Design

MujuMaps by Adrian Galli

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Cartography has also fascinated me—not just from a details and information standpoint but also a design standpoint. Maps, by necessity, must be highly functional but with some good design, can also be beautiful.

MujuMaps takes the ancient art of cartography and merges it with modern, minimalist design. I’ve had my eye on them for some time and have a few cities I can’t wait to have hanging on my wall.

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Clean and simple and a few color options, prints start at 50 x 70 cm. Check out their site and get your favorite city printed.

MujuMaps

Price: $60

Images courtesy of MujuMaps

Fellow Stagg EKG by Adrian Galli

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Only last week I wrote my review musing over the Zero Japan Bee House tea pot I adore so. Despite having owned it for months, I was inspired to write its review because of what was coming to me.

While walking through a William Sonoma, I saw a kettle that really caught my eye. Sleek, black, modern, and minimalist design, it was one of those gut reactions that said, “you need that.” I already had an electric tea kettle. It was cheap, old, and really only did one thing: boiled water. Of course, it did exactly what it was designed to do—I am not faulting it but when making tea, not all are brewed equally.

Black tea, for example, is brewed directly with boiling water. Green and white tea, and some oolong, on the other hand, are brewed at much lower temperatures of 70° to 80° celsius (160-180° ferenhneit). Boiling water to 100°C then letting it cool is tricky without a thermometer.

Fellow is a company making some svelte coffee and tea appliances. The Stagg EKG is an electric kettle with a great design and a programmable base to set one’s temperature needs. Hence, I needed it.

Not only looking amazing, the technical aspects of being able to set one’s temperature is really important. If water is too hot, for coffee or tea, it will diminish the quality of flavor. While many might find that funny, a favorite tea of mine, Gyukuro Jade Dew Green, is very expensive, high quality, and to ruin such a tea is like cooking fillet mignon to well done. At fifty-three dollars a pound, one would be wise to take care of proper brewing.

Sitting nicely on the counter top, the black matte finished metal is quite striking. A pistol-grip handle that never gets hot is well balanced with the kettle itself, whether empty or full. The base for the kettle very nicely and, while plastic, matches the design and finished quite well. It is really the only negative item on my list. I would have loved for it, too, to be metal. The knob to the right both turns on the device and sets one’s temperature—one press to power on, turn to adjust temperature, and press again to power off. The monochrome display opposite the knob give a clear indication of the temperature and state of the device.

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Upon first using it, I boiled water for some black tea. I set the temperature to 100°C and walked away. For a few minutes I didn’t check on it but it soon dawned on me that I had no idea if it was boiling water or not. I returned to check in on the kettle to find it was only at 99°C. I did not time it but at least five minutes had gone by which was sufficient time to boil the .9L of water.

What was going on here? I was somewhat disappointed that it wasn’t getting me to the a full boil… or was it? It sounded like it was boiling so what the gauge inaccurate? Being a scientist, something dawned on me. Have I ever boiled water in Chicago at 100°C? That’s a funny question to a lot of people. Before I answer, I would like my readers to answer that question. If one is in Chicago, boiling water, will it ever reach 100°C to boil?

The answer is 'no.’ Chicago, to the surprise of many, is at approximately 182 meters above sea level and that is just enough to change the boiling point of water to about 99°C (probably more like 99.5). You likely didn’t expect a science lesson when reading this review but Hexagon isn’t just cool gear! And this is to the credit of the Stagg EKG—the temperature gauge actually seems to be quite good.

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With a beautiful silhouette, black matte finish, temperature controls, and a pretty spot on gauge, this electric kettle has found a home and will be much appreciated. Fellow had a sale so I was able to pick up this lovely device for $126. While it is normally $149, making it five times more than my old one, good things are worth the money and I foresee this Red Dot Design Award 2018 winner to never cause any regrets.

Price: $149

 

Bee House Teapot in Noble Black by Adrian Galli

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I’m not much of a coffee person. In fact, I think I can count how many cups of coffee I’ve ever drunk. But I am a tea person. I drink a lot of tea and have many types. At any given time, I usually have more than a dozen loose leaf teas: green, oolong, black, some flavored. As one might also expect, I also have an affinity toward a nice teapot.

Bee House is made by Zero Japan, a Japanese company, and it is one on fine teapot. Little do many people know, it is possible to be excited about a teapot. This really falls under my love of design. Bee House's minimalistic teapots are made out of high grade ceramic and come in many wonderful colors. Being the minimalist I am, I went with the 26oz noble black—a matte black finish that reminds me of carbon fiber than pottery.

Smooth to the touch, it not only looks fantastic, it feels great too. While functionally a teapot can do it job really well, part of good design, especially when it is something one will touch, the tactility of said object is very important. It not only adds comfort to an already ergonomic design but also one wants to use it—keep it clean, functional, and share it with others. And, tea, after all, is meant to be shared so should the experience of tea serving.

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The top is metal and clips on. Easy to remove, one can clean it and the pot itself separately. Inside, a metal, mesh basket allows steeping of loose leaf teas.

I have found that this particular ceramic holds heat very well. My old tea pot, also ceramic, would cool much more quickly. One tip, due tot he heat capacity of the pot itself, I tend to steep tea far less time. I use to keep tea in the old pot for hours and never had my tea get too strong. In my Bee House, black teas I rarely steep for more than three minutes, and green or oolong, for five minutes if the water is at the proper temperature. 

It has become a favorite kitchen item of mine. It is not only beautiful and functional but part of my daily life. There are thousands of teapots out there but ever since I saw these round globes at Argo Tea, I’ve loved them. And seeing the noble black in person, I loved them even more. One knows something is great when opening the box and softly saying, “wow.”

Price: $35

SIGG Traveller Alu .6L — Minimal Water Bottle by Adrian Galli

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No surprise that I dig SIGG water bottles. They are minimalist, aluminum, simply, and durable. 

Made in Sweden, the bottles are BPA-free bottle is extruded from a single piece of pure aluminium, no seams, highest stability with lowest weight, 100% recyclable, guaranteed to be taste-neutral and resistant to fruit acids and isotonic drinks according to an independent testing institute (Nehring, Germany), fulfills FDA requirements (Food & Drug Administration USA), elastic and unbreakable, and a coating that will not peel off, even if dented on the outside. That’s a lot to write but the moral of the story is that they are great bottles.

This particular one is a favorite. While many come in fancy patterns, various stamps, and decorative items attached, this is raw aluminum. Almost as if it were something from the military, the only printing on it is the SIGG logo and the Made in Sweden stamp.

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The raw aluminum look, however, is deceiving. There is a high gloss coating to protect the bottle—it is almost glass on the exterior giving it a pleasing touch but also a good grip.

The cap is designed to be used with a carabiner but also is perfect for a single finger. At .6L, it is perfect size for just about any backpack or bag. And the lip on the bottle opening is smooth an comfortable on against one’s lips.

While this is definitely an Adrian’s Gear post, it is also about design. Some water bottles might have more frills and such but as I will admit to every time, design is of utmost importance. SIGG brings something to the table that most water bottles don’t—looks. A lot are just too technical looking, over designed, trying-too-hard details and it turns me off. Sigg, like Apple, keeps it simple and that’s what I really love about it.

As the oceans fill up with trash from humans, I had a personal goal this year—a resolution to us less disposable materials. My EDC spork (Light My Fire), goes with me everywhere to reduce how many plastic forks and such I use. I try to avoid straws and plastic bags, and I keep some reusable produce bags on hand for when I head to the grocery story.

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On the other hand, plastic bottles are one of the most common trash items found in the ocean and I try my best to reduce my usage of such items. Carrying a water bottle is great and SIGG bottles last for a very long time. After they have lived out their usefulness, one can easily recycle.

Saving the planet and looking good doing it, if one wants a great water bottle, this is one I’d highly recommend. And if you do want something little more bold than raw aluminum, they come in dozens of colors: white, black, smokey pearl, turquoise, green, royal blue, etc. Check them out and pick one up.

Price: $18

Ray-Ban Aviator Flash Lenses — Gold, Green Flash by Adrian Galli

The problem is… I only have sunglasses I love so these too are a favorite pair. The green lenses remind me of the Emerald Coast, white sand beaches, and a cool breeze off the Gulf of Mexico while the hot sun beaming down on a summer day in July. Greens and Blues tend to be my favorite colors as is. I’ve actually had these for years and they are so cool.

I had never spent nearly $200 on a pair of sunglasses before but I had to have them and my favorite pair of Fossil sunglasses had gotten both scratched and the nose piece had fallen off never to be found. Time to upgrade.

The clerk at the Sunglass Hut was insistent. “You’ll take good care of these. You’ll have them forever because you invested extra money in them.” And he was right. Not only were they more expensive than their Fossil counterparts, they were better made. Glass lenses, more durable frames, a better warranty, and infinitely cooler. So I handed over my Amex and said, “let’s do it.”

Well, that ended well. Now I only spend a bunch of money on sunglasses. It’s a trap! But a good one. My motto is to spend good money on good things because they will likely last longer and, generally, are better. As a favorite TV judge always says, “lo barato sale caro.” The cheap comes out expensive.

My Fossil sunglasses did look cool but they were plastic lenses and cheaper frames. Not knocking them either. Until these Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses came along, they were my favorite pair. To be clear, if you’re looking to NOT spend a couple hundred dollars on sunglasses, I’d whole heartedly recommend Fossil.

But here I am with my Green Flash lenses and no regrets about spending the money.

The lenses are not only cool AF, they reproduce color well and have limited flare/glare in direct sunlight. Light weight, no pinching of the nose or squeezing at the temples, and easy to keep clean. They look good, feel good, and work well. Aces.

At $178, it is a bunch to spend but as the Sunglass Hut clerk said to me, I think once you have a pair like this (or more expensive), you’ll find you’ll take great care of them. These are now four years old and look as good as the day I bought them. Durability is key for something that is in you bag, in a pocket, cold weather, warm weather, sand, wind, water, etc. They’ve held up superbly.

Ray-Ban Aviator Flash Lenses comes a eleven colors so if the green isn’t for you, check out the Yellow Flash, another fave, red, blue, lilac, mirror (these are on my acquisition list too), and more.

Price: $178