we tried it: the verdict on DIY Cheese Kit

The Claim: Got some fresh milk in the fridge? Have about an hour to plan ahead before serving your next Mexican-themed meal? Why not make your own Queso fresco, with this kit from Urban Cheescraft. The Portland, OR company brings the local food wave right into your kitchen. They supply most of what you need — a plastic cheese mold, a fine cheesecloth, cooking thermometer, a bag of citric acid and cheese salt — along with easy to follow instructions. Use this kit and you’ll have delicious, salty, crumbly Queso Fresco to sprinkle on huevos rancheros.

The Situation: It’s a Friday night tradition with our friends Jenn and Gordon. One week it’s their house, the next ours. The other Friday, Jenn wisely had a crock pot full of tortilla soup brewing, and was eager to host. “I’m making cheese,” she said. I got there and discovered she was just cracking open this kit at around 5pm. Could we really start this now and have cheese done by dinner tonight? We had three kids under 5 running around, phones beeping, beers pouring. Distracted though we were, we managed to make this cheese! The hardest part was making sure we didn’t let the milk boil. It tasted yummy and was the perfect topping to the soup.

The Verdict: This cheese kit is not cheap ($30 at williams-sonoma.com). When you consider that it makes 10 7 oz. wheels of cheese, it is not too expensive, but it doesn’t really save you money either (especially when you pour in your own two gallons of milk). We have some great local stores and farmer’s markets near us where you can easily buy the stuff. Unless you really really love Queso Fresco or want to bundle it up and give them as presents or something, I think it’d take a long time to use this whole thing up. Like a year. This cheese kit is a great learning tool, but it is more a novelty than a must-have.

Still Curious: Visit urbancheesecraft.com

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there’s no wallpaper like gnome: in hunt of “being human” decor

I’ve just finished watching the first few seasons of the original UK version of Being Human. I love the show, I love the characters, and I really love the great wallpaper in nearly every room of the house the main characters share in season one. Most notable is the totally incongruous gnome wallpaper in the room where George sleeps. It’s obviously using images Rien Poortvliet created for Wil Huygen‘s very popular 1970s and ’80s series of books on gnomes. After some obsessive seplaceing  trying to figure out if it was created for the show or produced for sale at some point (I even contacted the agent of the series’ set decorator, Andrew Purcell, but have yet to receive a response), I finally found evidence that gnome wallpaper existed for sale. Unfortunately, Retro Villa had already sold its stock (but there are certainly lots of other drool-worthy items still for sale there). Oh well, on to season three. Hmm, who makes that DNA-esque wallpaper in the B&B “honeymoon suite”?

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we tried it: the verdict on the “paw wash”

The Claim:
Self proclaimed the most “ingenious dog washer” in the world, the Paw Wash ($29) is meant to be an easy to way to clean your dog’s muddy feet. The instructions say you fill the wash up with soapy water, dip your dog’s feet in, and then voila! No more muddy prints. The wash also comes with a hand mitt to wipe off “any excess water.”

The Situation: This has been a muddy, slushy winter! Cupcake goes in and out of our back yard constantly, and he hates getting his paws wiped. It’s a toss up: Wrestle with a 20-lb labradoodle while crouching by the back door, or let him run in, leave paw prints everywhere and clean up after him. Perhaps the Paw Washer would solve our constant conumdrum?

The Verdict: Here’s what the Paw Wash is: An hourglass shaped plastic vase, with a rubber “washer” lid at one end. It’s kinda like the car wash, in theory. Dip the paw into the water, and the rubber top squeezies it out. What actually happens is that you dip your dog’s leg in, and you pull out a drippy, wet, soapy dog leg. Yes, you can use the mitt to dry it a bit more by hand, but it is really wet. Front legs are easier than back legs, especially if your dog is a squirmer like ours. I suppose it would be a good thing if you had a really really muddy-legged dog and the only other option was a full-body bath. Sadly, the Paw Wash didn’t save us time or struggle. I’m gonna stick with our damp towel wipe down for now.

Still Curious: Visit the pawwash.com for more information.

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need it now: influenza sorbet

You may have noticed that we lost a few days here last week. Blame it on the germs that seem to be ravaging the eastern seaboard. As soon as we kick one bug out of the house, another comes along. We try all the usual suspects to fend things off — EmergenceC, lots of garlic, ginger tea. Next remedy on our list: Influenza sorbet. While it’s hard to imagine actually wanting to swallow something frozen when you have the aches and chills, this treat could be just the ticket the next time our throats feel scratchy. Made with Cayenne pepper ginger, Maker’s Mark bourbon, honey, and citrus juices, it’s bound to taste good. The folks over at Jenis claim that it clears nasal passages, eases a sore throat and soothes the body. At $12 a pint, the cost is nothing to sneeze at, but we’re gonna hunt some down and give it a try. Click here to find out where to buy near you or order online (minimum order four pints).

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pantone’s color of the year: our emerald green etsy picks

Pantone has announced its 2013 color of the year, and the good news is that it goes great with 2012’s color, Tangerine Tango. Emerald green – specifically Pantone 17-5641 — is the new hue to embrace. Lush, regal and radiant, it looks great on a dining room table, or against milky white winter skin. Here are a few emerald green picks available on Etsy right now, that could get your 2013 off to a glowing start.

Glass Fenton Button & Daisy Votives. Delicate and ornate, these will make any setting romantic. $20

Emerald green mod dresser. We love how the rich green is balanced with the wood drawer and white knobs. $400

Green Glass Napkin Holders. These 1950s beauties are filled with possibilities. Napkins, flowers, pine cones.. what would you put in them? Set of three is $42.

Placemats & Cloth napkins. There’s something super mod about these dainty green crosses. A set of three (lets hear it for odd numbers this year!), $15.

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