Last week was a good friend's birthday, and I wished to make her something... however, the risk is always making it more of a "you are cool and deserve something unique" thing, rather than "oh look, see what I made". My current solution is to take something I already know they like and tweak it a little. In this case, she's been into rooibos lately, and the local PFC has many excellent tea ingredients in stock (for cheap!). Thus: Rooibos Dream Tea!
Rooibos has a kind of gentle, nutty flavor that is best accentuated with something that cuts the softness; in the past, I've used lemon juice, but I'd rather blend dry flavors. I bought some ingredients that sounded like they'd go well with it: rosehips, hawthorn berries, licorice root, and hibiscsus flowers. It all came to about $5. I first tried hibiscus in tea after having a dream where some friends and I were eating hibiscus flowers, dancing on the moonlit shores of a stream that was lighted from below. Hence, dream tea. The hibiscus imparts a gorgeous, deep red color and delightful tartness to tea, but too much of it is harsh (many commercial teas get this part wrong). Licorice has a strange sweetening effect that comes on as you swallow the infusion, which I find pleasant mostly as a mixer; it doesn't taste like licorice candy. I didn't know beforehand what the rosehips and hawthorn berries would do.
Brewing a little of each ingredient in its own cup, I sampled them along with a mug of the rooibos. The hawthorn berries were disappointing; they imparted almost no flavor (or color). The rosehip brew also didn't taste like much. The licorice was potent and too intense in proportion to the water, and the hibiscus was perfect. I poured some of these last two into the mug of rooibos until I had something delicious, then blended approximately proportionate amounts of raw ingredients, et voilà. A blend to warm the autumn.
Of course, cold weather also calls for fire. Last Christmas, I came into possession of a butane-powered cordless soldering iron, and since then I've been searching for fuel for it (it came empty). A recent flash of inspiration led me to the local smoke shop (Smoka Hookah), and I spent the afternoon experimenting!
Apparently, since high school FIRST Robotics, I've lost any soldering ability I had. I improved after a couple of tries, but got bored of waiting for the tip on the iron to heat up and cool down. So I took the tip off and took the mini-blowtorch to some scrap copper wire, putting a patina of color on its surface. I'm going to experiment with finishes and see if I can seal the color in. I had an issue with thicker copper losing its color as it cooled down, which seems to not happen if I quench it in water once I've got a pattern I like.
Finally, I have long sought an online source for free classical sheet music, and now my friend Murphy has introduced me to Musopen! They also have lots of recorded public-domain music for download. <3