; he has lived in Prague for three years. Upon shaking hand, the first thing I asked him: “So Humberto, where’s the cilantro?”

“No hay nada”

So unless you have a small plot of arable land or lots of free space left in your marijuana growing closet, you are shitoutofluck.

Next problem: Tortillas

Larger markets will have tortillas in the exotic food section, next to the asian noodles, Skippy peanut butter, and Orville Redenbacher. Unfortunately these rubbery mats are better suited from handling hot pans than actually putting in your mouth and chewing.

So I have taken matters into my own hands. Drastic times call for drastic measures, and I have begun fabricating my own tortillas here at home. It turns out to be incredibly simple to make tortillas and after a bit of practice, they can be more fluffy and delicious than you even dreamed. Dream small, my friend.

Tortillas are basically flour, water, and fat. So you likely have everything you need to make them in your cupboard already. You will also need a rolling pin, which also comes in handy for making pies or chasing cartoon mice out of your kitchen.

Keep in mind that making tortillas (cooking) is not an exact science, play with the amounts until you figure out what works for you. The following ingredient makes about four (4) medium-sized (10″) tortillas.

1 cup of flour

1/8 cup of vegetable shortening (40 g) *
2/5 cup of warm water (more or less)

1/2 teaspoon of baking power
1/2 teaspoon of salt

* you can substitute any kind of fat
* butter, margarine, lard

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl, cut in fat until pea-sized chunks, slowly mix in warm water. Do not add too much water, the dough should look pretty dry until you knead it together.

Knead the dough until in becomes smooth.

Separate dough into four balls, cover with plastic or a wet paper towel and let sit for about 30 minutes. The dough will become easier to roll out after it sits.

Lightly flour a surface for rolling. I use the kitchen counter. Use a rolling pin and roll out your tortillas until about 1/8″ thick.

Heat a dry skillet at medium-high heat until hot.

Cook each tortilla less than a minute on each side or until you get a puffy tortilla with a few brown spots in the shape of Jesus. Enjoy.

Some helpful notes:

Working with dough takes practice. If you have not made dough before you might want to watch some YouTube videos on how to make bread, pie crust or puff pastry to learn practices for manipulating dough.

Use a pastry or basting brush to brush off extra rolling flour before cooking.

If the tortilla is flat after cooking, try using more heat.

If tortilla sticks when rolling, you likely added too much water when make your dough.

Ira Glass on Creative Work

This American Life is my favorite podcast, and these days one of the few pieces of radio or television media that I consume. The others are 60 Minutes, The McLaughlin Group, and Radio Lab. I generally save podcasts until I have a long train trip and then listen to several episodes consecutively. Typically because of the delay in weeks between the show’s production and my train ride, archived current events shows such as The McLaughlin Group are no longer relevant. This American Life remains current, if not timeless.

The following video is of the host of This American Life, Ira Glass, talking about producing creative work and the period where the output does not measure up to the creator’s standards of excellence. I have been at this point for several years now, and have recently decided to combat this syndrome with high volume.

via Lifehacker

Hang Drum Redux: Hank Drum

This is an update to my earlier post about the amazing hang drum. Apparently the widespread interest in the innovative musical instrument coupled with the lack of availability has driven a resourceful instrument maker to fashion an alternate version of the hang drum from a common propane tank.

DIY instrument pioneer Dennis Havlena has published his plans for the “Hank Drum” (read Hang + Tank) that can be crafted from a propane tank and a few common power tools. has an illustrated tutorial on hank drum construction here.

Below is a short video of Dennis Havlena himself, demonstrating his creation. Dennis is no Manu Delago, but the hank drum has a warm and bright tone which can be heard in the video.

Mac OSX: Why You Need ImageWell

imagewell.jpgI frequently edit images for the web and presentations. Often I am using a screen grab or modifying a photo from a website and I need to make some quick adjustments. Using Photoshop to make simple changes such as cropping, resizing, saving for web, or adding shadows and rounded edges is very time consuming and the same tasks came be done in ImageWell in under 60 seconds.

ImageWell is a very lightweight image application that allows you to drag and drog images to make adjustments and then drag and drop the edited image onto your desktop or into another application for use. For example I can drag an iPhoto image directly into ImageWell, add borders, resize for web, and then drag the finished image into my blog software for publication. Scaling the image and setting the file quality are a snap and ImageWell will even generate a random file name to shave seconds off your workflow.

You can save an image as a template to easily apply the same process to a batch of images. Most of my photos that I publish on this site with borders and shadows are done using this technique.

Here is a screen grab of the ImageWell interface that I have summarized using ImageWell.


And here is the Edit Screen.


ImageWell does not do everything and will not replace Pixelmator, VectorDesigner, or Photoshop, but it does a few things very well. For $20 it will quickly pay for itself in time saved.

[UPDATE] I recently checked the memory usage for ImageWell using the Activity Monitor, and this program is a beast for memory usage. Upon launch, the ImageWell consumes 129 MB of system memory, compared to 150 for Adobe Illustrator, and a paltry 22 MB for Vector Designer.

Link: ImageWell

How To Use the Illustrator Pen Tool

I have always been mystified by the pen tool in both Illustrator and Photoshop. The pen tool is the primary tool for creating vector paths and it is really the key to using Illustrator. This tutorial from Tutvid sheds some light the subject.