Feb 18 2011

heaven has a 30-day return policy [day 268]

What!??!?!  I can’t hear you, the angels are singing to loudly.  The Habitat for Humanity ReStore is heaven on earth… it’s a giant hardware building supply store, but all used stuff.  I found some of the home repair stuff I’ve been needing… okay, and one want thing.

Doorknobs. I found a few used brushed nickel doorknobs in the sea of brass knobs, and installed them on the most used doors last night.  A little goof-off and they look brand new.  I guess all the knobs won’t match, but that’s okay.  I’ll place matching ones where you can see other doors.  It’s all good.

Light fixtures. I found a replacement fixture for the laundry room light, basically to replace the one that shoots sparks when you try to replace the bulb.  Definitely a need.  I also found an outside light fixture to replace the weathered, broken one by my front door.  It still works, but it looks terrible.  As a matter of fact, terrible might be an understatement.

A new (used) door. I’ve needed a new backdoor since I moved in the house.  Either the people that lived here before me had some extreme tempers or the evil spirits were trying to exit the house, as the bottom of the door is bent outward.  The three layers of weatherstripping doesn’t even fill the gap.  And who invented the little criss cross crap on these doors?  It’s hard to paint and impossible to clean.  I will not miss this door.  I will donate it in case someone needs the glass or the criss cross plastic piece that I detest.

The Habitat ReStore had a lot of great doors.  And being the fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants person, I had no measurements for any of my doors that need replacing.  As I flipped through the rows of doors, I saw many I liked, but none that I thought would fit.  Then at the end of the aisle, I heard the angels getting a little bit louder.  There it was.  My new back door.  It looked to be the perfect size, as I visualized myself walking through it.  No criss cross crap, a few blemishes which meant a good price, clearly used and perfect.  But what if I’m wrong about the size?  No problem, as there’s a 30 day return policy.

My door is not installed yet, as it will need new hinges, but I already sanded it, my painter repaired it and painted it, so it’s ready for its new, loving home.  It will still have the ugly brass hardware, but at some point heaven will have brushed nickel.

Okay, so maybe the heaven references are a bit much, but it’s great to know that this stuff isn’t in a landfill and it’s all going to be used.  This new backdoor is not what would be considered perfect condition, but it’s 1000 times better than the one I had.  If you replace something in your house, and the old items still have some life left in them, please consider donating the items to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.  They’re doing many great things.  :)


Feb 7 2011

downsizing the kitchen & food supply [day 256]

I’ve been doing a lot of downsizing lately.  Right before snowmageddon, I decided to clean out the kitchen, not just utensils and cabinet crap, but food.  I don’t like being wasteful, and although we waste a lot less than the average American family, I felt that we needed to make some changes.  We made some radical changes and some subtle changes, and the results are proving to be really good.  I’ll share the overall goodness of this, the process of cleaning out the kitchen and a couple of mini-challenges.

The big picture.

We haven’t died of starvation. Again, we started this a couple of weeks before the ice storm.  We have much less food in the house, but we had plenty to eat during the 4-5 days at home.  I didn’t buy extra, in fear that we would starve and have nothing to eat for a week.  I bought a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread the day before the storm hit.  We had plenty, and I was even able to feed the two painters working in my house a couple of times.

Airstream… I mean streamline. Okay, I want an Airstream, but that has nothing to do with my kitchen.  The tasks of cooking, grocery shopping and cleaning the kitchen is much easier.  Cooking is easier, as there’s less stuff to shuffle around and I know what ingredients I have on hand.  Grocery shopping is easier, again, because I have less and I know the few things I need.  Cleaning is easier too, as I have a lot of extra pantry and cabinet space.  So much extra, that I was able to move all of my pantry items into empty cabinets while the oil paint takes 5 days to dry.

Here a snack, there a snack, everywhere a snack snack. My kids will open every bag of everything we buy at the store.  We could have, and have had, a pantry overflowing with food, and yet the kids can’t find a thing to snack on.  With much less in there, this is not a problem anymore.  It’s easy to see we have two open bags of crackers or pretzels.

Waste not, want not. We are wasting very little food these days.  Not that we wasted a lot before, but it was still more than I was comfortable with.  Waste is unnecessary, and by making some small changes to lessen it allows us to save a little money, be better to our environment and enables us to help others that don’t have enough to eat.

What did we do?

Downsized the pantry. If you have a smaller house like mine, the pantry is a small closet.  The picture is my “before” picture.  I don’t have an after right now, as the oil paint is still drying.  Whether your pantry is large or small, stuff always gets hidden in the back.  My pantry wasn’t horribly unorganized, it just had too much in it and could use a little more a system of “first in, first out”.  We took everything out and carefully selected what would go back.  I had cedar balls that didn’t smell like anything anymore.  Out.  Ridiculously expired stuff?  Out.  Open bags of stale crackers and chips?  Out.

We broke down the boxes and recycled them.  We couldn’t see all of the food behind the big boxes of crackers and cereal.  The boxes take up a lot of space.  I found it best to use see-through containers and baskets as much as possible.  Most of the stuff I didn’t know I has was in these black plastic crates and could not be seen. Continue reading


Jun 30 2010

an eyePEACE for free?

problem: $0

I want to use the video feature on my DSLR, but when it’s bright and I’m outside, I can’t see the screen on the back of the camera in order to change my manual focus.

possible solution: $375

I can buy a Zacuto Z-find attachment for my camera. The low end model is around $285 and the pro model is around $385. My money tree hasn’t started blooming yet, so let’s move on.

brainstorming: $0

On weekends I run tech with, well, and bunch of techie people at work. I told them my problem and how I thought I could make one of these for free. I mean really, all I need is for it to be dark so I can see the screen.  My idea was to get some cardboard and duct tape and make a cute little hood, similar in size to the expensive pro thing.  I was challenged by Aaron who said, “You can’t do that, what will you use for the glass?  You can’t do that without glass.”  He later joked that I would have a paper towel tube taped to the camera.  So he was right, I did need some magnifying glass to pull this off.  The expensive pro thing is just a glorified loupe, and I’m pretty sure I still have at least one of those from my film photography days.  I also have motivation now that someone challenged me that it cannot be done.

the solution: $0

Yes, I said $0.  I decided to do a MacGyver on this.  Even if I wanted to buy the pro thing, I can’t because I’m doing my one year of no retail shopping.  Here’s the step by step process I used to design and create my free… oh, it needs a name, doesn’t it?  Hmmm, how about eyePEACE?  (the penny-wise everlasting adaptable cone-shaped eyepiece)  Eye feel much peace that I did not spend $300.

step 1: find stuff

I dug through my garage to see what raw materials I could find.  Not only did I find my loupe, I found 2 of them and a magnifying glass.  (sometimes if pays to be a pack-rat)  Here’s my list of materials and it’s all stuff I already own, and in some cases, about to recycle:

  • magnifying glass
  • duct tape
  • a cream cheese container
  • a piece of junk mail
  • a black t-shirt
  • an oversized hairband

If you don’t have everything you need, check out a thrift store or freecycle, or better yet, post your need as your Facebook status update.  Other people have junk too, and in most cases, would be happy to part with it.

step 2: start fabricating

Now it’s time to start making your eyePEACE.  I had to test the 3 options I had for the glass, the small loupe did not work, as it was a x8 and too powerful.  The large loupe was x5 and worked, but it’s a little big.  The cheapo magnifying glass that is actually a kids toy works perfect.  During testing, I realized it needed to be a certain distance from the camera to be effective.  That’s where the cream cheese container comes in.  It’s the perfect distance from the camera and provides the structural support needed.

step 3: laugh

The nice thing about paying for the fancy pro thing is that it looks professional.  The eyePEACE is actually going to look quite dorky, for lack of a better word.  So finish fabricating, but you’re going to need a sense of humor here.  Also, I’m using colored duct tape, but you could use black and it really won’t look so bad.  Right now, it looks like a giant eyeball!

I cut a hole in the container and taped the glass onto the top of it.  I took some black t-shirt fabric and taped it onto the large open piece to mold to the camera, keeping extraneous light out.  Then I made the piece of junk mail into a cone and taped around the glass, cut it to fit the contour of my face, then added some tape and t-shirt fabric for comfort.

Now… how to attach it to the camera?  Hairband!

step 4: admire your work

Now I was testing this many times through the process, and everything worked great, but will it work?  I don’t know yet, and it looks completely ridiculous, but if not I’m out no money, only a little time.  Honestly, I can’t wait for the strange looks and people wondering what kind of weird contraption I have.  It’s a work of art!

step 5: test and modify

Well, I tested it and it works perfectly.  (Aaron…  :P)  No modification needed, and wow, that never happens.  I should have some great DSLR videos posted soon.  Maybe before I take it out, I’ll add the eyePEACE name and a logo on the side.  LOL