Monthly Archives: October 2013

Pumpkin Carving

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, Jasmine and I are just about run a half marathon this weekend and that seems to be sucking up the edges of the free time that were previously website related.

We live on an awesome street that feels like it is straight out of a 60’s sitcom: kids running around the street, block parties, and non stop gardening on the weekends.  Randomly about a dozen of us ended up carving pumpkins in a front yard on Sunday.

The neighborhoods Jack-o-Lanterns

The neighborhoods Jack-o-Lanterns

So everyone knows how to carve a pumpkin right?!?!?

1) Cut out the top of a pumpkin

2) Remove the guts of the pumpkin using a big spoon

3) Draw a face on the pumpkin with a sharpie

4) Cut out the face with a knife

5) Insert a candle and replace lid

Well that is the way I have always done it and Jasmine did it that way; see below.

I'm scary! oohhhoohhh..

I’m scary! oohhhoohhh..

But did you know you could change these steps up:

1) Cut the bottom of the pumpkin? then just put a candle on the ground and the pumpkin over it at the end.

2) Make roasted pumpkin seeds! take the seeds out of the pumpkin and roast them at 350F with salt and cayenne pepper scraping the pan every 5 minutes until brown.  They are delicious

3) Print out the design and tape it on for the lazy or ambitious.

4) Drill out holes instead of cutting; you can do a bunch of pumpkins quick.  Use wood cutting tools to only cut halfway into the pumpkin. This lets some light through so you can get a two tone effect, which is what I did.

Triforce Pumpkin

Triforce Pumpkin

El cheepo woodcarving set

El cheapo woodcarving set

5) Just use a candle. Fire is fun.

Have a fun weekend!

Smoked Duck

We inherited a smoker with our house and I have been testing it out recently, so this is the process I used for some duck I made this weekend.

Step 1 is soak the wood chips for a couple of hours

Step 1 is to soak the wood chips for a couple of hours.

Then take your meat, pat it dry and let it sit at room temp for a couple hours and dry out

Then take your meat, pat it dry and let it sit at room temp for a couple hours to dry out.

Step 3 is make soup with the neck bones to have something to eat while cooking

And some pureed liver to snack on Step 3 is make soup with the neck bones to have something to eat while cooking and some pureed liver to snack on.

Make a mix from the stuff on the left, and stuff the duck with the rosemary and chili

Make a mix from the stuff on the left, and stuff the duck with the rosemary and chili.

Get the smoker nice and hot, I use ~200F.  With a charcoal smoker a chimney is necessary to preheat the coals

Get the smoker nice and hot. I use ~200F. With a charcoal smoker, a chimney is necessary to preheat the coals.

Then put the meat on the smoker and wait.  I change up the wood once and smoke for about 5 hours.

Then put the meat on the smoker and waited. I changed up the wood once and smoked for about 5 hours.

Eat :)

Eat :)

Stained Glass Alliance Starbird

One of the random craft projects that I have picked up over the years is small stained glass pieces.  In this quick how-to I’ll show you how I put my stained glass together – which I’m certain will have any professional stained glass maker screaming at the screen.

You do need some special tools for stained glass; this is a list of my tools and supplies.

-Soldering Iron, normal electric is fine, replace the tip before you start soldering electronics again

-Colored Glass, any thickness works but I usually use 1/8″

-Copper foil adhesive on one side, copper on the other

-Liquid solder flux

-Fluxless solder, I use lead based but if you can melt it and there is no flux it should work

-Glass cutter and cutting oil

First you need to sketch or print out a pattern.  I was feeling rebellious

First, you need to sketch or print out a pattern. I was feeling rebellious.

Using a sharpy draw in the lines of the glass. Try to have only sharp edges.  Done have deep concave line, It's a trap.

Using a sharpie, draw in the lines of the glass. Try to have only sharp edges. Don’t have deep concave lines. It’s a trap!

Cut out the patterns, removing all the sharpie marks leaving ~1/16" gaps

Cut out the patterns, removing all the sharpie marks leaving ~1/16″ gaps.

Using a shapie trace the pattern on the glass

Using a sharpie, trace the pattern on the glass.

Cut the glass with the glass cutter, dipping in oil before every cut. Press very firmly when cutting

Cut the glass with the glass cutter, dipping in oil before every cut. Press very firmly when cutting.

Snap the glass off at cuts over an edge.  Press firmly but not too hard, this takes some practice.  We need these parts alive, No disintegration rays.

Snap the glass off at cuts over an edge. Press firmly but not too hard; this takes some practice. We need these parts alive, no disintegrations!

This is the glass all cut out and lined up on the pattern. Lightly sand the edges down to help with the tape

This is the glass all cut out and lined up on the pattern. Lightly sand the edges down to help with the tape.

Test fit the glass pieces. You might have to re-cut some pieces at this point if they don't line up

Test fit the glass pieces. You might have to re-cut some pieces at this point if they don’t line up.

Cut and wrap the copper tape over the glass leaving an equal amount of tape on both sides.  Stay on target!

Cut and wrap the copper tape over the glass, leaving an equal amount of tape on both sides. Stay on target!

Fold over the copper tape around all of the edges

Fold over the copper tape around all of the edges.

Line up all the pieces then tack solder them together on the front and the back

Line up all the pieces, then tack solder them together on the front and the back.

Go to town soldering up all of the copper edges.  I usually solder on a coil of copper wire as a mounting point

Go to town soldering up all of the copper edges. I usually solder on a coil of copper wire as a mounting point.

Clean up the glass with a ammonia based cleaner and you are done. A elegant hanging for a more civilized age.

Clean up the glass with an ammonia based cleaner and you are done. An elegant hanging for a more civilized age.

 

 

 

Book Review: Spin

We’re working our way through the Hugo winning novel list and realized that we were a bit behind so we picked this up in an effort to catch up.

SpinCover

Spin was written by Robert Charles Wilson and published in 2005. It won the Hugo in 2006. Ignore the back of the book as it doesn’t really say too much about what the book is actually about. It takes place starting nowish and moving forward from there. The book starts out a little slow but the pace picks up quickly. The main downside of the book was that the characters were not particularly interesting and this made the book seemed a bit flat at times. However, the world building was easily the best part of the book and the best world building I have read in some time. The central point of interest in this book is finding out what exactly is happening to the Earth, and the characters are just a convenient point of reference for passing this information on.

Overall, this book is definitely worth a read/ It’s pretty quick reading once you get past the first fifty pages or so.

8/10: Worth the read

Grant County Park (N37.34 W121.72)

One of the things that we have found around the San Francisco Bay area is that some of the best parks to hike around are state and county parks.  Joseph D. Grant County Park in Santa Clara is certainly one of these; not only does it host some fine hiking, but its restrooms were sparkling clean and other facilities were immaculate – a sight rarely seen in a park.

Its very clean!

It’s very clean!

We went in for a nice long hike and did a circuit of Halls Valley/ Canada de Pala / Foothill / Hotel trail.  The hike was very pleasant with rolling hills with nice vistas all around and some cool little lakes. We even saw some wild pigs in one lake.  The park was also large enough and had a small enough attendence that it felt like you were secluded and out in nature by your self which was great.

The park is still used as active cattle grazing so beware of cow pats

The park is still used as active cattle grazing so beware of cow pats.

I love lakes that reflect mountains

I love lakes that reflect mountains.

I also love running across wildflowers on a hike

I also love running across wildflowers on a hike.

That's one scrubby oak.

That’s one scrubby oak.

Wild Pigs, I didn't get any good pictures of the piglets but there were 3 of them.

Wild Pigs. I didn’t get any good pictures of the piglets but there were three of them.

My map of the hike, our trail is in red

My map of the hike. Our trail is in red.

Chocolate Labs

Lloyd is expecting a nephew this month so I decided to make a stuffed dog for the baby. I used one of my old stuffed dogs as the pattern. It’s a bit top heavy, but it was my favorite toy as a small child. Consequently, I didn’t want to rip it apart to copy the pattern. So I stared at the dog and free-handed a pattern. It took several iterations, but I got a reasonably cute puppy in the end. Here’s the pattern that I ended up with:

The pattern for the chocolate labs.

The pattern for the puppies.

This is my original stuffed dog.

This is my original stuffed dog.

I sewed the tail together and then pinned it in place on the body. The bottom edge of the bottom and side pieces were sewn together while the top edges of the bottom were sewn together and the top edges of the side were sewn together. A hole for the head was left open. The four pieces of the head were sewn together while the bottom was left open. Both pieces were stuffed and then the head was attached to the body. Next, the ears and their linings were sewn together and attached to the head. Then the four nose pieces were sewn together. Half of the edge seam was attached to the face and then stuffed before finishing the seam. Lastly, the eyes were sewn into place as well.

Since I used brown fabric, I decided they were chocolate labs and Lloyd and I named them after San Francisco chocolate companies. In order of their creation, here they are:

This is Guittard.

This is Guittard.

This is Ghirardelli. No dogs were harmed in the making of this project.

This is Ghirardelli. No dogs were harmed in the making of this project.

A slight change in coloration. This is Scharffen Berger.

A slight change in coloration. This is Scharffen Berger.

This is Tcho being fed some Tcho chocolate.

This is Tcho being fed some Tcho chocolate.

Tcho will shortly be moving to live with his new family. The others will stay here and keep my old dog company. Hopefully he doesn’t get jealous of puppies!

 

 

 

Shade Sail

Our backyard grass was starting to die off from too much sun so to keep the grass alive without a using lot of water (Living in CA, we should try to keep our water usage down.), we decided to put in a sunshade.

The grass is now somewhat more shaded

The grass is now somewhat more shaded.

We have a house with a separate garage and the yard is between the two, so the simplest solution was to sting up two ropes as an A frame and put cloth between the two.  For the rope, we used paracord (relatively thin gauge nylon) and for the fabric we used simple cotton muslin.  To mount the cord to the wall, we screwed in some brackets and tied in the cord.  To mount the fabric to the rope, we tied knots into the rope and strips of seam binding were sewn into the edges of the fabric.  The strips were tied around the knot and held up very well for the 6 months it has been up.

Sewing the seam on the muslin

Sewing the seam on the muslin.

Wall mounting brackets, there used to be a plant holder in the wall here

Wall mounting brackets. There used to be a plant holder in the wall here.

the knots hold up really well over time when tied tight.

The knots hold up really well over time when tied tight.

Now that the summer is over, we are taking the shade down and storing it in the closet until next summer in the hopes that we can retain some more backyard grass.

It looked really cool when the wind picked up

It looked really cool when the wind picked up.