Friday, March 26, 2010

Kayak Time Is Near

There's about a week to go before my official Kayak Check Day.  That's the day that I marked on my calendar to seriously begin looking into building.

The book that I mentioned in my last post arrived.  I started to read it cover to cover, and quickly realized that the build documented on Instructables is more along the lines of what I'm looking for.  The book instructions are awesome, but the woodworking skills and tools needed seem to be more than than that needed for the kayak on Instructables.  That's not to say that the book won't come in handy.  In addition to the kayak plans, it also includes sections of building a Greenland-style paddle, and accessories such as clothing.

So, will I actually begin building next weekend?  Difficult to tell at this point.  Last night we got a dusting of snow, so winter still hasn't completely left the area.  We're also entering "April showers bring May flowers" time, which means my planned outdoor work area may not be suitable for occupation till the lawn dries out.

On other project fronts, Project 365 is still ongoing.  My photo count is now in the 80s.  I also did some LEGO building, which I haven't done for some time.  By the time of my next show, I should have a completed coaling tower and sanding house for the train layout.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Kayak Fever

The last week or so has been warm in this area.  At least, it's been warm for us.  Most of the snow has been washed away and temperatures have been above freezing, so it almost feels like Spring is coming soon.  Of course, growing up in Vermont, I know better than to believe that, but it hasn't stopped thoughts of shaving my winter beard and breaking out the shorts from entering my head.  Along with those thoughts are thoughts of the kayak project that I have planned for warm weather.

April 1st is my official day for checking to see if we have "warm weather" around here.  That's the day that I have penciled in on my calendar to make an assessment of if I should start picking up building supplies, or wait another month just in case it snows again.  The recent warm spell that we've had, though, has me looking forward to the official check day.

In preparation for the project, I went ahead and ordered Building the Greenland Kayak: A Manual for Its Construction and Use by Christoper Cunningham.  Though my original plan was to follow the series of Instructables for building a Greenland kayak, all of the research that I've done points to this book as being one of the best sources for information.  I figure between the two, I should have a decent shot at building something that floats.

So what's become of my other projects?  They are still in the works.  I haven't had time or money to get the rest of the supplies needed for my book press, so the tub sits in the basement, waiting to be worked on.  My Project 365 effort is coming along nicely though, with 41 photos down, and 324 to go.  I've also been cleaning up my LEGO area some more, and building a bit for some upcoming shows, so while this blog has been quiet for a few weeks, I am still keeping busy.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sushi


Can food be a project?  Absolutely!  For years I've wanted to try making my own sushi.  I bought the book "Sushi for Dummies" a few years ago, read it, then did nothing with it.  At some point I did buy some of the ingredients I needed, but again, never did anything with them.  A couple of years ago for Christmas, I was even given a sushi "kit" that included a rolling mat and wooden paddle, but, as you may have guessed, I didn't do anything with it.

So what brought on another round of sushi desire?  My wife rented "Julie and Julia" last night.  On top of being a good movie, it got me to thinking about food, and, in particular, cooking at home, which quickly led me back to the idea of making my own sushi.

So today I dug out my two sushi books, jotted down a quick list of ingredients, and headed to the grocery store with my wife.  $100 later, and well past our monthly grocery budget, we returned home.  We did pick up our usual list of goodies, but I have to admit that most of the money went toward sushi fixin's.

My biggest fear was making the rice.  Rice is what makes sushi.  If you don't get it right, you end up with nothing but a mess.  As it turns out, following the directions in the "Dummies" book made it almost impossible to mess up.  My rice came out perfectly, even though I didn't have one of the ingredients.

I should probably have mentioned ingredients.  Finding everything you need for Japanese cuisine in rural Vermont is next to impossible.  We did pretty well, though.  With substitutions, we gathered everything but two ingredients, I think.

While the rice was soaking, then cooking, I chopped, sliced, stirred, and sampled everything else that I would need.  I chose four recipes: a spicy tuna roll, the California roll, another tuna roll, and a veggie roll.  My main ingredients to prepare where cucumber, avocado, scallions, tuna, and a couple of mixtures that included mayonnaise and fish roe.

Once the rice was done, and cooled properly, the fun part started.  Rolling sushi is not only easy, it's a pretty cool process.  Basically, add some sticky rice to a piece of nori seaweed, add your ingredients, and roll it all up in a bamboo mat.  Once it's rolled tightly, you can slice it into the servings you typically see, pop it on a plate, and feed it to the family.  It really was fun.

As you can see from the plate above, my first attempt wasn't perfect, but it tasted awesome, and my daughter has already asked me to make more so that she can take it to school for lunch.  I call that a successful project.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The 365 Project - Day 8


On January 2nd, I decided to make an attempt at the 365 Project.  The project is basically a challenge to take at least one photo a day for an entire year.  January 1st is a logical starting point, but many people start whenever they get the inspiration to.  For me, inspiration hit on the 2nd, but I happened to have a photo from the 1st, so I chose that as my starting date.

I am now on day 8.  Observations that I've had so far:
  • Shooting a pic a day isn't that difficult if you don't think about it too hard.  The challenge is to take a photo a day, not to create a masterpiece each day.
  • I find that I'm shooting less in a session than I normally would so that I don't run out of things to shoot.  I'm not sure why this is, as there are zillions of things to photograph in the world, but I find myself stopping after I get a usable shot.  I don't want to use up my mental list of ideas too quickly.
  • There are Flickr groups for everything.  Seriously, today's photo was of a chair.  Out of curiosity, I searched for "Chair" on the Flickr site, and sure enough, there is a Chair group.  In fact, there are multiple chair groups.  Same for "Doorway" (yesterday's photo), and "Cold" etc.  It boggles the mind.
  • I'm still not used to carrying my camera everywhere.  It feels weird.  It may be that it's because I'm carrying around a naked DSLR with no case, so it's obvious that I'm carrying it.  On the other hand, I decided to leave it at home today since I had already posted the day's shot, and it felt strange to not have it with me.  Not really what I expected after only eight days.
  • My family hasn't said that I'm crazy.  I'm pretty sure they are thinking it, but so far they haven't said anything.
So why am I doing this?  Simple.  I like having projects to do, and I've been wanting to force myself to get out with my camera more.  So far, so good.

    Saturday, January 2, 2010

    Holidays, Budgets, and Randomness

    Just a quick post to remind myself and my readers that this blog is here, and not really idle.  The holidays have finally come and gone, so life should start returning back to normal.  4th quarter, starting in about October, till just after New Years is the busiest time at work for me, so home projects generally sit untouched.  This year, I've also decided that the family needs to get back on track financially, so I've taken up the task of setting up a budget, and becoming more involved in keeping track of where our money goes.  The down side to this is that I'll actually see how much I'm spending on projects, which could cut back on what I do.  The up side is that I'll see how much I'm spending on projects, and maybe find creative ways to do things cheaper.

    I'd still like to build the kayak starting this spring/summer.  I put a reminder for myself on my calendar for sometime in April.  If the snow is gone by that point, and the lawn has dried out enough to walk on, I hope to start by that point.  With the new budget in place, I need to remember to start saving for materials now.

    Saturday, December 5, 2009

    RAILBRICKS Calendar

    Not all projects exist in a tangible form (yet).  For the past couple of months, I've been working on the 2010 RAILBRICKS Calendar.



    This initial idea came about when I received my 2010 NMRA Railroading calendar in the mail.  I proposed the idea of LEGO Trains calendar to the folks at RAILBRICKS on October 9th.  Today, about 7 1/2 weeks later, it went on sale through the Lulu website.

    For the first draft of the calendar, I grabbed a couple of example shots from Flickr, then laid out the grids for each month. I also did some initial graphic design work to give everyone an idea of how the calendar could look.  The idea was universally accepted by the other RAILBRICKS folks (at least those who spoke up), so I surged ahead with the idea.

    The initial idea was to have each RAILBRICKS staff member submit a photo for the calendar.  In the end, we ended up with about 8 RAILBRICKS members contributing, with another three images from others.  One RAILBRICKS member contributed two photos, to round out the months.

    The calendar has a few basic elements for each month.  First, the photo.  Below each photo, there is a brief caption, and credits for the model builder and photographer.  Next, each month contains standard holidays for the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.  In addition to those holidays, LEGO-related dates, such as set release dates, were added to each month.  Finally, many of the months also contain the dates of LEGO conventions, such as BrickWorld.  Below the main grid, I added the name of the month, and a small one or two sentence historical fact that relates to the photo.  This part was probably the most difficult, as not all of the photos were of models that related to a prototypical railroad, so this section was only loosely related on a couple of months.

    Overall, I'm pretty happy with how the calendar turned out.  I ordered my copy today, so I should see how it looks in print within a couple of weeks.


    Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    Book Press Tub

    Last week I finished the tub for my book press.  My woodworking skills haven't advanced much past the 10 year-old Boy Scout stage, but I'm pretty happy with the result.  I didn't have the proper size bit to drill pilot holes, so I ended up splitting the wood when I drove the screws in, and the outsides of the rails are a bit chopped up, but the functional bits should all be fine.

    The tub is basically just a box with rails.  The actual book press will sit between the rails, with one section sliding over the top, which has been sanded smooth.  I should be able to complete the press as soon as I find some hardwood in the proper dimension.

    Overall the tub is about 22" wide by 11" deep by 8 1/2" tall.