Recycled.

A neighbor gave Monte a pile of natural (i.e., untreated) cedar boards leftover from a deck that he just had installed. We planed them, ripped and cut them down to size; turning them into one hundred or so cedar planks for grilling. 🙂

And, I held out several boards to make a bluebird house.

I found the plan online here. I’ll have to wait until spring to see if an eastern bluebird pair find it and make it home. It’s more likely that the house sparrows will claim it. Stay tuned.

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Clean!

I spent the day at the marina cleaning. It was waaaay overdue, but it’s SO nice to have a clean boat. High five!

Cockpit and decks:

Foredeck:

Stove:

Fridge (you had to see it BEFORE!):

Rehung the art gallery (the sticky tabs last exactly one year in the heat here in central Texas):

Fixed some broken drawer hardware:

Barrel o’fun. 

We have a new rain barrel out back.  Just in time for today’s rain.   Installed yesterday, and today it’s full!  Fyi, City of Austin offers modest rebates for rain water harvesting devices.  Check it out if you are interested, or see if your city offers something similar. 

Bird thingie.

The backyard is getting quite crowded with bird-thingies.  The latest one is a bark butter feeder that I hung up a couple of weeks ago.   Bark butter is a spreadable kind of bird food that you can mush onto the bark of a tree,  or onto a hanging feeder.   You can buy both bark butter and bark butter feeders.   But, I decided to try my hand at making both myself.  Long story short, the birdies like it!  This is a Bewick’s wren snacking on it.  I have also seen black crested titmice and woodpeckers try it out.

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To make the feeder, I  grabbed a couple of pieces of cedar scrap from the shop, drilled shallow holes in each side with a forstner bit.  I staggered the holes on each side so they were not directly opposite each other, so that I wouldn’t accidentally drill all the way through the board.  Then I glued and nailed a piece of wood on top as an awning.   I didn’t measure, but I’d say that my board is about 16″ long and 6″ wide.

There are recipes on the web for bark butter that contain lard and corn meal and peanut butter and bird seed.  I simply got some all-natural peanut butter and mixed it with my current bird seed mix (mine is a mix of peanuts and whole sunflower seeds and millet) until it was spreadable.  Then I stirred in some cayenne pepper to dissuade the squirrels.   I spread some into each of the holes on the feeder and hung it up.  Within a week I saw some birds feeding off of it; which made me smile.

 

 

The battle and the reward.  

We spent about 6 hours in the yard today cleaning gutters, roofs, porches, and mulching about a half an acre of leaves for this year’s compost pile.   Hard fought. 

My anti-cedar pollen gear worked really well, thankfully.  


In the end, we were both plum-tuckered out and succumbed to an easy dinner at Chuy’s.  

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The yard looks great!

Baby, it’s cold outside!

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Saturday evening, right around 7pm, the predicted “artic blast” arrived with 30 mph winds in our part of Austin, quickly dropping temperatures from the upper 70’s (Farenheit) during the afternoon to an overnight low in the low 20’s in just a few hours.   Sunday stayed right at freezing at our place all day, and then temperatures last night again hit the low 20s.  Tonight will probably freeze again.   Things will warm up a bit before Christmas Day.  Then we can put away our woolies until the next cold front comes through.

A few years back we had an outside spigot and pipe freeze, flooding one of our back rooms and making a cold mess when the ice thawed.   This year, Monte designed a wooden box to house a 25w incandescent light bulb for each of our exterior spigots to keep them warm and avert disaster this time around.   He cut out the pieces.  I assembled them, while he wired a light socket and lamp cord for each of them.  They worked great!  We can put them away later this week, until the next deep freeze heads our way.

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Cookies, baked & decorated.

I had a marathon baking session yesterday.   🙂

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I used a recipe from Southern Living‘s “Christmas at Home” 2009 special issue that I’ve had for years.

Sparkling Sugar Cookies  (made 4-5 dozen medium sized cookies when I made them)

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
Coarse sparkling sugar sprinkles of your choice

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add granulated sugar, beating well. Add egg and vanilla, beating well.

Combine flour and salt. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Divide dough in half. Cover; chill 1 hour.

Roll each portion of dough to 1⁄8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut with desired cookie cutters.  Place on parchment paper lined baking sheets.

Bake at 350° for 12-14 minutes ( 14 worked perfect in my oven)  or until edges of cookies are lightly browned. Cool 1 minute on baking sheets, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Add glaze (recipe below) and sprinkles (while glaze is still wet).  Leave flat until completely dry (this took quite a while for me).

Enjoy!

Simple Glaze  (makes about 1 cup)

1 (16-oz.) package powdered sugar
4-6 tablespoons hot water
Liquid food coloring (optional)

Stir together powdered sugar and hot water until smooth. If desired, divide mixture, and tint with food coloring.  Spread on cookies with spatula or dip, whatever works best for you.

 

 

Late bloomer.

I planted a 2-gallon sized Pride of Barbados shrub yesterday.   It’s a bit late in the season, but I’m hoping that planting it now will give it a good month or so to acclimate to its new home before the cold weather hits.  That should make for a good winter’s nap before spring.  We’ll see.  If this one doesn’t pan out, Monte’s starting a few from seed.

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Boat repair.

A week or so ago, we were at anchor and rafted-up in a cove with another boat when we experienced the largest boat wake we have ever seen on Lake Travis, courtesy of a motorhead who is ignorant of the damage that his wake causes other boats and docks along the lake.  We never saw him, but his wake caused our two boats to smash into eachother, resulting in our port-side gate stanchion breaking.

The next day I got on the phone with Catalina Direct and ordered a replacement.  That was the easy part.  The fun-part remained:  figuring out how to access the nuts & bolts below deck to make the repair.  Suffice to say that it was not a Catalina 320 design point to make access to the stanchion bolts easy or straightforward.  The Catalina 320 owners’ association discussion forum was a helpful resource, with some threads describing the repair.  I decided to document our experience, along with some photos, in the event it helps another sailor down the line.   This is a two-person job, as screwing and unscrewing the nuts requires one person above deck, and one person below.  Oh, and the below deck person needs to be small enough and able to contort his/herself in a very confined space for the duration.  This repair took about 4 hours.   While this post documents replacement of a port-side gate stanchion, I imagine it would be a similar experience for replacing any other stanchion, but the location will dictate a different set of steps to gain access.

In the photo below (new part on the left, broken part on the right)  you can see that the threaded rod of the port-side gate stanchion’s aft leg was broken off at the deck.  It’s actually a great design, in my opinion, because even though the stanchion was bent significantly enough inboard to pop the weld on the threaded rod, there are no outboard through-deck bolts to damage the deck by being pulled out when the damage occurs.  Another thing worth noting is the width of the “h” on the new stanchion was about an inch less than the old one.  You can kind of see that in the photo.  But we were able to remedy that by a gentle, but firm, pull on the legs to spread them enough to make the bolt holes line up with those on deck.   Don’t forget to order the new nuts/bolts/washers that are recommended in the listing for the stanchion on the Catalina Direct website.  They have to be ordered separately.  Our old bolts were bent pretty good, and the washers were cupped a bit.

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The life lines on our 320 connect forward at the bow pulpit.   Easy enough to remove for the repair.

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Now for the fun part.  On a 320, the bolts for the aft leg of the gate stanchion are located behind the aft galley cabinet.  The bolts for the forward leg are behind the middle galley cabinet, where the microwave sits.  You’ll want to open both of them up to gain access.   I recommend taking the divider wall between the two cabinets out as well to make maneuvering a little easier.  There is a molded fiberglass cable chase/run behind the wood trim inside the cabinets.  You will need to cut away part of that to access all the bolts.  A previous owner of our boat had cut some of it away for some other repair or installation.img_1147

When I first opened things up to see what I could see, this is what I saw in the aft cabinet.   Some of the fiberglass panel had been cut away already, but not enough for this repair.

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I used a Dremel tool to cut away another 4 inches or so.   BE CAREFUL to not damage the cabling behind the fiberglass panel!  Also, take precautions to not work around live electric cables, to avoid damage/death to yourself.     I also recommend eye protection and wearing a mask to protect yourself from breathing in the dust while making the cut.   And, beware, that cut fiberglass edge is sharp.img_1142

This is an upclose view of the 3 bolts for the aft leg of the gate stanchion.   The big one is the broken outboard threaded rod.  The 2 inboard ones are the smaller through-deck bolts for the aft leg.  I had to lower the cabling that was fastened below deck to get access to the bolts.  I found that there was no clearance below the threaded rod to allow me to use a socket of any kind.  So I had to use a wrench to turn the nut, little by little.  As I did, the top of the broken-off rod rose slowly above the deck, eventually enough to be able to put a vicegrips on it above deck, to keep it from turning as I removed the nut the rest of the way.   I also will note that the recommended bolt/nut/washer kit that we ordered contained new stainless bolts for the inboard holes of the aft leg that are about an inch longer than the old ones.  That might make using a socket difficult, if you don’t have a deep enough one.

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This picture shows all 5 bolts – the 3 of the aft leg, and the 2 of the forward leg.  It also shows how nice it is to not have the dividing wall between the cabinets there.  It made reaching through with tools easier.img_1143

We first removed the inboard bolts of the aft leg.   Monte unscrewed the bolt above deck, while I held the nut below.

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This is a shot of the deck with all the bolts removed, and the old adhesive scraped away.   We used fresh marine adhesive, liberally covering the area of each foot.  All that remained was to install with the new hardware.

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Voila!  repair complete.

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Covering (my little corner of) the Earth!

We chose Sherwin-Williams paint when we renovated our home.  I can’t believe a decade has flown by since we repainted every wall, ceiling, door and piece of wood trim in the house.

Well, in the midst of the 100+ degree mid-August heat wave, our large AC/heat pump failed.  It was 22 years old, so…. it wasn’t unexpected.   We decided to replace the system.  After the HVAC guys were done with the work, the wall alongside the closet containing the new air handling unit was pretty badly dinged and marked up.

So I popped in to our local Sherwin-Williams and asked for a quart of the wall color we used.  They still can blend up any of the original colors we used.   But, the sales guy said they have changed their line of latex paint and their color/tinting system in the ten years since we bought the original color.    So, he wasn’t sure if it would match for touching up spots in the existing ten year old paint job.

Well, it matched perfectly!  Thanks SW!  I’ll keep coming back.

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Tread lightly.

Last week I was using my treadmill when the motor unexpectedly stopped.   In the days since then, I have learned more than I ever wanted to know about the inner workings of my treadmill (a 12 year old, well-loved Schwinn 845P).

The important bits under the cover include the digital display console, a hydraulic incline motor, a DC motor that drives the belt, a sensor that measures the speed at which the treadmill’s belt is turning, and an electronic board that controls all these things.

The symptom:  The motor and belt just stopped abruptly during a workout.    The console still works.  The incline motor works as well.   Any time I subsequently turn the treadmill back on, the console lights up, prompting for the usual inputs.  Then when I press the start button, I hear a “click” after which the motor used to start-up, but now doesn’t.  And after a few seconds the console just displays the message “Err LS” (looks also like “Err L5”) which apparently stands for Loss of Speed, which is an error message related to a number of different failures.   I had to figure out which component had failed, causing that error.

Disclaimer:  I am in no way suggesting you do this at home yourself.   I’m not an expert. 

The patient:

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The diagnostic process in my case:

  • No belt movement at all.
  • The circuit breaker next to the power switch has not tripped.  And, besides, electricity is able to power the console and the incline motor.
  • None of the capacitors on the control board appeared to be swollen or visibly failed.
  • All of the wire harnesses and leads seemed to be seated firmly – no loose connections that I could see.
  • The fuse on the motor control board is not blown.
  • If I move the belt with my hand, I can see the “SPEED” led on the control board flashing as it turns, meaning the speed sensor is not the problem in my case.  It appears to be working and sending a signal to the control board, which is receiving it and flashing the LED as the magnet on the drum passes the speed sensor.
  • I disconnected the (DC) motor (P/N KK 2566) power leads from the control board and hooked them up to the terminals of a 12V car battery to test it by itself, and the motor worked fine.  An inspection of the brushes also showed them to be in good shape.  The motor is just not apparantly getting power from the control board as it should be.
  • I can hear the relay click after pressing the start button, but the board is just not sending power to the motor, or at least not the right amount of power.   A multimeter showed 3 Volts coming from the board to the DC motor.
  • I googled “Err LS” and “treadmill” and read as much as I could find.  There are alot of problems that can cause an Err LS message.  I
  • I called Schwinn to got their take, and even though the treadmill is out of production, I experienced great customer service from Joseph as he talked me through things to check to narrow down the problem.

The consensus diagnosis:   Through process of elimination, the problem appears to be a failed control board (motor control board, actually).   Apparantly this is a very common failure on treadmills of all makes and models.

The fix:  I found a website called FitnessBoardsDirect, that carries such things.  The replacement for my motor control board (P/N QQ 2197) is a new-from-the-manufacturer item, not a refurbished one.   I called them as well.   A guy named Nick answered the phone and was very nice and helpful;  he confirmed the diagnosis and gave me a little more confidence that the item I would order might actually fix my problem.  So, I decided to shell out $225 plus shipping for a replacement motor control board.   Not cheap, but much less expensive than a new treadmill – a comparable new model retails for $800-$1000, depending on who you buy it from.

My replacement board arrived tonight and I installed it, and it worked.  I’m back in business!   🙂

How’s it hanging?

I’ve crossed off another project from my growing wanna-do list in my head this weekend.  As you may have come to know through this blog, we like to make homemade pasta.  A lot.  Spaghetti, fettucine, ravioli, waddevah.  It’s the food of the gods.  Over the holidays, I ran across a fresh pasta hanger on Amazon and it looked so simple and easy to make, that I refused to put it in my cart.  We have a gynormous wood shop out back.  So I did a little recon and found what I needed already in the shop and… voila!   Ye olde pasta hanger.  I made it without glue, so I can take it apart to store easily in the cabinet.

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Tonight I tried it out.  So, here’s how it went down:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour

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  • 3 eggs

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  • stir / mix with a fork, blending the egg & flour crater from the inside out.  You may not need all the flour.   When the dough stands on its own, knead by hand for 10 minutes.  Till it looks a like more or less like this:

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  • Wrap dough ball in saran wrap and let sit at room temp for 30 mins or so.
  • Afterwards,  I cut the dough ball into 3 equal-ish sided pieces, ready to put through the pasta roller.

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I used our Kitchen-Aid roller, starting on setting 1 – ending on setting 5.  Rolling and dusting the dough with flour several times on each setting.  After rolling each of the three balls into a sheet at setting number 5, I cut each in half.  I found that each of my six pasta sheets ended up making about 2 ounces of pasta – a serving.  So 3 eggs + 2 1/4 cups of pasta yields approximately 6 servings.

Next, I put the fettucine pasta cutter on the Kitchen-aid

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I hung each section on my new, handy-dandy pasta hanger.  (Awesome!)

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Then I threw the pasta into a pot of boiling water.  I sauteed the other bits in a skillet with some olive oil and I let the flavor develop.

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Yummm!

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The sun sets on January.

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Wow.  That was fast.  January flew by.  This weekend is very un-January-like, though – sunny, with temps inching into the 80s.  I took this shot as the sun was dropping last night.  The light through the trees was gorgeous.

We’ve decided to leave the signpost up that I made for last summer’s family reunion.  It just seems right.