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The designer’s thirst-quencher served weekly

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Back to the Roots

Did you know that it's possible to grow gourmet mushrooms on recycled coffee grounds? Learning that fun fact led Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez, then students at UC Berkeley, to conduct a series of experiments in the kitchen of Velez's fraternity house. They ended up with a bucket of oyster mushrooms and ultimately a new career path as full-time urban mushroom farmers. Their Oakland, California-based company, Back to the Roots, sells compact mushroom-growing kits and a fish tank/aquaponics system that grows herbs in its lid. "Our mission is to make food personal again," say Arora and Velez, "through the passionate development of tools that educate and inspire, one family at a time."

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Magic Potion

Cool ideas & design solutions
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For Cover Lovers

Celebrate creative magazine covers and their inspiring designers with Coverjunkie, an ever-growing online stockpile of magazine covers that inspire and amaze. Dutch graphic designer Jaap Biemans created the site in part to feed his own magazine addiction, which began when he first picked up an issue of the rock monthly Ray Gun. "It shocked my world," says Biemans. "Covers are able to do that in many ways -- they're always evolving and reflect our visual culture." Check in frequently to see newly added greatest hits along with fresh-off-the-presses fare, and send in your favorites. Advises Biemans, "When a cover smacks you in the face, refreshes your brain, or you wanna lick it... that's a cover qualified for Coverjunkie."

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Book Brew

New and upcoming books
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Pattern

10 curators, 100 fashion designers, 1,000 illustrations -- do you see a pattern here? Those are the carefully selected components of Pattern, Phaidon's international survey of 100 of the most significant contemporary fashion and accessory designers working today. The hefty hardcover, which comes tucked inside a printed Tyvek shoulder bag, mixes detailed summaries with photographs and never-before-seen sketches from a global assortment of established and emerging names.

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Magic Potion

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Brelli

An eco-friendly umbrella? Put down that stick and tarp and grab a Brelli, the world’s first biodegradable umbrella. Designed by Pam Zonsius, the Brelli covers a bamboo parasol frame with a sleek canopy of transparent biofilm. The result is a sturdy reimagining of a delicate design classic that also happens to be 100 percent green. Available in a growing range of sizes and colors, each Brelli comes tucked inside an organic cotton carrying case and can be decorated with permanent paint markers (non-toxic, of course). Finally, a way to protect oneself from the environment without contributing to its destruction.

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Mixed Drinks

Must-see places or events
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Multifesto

What do you get when you cross a haiku with a manifesto and multiply it by the power of the web? Multifesto, a communal design manifesto created by New York-based design consultancy 2x4. Have your say by adding a three-word call to arms in the form of a verb, preposition and noun. Then tell your creative friends to do the same. "Multifesto is born of the idea that design is a verb, not a product, and a collaborative endeavor, not the mark of an individual," says the team at 2x4. "We welcome contributions by designers everywhere and from every discipline."

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Dear Mr. Watterson

A new documentary tracks down and catches up with Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin & Hobbes. Since retiring his beloved comic strip on New Year's Eve 1995, Watterson has lived a very private life in a town outside of Cleveland, Ohio. Dear Mr. Watterson, funded largely by Kickstarter backers, takes a closer look at why his illustrated tales of a boy and his stuffed tiger (who just happen to share names with a couple of famous philosophers) continue to resonate with fans of all ages. "This film is not a quest to find Bill Watterson or to invade his privacy," say the filmmakers. "It is an exploration to discover why his 'simple' comic strip made such an impact on so many readers in the 80s and 90s, and why it still means so much to us today."

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House Blend

Interesting products
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Embassy Pen

Our recent attempts to infiltrate the sixty-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly were thwarted by a phalanx of imposing gentlemen who told us -- in several languages -- that Liquid Treat's press credentials were still under consideration. "But we're here to report on the writing utensils," we pleaded in English, French and Pig Latin. To no avail. Had we been allowed into the freshly renovated intergovernmental chambers, we would surely have spotted more than one Embassy Tactical Pen ($55-$75 from Best Made Company). Originally designed for military and governmental use, this trusty tool is available in anodized aluminum or don't-mess-with-me stainless steel.

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Cooking Comically

What began with a pot of chili, a food photography assignment and a Reddit post soon took on a life of its own for Tyler Capps, the graphic artist and self-taught cook behind Cooking Comically. "I come up with the recipes, cook them, photograph them, draw on them, eat them and share them," he says. "Not necessarily in that order." His web-based collection of illustrated recipes such as Trustfall Chicken, Mash-Tatoes and Bolognese for Days is now available in book form with the publication of Cooking Comically: Recipes So Easy You'll Actually Make Them (Perigee). Break out the spatula and pass the Sexy Pancakes. Notes Capps: "If you aren't having fun when you cook, you're doing it wrong."

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House Blend

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Bucky for Birds

Bring a touch of modern design into your backyard with the Geo-Birdhouse. This miniature ceramic version of Buckminster Fuller's favorite shape -- the perpetually futuristic geodesic dome -- was designed by Kelly Lamb to be used as a nesting place for wrens, finches and other small birds, but would look just as attractive indoors as a dangling conversation piece. We particularly like how it captures the general conclusion about Bucky’s utopian structure: It's for the birds.

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House Blend

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The Line

Trends once held sway for seasons, even years. Now they're stale within weeks—or however long it takes for them to trickle down to your Aunt Marge's Pinterest board. A new e-commerce site offers a refreshing solution through its focus on "quintessential things": enduring stuff that you won't grow tired of after a few uses. Launched this week, The Line is stocked with a tightly edited assortment of clothing, furniture, homegoods, beauty products, and books from established and emerging brands including Reed Krakoff, Mason Pearson, KPM Berlin, and elegant newbie fashion label Protagonist. Where else can you find Phaidon's Alexey Brodovitch monograph, the perfect t-shirt, and a toothbrush made of magical Japanese charcoal?

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