5 Things You Didn’t Know Could Be Done With LEGO

Everyone loves LEGO. They’re fun, colorful and offer a world of possibility. It isn’t all about cool toy buildings and LEGO spaceships, either. Here are five things you didn’t know  could be done with LEGOs!

LEGOs are a great way to exercise creative and out-of-the-box thinking. It’s no surprise that we have many cool and interesting creations both from the LEGO company itself and from fans. Some people, however, managed to make incredible things with these plastic interlocking bricks. In no particular order, here are five of them to show you, courtesy of Ninja Brick!

A LEGO Harpsichord

The LEGO Harpsichord is a full-sized, fully-functional musical instrument made by Henry Lim. The harpsichord is an older version of the piano, smaller and simpler, which makes it a perfect candidate for LEGO bricks. This build is entirely made of LEGOs, the only non-brick pieces being the strings themselves. You can check the build in Henry Lim’s official website, which includes a sound sample. This isn’t the only musical instrument made of LEGO: there are others out there, including a ukulele.

Other than the harpsichord, Henry creates full-sized sculptures of various things, such as dinosaurs and people, out of LEGO.

The LEGO Car

This creation isn’t just a life-sized LEGO car. It actually works! Made entirely of LEGO bricks (including the engine) except for some structural parts such as wheels and tires, this car moves on compressed air and can reach speeds of around 15 to 20mph. Steve Sammartino and Raul Oaida, with the help of 40 patrons and over 500,000 LEGO bricks, designed and built the car themselves. Raul Oiada, a teenager from Romania, built it and then shipped it to Melbourne, Australia, to an undisclosed location. Once there (and after some repairs due to damage to the pieces), the car took to the streets, a full-sized success.

A Starbucks Coffee Machine

Yes, it makes real coffee. Yes, it’s made of LEGOs. This amazing design does use some extras, mainly SAM Labs’ motors for some of the mechanisms, and it includes a heating coil for the water and coffee. It uses powdered instant coffee, so it’s not exactly the same a just-ground coffee, but for a LEGO creation, it’s pretty impressive nonetheless.

A Full-Sized House

This LEGO house was a full-sized, fully functional home. Located in Denbies, Surrey, over a thousand volunteers put the house together with over 3 million LEGOs. From chairs to goblets, from a bed to a hot shower and working sink and toilet, the full thing was perfectly livable! It even included a little LEGO cat and decorations. Unfortunately, this fantastic feat of LEGO creativity came to an end in 2009. Attempts to sell it to Legoland failed due to shipping costs, and conflicts over building permits caused the house’s demolition.
James May, who initiated the project to build the house, later hosted the James May’s Toy Stories where he talked about favourite toys of the past and how they came to the modern world.

A Functional 3D Printer

Yes, you read that right. This isn’t 3D printing LEGO bricks; it’s making a printer out of the bricks themselves. Surprisingly, there are several LEGO 3D printers out there, and some designs are available for anyone to build for themselves, but we found this one particularly interesting. In this design, developed by Arthur Sacek, the printer carves any 3D design out of floral foam. The only part of it that isn’t LEGO is the drill.

So there are some remarkable things that can be done with LEGOs. Did you know of them? Do you know more? Let us know!

The i will campaign – making social action accessible to all young people

 

Social action, including volunteering, fundraising and campaigning, creates a double benefit for those who take part and the communities they are helping.

Young people have great potential to make a positive impact on their communities by getting involved in social action. They have the ability to make a significant difference to serious issues, from loneliness to bullying to mental health and the stigmas attached to it. Young people tend to have a broad, positive ideology when it comes to making changes and we should do all we can to help them utilise this.

The benefits of social action are reciprocated, as young people’s involvement can help them develop valuable employability skills, boost their access to further education and training, and support enhanced wellbeing.

Currently 4 in 10 young people aged between 10 and 20 in the UK get involved in social action, but almost double this number of people would like to contribute more to their communities, given the chance. However, particularly in less affluent communities, there can be obstacles that restrict their ability to get involved.

The #iwill campaign

The #iwill campaign acts on making the most of the energy, talent and commitment of the millions of young people in the UK, by providing access to meaningful social action opportunities regardless of their background or where they live.

With a strategy based on collaborating with stakeholders from a wide range of sectors, the campaign involves 750 partner organisations that have committed to embedding social action into the lives of young people.

Today, Public Health England is delighted to have become one of these organisations. We launched our pledge this afternoon at the joint NHS70 and #iwill event, which celebrated youth volunteering and social action in health and social care.

I had the pleasure of speaking at the event, where I explained how PHE fully supports and looks forward to contributing to the #iwill campaign’s aim of making involvement in meaningful social action part of life for all 10-20 year olds by 2020. The health and wellbeing of young people is a major priority for PHE and we recognise the instrumental role that social action can play.

Giving young people a voice in campaigns and work that impact them directly is extremely important. As such, we collaborated with young ambassadors to get their feedback, and incorporated their views before we finalised and launched our #iwill pledge.

Alex Craven – #iwill ambassador

PHE’s #iwill pledge

Public Health England recognises the benefits of youth volunteering across the NHS and public health system and the role it can play in improving the health and wellbeing of young people and their communities. Youth social action can contribute to developing employability and should be accessible to all of the UK’s diverse communities.

We will highlight the benefits and champion youth social action across our networks. We are committed to promoting young people’s interests in everything we do.

Engagement, co-production and social action:

  • We will work in co-production with young people to develop and promote our ‘Rise Above’ programme. The programme is co-created with young people and provides information and interactive content to inform healthcare decisions.
  • We will continue to promote our interactive ‘e-Bug’ website. ‘e-Bug’ is a peer-education and teaching resource, created to raise awareness of antibiotic resistance; including infections and prudent antibiotic use.
  • We will continue to engage and co-produce resources and training programmes with young people for public health nurses, including school nurses through our professional leadership role. This will support access to early help, behaviour change and create social action such as family antibiotic guardians, peer support and self-care.
  • We will support the Royal Society for Public Health’s Young Health Champion Programme as an active partner of the programme which gives young people the skills, knowledge and confidence to act as peer mentors.

Giving young people a voice

  • We will work with NHS England and the Department of Health to support the national NHS Youth Forum. The Youth Forum is a group of young people who share their views, ideas and experiences to make positive changes to young people’s health services. We will link this to our national engagement strategy.

Supporting young people to achieve  

  • We will provide opportunities for young people to enter work through schemes such as Movement to Work and apprenticeships.
  • We will run an annual Project SEARCH work experience programme for young adults with learning disabilities and/or autism.
  • We will develop work placements with Ambitious about Autism for young people.
  • We will launch a work experience programme for young ex-offenders.
  • We will encourage other employers to adopt schemes to provide employment opportunities for underserved communities.

Nominees for Best Casual Game of 2017 Announced

A panel of twelve judges made up of media personalities in the board game industry teamed up to make their nominations. All of the submissions were judged based on game play, aesthetics, and originality. They also had to meet the following administrative criteria:

Players lay out donuts from the deck equal to the amount of players plus one. Each player has a number card for each donut that is out. Players all pick a donut they want by placing one of their number cards face down on the table. Players simultaneously reveal their number. If two or more players have matching numbers, that donut is discarded and no one gets it. If you’re the only player that bid for the donut, than you take it and place it face up in front of you. Collect sets, unique and powerful donuts, and pairs of donuts to maximize points. (Source: BGG)

About Stephen Duetzmann

Editor in Chief

So…who am I?

And, what makes me qualified to do this?

Well, I can tell you that I am not a web developer, or a journalist, or even a game designer. I am a Dad. I like to game. I want to game with my children. And, I have some ideas that I want to share with the world.

I’m 32 years old and I have been gaming all of my life. I’m into all kinds of games, and not just video games. Board games, tabletop games, card games and yes, even LARP games.

I’ve got a full time job, and I’m going back to school. I have an amazing wife and 3 wonderful children. My oldest is a 7 year old boy who is super smart and a total spazz. He’s extremely excited to share his VAST (lol) video game knowledge with the world. My middle child is just learning about video games. He’s 4 and he spends his time obsessing over his favorite super heroes or ponies, depending on the day. He LOVES playing games with his Daddy and big brother. My youngest is 6 months old and is learning to explore her world. She can often be found sleeping on her Daddy while I play test new games.

So, that’s who I am. I’m just your typical super busy Dad who wants to share my gaming experiences with all of you.

Oh, and another thing! This website isn’t all about me. I happen to have a wonderful group of friends and experts along for the ride with me. They are going to share terrific gaming information with you, too.

Behold, the bouncing selfie ball

“These devices were found at festive gatherings that our ancestors threw,” a future museum guide might say. “Each of these beach ball-sized orbs housed a camera and a touch screen framed by a ring light, so party-goers could take photos and videos of themselves with professional-level lighting. After that, it would generate a short video clip with quirky effects that people could send to themselves via what was known as a text message.”

The people who made the Eye noticed that traditional static photobooths of yore were being neglected at the corporate parties they worked for. Even the funniest props and quickest downloads weren’t drawing partiers anymore. The drinking and dancing was “out there” not in the dark confines of some throwback picture booth. They had to make corporate-branded photos and videos relevant again and decided to put their cameras in the middle of the action.

To protect its fragile hardware from damage on the dancefloor, Hypno encased the Eye in a hardy, rubbery foam shell that felt sturdy enough to survive a few bounces. “This allowed people to toss the camera into crowds of people without fear of injury to the device,” the docent might explain. “Though we imagine a few humans may have been hurt by the five-pound ball.”

“But why couldn’t they just use their smartphones? They had those at the time, right?” A curious visitor might ask.

Excitedly pointing a finger up in the air, the guide would respond, “It’s all about facilitating social interaction!” Since people didn’t feel like they could simply discard the orbs after they were done, they were compelled to make contact with other attendees.

“They would pass these orbs around, often to people they didn’t know. This caused them to join each other in group photos, and encouraged the social phenomenon that was known back then as ‘photobombing’.” At this point, the guide might invite visitors to peruse the video archive of 2018’s trendiest partiers. “Like the photo booths that came before, the clips from the Eyes could be posted on individual social media accounts, which you all remember was the primary means of interaction in that time.”

Although the Hypno Eye wasn’t designed for widespread use in people’s homes, the company did entertain the thought of selling the device to general consumers. As the guide might point out, “Remember the ‘influencers’ that rose in popularity during this time? Couldn’t you just see them embracing this, literally?”

Christmas Decorating Ideas: Display Ornaments

If your home or living space is too small for a Christmas tree, or if you’re just looking to liven up a small area, we have some festive ideas for you. After all, no home is too small to fill up with Christmas cheer. Check out these Christmas decorating ideas for small spaces and get some great tips on how to display ornaments. 


Christmas Decorating Ideas: How to Display Ornaments in a Small Space

Christmas Decorating Ideas-Small Spaces-How To Display Ornaments-Variety

The following Christmas decorating ideas will look fabulous in small spaces. Keep in mind that less is more!

Hang Ornaments on a Spiral Tree

Christmas Decorating Ideas-Small Spaces-How To Display Ornaments-Spiral Tree

If you don’t have enough floor space for a large Christmas tree, a small metal spiral ornament tree with a matching star tree topper is a clever option. You can put it on a table and decorate it with ornaments. For instance, you can hang gold and white ornaments. Or perhaps you prefer jewel tones, red, green, blue, and purple. It’s your Christmas tree, so style it any way you want!

Hang a Hanging Basket with Ornaments and Greenery

Christmas Decorating Ideas-Small Spaces-How To Display Ornaments-Hanging Basket

Another Christmas decorating idea is to use a hanging Christmas basket. You can fill it with micro Christmas lights, greenery, faux berries and twigs, real pine cones, and your favorite ornaments. You could also decorate it with either a solid red bow or a red and gold bow. It will add elegance to your small space.

Hang Garland with Ornaments around a Door or Window

Christmas Decorating Ideas-Small Spaces-How To Display Ornaments-Garland

Decorate your door or window with natural Christmas garland. Before hanging the garland, place it on a flat surface and separate the branch tips. Keep in mind that for maximum fullness, the tips should not touch one another. Use a garland hanger to attach the garland around the door. Once you hang the garland, you can add your own ornaments (use hooks or garland ties) in different colors and sizes to make the garland even fuller.


Decorating Your Small Space for the Holidays

Christmas Decorating Ideas-Small Spaces-How To Display Ornaments-Wreath

Imagine using our Christmas decorating ideas for small spaces. Perhaps you created a modern look with an ornament tree and LED lighted branches. Or maybe you hung garland around your door and window and a contemporary Christmas wreath above a cabinet. Or maybe you kept it super simple by hanging a lighted wall tree and Christmas cards. Whatever the case may be, your small space will be warm and cozy for the holiday season.

Do you know someone who can use small space Christmas decorating ideas? Share this post with them via email or your favorite social network: Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. Spread the knowledge and holiday cheer!

The Scoop on Alexandria’s 12 Walkable Ice Cream Shops – A Detailed Review

On a warm summer evening, there are few things more enjoyable than a cold frozen treat to beat the heat. But with so many options for a scoop in Alexandria, where should you go? As a part of our neighborhood guide series, we’d like to help you find your way.

Alexandria, Virginia is known for many things, not the least of which is its vast array of delectable restaurants. Beyond traditional eateries, Old Town’s concentration of ice cream shops is plentiful enough to please anyone’s palate. Some might even argue that we actually have too many options, but those people obviously have something against ice cream and are simply crazy.

Within a short five minute walk from our home in the heart of Old Town we have no fewer than nine different ice cream establishments. Add in the nearby neighborhoods of Del Ray and Belle Haven (all within about 1.5 miles), and we take that number to an astounding 12 different places within walking distance where we can grab an ice cold sweet treat!

If you’ve ever talked to a local, everyone tends to have their favorite suggestion on where they like to go for a scoop or two. But the question of “which ice cream place is really the best?” is one that’s not easily answered. Now that we’re in the midst of summer, we felt it was high time we fulfilled the very difficult task of reviewing each of these 12 stores to share our first hand experiences and opinion on which ice cream store reigns supreme.

We hatched this plan with our friend, Dan, a fellow Old Town resident who is known to regularly frequent many of these stores. Our goal was simple: try all 12 different ice cream stores and provide our opinion. In each case we had a clear objective: experience the store as if it were our first time, then judge our overall experience from service, to atmosphere, to the ice cream we selected. What follows is a recount of our lactose laden adventure around Alexandria.

If you’d like, you can skip ahead to our top five rankings, use the menu below to jump to a specific review, or you can enjoy a review of each and every one of our twelve neighborhood ice cream locations below. Hey, we’re nothing if not verbose!

Pop’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream

Pop’s sits in the often packed lower King Street at 109, and is a favorite throwback among locals and tourists alike. The flavor list is extensive with three full cases of ice cream. Their nostalgic decor is reminiscent of an old fashioned ice cream parlor and the staff dresses the part to boot. They offer homemade scoops of ice cream along with options for sundaes and milkshakes. It’s not uncommon for the line to snake out the door on a hot weekend evening, but it tends to move fast due to the interior setup that prefers standing room over seating areas. Most people tend to grab their ice cream and go, heading to the waterfront pier to enjoy their treat. Pop’s is truly an institution in Old Town, and something people from all over often make a trip to enjoy.

Alex: Just walking into Pop’s sets the stage that works so well on the historic streets of Old Town Alexandria. The staff at Pop’s is dressed in classic soda jerk style uniforms, and they are all extremely helpful and happy to offer free tastes. When it came our turn, I stared at case after case of the homemade ice cream that beckoned, and I went with what looked great in the moment, the “Big Papa.” It’s vanilla with big chocolate chip cookie dough and fudge chunks, and it’s delicious. Another really nice touch at Pop’s is the cooler of water at the end of the counter with small cups, which is welcome given the very sweet nature of their ice cream.

Dan: This was a rare summer day in Old Town, NO line @ POP’S! We walked right in; granted we went at an odd time of day and most people are not eating ice cream as an appetizer to dinner on a Friday, late afternoon. Such a great display of homemade ice creams and so many original flavors. I wanted to go out of my normal ice cream flavor profile and had a small scoop of peanut butter, swirl of chocolate and pretzels. The peanut butter ice cream had nice peanut flavor but i really would have liked a bit more chocolate and pretzels; I will chalk that up to a small scoop and I was the first scoop of the batch.

Pop’s is one of the most iconic ice cream stores in Old Town and there is a good reason why the lines are normally out the door.

Dolci Gelati

Dolci is a somewhat recent addition to Old Town’s ice cream scene. It’s located at 107 N. Fairfax Street, right across from Old Town’s Market Square. This spot makes it an ideal location to grab some ice cream and either head out to the fountain to enjoy, or sit inside and plan your time in Old Town. Dolci is a local DC business started in 2006 by a pastry chef, and specializes in their all natural Italian style gelato and sorbets. Their ingredients are sourced from local dairy farms and a sustainable farm in Ecuador. They’ve received rave reviews from area publications, and you can almost always find dozens of people enjoying their gelato around the Market Square fountain.

Alex: The staff at Dolci were extremely friendly and immediately offered taste tests of any flavors we wanted to try. After sampling the Nutella Banana, I ended up ordering a small with two flavors, Sea Salt Caramel and Peanut Butter Cup. The small is $5 and allows for one or two flavors. We chatted a little with the staff as they served up our heaping helpings. This “small” was much closer to a medium from the other shops, so they certainly don’t skimp on the scoops.

The gelato itself was quite good. It was soft, smooth, and full of the intended flavors. We grabbed our cups and sat in the back portion of the store where there tends to be ample seating space.

Dan: Dolci is on a busy corner in Old Town and we timed it well since we had four gelato clerks offering to help us… love that! It is gelato so I went for my go-to flavor of pistachio and added dark chocolate to match it. Chocolate covered pistachio equals heaven! I would have really liked a bolder pistachio flavor but the dark chocolate absolutely made up for the flavor and was delicious. They had about 20 different gelatos and a few sorbets; it is always a good ice cream day when you have the opportunity to mix and match so many different flavors!

The Dairy Godmother

Del Ray’s custard institution is located at 2310 Mt. Vernon Ave, or “The Avenue” as locals know it. People have been visiting this locally owned small business for years and raving about the selection of homemade custard and sorbet. Anyone who loves our area likely loves Dairy Godmother. Hey, they even have an “Obama sat here” chair from his visit while in office. The owner of Dairy Godmother, Liz Davis, toyed with the idea of closing shop for good last year, but thankfully reopened after a tremendous number of public pleas to do so. She was looking to sell the business, and that finally happened just a short time ago when the new owner, Russell Gravatt, took over the shop while Liz will stay on for the time being as a consultant and the visionary behind the the store. Liz will be retiring soon, so there’s no time to waste if you want to try this shop in its original form (though it seems Russell plans to keep the classic nature just as it is). And if you have a pup that’s a fan of ice cream, bring them along as Dairy Godmother offers up Puppy Pops, a favorite of Lulu’s.

Alex: Over the last year the question as to whether The Dairy Godmother would reopen has been on the top of many Alexandria residents’ minds. We’re so happy that we’re able to include this stop on the list, both for your benefit, and for the fact that the custard is awesome (and still available). The price at Dairy Godmother is great, the staff is efficient and helpful, and the custard machines with their thick ribbon of creamy custard on display builds excitement. The Tollhouse Cookie was the flavor of our choice of the three that’s available daily, and it was excellent. Though it’s a little bit of a longer walk from our house than some of the other places, it’s definitely one of our top five locations.

Dan: The Dairy Godmother is an institution and a “must have” ice cream in Del Ray. Alex and I went on a Thursday, early evening, and the place was jam packed! They only serve three flavors of custard per day (vanilla, chocolate and flavor of the day). The day we visited the flavor of the day was tollhouse cookie and I went for it! Small cup was only $3.25. I should have went with a double but more ice cream tasting was on the agenda. It was creamy, delicious and a nice amount of tollhouse cookie – a perfect custard! Stella (my dog) tells me that they also have some of the most fantastic doggie ice cream; she always asks for more!

The Custard Shack (DRP Belle Haven)

This small custard stand attached to the Belle Haven location of DRP (or Del Ray Pizzeria), truly packs a custard punch. Though it’s only open from April through October, that only improves the ambiance. The walk up window, packed parking lot, and nearby picnic tables for enjoying your custard or sorbet is classically nostalgic of a neighborhood ice cream stand of prior generations.

The Custard Shack’s custard and sorbet flavors of the day change every few days, so it’s best to check their Facebook page or website for their flavor calendar. Beyond the custard and sorbet there are options for shakes, floats, Sundaes (with so many toppings), puppy pops for the four-legged fans, and even pints or quarts of their offerings to go. Though it’s a decent hike from the middle of Old Town, walking South on the Mount Vernon Trail puts you so close that it would probably be a shame if you didn’t take the slight detour for a cup, cone, or maybe even a root beer float.

Alex: We went on a Sea Salt Caramel custard day and it was absolutely delicious. At just $3.45 for a small it’s one of the most reasonably priced options in the area, but the price has nothing to do with the size or flavor. My custard was delicious, and plenty for a single serving. Looking at their various flavors for the month, as well as the other options beyond a cup of custard, I’m excited to head back often, definitely next time with Lulu.

Dan: Well I definitely didn’t expect it, but I was WOWed by their Sea Salt Caramel custard. It was excellent; creamy and a really nice amount of gooey caramel. If i wanted to be very picky it could have used a sprinkle of sea salt on the top. I think I would have really loved that. The custard shack was really no frills; order at one window and pick up at the other window. The people were nice and price for a small was on point. Nothing but great things to say about DRP custard shack. I will absolutely be back! (Ok, confession time, I already went back and brought Stella along for the puppy pops….and she approved! I had the root beer float with vanilla custard and it was another winner.)

Casa Rosada Artisinal Gelato

Situated less than a block from King Street within a row of colorful historic row houses, the artisanal gelato store at 111 S. Payne Street offers a taste of Argentinian-style gelato. When you visit Casa Rosada, or “Pink House” (it’s the only pink house on the block), you’ll typically find one of the store’s owners behind the counter serving up your gelato.

The flavor choices are limited to a handful each day, each advertised on boards on the back wall, are always changing, and tend to be extremely creative. The interior is small, as to be expected by their small historic building, but the ordering and serving/cashier area work well. This is the epitome of a small business in Alexandria that locals have come to love, and is a wonderful addition to our area.

Alex: I love this shop for its ambiance, the family run nature, its historic location, and all of its unexpected flavors. I gave the Sambayon (Port & Masala) and Cinnamon a try in a small cup and really enjoyed both of them. Wendy tried the Sambayon and didn’t much care for it, but did like the Cinnamon. This is why it’s great when you’re able to try samples of the ice cream or gelato, since not everything is everyone’s favorite.

Speaking of favorites, Lulu got to try out their puppy ice cream offering, and she seemed to really enjoy it. From the presentation, with a little bone on the top, to the ice cream itself, Lulu really couldn’t get enough.

Dan: Casa Rosada is a small but wonderful gelateria. They had a nice selection of gelatos and sorbets. Today I went with two familiar flavors (cinnamon and pistachio). The cinnamon was creamy, full of cinnamon flavor but not overpowering that it negatively affected the other flavor. As I mentioned in other reviews, pistachio is my go-to gelato flavor and Casa Rosada did not disappoint. The gelato had tiny pieces of pistachio and an exceptional flavor. Casa Rosada tries to surprise you with some very interesting flavors including sweet corn, rice pudding, port and walnuts as well as my winter favorite – the best peppermint gelato. Their small cups are $4.99 including tax and well worth every penny.

Kilwins

Kilwins, at 212 King Street, is one of the newcomer ice cream shops to open on King Street. It’s ironic they’re a recent addition, as they’re nationally known as a favorite of many and recently celebrated their 70th anniversary. Their interior is a classic design of an old fashioned ice create and sweets parlor, and they’re known to be generous with their portions. After ordering at the counter, you can grab your cone or sundae and sit in their outdoor seating area.

Alex: Kilwins is a classic sweets factory from the moment you walk in the door, and they’re eager to satisfy your sweet tooth. They quickly offer samples, have several cases of ice cream flavors, and love serving up heaping helpings with multiple flavors even in their “small” cups. I picked up half cake batter and half double peanut butter pie. Talk about my ideal flavor combo. The serving size is substantial, so splitting a small is completely reasonable. The ice cream is fresh and very good, and taking your cup or cone out on the bench on the sidewalk in front of the store is a great way to enjoy your ice cream (or fudge, or chocolates, or caramel apple, etc).

Dan: Walking into Kilwins is fantastic! Chocolates, fudge, candies and caramel covered apples. It is awesome but I was there for ice cream. A very nice selection however I found out that my favorite flavor, lemon meringue pie, was discontinued. How could that be? It was my go-to all last summer. Oh well, I guess it is time to try some new flavors. I went with a small scoop (which is really two large scoops). I tried the salted caramel (nice amount of caramel and I loved the salt flavor) and toasted coconut (tons of pieces of toasted coconut). Both flavors were very tasty; not sure if either will take over as the flavor of the summer, but would absolutely have them both in the future. One thing to note, Kilwins has the most expensive small cup but it is also by far the largest amount of ice cream. Easily two people could share a small scoop.

Nicecream

Nicecream, at 726 King Street is the newest addition to Old Town’s ice cream offerings, and is tucked in a small storefront between Eamonn’s Dublin Chipper, and the Geranio Restaurant. Nicecream’s hand crafted approach to ice cream uses fresh local ingredients to create their custom flavor mixes, then freezes that mix in front of you using liquid nitrogen and electric mixers.

A few quick turns of the mixing paddle and your ice cream emerges from the cold steam. Their flavors are eclectic and the presentation is certainly interesting (but that’s part of the whole show). The interior of the store is nicely designed, and there are a few interior seats where you can sit and enjoy your scoops.

Alex: A trip to Nicecream is certainly a show. As clouds of liquid nitrogen steam spill from the mixers where your ice cream is being freshly prepared, it’s as much an experience as a way to get your ice cream fix. I tried their June flavor of the month, Strawberry Basil, and it was absolutely delicious. The basil was a refreshing and very nice addition to the creamy and very flavorful strawberry. As I understand it, the quick freeze of the liquid nitrogen allows Nicecream to leverage some fresher ingredients that wouldn’t work quite as well if the ice cream was made in a traditional manner. Though the shop is small, there’s plenty of seating inside, and the fresh approach to ice cream is a welcome addition to middle King Street.

Dan: WOW FACTOR! We walked in and i saw liquid nitrogen steam in the air. Very cool and definitely adds some excitement to ordering ice cream. I started with a taste of Nutella ice cream and it was very good. I was in the mood for pistachio and Nicecream did NOT disappoint. The purely pistachio is ice cream with homemade pistachio butter and bits of pistachio and I really enjoyed it. Per the norm, I ordered a small but it has two decent sized scoops (it looked smaller that it actually was). The store is a bit small and on a busy day can be a tight squeeze while waiting in line but absolutely worth it. Nicecream is the newest ice cream shop on King Street but is quickly making a name for themselves!

Dolce and Bean

Dolce and Bean is far more than just gelato (though that’s the reason for our visit). They’re known as an artisanal confectionery shop and are located in the heart of Del Ray at 2300 Mt. Vernon Avenue. Though their beautiful cases full of chocolates, pastries, and their signature macarons greet you when you arrive, their case of homemade gelato beckons from the rear of the counter.

Their Italian-style gelato favors milk over additional cream, leading to a smoother and more dense gelato that also happens to be a little healthier for you than traditional ice cream. Their case consists of 12 flavors of gelato from traditional (such as strawberry or lemon) to more creative (such as peanut butter or vanilla bourbon).

Alex: Though I had to force myself to stay on task rather than pick up a box of macarons, I sampled the vanilla bourbon but ultimately went with my favorite flavor of all time, peanut butter. The gelato was very dense and smooth, and the peanut butter smell and flavor was substantial. Had we been able to go with two flavors in a small I would have surely added strawberry (think PB&J ice cream). My favorite part of our visit to this shop was the staff’s friendly and interested interaction with us. They were talking with us about other ice cream offerings in Alexandria and even suggested specific flavors of other places we should certainly try. This tells me they really like what they’re doing and like to know their competition.

Dan: Dolce and Bean is a brand new addition to the Alexandria ice cream scene and I was excited to check it out. Bright store, nice people working behind the counter, and the store had a good amount of sweets (macaroons, chocolates and baked goods). They all looked delicious but yet again I am here to eat ice cream. They offered ~10 different flavors of gelato. I started off with a taste of peanut butter gelato and it had a really nice peanut butter flavor. Since it was gelato I went with my standard; small pistachio. It was a vibrant green color. I would have loved some pieces of pistachio or some stronger flavor. It was a standard price ~$5 plus tax for a small. I really would have loved the ability to mix and match flavors (they offered the mix and match only with larger sizes).

YoLove

Old Town’s lone remaining option for self serve pay by weight frozen yogurt is located at 100 N. Union, within the Torpedo Factory’s walkway toward the waterfront. Whether you’re in the mood for something tangy or sweet, you can grab a cup, dole out the amount you want, then add some toppings from the fruit, candy, and sweet sauces bar. Best of all, if you’re in the mood for something a little lighter, frozen yogurt tends to be a healthier option than some of the other stores’ offerings.

Alex: Sometimes I’m just in the mood for some frozen yogurt, and when that happens, YoLove is where we head. Wendy and I split a mixture of their tangy Oreo and chocolate flavor with a few Reeses peanut butter cups as topping. That’s the thing about YoLove, you can pick and choose what you like, and get as much as you do or don’t want. That’s also the problem, my eyes always seem to be bigger than my stomach at self serve locations, so I let Wendy work the portion control.

Dan: Full disclosure. Frozen yogurt is not my first choice when eating ice cream, but my wife loves it. So I brought her along for taste testing (I did try it as well). She went with oreo and vanilla. If you like a smooth tart frozen yogurt; then YoLove is the place for you They had six flavors and I love that you can mix and match all of them so that you can get exactly the combination you want. In addition they offer 20+ toppings. At $.55 an ounce, it was the most cost effective ice cream in Old Town.

The Creamery

The Creamery at 110 King Street has a classic exterior ice cream parlor view. From the painted stenciled letters on the window, to the animatronic bears eating ice cream in the front window, this is your basic small town ice cream parlor. Their offerings range from real vanilla or chocolate custard, ice cream flavors by the scoop, or sundaes. There’s a small seating section in the brightly lit interior, but more people grab their order and head outside to listen to nearby musicians on the sidewalk.

Alex: Walking in we were immediately asked what we’d like to order. I ordered a small vanilla custard in a cake cone, which was $5 including tax. They’re known for their custard so I figured that was a good way to assess their ice cream. Overall, it was tasty and true custard, not the type of soft serve you’d get at McDonald’s. Beyond the ice cream, the interior of the store is fairly typical of what you’d expect from an ice cream shop in a touristy part of town. I’d likely recommend The Creamery to anyone looking for real custard that wants to stay in Old Town, or if they’re looking for a quick option and the line across the street at Pop’s is just too long.

Dan: A nice hello from the ice cream clerk; I asked what is the best flavor today and she told me everything is wonderful. Ok, sure I believe her, so I went with homemade mango ice cream in a cup. It wasn’t going to be my first choice but who doesn’t love mangoes? It was sweet and creamy, and I would have really enjoyed some chunks of fresh mango. They offered 6% discount for cash ($5 for a small);  I don’t like carrying coins, so that was perfect. I will definitely go back to try the custard next time.

Ben & Jerry’s

The Old Town location of Ben & Jerry’s is located at 111 S. Union Street and has been a staple in Old Town for over 20 years. The shop is a standard Ben & Jerry’s store nestled within an historic row house. There’s not a lot of space inside to sit and enjoy your cone, but it’s not cramped either. This is Ben & Jerry’s, so you pretty much know what you’re getting, but most summer evenings tend to have a lot of people visiting. However, no day is more busy than on annual Free Cone Day, where the line often snakes down Union Street and up King Street.

Alex: We’ve been occasionally visiting this location for 17 years now, and it always seems to be well trafficked. I picked up a small in one of their newest celebrity flavors, Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Dough.” I must say, as a fan of cookie dough, the flavor was pretty awesome. And there is something magical about grabbing an ice cream and walking around lower King Street that just can’t be beat. If you’re looking for something you know you like, Ben & Jerry’s might be the perfect place for you.

Dan: It is Old Town, so when walking into Ben & Jerry’s you have to walk thru the bubbles. Nice touch and I love it! The Ben & Jerry’s smells like freshly made waffle cones and that smell is great. I went with my favorite flavor, Chocolate Therapy. Man, it is good and chocolatey! You really can’t go wrong with Ben & Jerry’s. It is familiar, taste good, nice variety of flavors and three people working so the line moves quickly.

Killer E.S.P.

Espresso, Sorbetto, and Pie is what the people at 1012 King Street do! Initially opened as a Bocatto Gelato location in 2011, they have expanded their menu to reflect their name change. (Or did the new menu come first? It’s a chicken and egg cream scenario if I’ve ever seen one.) Today they offer fresh brewed coffee and sweet and savory pies from Dangerously Delicious Pies, but their sorbetto selections are still front and center when you walk in. Order up front, pay at the register, then optionally enjoy your sorbet in the indoor or outdoor seating they offer.

The sad and out of order freezer.

Alex: We tried to sample the ESP offerings on 4 separate occasions, but their freezer has been on the brink so no gelato of theirs was to be had. However, both Dan and I are familiar with their offerings. Their case is front and center when you walk in and their gelato always looks thick and inviting. We even delayed this blog post in hopes it could be fixed. Sadly, it’s still broken.

Dan: As Alex mentioned, we walked by four times and I called; the new gelato freezer will be up and running soon… unfortunately, we can not wait for ever and the ice cream review has to get out to the world. I really enjoy the overall concept of Killer ESP. It is a local favorite and normally a line to the door during all four seasons of the year.

Our Top 5 Ranked

Dan

  1. Custard Shack: I was blown away by the Sea Salt Caramel, love the price, puppy pops and no frills approach. They are a “cannot miss” for custard and worth the walk or quick drive down GW Parkway.
  2. Kilwins: A very nice selection of flavors and the small dish is more than enough for two people (and you can mix & match flavors). Yes, it is a chain with ~75 stores around the US but it feels like a small hometown Ice Cream shop.
  3. Nicecream: The newest ice cream shop to Old Town Alexandria and I absolutely loved the purely pistachio. So good! Getting your ice cream at Nicecream is an experience! Fantastic!
  4. The Dairy Godmother: It is iconic within the Del Ray area of Alexandria and good reason because their custard is so delicious. I also recommend custard on top of their homemade baked pies – it is a summer delight! Also, Stella told me that they have the best puppy ice cream in town.
  5. Casa Rosada: I love gelato and Casa Rosada hits it on all marks. Standard flavors are fantastic, very nice portion that you can mix and match, price that hits the mark perfectly and they always offer some non-standard flavors that intrigue your tastebuds. Stella also gives Casa Rosada two paws up.

Alex

  1. Custard Shack: Though it’s a little further away than some of the others, the custard here is excellent. A walk down the Mt. Vernon trail is a perfect excuse to stop by, and I love that it feels so much like the classic, no-frills ice cream stands I grew up begging my parents to take me to after little league. I really also like the fact the flavors are limited and different, which forces me to leave my comfort zone.
  2. The Dairy Godmother: Whether in Del Ray for dinner, Art on the Avenue, or just because we’re out for a walk, The Dairy Godmother is always worth a stop when we’re in the mood for custard. It’s the quintessential local small business that we love to support and one of those places where you’re sure to see many area locals. Their custard is very tasty and they certainly don’t over complicate a good thing, and their prices are some of the best in all of the places we reviewed.
  3. Pop’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream: It’s an Old Town institution and has some of my favorite local ice cream flavors. Though the line can be long, there’s nothing quite like grabbing a cone or cup from Pop’s and walking the waterfront pier while you enjoy it. The ambiance is great and the building it’s in is so very cool.
  4. Dolci Gelati: I fell in love with gelato when I went to Italy right after college. No joke, I ate it three and sometimes four times a day when I was in Rome and Venice. Dolci is the place that really reminds me of those great cups of gelato I experienced years ago. Their flavors are delicious and the staff is so friendly that it makes going to the store a real delight. Even better, you can enjoy your gelato by the Market Square fountain located right across the street.
  5. Nicecream: What can I say, I like the show! It’ll be even better around Halloween when it makes the ice cream look spooky. I also really like how creamy the resulting ice cream is and their flavor selections. I’m a big fan of the strawberry basil and can’t wait to try the next flavor of the month. The decor is great, and it’s also nice and close to our house (but most of them are). I think this will be one of our frequent stops when we’re craving a cone.

Lulu

Though Lulu only has a few options for doggie ice cream, she can certainly weigh in on her favorites.

  1. Killer E.S.P.: Though their freezer was broken at the time of review, but their dog friendliness ranks tops among the shops. Lulu is always happy to stop by.
  2. The Custard Shack: Yes, they have pup pops too! What dog wouldn’t love a long walk on Mt. Vernon trail with a midway stop at the Custard Shack for a treat to cool down?
  3. Casa Rosada: Though she was a little unsure at first, she was sold after the first few licks. The benches out front are the perfect place to lick the bowl clean.
  4. The Dairy Godmother: A whole freezer dedicated to flavors that she enjoys any time of day, any day of the year is reason enough for this to be her #1.

As you can see from this massive list, we are fortunate to enough to have quite the impressive selection of ice cream options when it comes to the immediate and nearby neighborhoods of Old Town Alexandria. Whether we’re in the mood for classic ice cream, custard, gelato, yogurt, or even doggie treats, the decision we have to make isn’t about whether or not to go out, it’s more about where we should go. The fact that most of the shops are in beautiful old historic buildings only adds to the charm and enjoyment of the experience. So whether you’re a local or just visiting, we hope this guide is helpful when it comes to planning how to best satisfy your sweet tooth.

Wolf Italian Restaurant Stoke Newington

Restaurant Review: Wolf Italian Restaurant. Homeboy and I popped into Wolf on Stoke Newington High Street for brunch last weekend. We enjoyed the food so much that we booked an evening meal there last night. If you’re looking for an Italian Restaurant in Stoke Newingtonbest places to eat in N16 or weekend brunch in Stokie, give Wolf Italian Restaurant a try.

wolf italian restaurant stoke newington spiced beans with baked eggs

“You’ll never be hungry like a wolf when you eat at this adorable restaurant serving authentic Italian food in the heart of Stoke Newington,” Homegirl London

Antony Difrancesco (owner) and Karla Knowles (head chef) create seasonal and regional Italian dishes. If you’re hankering for weekend brunch pop in and get your fill of avocado with poached eggs on sourdough dressed in lemon, chilli and coriander. Satisfy your hunger with a dish of spiced beans and baked eggs with buffalo ricotta. For a sweet treat order the polenta pancakes with mascarpone and jam.

wolf italian restaurant stoke newington avocado and poached eggs

Avocado with Poached Eggs

Book yourself a table if you want to guarantee a seat for the evening. The menu is full of well executed Italian inspired dishes. Antipasti includes fried salted cod with orange and sprout tops with a spicy tomato sauce. The gnocchetti (version of gnocchi) was delicately flavoured with wild mushrooms, butter, parsley and a sprinkling of parmesan. I enjoyed every spoon full of the thick and creamy celeriac soup with a swirl of walnut pesto and grilled focaccia which was perfect for dunking.

wolf italian restaurant stoke newington salt cod

Salted Cod

There were a few pasta dishes including bucatini (similar to spaghetti with a hole running through it) with venison shin and porcini ragu. We tried the tonnarelli (spaghetti) with creamed aubergines, spinach, chilli, basil, pine nuts and pecorino which was delicious.

wolf italian restaurant stoke newington wild mushroom pasta

Tonnarelli

Other vegetarian mains included the pumpkin parmigiana with celeriac, chard, ricotta and sage. This had a sweet taste and was carefully layered. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish and fancy it right now!

wolf italian restaurant stoke newington pumpkin parmigiana

Pumpkin Parmigiana

My friend tucked into a sizeable pork belly complete with crackling and pear chilli chutney. With a chunk of braised savoy cabbage, it was a hearty meal. The other meat dish was braised beef. Alternatively, the braised octopus with crispy chick peas was available for sea food lovers. Braising and cabbage seemed to be a running theme here!

wolf italian restaurant stoke newington chocolate mousse

Chocolate Cremaux

We only ordered one dessert to share because we were completely stuffed. We tried the chocolate cremaux which was a mousse accompanied with crème fraiche … yummy! Otherwise it’s a classic tiramisu, affogato or ice cream. Prices for antipasti are £6-14, pasta is £13.50-15, mains are £15.50-24 and desserts are £5.50-8.

Wolf Italian Restaurant Interiors

wolf italian restaurant stoke newington interiors

Restaurant Interior

The restaurant exterior looks smart and contemporary. Inside you find an inviting and intimate space. The décor has a mid-century modern flavour with comfy wooden Danish armchairs and marble table tops. The floor was covered in grey hexagonal tiles. Screens with bevelled glass section up the room for privacy. The living wall full of plants was a fresh and fun feature. Wolf is a great spot for a cosy supper with your loved one in the evening or brunch hangout with your friends at the weekend.

Wolf Italian Restaurant Information

wolf italian restaurant stoke newington exterior

Restaurant Exterior

To find out more about the restaurant go to the Wolf Website. The address is 110 Stoke Newington High Street, London N16 7NY. The nearest station is Rectory Road Overground. Current opening times listed are Monday to Friday 6-11pm, Saturday 11am-11pm and Sunday 11am-9pm.

Author: Homegirl London. Photographs: Homegirl London, interiors picture from the restaurant. Thanks: Homeboy and Rich for dining out with me.

Wolf Italian Restaurant Stoke Newington

  • Wolf Italian Restaurant Stoke Newington
  • 020 7254 4141
  • Take Reservations: Yes!
  • 110 Stoke Newington High Street, Stoke Newington, N16 7NY, UK

Networking Tips: Sincerity Overcomes Skepticism

After my last post titled “How to Network for a Job: Give Before You Get“, I had a great email from someone asking for additional networking tips…

“How do I make sure I am not the slimy guy who’s just helping people to get favours? How do I make sure that I stay genuine?”

I appreciated the note, and it’s a great question!

I think each person has to ask this of themselves each day.

Zig Ziglar, an exceptional motivational speaker, often used to say:

“You can get everything out of life that you want! …if you help enough other people get what they want.”

I believe that’s true. However, I also believe that motives and the heart with which you do those things matters greatly as well. If it’s clear that you are “the slimy guy who’s just helping people to get favours”, it’s unlikely that most of those favours will ever materialize… AND you’ll have a reputation as a “slimy guy”!  Don’t be that guy!

The answer is… Sincerity.

If you sincerely want to build relationships, and be a blessing, a pleasant surprise, a welcome connection, a valued resource and a friend to those you meet, it will become evident. It will be evident in your words, in your body language, in your face, and in your generosity.

In the 1970’s TV show M*A*S*H, Hawkeye, in one episode was trying to get a date with a particular nurse, and was having no luck at all in charming her. BJ, his best friend and tent-mate suggested that instead of trying to find a way to play her… he try sincerity. Hawkeye’s response was… “Oh, sincerity, I can fake that!”

It was a funny line, but everyone understood that it was a bad idea. Real sincerity can’t be faked. Faked “sincerity” becomes evident quickly, and the “slimy guy” reputation is born.

Checking your motives and determining you want to be of value to others will make the difference in all of your phone calls, meetings, casual conversations, and interviews as well. Before every contact, remind yourself that you truly want to be of help to the person you’re about to engage. It’s an opportunity for a new professional relationship, or perhaps even a friendship. Take the time in advance and during the conversation to think about who you know, what you know, or what you could offer that would be of help or of value in some way. Not just a token contact name or uninformed piece of advice that you throw out to them, but something that truly hits the mark.

It’s possible, and highly likely many times that you can’t come up with anything… and that’s OK.

However, SINCERELY expressing your desire to be of help somehow goes a long way toward planting a seed for future further contacts.

Don’t fake it, and don’t be the “slimy guy”.

True sincerity will quickly erase whatever skepticism your contact may have… and then they will be much more interested in helping you as well!

Effective Leaders Go First

The action of going first is to take a leap of faith. It is putting yourself out there. Making yourself vulnerable. Taking a calculated risk.

Going first is summoning up the courage to step outside your comfort zone and try something new.

This means putting your inner fears aside. It means not caring what others around you will think. (You can’t please everyone all the time.)

In Leadership, going first means you set the example. You walk the talk. You are the first person to admit when you make a mistake.

It also means that when you’re building trust in teams, that you Go First. Be the first to place your trust in your team – that they know what they are doing. Trust that the people around you have the skills and abilities to get the job done.

In Leadership Going First also means that you are the first to extend a hand and help others around you. You are constantly asking others “How can I help you?”

Is Going First easy?

No. But waiting for others to reach out to you creates success in waiting.

Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.” – Louise E. Boone