This week, I have nothing profound to pontificate on -- in simpler words: I have writer’s block. Or maybe I killed a few too many brain cells sitting around a fire Sunday night with some friends and enjoying the first pitcher of beer margaritas of summer 2014 ...

A quick update on my Rasta hat -- I had to rip it out completely and start over because it was large enough to fit a very large watermelon. How big is a head full of dredlocks anyway? I remade it, eliminating a quarter of the stitches originally called for. I finished it a few nights ago and while it’s still a little loose, I can wear it.

n

This morning, while I was looking at my email, I ran across a video for making a barbecue grill, albeit very small, from an aluminum can. The round lip of the already opened can (which looked like a large kidney bean or spaghetti sauce can) was removed with aluminum cutters and discarded. Then, using kitchen scissors, the can was cut down the sides to about an inch from the bottom, creating eight "petals" that were folded at a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the can. Next, a small lip was bent upward at the end of each petal. Heavy-duty aluminum foil was shaped onto the tin can frame to create a bowl. Add several bricks of charcoal and light. Top with a rack from a broiler pan or a cooling rack and you’re ready to cook.

Yes, I’m sure it would fit only four hot dogs, but what a great idea to try! Just be careful not to get cut on any of the sharp edges!

n

One of the many things I love about writing my column is the feedback I get from readers.

Phyllis Goodard wrote me following my column on charm bracelets:

"Just read your column about charms. Brought back memories. I also have a charm bracelet. I have a baton for when I was in the drum and bugle corps. Then a cap for when I graduated from high school. also a diploma. A charm for when I retired from work.

A stork for when I had my daughter. Two rings for when I got married, i.e. before I had my daughter -- ha-ha. A silver heart for the Christmas before I had my daughter ‘cause I was pregnant at Christmas. My daughter was born on New Year’s Day. Yes, Randy Trabold [the North Adams Transcript photographer in the 1950s to the late 1970s] was there to take my picture and I got all those presents ... Also, I have another charm from when I was in my cousin’s wedding. Just 3 charms with a bridesmaid charm with the date of the wedding. As you, I never wear it anymore. Maybe some day."

n

Joan Haddad, formerly of North Adams and now of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., wrote after my column on my spice and herb stockpile:

"Just a note to let you know how much I enjoy your column, especially today’s about the spice fiasco. I’ll bet every kitchen in the world is in the same situation. I know I am.

"Now that I am retired, I find myself trying new recipes and the spice assortment continues to expand. Looking forward to future adventures from your kitchen.

n

Mary Gajda wrote:

"I enjoy reading your column and I made many of your recipes. I wonder if you ever heard of dandelion syrup that is made from the dandelion flowers. My relatives in Europe make it every spring and they say it is a great on pancakes tastes as good as maple syrup. Check the web on making dandelion syrup with lemon. The recipes sound pretty interesting I might try a small batch."

(I did look online and came up with this recipe. I haven’t tried it yet, but dandelions are in full bloom. Mary, let me know if you ever do make it and share what recipe you use!)

Dandelion Blossom Syrup

1 quart dandelion flowers

1 quart (4 cups) water

4 cups sugar

1/2 lemon or orange (organic if possible) chopped, peel and all

Note: The citrus is optional, it will give the syrup an orangey or lemony flavor. If you want the pure dandelion flavor, you can skip the citrus.

Put blossoms and water in a pot. Bring just to a boil, turn off heat, cover, and let sit overnight. The next day, strain and press liquid out of spent flowers. Add sugar and sliced citrus and heat slowly, stirring now and again, for several hours or until reduced to a thick, honey-like syrup. Can in half-pint or 1 pint jars. This recipe makes a little more than 1 pint.

n

Kathleen Connor wrote:

"A while back you talked of recipes from a Mrs. K. (I think it was Mrs. K). It made me think of a cookbook, "From Our Parish Pantry," I have that is from St. Theresa’s Church, here in Pittsfield. There is no copyright date in it, but I believe it is from the mid-1960s. While many of the recipes are straight out of that era of cooking style, there is a nostalgia to this book for me. Among others is a recipe for oatmeal cookie thins submitted by the mother of a very dear friend of mine, who died at age 50 of lung cancer. Or a recipe from a friend of my mother’s. The recipe was called "Johnny Marzette." This woman is still alive in her 90s and raised nine children. Needless to say, the cookbook holds incredible memories in its pages.

"As to summer drink recipes, I have two. One is from a newspaper that I cut out years ago. Perhaps the Minnesota Star Tribune or the Chicago Tribune. It is called Italian gin fizz. The other is just a made-up drink called Mango Tango. Here are the recipes:

Italian Gin Fizz

(Serves 4)

2 10-ounce bottles bitter lemon soda (if you can find the Italian brand that is the best)

1/3 cup gin (or vodka for vodka lovers)

2 tablespoons Aperol or Campari

4 lime slices for garnish

Combine ingredients in a highball glass that is filled with ice. Garnish with the lime.

(The fact that they refer to a highball glass probably points to how long ago I cut this recipe out!)

Mango Tango

(Serves 1)

Fill an 8-ounce glass with ice. Put in a shot (or two) of gin or vodka. Fill glass with mango nectar and garnish with a slice of lime.

Margaret Button may be reached at the Berkshire Eagle, 75 S. Church St., Pittsfield, Mass. 01201 or email: mbutton@berkshireeagle.com.