Wednesday, May 15, 2013

frozen bananas à la Bluth

What are you going to be eating on May 26? This has been the topic of many conversations in our house. On that date, Season 4 of Arrested Development will be released, all at once, on Netflix. 

We talked about a few possibilities for our family viewing party: hot ham water, candy beans, juice...but really, there is only one sensible choice, and that is frozen bananas. The banana stand is at the heart of the Bluth Company, after all. And while no one in our family would really enjoy cornballs or mayoneggs, there is no one who doesn't like frozen bananas.

Chocolate-Covered Frozen Bananas

You need: bananas, chocolate, butter, popsicle or caramel apple sticks and (optional) nuts. Ideally, the bananas would be slightly riper than shown here. The stick will split a green banana, but will sink in nicely to a lightly freckled one.

We have one child who loves almonds, and one who doesn't like nuts at all, so I alternate between both plain and crunchy bananas (ie, nuts and no-nuts).
Cut the bananas in half, push the stick up the base, and place them on a tray to freeze for at least half an hour, and up to overnight.
Meanwhile, chop the nuts. 
When the bananas are frozen, melt the chocolate over a double boiler (or in a pot nestled in a larger pot) and add enough butter to bring it to the consistency of, say, mayonnaise. Chocolate melted alone will be too thick to coat easily.
Because I don't have a dipping pot, I spread the chocolate on the bananas with a frosting spatula, seen above. Then, depending on your preference, you can either roll the banana in nuts or place it back on the tray to freeze again. But work quickly, as the frozen banana starts the process of hardening the chocolate almost immediately.
That's pretty much all there is to it. Whether or not you watch Arrested Development, a frozen banana is just about the perfect treat on a hot summer afternoon.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

old refrigerator (part 2)

After sanding and repainting, I though I'd just wipe down the gasket. Unfortunately, the dirt was more embedded than I realized, so the gasket had to be removed. This is the point where one thing led to another...

First the interior panel had to come off—

—which revealed the insulation. It looked fine, except for that lower left corner:

Which led me to look more closely at the bottom bracket:

gasket pulled away from bottom bracket, revealing rust and corrosion
bottom bracket removed
What do you do in this case? Do you take out the insulation and repack it? I hadn't figured on getting this deep into an old appliance. While trying to decide what to do, the insulation began to flake off by itself. Finally, I gave up and just removed the cross brackets, letting it all fall out.

Surprise: more rust.

Which meant more (rust-inhibiting) spray paint:

And new insulation. One consolation: the new giant scissors were perfect for cutting the batts.

And the modern paper-backed batts went in easily:

(Note for next time: don't leave the insulation unattended.)

The sanded and repainted bottom bracket:

The gasket was soaked and scrubbed:

And then the whole thing went back together:

In this photo, the butter dish still needs to be reinserted and wired, and blue tape is holding the botom gasket on while the adhesive sets, but it is mostly together. I hope. It still has to be moved, plugged in, and tested. Part 3 of this project may be awhile in coming.

Monday, April 29, 2013

projects simple and not-so-simple

Sometimes projects skate along just as you imagined them, and sometimes—most times, I've come to believe—the project seems to grow in both breadth and depth the farther you get into it.

The Straightforward Project: Old Scissors

Last weekend DH and I decided on a whim to visit a flea market. We never do this, so it was extra fun browsing tables full of old dishes, board games, car parts and aloha shirts. On our way out I spotted this pair of giant scissors and bought them on a whim. They were old and rusty, but they were the largest pair of scissors I had ever seen. I wondered if they might be brought back to working condition. For $2, it seemed worth a shot.

A little steel wool, and some marks began to emerge:
R. Heinisch, Newark, NJ, USA
And on the reverse...
before sanding
I think that's what it reads. Not so sure about the last letter of Detme-.

A web search on R. Heinisch mentions production between 1835-1914, when the company was bought by Wiss; and a glance at a 1915 Wiss catalog confirms that the Heinisch name was not retained. These scissors are around 100 years old.

After I had done all I could with the steel wool and chrome polish, I took them to a sewing machine repairman to be sharpened. His charge was only $9, but the scissors turned out to be for paper, not cloth. The difference, apparently, is in the angle of the bevel: dressmaking shears are angled at 30-45 degrees, while paper scissors are angled at 15 degrees. This is why one never cuts fabric with paper scissors and vice versa. Who knew?

In any case, it was a straightforward little project, just a bit of elbow grease and a visit to the repairman. Now what will I do with this humongous pair of office snips (shown here with our regular scissors for comparison)?

The Expanding Project: Old Refrigerator (part 1)

Another Freecycle find. I saw the listing once and ignored it; but when it was relisted, I couldn't resist saving it from the dump. The woman who offered it assured us that surface rust aside, it worked just fine. 
Indeed, the inside was quite clean:

I assumed I could sand down the rust and give it a new coat of paint; and my first efforts seemed to bear this out (color differences are due to photographing before and after photos at different times of day in a poorly lit garage):
the front

the latch

the side
Several coats of paint later, the fridge seemed good to go:
DH replaced the frayed power cord and I figured a good wipedown of the inside would do the trick.

Then I got to the gasket.

To be continued...

Sunday, January 27, 2013

violin case to ukulele case

Once the Grizzly was made, it needed a case. My first plan was to try and revise the Gaspar gig bag, but then I lucked into this old violin case on freecycle. It turned out to be a perfect fit for a soprano ukulele.

As with the Grizzly, my documentation is spotty; but it's a fairly straightforward conversion. The old lining comes out and a fitted, padded lining is glued in its place. I used wood glue to attach fabric to plywood, but Super 77 made a smoother, stronger adhesion whenever foam was involved.

Some notes if you make your own version:

  • try to keep the nap of the fabric running the same direction
  • dry fit all the parts before you commit to glue
  • don't be afraid to revise along the way (pictures below show how much revision I ended up making to the neck support before I was happy with it)
  • feel free to substitute your preferred materials or what you have on hand.

materials used
wooden violin case
1/2" velcro strapping
piled fabric (mine was a scrap of Minky), about a yard
1/2" high density foam, about a yard
particle board or thin plywood scraps
wood glue
Super 77 spray adhesive
leather scrap from an old belt
short wood screws
corrugated plastic scraps
decorative paper
Mod Podge

lining removed from bottom half

cross-section: fiberboard, foam, fabric
wood glue brushed inside case
new lining added around edge
the old lining pulled out easily
small compartment under neck; lid is pressure fit
a broken belt used for the compartment strap
belt cut down and attached with short wood screws
the fully padded body area

Above the headstock, a removable container made from coroplast scraps and covered in origami paper 
Another compartment in the lid can store spare strings and papers

If you do make your own case, please consider linking to it in the comments below. I'd love to see other designs and ideas.

In other ukulele news, my ukulele group has grown over the last year, so I started a new blog for us here. If you enjoy uke talk, I hope you'll visit.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

grizzly ukulele kit (daisy)

instruction manual on top

In December 2011 I had just begun playing uke and was also home with a nasty cough. The two converged together into a rush of web browsing, and eventually I came across this diy ukulele kit, on sale at a price that was far lower than the cheapest starter instrument. Of course I ordered one.

neck, body, miscellaneous pieces

Basic as it was, it sat around for many months before I dared to try and assemble it. I don't know much about wood, and it felt incredibly daunting to turn pieces of wood—even pieces that were precut and partially assembled—into a playable instrument.

step 1: gluing the neck to the body

But I eventually started, and soon after I ran into David Iriguchi of Iriguchi Ukuleles. I confessed with much embarrassment that I was starting a kit. Way back in March at the Reno Ukulele Festival, David's concert keystone uke was the first to make me realize what a truly fine instrument sounded like. So it felt akin to telling a sculptor I was going to make a dog out of Playdoh.

step 2: gluing fretboard to neck

But David was characteristically kind and encouraging. He advised looking up other people's chronicles of their kit builds, and said not to worry too much about precision because it would probably turn out okay.


The instructions directed that the fretboard be put on before staining, but the bridge put on after. If there's logic to this, I don't understand it. I thought afterward that I would have rather put the fretboard on after staining, as it was hard to tape up the bottom curved edges well. 

clamping the bridge to the body with the only tool bought for the project. Cost: $3.

The only modification I made was adding a sound port to give me some direct sound feedback. This is a feature that many of David's ukes have, and I really liked it when I tried them last year.

holes stuffed with wadded newspaper and other surfaces wrapped with painters tape for finishing

What's not documented here is all the sanding and finishing. I had thought it would end with the fine grit sandpaper, but then I read about filling the wood grain and sanding that down, too. Then there was staining, cleaning up the leaked areas, drying, and finally spraying several light coats of lacquer.

ready to add tuners and strings

It was rather tedious toward the end, but worth it for the smooth finish on the body. The stain's not perfectly uneven, but in a way that I can live with. Overall, I'm happy enough with how it turned out.

the daisy uke

The kit is branded with the Grizzly name. I wanted to put a bear sticker on the headstock, but couldn't find anything suitable. What I did find was a sheet of daisy stickers. It was S's idea to put a daisy in the sound hole, as well. Now it feels a little like overkill, so I'll probably remove the stickers eventually. Meanwhile, we've gone from calling it the Grizzly to calling her Daisy.

I can't finish this post without mentioning DH's huge contribution to it. It initially sounded a little thunky to me, so he used a tuner and some filing instruments to bring it to a better intonation. This is not something I would have had either the knowledge, patience or courage to try myself; but I'm very grateful that he did. I sold the Dolphin in October, so this is now the main soprano I reach for.

Every time I play it, I remember how I was afraid to start, and how it turned out okay.

Do you have any projects like that?

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