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Design Notes

Cooler Coolers and Summer Fun, Cubed

July 25, 2002|JANET EASTMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Carl Vander Schuit is a commercial photographer in San Diego who is addicted to light. He had this crazy idea to illuminate ice cubes, and his brother, David Warren, an engineer, figured out how to make it work: With waterproof plastic filled with nontoxic refreezeable gel and battery-operated lightbulbs, Litecubes were born.

Tap the 1-inch cube on one side to activate the lithium battery; tap it on another side to turn it off (unlike single-use glow sticks, these cubes can be reused for a total of 12 or more hours). The realistic-looking translucent cubes are beverage and food safe, and although they don't melt (they just look as if they have started to), they work best if frozen first and used with real ice cubes.

People are finding wacky uses for the glowing cubes. Children play with them in the bathtub and swimming pool; adults use them to add sparkle to martini glasses and hot tubs; party hosts put them in punchbowls and along walkways; and says Warren, "My grandmother uses it in her water glass on her nightstand so she can find it during the night." He says he's seen caterers put blue cubes inside funnel cakes, and red cubes under shrimp.

The cubes sell for about $2.50 each. Restoration Hardware has stocked trickier blue-and-white cubes ($15, set of four) while Internet sites such as americantailga ter.com offer the original colors: yellow, orange, red and green. For more information, www.litecube. com.

There are as many types of coolers as there are beverages to squeeze into them. And, if vacant shelves at stores are any indication, people are snapping up more than one to fit different needs.

There are soft-sided coolers that keep lunch fresh and can be folded into a backpack or briefcase for the ride home. And there are wide-body tough plastic ones that have all-terrain wheels to glide over bumps or sand, and tow handles that make transporting them a one-hand operation. They come in a paint box of colors, and cost from $10 to $100.

Despite the vast offerings already available to keep perishables well-insulated, there are new designs every summer. Rubbermaid has come out with a Slim Cooler ($12.99) that is only 6.7-inches wide, which is narrow enough to fit between or behind car seats. It holds 12 cans or five 1-liter bottles of water or wine. Two drink holders are molded into the lid, which splits in two to access one side at a time. Testers at the Good Housekeeping Institute say the Slim Cooler keeps snacks ice cold for eight hours. For more information, www.Rubbermaid.com.

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Janet Eastman can be reached at janet.eastman@latimes.com.

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