Tag: 2019 February Group Writing

Making Fizzy Bath Salts


OK, Ladies of Ricochet. If you can give me just a few minutes, I’ll show you how to turn your very own bathtub, in your very own home, into a scented luxury spa. It’s easy, and uses ingredients that, if they’re not in your kitchen already, are readily available either in stores or on the web. I buy a lot of ingredients for my homemade cleaning products, soaps and shampoos here; I’m sure many other places are just as good, as inexpensive, or perhaps better. A Google search can probably help you out if you’re unsure of where to find some of them.

I like to use an electronic scale to measure my ingredients. It’s not absolutely necessary, but sometimes there’s a chance of (benign) chemical reactions if the quantities are wrong, and this is a much more precise way to do it. I’ve included “measuring cup” equivalents below, but if you think you might do this sort of thing more than once, I’d highly recommend getting a scale.

Here we go:

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When one has celiac disease and several other food allergies, one finds oneself cooking at home quite often. Are there restaurants that have foods I can eat? Sure there are. I could go to Morton’s Steakhouse every night and have a steak. But that gets expensive after awhile. Boring, too. Oh, I’m definitely a fan […]

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Group Writing: How to Make Your Very Own Chanukiah


A couple of years ago I was inspired by @iwe to construct a chanukiah (menorah for Chanukah) for our front yard, and I did a post this past year on our finished product (since my husband and I made it—well, he mostly made it!) I thought for this topic it would be fun to tell you how we put it together and came out with a product about which we are rightly proud.

When I first told my husband I wanted to make a Chanukiah, he grumbled. He assumed that he’d be stuck with all the work, as I adoringly watched him make it as knitted in my favorite chair. Not true! I told him that I wanted to be involved in the whole process from beginning to end, to which he said he needed a model or design to work from. Oh sure, there are lots of patterns of menorahs on the internet.

Group Writing: Making Connections


“Beware the enlisted man. He is stupid, but crafty.” Those words were first spoken to me by Bernie, my teacher, mentor, and friend.

I met Bernie in 1972 when he was a teaching assistant, and I was a college freshman. My composition teacher had suffered a heart attack, was out for the rest of the semester, and Bernie was pressed into service as the instructor for our Honors English course. He was impressive to our eyes even then. Huge. Bearded. Wise. Always a bit disheveled. Always wearing the same suit, but always with a different tie. I’ve never known a man with so many ties. I’m not sure they ever repeated. And yet, when Bernie passed away in 2012, and Mr. She and I paid our respects at the funeral home, Mr. She and Bernie were wearing identical ties for the day (the “Chaucer” tie), and one of Mr. She’s proudest possessions today is one of Bernie’s ties. Bernie was a dear friend, and a kindred spirit. I miss him.

Bernie was, in every sense of the word, a Renaissance man. There was no area of life, no realm of knowledge, no part of existence in which he was not interested, and which he did not pursue. He was a voracious reader: Facts and information stuck to him like glue, and were likely to be dredged up, given the “Bernie” spin, and delivered at exactly the right moment to shed enlightenment on the topic at hand. There was nothing he did not know something about, there wasn’t anything about which he could not weigh in with authority and vigor and humanity. One ignored Bernie’s advice at one’s peril, whether it had to do with the best way to route a picture frame, the most efficient method of digging a hole, the quadratic formula explained, or how the postmodernists always get it wrong. He knew almost everything about almost everything. I miss him.

Susan’s Free Guaranteed Successful Dieting Plan!


I know. Losing weight is hard. When you get older, it’s even harder. You think that maybe the latest fad diet might do the trick, although in your heart you know that best-selling writer has no magic to offer for your weight struggle.

Well, I’m here to tell you that you can do it! Throw away your diet books, your internet print-offs, and the latest recommendation from a friend who is the worst example of a well-managed diet. (Don’t you hate people who tell you how to eat as they gobble down a cheeseburger and fries?)

My recommendations are not easy. They are not based on government dictates of a healthy diet. They will not feed your wounded spirit or reduce your over-active appetite. You probably won’t like them. But they will work. No measuring. No groups. No counselors. Just li’l ol’ me and my time-tested cooking and practices. So here goes:

Group Writing: How to Prepare Kampot Noodles


Did you know that noodles originated in Cambodia? Well, according to the Khmer legend of Dhmen Jay, noodles were introduced to China around the start of the Common Era. If you’ve read my previous post on noodles, you’d know that num banh chok is a fermented rice noodles. Making num banh chok is very laborious, as you can probably tell from that post.

I’m not certain of the age and provenance of num banh chok, but my aunt’s third-grade teacher’s family claimed to have been making Khmer noodles for more than a thousand years. And there are many villages all over Cambodia that have claimed the same. There are a few areas in Kampong Thom and Kratié provinces that have been making num banh chok for more than two millennia.

Quote of the Day: Grandma Greenie


“When people enter the kitchen, they often drag their childhood in with them.” — Laurie Colwin, Cup of Comfort Cookbook

Great Grandma Clark made these special treats when we came to visit on Sundays and holidays. Grandma Clark called them “greenies” and we called her “Grandma Greenie.”

Grandma Greenie welcomed us into her home with a big smile and open arms. She usually had a game of Pollyanna in progress on her card table. She loved to compete and happily challenged anyone who came through the door.

Making Better Architecture


A recent comment by Ricochet member extraordinaire James Lileks discussed an article from Forbes which stated “Frank Gehry, the world’s most famous architect, recently said that “98% of everything that is built and designed today is pure [crap]. There’s no sense of design, no respect for humanity or for anything else.”*

The Forbes article continues with “insulated architects are “increasingly incapable … of creating artful, harmonious work that resonates with a broad swath of the general population, …this has been a problem for over forty years, and that things are even worse today.” The article also shows a pretty “Katrina cottage” vs. another modern monstrosity in New Orleans. As we have little power over what’s chosen by politicians, we can (still) choose our residence to reflect both our needs and wants.

When I was young, I enjoyed drawing superhighway exchanges and houses, so I thought of becoming either a Civil Engineer or an Architect. My older cousin went to a special four-year program at Michigan State University in Architecture Engineering but then became an Urban Planner instead. After I graduated with a Computer Science degree in Engineering, my Architect dream never faded, and within ten years I designed the first of two houses.

How to Build a Computer 27: Data Recovery


We’ve covered the physical aspects of a hard disk drive, tonight we’ll touch on the way data is organized on the drive, by covering those two most important topics; keeping secrets and ferreting other people’s out.

In this case describing the times this joke has been used since it was last funny.

Member Post


On Valentine’s Day, enjoy some sweetly spiced red tomato jam. Really, tomatoes are a fruit. In a jam, they offer a good balance of sweetness and acidity that is less cloyingly sweet than other red fruit jams. I use a spiced tomato jam/butter recipe from Allrecipes.com. There is, of course, a tale in how I […]

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How Does He Make That? Watching a Cigar Roller


Nicaragua, the Undiscovered Luxury Beach Destination for Billionaires and CelebritiesThis past December, a conversation with a local cigar lounge owner turned to his plans for 2019. He was planning to become the first cigar establishment in Arizona to be approved as a cigar manufacturer, to be legally selling cigars rolled on the premise.

A week ago, I stopped by and watched the roller at work. So, how do you roll a cigar? It turns out that the more important question is “how do you make a cigar?”

To start, you will need to get on the Internet and look up the appropriate federal government office. Like distilling alcohol for drinking, the manufacture of tobacco products is federally regulated. Unlike distilling, you could legally grow your own tobacco plant, cure the tobacco, and turn it into a smoking product for personal consumption, as a hobby. Good luck with that. So, we are back to asking Uncle Sam’s permission to manufacture tobacco products.

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Desperate times call for desperate measures, even measures of ingredients for barbecue. I know perfectly well that there is a difference between East and West North Carolina barbecue. Kansas City and Texas have more than multiple sports feuds between them. Bring it. Or tell us how you make a side dish, or dessert. Or tell […]

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Poetry Forms, No.13: Sestina


General Description and Requirements

The sestina is one of the more difficult forms to master. There are at least two reasons for this. The first is the length of the poem. One might write a few sonnets per day. The sonnet only has 140 syllables when using the English Heroic Line of iambic pentameter. A sestina using the same line is 390 syllables long, almost three times the size. More difficult than the length, though, is the requirement for the use of end words. In a sonnet, such as the English sonnet, one should have fourteen different words that rhyme in pairs, so seven pairs of rhymed words. In the sestina’s thirty-nine lines, there are exactly six words. That is not saying six sets of rhymed words. There are only six words that end the thirty-nine lines.

Whereas rhymed poetry tends to have a rhyming pattern, such as the English sonnet’s ababcdcdefefgg pattern; the sestina instead uses a folding pattern. All stanzas are six lines, and the order of the end words in the first stanza determines the order in subsequent stanzas as such:
Stanza 1: 123456
Stanza 2: 615243
Stanza 3: 364125
Stanza 4: 532614
Stanza 5: 451362
Stanza 6: 246531.

How to Make Booze Better


Some booze is best served in a saucer, in the garden, as slug bait. Other alcoholic beverages are best served at particular temperatures, in particular glassware, revealing their full palette of flavors. Then there is booze that could be better, and therein lies today’s tale.

Whilst serving deep in the heart of Texas, I happened upon Ranger Creek, a “brewstillery.” This neologism denotes a craft brewery that also has a license to distill alcohol. The brewery piece is a source of steady income, with quick conversion of ingredients into beer ready to be poured. The distillery side can be as efficient, or even more so, if you stick to un-aged clear spirits: vodka, gin, white whiskey, white rum, blanco tequila. 

The moment you venture into whiskeys, whether you call them whiskey, rye, Scotch, or bourbon, the rules change. All of these require years of aging in oak barrels. Indeed, bourbon may not be sold as such without at least 2 years of barrel aging. So, if you want to get into the whiskey making business, you are committing to a minimum of two years lag time, two years of illiquid liquid inventory. 

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We have plenty of days available this month for tips and tales of making. How do you make that? How do you make that? Subjects might vary from beer, to brains, to brats (sausage)? Long term contributors are welcome, and first time efforts are especially encouraged. For February, our theme is “How Do You Make That?”All you need do is […]

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Beer-Making the Easy Way


We started February off with what may fairly be called Arahant’s General Theory of Creativity:

Mostly it was knowing a few techniques, having the right tools, and having a love for building and creating whatever it was.

This theory certainly holds for home brewing, making your own beer. Why make your own beer? That answer has changed over my lifetime as we passed from BCE to CE—before craft era and craft era. So, what follows is a thumbnail sketch of American home brewing history.

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There are two major monthly Group Writing projects. One is the Quote of the Day project, managed by @vectorman. This is the other project, in which Ricochet members claim one day of the coming month to write on a proposed theme. This is an easy way to expose your writing to a general audience, with […]

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