Crazy Ideas


When I think of apple cider vinegar

Taken with Instagram

I think of the mother, and then I think of Danzig.

A Little Auto Body Work

Add “spray paint the car” to the list of things I never thought I’d do, but have now done. The factory clear coat on my 7-year-old Honda has held up very well. Unfortunately, I was rear-ended a few years ago, and the aftermarket clear coat the body shop used is definitely worse for the wear – it’s peeled off completely in some areas.

I don’t care what my car looks like, and I definitely didn’t want to pay for these areas to be repainted. Nevertheless, I was starting to get a little worried that, without the protection from the clear coat, the paint would deteriorate and the metal would eventually be exposed, making it vulnerable to rust. I plan on keeping this car as long as possible, and rusted panels are not part of that plan. I decided that it was worth trying some DIY body work to make sure things don’t get worse. I’ve never tackled a project like this before, and I was a little embarrassed when I went to the local O’Reilly Auto Parts and asked about clear coat spray paint! I knew that there was no way I would get great results by spray-painting my car, but that wasn’t my goal. I just wanted to make sure the metal body panels were protected. If it was a total failure, I’d pretty much be back where I started – needing to get those areas repainted. I came home with Dupli-Color Protective Clear Coat Finish and some 2000-grit wet/dry sandpaper.

I used the sandpaper with water to remove as much of the chipped areas of the factor clear coat as possible, and to smooth the rough edge where the clear coat had flaked off. The sanding also helped rough up the existing paint and clear coat so the new spray-on clear coat would adhere better. The transition was quite a bit smoother when I was done sanding. On the right side of this photo you can see that the paint has deteriorated some and exposed the primer underneath.

I thoroughly rinsed everything with water to remove any sanding residue, then let the car air dry. Then I masked off the areas that I was going to spray with the clear coat. I decided to spray the entire section above the rear window, but only parts of the panel below it. Most of the clear coat on that panel was in good shape, and I didn’t want to spray the undamaged sections. I masked off these areas with about 1 to 1.5 inches of undamaged clear coating around them, so the new clear coat would totally cover the flaking edge area.

Before I started spraying, I wiped down the areas to be painted with mineral spirits to remove any residue, then with water, then let it dry again. Then I got to spraying. The Dupli-Color paint sprayed really evenly until it was nearly empty. I made sure to start spraying off to the side, then used a slow, even motion to apply thin coats. I sprayed my first coat on one of the sections too heavily and it started to slump. Fortunately, I was able to quickly wipe it off with mineral spirits and start over, but I learned my lesson – use thin coats to start!

I ended up spraying four thin coats and two moderately thick coats. I found that as the coating built up, I could apply a thicker layer without getting any slumping. I was very careful to try to keep the can moving constantly and steadily while I was spraying, so the coating would be as even as possible. I think that applying multiple thin coats to start helped create an even base. Once everything was dry, I removed the masking.

There was a clear line where I had masked off the sections on the panel below the rear window. Not too surprising. The paint can said that any transition lines could be softened by using polishing compound after letting the clear coat cure for 48 hours. I waited the recommended time, then wet-sanded again, then used the polishing compound. I finished by applying a couple of coats of carnauba wax to protect the new clear coat. Here’s the before and after of the panel above the window:

And the panel below the window:

You can still see the line from the new clear coat, but it doesn’t bother me. Even though aesthetic improvement wasn’t one of my goals for this project, I do think the “after” looks a lot better! The total cost of this project, including 2 cans of spray-on clear coat, one package of 2000-grit wet/dry sandpaper, polishing compound and carnauba wax, was $32.

This project wasn’t quick, but it was easy. The prep work was time-consuming (but not difficult), and I think it was essential to achieving good results. I also think it’s important to let everything dry thoroughly and not rush into re-sanding and polishing. All-in-all, I think this was $32 well-spent to keep my car protected so it will continue to serve me well for years to come!

Thoughts on Consumption

I think a lot about consumption. Not the disease, but the act of consuming stuff. I’m not an ascetic by any means; I’m not even a minimalist. I just try to avoid buying things that I don’t “need,” which also means that I try to avoid wanting things that I don’t need. That’s challenging for me. I feel like our culture is so driven by consumption, the idea that you need something newer and better (or even just different) from what you already have. I find this problematic because of the insane amount of crap that gets made to feed our insatiable appetites for new stuff, and the corollary insane amount of crap that gets discarded in favor of the “newer/better/different” thing (CRT’s anyone?). Also, I don’t want to spend my time thinking about stuff, acquiring stuff, and being surrounded by stuff. I want to spend my time doing things I enjoy, things that are generally not stuff-related, unless that “stuff” is wine, books, or my camping gear. Or my sewing stuff. Or my coral lipstick and my new belt. Come to think of it, some new shoes would look great with that belt. Or my…

Yeah, I’m definitely not perfect, but I am working on it. I don’t have any solutions, but I think that contemplating my own feelings about consumption has helped me change my spending habits for the better. Mainly, I try to:

1. Buy fewer new things, and not buy things that won’t last.
2. Make the things I have last longer.
3. Not treat shopping as entertainment.
4. Avoid things (some magazines/TV/internet) that make me want to consume.

Anyhoo, on the non-consumption tip, we had a great time hanging out with some friends who came up to stay with us this weekend. I don’t have any photos of the garden adventures, gold panning, or train ogling, but I did grab a glamour shot of the oatmeal pancakes I made for breakfast one day.

I use the recipe from The New Laurel’s Kitchen cookbook, which I totally recommend. The only changes I make are to omit the oil from the batter and to use white flour instead of whole wheat. I add oil to the pan before I pour each pancake – it gives them a little crispy finish that is extra good.

1 1/4 c. milk
1 c. rolled oats
2 eggs, beaten
1 T. brown sugar
1/2 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt

Mix the milk and the oats together and let them sit for a few minutes until the oats soften up. Mix in the eggs and the brown sugar. Pour in the flour in one spot, then add the baking powder and salt on top of the flour. Using a dry fork, mix the baking powder and salt into the flour pile, then mix the whole batter together. Preheat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add a nickel-sized puddle of oil, then pour 1/4 c. of batter right onto the oil. I do two pancakes at a time like this. Cook on the first side until the pancakes bubble up and the bubbles pop, and the edges start to look dry. Then flip them and cook until the second side is brown. I have to lower the heat a bit after the first few pancakes. You want to adjust the heat so the pancakes are simultaneously ready to flip and as brown as you like them. You’ll get it! I served these with maple syrup and some fresh nectarines. They were yummy.

I’m still thinking about consumption. 🙂

What Were We Thinking? (Before Photos)

Looking through the photos we took five years ago when we were buying our house, all I can think is, “what were we thinking?” If someone else showed me these photos and said they were thinking of buying this house, I would tell them, “don’t walk away, run.” Then John and I would privately discuss how crazy they were to even consider it. It looks like so much work…and it was. Today, I love our house and think we made the right choice to buy it – it’s perfect for us, and we definitely saw its potential (we were so young, naive, and optimistic 🙂 ). But it was UGLY. UG-LY. Hideous. Filthy. Dark, dingy, disgusting. I could go on. Let’s take a look.

Here’s the entry.

Here’s a view from the entry looking the other direction. You can see the dining area to the left and the entry to the living room.

Here’s another view looking straight into the living room. This room is really hard to photograph (and the previous owner kept all the shades drawn and lights off).

The dining area.

The kitchen. Here’s how it looks now.

Upstairs bathroom.

“Built-In” in the den. I feel that needs to be in quotes.

Top of the stairs going down to the bedrooms (our living areas are all on the second floor, as is the entry).

Bottom of the same stairs. Yes, those are (filthy, disgusting, who lives like this??) stains on the stairs.

Downstairs hallway. Here’s the “after”.

Downstairs guest bathroom.

Another “built-in” in the master bath (and John, the most attractive thing in this photo…in any of these photos).

Just so you don’t think we’re completely nuts, here’s one of the main reasons we bought this house…the location.

Redbud in bloom.

Amazing sunset, with Mount Diablo in the distance, barely poking through the haze. See more of our sunset photos here.

FinchCam: Baby Finches Grow Up and Leave the Nest

I put together this video of motion-detect footage from the webcam we have set up to film the house finch nest in our deck. It’s amazing to see how the baby house finches get bigger and more feathered every day!

FinchCam: Gory Tech Details

Note: A loyal reader asked for “gory tech details” on the FinchCam setup, and I was happy to oblige.

FinchCam consists of a Logitech Webcam Pro 9000, the motion-detect software that came with the webcam, a 30-foot USB extension cable, and my laptop.

I initially considered the Logitech Webcam Pro 9000 after seeing footage from The Animal Detector blog. They use an older version of this webcam, and the quality is pretty incredible. When my friend K (who thoroughly researches all of his electronics purchases, unlike me) said that he’d also been wanting one, I was sold! It retails for $79.99, but you can get it for under $50 on Amazon.

The webcam is mounted to the roof over our deck with a combination of strapping (for the cam) and staples (for the USB cable). John mounted it all and it’s been working great! The photos below are looking up at the underside of the roof over our deck. I extend the cable to the webcam with a 30-foot USB extension. It just comes through the nearest slider (in our kitchen), and connects to my laptop, which is sitting on the kitchen table. The setup works perfectly except that the USB extension (I think) is a little finicky, so I have to be careful not to jostle the connection to my computer or it breaks the connection enough that the webcam won’t work. When that happens, I just disconnect and reconnect it. I haven’t figured out how to prevent that problem yet (even though I’ve routed the cable so there’s no pulling on either end).

I use the software that came with the webcam, and I have no complaints. There are options you can set for the camera zoom and positioning (so it doesn’t have to be perfect when you set it up), and for the motion detection. Click for larger versions of the screencaps below.

When I want to spy on the nest, I can view it in real time through the webcam interface, just like you see in the screencaps. And yes, I waited until the dad was in the nest to take them. 🙂 I have the motion detection set on “low,” which is actually the highest sensitivity. It’s taken 48 videos so far today, and over half of those are just the babies moving around. But if I decrease the sensitivity, I capture less of the beginning and end of the feedings when there isn’t as much motion.

Hope this helps out!

FinchCam: Video of Baby House Finches

After spotting the house finch nest in our deck the other night, we promptly set up the web cam in motion-detect mode so we could watch the action without disturbing the little guys. Here’s some video from the first day.

Chicken Math – How Much Meat is in a Whole Chicken?

In my turkey math post, I found that 60% of a whole turkey is meat parts. Naturally, I had to know if a chicken had the same composition.

I bought a 4.2-pound chicken for $0.76 per pound on sale, at a total cost of $3.20. Chicken thighs and legs usually cost about $1.30 per pound in my local stores. The price for boneless/skinless chicken breasts ranges widely, but I think I pay an average of about $4.00 per pound. Anyway, when I cut up the chicken, here’s what I got:

24%: 1.0 pounds of leg and thigh (skin on/bone in)
07%: 0.3 pounds of wings (skin on/bone in)
31%: 1.3 pounds of breast (skinless/boneless)
24%: 1.0 pounds of useful carcass (all skin and excess fat removed)
14%: 0.6 pounds of skin and waste

So, 62% of the chicken was meat parts. Considering measurement error, whole chickens and whole turkeys have about the same proportion of meat to waste. I’m kind of surprised. I thought the turkey would have proportionately more meat, since the turkey’s breasts and thighs seem relatively bigger than the chicken’s. As with the turkey, I actually use the carcass for stock, so it doesn’t go to waste.

Let’s evaluate the cost. Since I don’t ever buy chicken wings, I’m going to ignore them. So, I paid $3.20 for 1.0 pounds of leg/thigh and 1.3 pounds of breast meat. If I had bought that meat as parts at the local prices I mentioned above, I would have paid $1.30 for the legs and thighs, and $5.20 for the breasts, for a total of $6.50. Cutting up the chicken myself saved me $3.30. But, I wouldn’t have saved any money if the whole chicken had been priced at $1.55 per pound.

1. It’s not worth it to me to cut up a chicken for parts. I’ll try to stock up on whole chickens when they’re less than $1 per pound, but I’ll probably just cook the chickens whole (either in broth or by roasting).
3. I’m not going to worry so much about buying chicken legs and thighs when they’re on sale. They’re still a pretty good deal at $1.30 per pound.
4. I’m going to be extra diligent about buying chicken breasts when they’re on sale, since they’re relatively expensive. If I can’t get them on sale, I’ll just cook a whole chicken.
5. It’s worth it to me to cut up a turkey for parts. Although it’s a bigger project to cut up a turkey than a chicken, it doesn’t take that much longer, and I get 3.5 times more meat from a turkey than from a chicken.
6. I have an odd desire to quantitatively analyze poultry economics, but I think it might now be exhausted. 🙂

Espresso Maker Troubleshooting

Yesterday, I found what I now know to be a Bellman CXE-27 espresso maker at a local thrift store. Some people apparently consider these to be more of a Moka-type machine than a true espresso maker, but if it makes some type of coffee and also foams milk, it’s good enough for me.

Bellman CXE-27 Espresso Maker

Although the stove-top Bellmans are pretty common, there’s surprisingly little info out there on the electric models. Anyway, it didn’t work. The heating element didn’t come on, even though the machine was getting power. After a little quality time with my multimeter, I figured out that the problem was a busted thermostat. The thermostat is supposed to have a very low resistance when it’s cold, so it completes a circuit that allows the heating element to get power. Once the temperature reaches a certain point, the resistance increases enough to basically break the circuit. The purpose of the thermostat is to turn the heating element off when things get hot enough. Because this thermostat is broken, it has a really high resistivity when it’s cold and the heating element never gets power. I contacted the thermostat manufacturer to see if I can get a replacement.

That little round black thing is the thermostat.

In the meantime, because I am a complete and utter fool who you should never, ever take advice from, I jumped (used wiring to bypass) the thermostat to see if the heating element worked. And it did, like a champ! Unfortunately, once the pressure builds up, water leaks where the heating elements enter the water tank.

Water leaks around the heating coil in the bottom of the tank.

To make things worse, the water leaks out right onto the wiring for the machine and forms a nice puddle. And although I’m stupid enough to bypass what is essentially a safety mechanism, running electric equipment that’s sitting in a pool of water seems like a bad idea. At this point, I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I’m thinking of getting some high-temp gaskets to install at the heating element outlets, to see if I can stop the leak. Or, I could return it to the thrift shop. There’s a good return policy on electronics, and this doesn’t work when you just plug it in. I’m undecided. Care to weigh in? Can you tell that I really, really want this to work? 🙂

Recent Thrifted Finds

I wanted to share a few of my recent thrifted finds. REOlistic and I have a standing weekly thrift-shopping date, which has really brought back my thrifty mojo!

Desktop Organizer

Flower Pin and Earrings

Western Print (I love the colors in this)

Paint by numbers? Love these!

I also found a vintage espresso maker, but I’m in the midst of troubleshooting a few problems with it. We’ll see how it goes! I also love to thrift sewing notions and vintage patterns. And I’m always on the lookout for old sewing books, cool paintings, lamps, and well-designed furniture. Anything else I should add to the list?