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if you've known me for more than a minute you may have heard my expression for what it feels like when i get an idea that just makes sense: 'it's like a white hot hammer of inspiration to the back of the head'

Monday, November 23, 2009

house modding

really enjoying finding stuff to make my house more comfortable. a little trip to ikea sort of helped but i had already bought some of the things on my ikea list at a thrift store the week before for $93 less.

was out in the shed this morning digging around in the stuff t
he previous homeowner left behind and had one of those 'i'm an idiot' moments.
i had wasted countless time trying to figure out how to make a tension rod hold a lot of weight or how to cut down an ikea grundtal rail... when what i really needed was a broomstick that was lying on the floor of the shed under some wood scraps.

now i just need to cut three inches off it, get a couple of large cup hooks to screw into the window frame over my sink and i can hang my dish brushes and the grundtal drainer rack for my soap, nail brush and sponge holder.


wood burning

reading all kinds of articles and instructions for making lightweight, compact, wood burning or alcohol fueled camping stoves.
sometimes making is good when you want to save weight or money, but seriously, there's a time even i find something better than home made.
one of those things is an old metal chicken feeder i found at a thrift store. didn't even know it was a chicken feeder for a long time. i happened to find out accidentally one day.
just that when i saw it on the shelf my brain said 'ooh! fire!'

i found a source for them new and it's cheap enough to make the work of cutting up food and soda cans be very unreasonable: $3.25. probably available at any feed store for a comparable price.

that's not to say i won't think about making a soda can stove someday for fun but i hardly find it necessary


Monday, October 26, 2009

ghost in the making

ghost in the making
Originally uploaded by catastrophegirl
it was going to be a ghost bride and the veil would have muted the makeup on the mask.
but then i started assembling it.
are you thinking what i'm thinking?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

whoa! i had no idea!

so i was reading


and it led me to


which led me to my kitchen. where i immediately stuck a mason jar on my blender

and then i tried the mason-jar-with-handle-mugs i have [two of them, different sizes]

and then i eyed the glass jar that my kava [brand] low acid instant coffee comes in that i had just pulled out while unloading the dishwasher and hadn't put away yet..... i have a LOT of those since i drink a lot of coffee and i'm not quite able to recycle a perfectly good glass jar after only one use.

lo and behold it fits!

sadly, the alfredo sauce jars do not fit, but they have metal lids so i am using them for storing tobacco anyway.

on an unrelated note, i do horrible horrible things to my kitchen in the name of efficiency [laziness]

i have several knife blocks so i didn't need the magnetic knife bar that came with the house... for knives. but it's a great place to keep my mini cast iron skillet and to drain my teapot after rinsing it out. ok, so i leave it up there all the time.

that green thing is the microfiber cloth for cleaning my glasses after i do dishes. i always splash them
feel free to be disturbed by the fact that i have a 20 foot long kitchen with 37 cabinets and i can't put away my teapot. i use it all the time so i am counting myself proud that i even bother to take it off the stove at all.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

i got boinged


yay for inspiring others
and for yankee inginooeety!

best to ask any questions on the process through flickr since i rarely get comments here and never think to look for them


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

conceptualizing a vardo - plumbing

a great place to start looking for things designed to take less space: travel
but i don't mean travel sized shampoo and toothpaste. if you want to make a compact well equipped travel vehicle, like a vardo-not-the-own-in-sweden, look to the history of the travel vehicle

please take a look back in time with me at the pullman car



that's right - fold up/down sinks. i mean, if you have to make a teeny tiny itty bitty bathroom, why not move things out of the way when you don't need them? a sink that folds up into a few flat inches is ideal.

this reminds me - there's a row of cabooses here in town on the side of an embankment on unused track. currently they are graffito canvases but i wonder if i could ever find the owner and afford to buy one?.... *google* - huh, looks like there was an article about them just a couple of weeks ago and they are for sale


clay and trees

things i noticed i have in abundance: clay and trees.
and a bit of space with some shade.

my thoughts on this include seeing if one of those two downed [fallen, not cut] trees lying back in the far end of my long rectangular half acre are still useable for support.

i'd really like to take a couple of those young trees out there and build a log bench set in cob between them and splice opposing branches into each other. obviously i'll need to find two or three young trees with similar growth schedules.

and not too far away a cob oven/fireplace.

of course first it has to be cooler weather out and maybe even into fall so some of the scrubby underbrush and toxic horse nettles die off. and i need to find the edges of the septic tank and drainfield- would be rather silly to build a clay oven on top of a drainfield!

good thing bales of wheat straw are less than $5 around here


my kitchen is big. i like that about it but also, it can be inconvenient.
i found that when i had accidentally left a couple of storage bins stacked in the middle that they were in just the right spot for a kitchen island. so they stayed. and stayed and stayed.
i thought.... i should just see about a real one.
checked craigslist for free ones, thought about building one but all the wooden pallets i could find posted were gone before i got there.

then i did my usual weekend thrift store run to look for cat carriers and bookcases.
and there it was

once upon a time it was a dresser. the price tag labeled it a dresser [as well as showing it marked down by $10.] it was in between two other dressers.

but... it has a towel bar and kitchen countertop style top!.... huh? the cashier said it was marked down because it had been there a while, no one wanted it because of the countertop and the towel bar. i told her it was going to be my new kitchen island. she said that sounded about perfect since it had come out of a dorm where it had been used as a mini kitchenette center - which explains the burn mark on one end of the countertop.

it even looks good with my cabinets. perfect height since i want it to be taller than it is now and intend to add wheels.

the drawers are exactly tall enough to hold my measuring cups and corningware. [the poor corningware and baking dishes had been living at the cabinets at the far end of the kitchen]

so now i have a place to put the things that don't fit in the other cabinets near the stove, a piece of countertop wide and deep enough to roll out dough on and a place to put my laptop when i need to research a recipe that still keeps my keyboard away from spills and splatters.

reminds me of the time i used the frames for underbed drawers as display shelves/bookcases by standing them on end. always see past what it used to be or what it's intended for and see what you can make of it

Sunday, August 2, 2009

the government is going to save me money

i'm a smoker. specifically a clove smoker.
at least until september 22 2009
at which point i will no longer be able to purchase flavored cigarettes, including clove flavored cigarettes. also known as kreteks

some years back i was too broke to afford them so i bought camels and infused them with clove flavor. it wasn't great but it made them tolerable to me.

so i figured with a little research and little experimentation i can figure this out.

did the research, and the math.

did i mention i'm a HEAVY smoker?

yeah, i smoke over $4000 worth of cloves a year.

i'm also a maker. working with my hands is no imposition at all.

well the cost of an effective, manual, efficient cigarette injection machine, a year's worth of pre-filtered cigarette tubes, flavorings [ground cloves and clove bud oil,] and tobacco [i'll be trying to obtain some burley pipe tobacco as it holds flavors better] ...

hrm, that's only about $1750 a year.

yep, this new law will save me over $2200 a year.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

not technically on topic

a friend remarked this week that i make cooking look easy. who knows, maybe i do. obviously i often put too much salt in things.

but yeah, i guess the simple rules i keep in mind make some cooking look easy. sauces at least!

sauces and gravies: flour into fat, cornstarch into water bases. [non fat liquids]
yep, wheat and rice flours dissolve into fats: butter, oils, lard but get lumpy in water. cornstarch gets lumpy in fat and dissolves in water.
with fat and flour you add water based liquids after you get a smooth base. with cornstarch you mix the sauce and add the cornstarch/liquid mix as you heat and stir constantly. conrstarch sauces come out clearer.

heavy cream thickens dairy based sauces and soups [cream of chicken, bearnaise] and potato starch thickens stews. [seriously, throw some instant potato flakes in your beef stew next time. mmmm]

a couple of quick cheating recipes that look difficult but are super easy:


instant cream of potato soup [i make this in the microwave at work in under three minutes]

[all ingredients in the proportions you desire, experiment with it]

chicken broth
instant potato flakes
vegetable base 'better than boullion'
heavy cream

make hot, stir, serve

i like mine topped with a little shredded cheese and some fresh ground black pepper


beef in buttered wine -

slice beef thin
preheat the pan with butter
montreal/canadian steak seasoning
add beef to pan, brown lightly
add red wine [i like a nice merlot or burgundy]
remove beef, simmer liquid for a few minutes until a little thicker

serve over rice or potatoes with extra sauce


tomato chicken -

canned or jar tomato based sauce of choice
frozen chicken breast tenderloins or half breasts
optional: cheese, olives, mushrooms, etc

place chicken in single layer in somewhat deep baking dish
add optional veggies/olives/mushrooms
pour sauce on thick enough that it covers chicken
if desired top with grated parmesan or romano or slices of SHARP provolone

put in oven at 350 for 50-60 minutes
walk away and don't mess with it until the timer goes off


cheatin' chicken pot pie

canned or leftover pre cooked chicken
any mixed frozen or canned veggies you like - peas, corn, carrots, etc.
cooked chunks of potato [i use canned]
canned cream of chicken or other cream soup of choice [mushroom, broccoli, celery, whatever you like] straight from the can, still condensed
biscuit dough - canned, defrosted pre-made or fresh made from your favorite recipe

press 2/3 of biscuit dough into and up sides of baking dish. no more than 1/2 inch thick
throw in other ingredients
crumble remainder of biscuit dough on top
bake at 350 for about 15-25 minutes depending on dough recipe instructions


teriyaki sauce

equal parts soy sauce, sugar and white wine [substitute white grape juice, sprite or ginger ale for the wine and sugar if you prefer to avoid alcohol]

white wine and sugar, boil until sugar dissolves
add soy sauce

to thicken: add a tablespoon of cornstarch to the soy sauce [cold] before adding to the mix, add it slowly to the wine with constant stirring


yeah, there's a lot of guesswork. but except for adding too much boullion to the potato soup, it's nearly impossible to mess any of these up. sauce too thick? add more of whatever liquid. too salty? add potato flakes, or water or cream.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

the genesis of weird thoughts

last night i was reading a paranormal novel - specifically a vampire comedy. in which the heroine vampire drinks blood from a willing victim who has been eating chocolates all day to make their blood taste chocolatey.

then i read an article online about how to dye chicken embryos in the egg to get multi hued chicks. [ew, by the way, very ew. reminds me of the longwood taxidermist's dryer full of dead chicks at easter]

then i was in the breakroom this afternoon at work and saw a colleague prepping some celery sticks with almond butter. when i first saw the almond butter in the container i thought it was some sort of dipping sauce.

and somehow my mind triggered from the how-to-dye-celery experiment through the previous concepts... and into ...

oh wait, i can't tell you until i try the experiment. and since i can't eat celery i will need to try it on a houseguest in the next week.
i'll let you know.


-update - i didn't try it.
the idea was to put your celery stalks in vodka and hot sauce before serving them in a bloody mary. can't find anyone who likes bloody marys except my sister and she's not a celery fan.
so sad, let me know if you try it!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

mud, cob, clay

yes, i still want a vardo. and i have some interesting plans toward that end [i'm actually making it smaller than it has to be to see how creative i can get!]

but while moving is good, there's also the fun and exciting option of having 2 homes - one that moves and a place to park it.

here in the deep south there's a mighty quantity of kudzu.
i haven't yet figured out how to put kudzu into a mobile house, except maybe as insulation [but i still think denim lint is a better choice, will need more stats on that]
but i know how to use it as a structural fiber in a cob or adobe building. cob really, since cob with more clay is better suited to a humid environment that adobe.

this spring and summer i think i will use the backyard here to experiment with drying and treating kudzu to use as an embedded fiber.

and possibly make a wreath. that's always fun

Thursday, January 15, 2009

mental exercise - vardo

i want to make a vardo
a gypsyish wagon
money, time, ability - all current constraints
and it doesn't need to look gypsyish
just the concept

thoughts so far:

how big?
i measured my SUV. it's about 5+ x 14 feet.
ok, i could feasibly tow 6 or 7 x 14 feet [external dimensions]
internal dimensions i figure knock about a foot off that for insulation and structure
there are available options for tandem axle heavy duty equipment trailers in those dimensions
looks like 10 feet tall [above the trailer] would work: would give me 3 feet of sleeping loft, 8 inches of under floor insulation and storage and about 6 feet

what goes in it?
bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and 'awake' living space
i lie down to sleep so i would follow the traditional pattern for tiny houses: a sleeping loft

i would skip the porch - if i'm parked, i can just go outside. if i'm on the move, i can't use the porch anyway

getting ideas together for ways to make things fit into it.

some of the extreme space saving thoughts include:

pullman style folding sink in the bathroom
or possibly a sink-positive

either a folding sink, a hughie sink or a yacht galley sink with a fold down faucet in the kitchen

remember what i said about under floor storage? i found an idea from a japanese product site for under floor sliding storage bins. you have one access hatch and bins that you can slide back and forth to overlap the hatch to access the contents.
theirs are a little deeper than i would plan [they even have one you can climb halfway into for a semi basement!] but i don't see any reason existing sliding track drawer products couldn't be converted to work the same way at about a 6 inch depth in the center of the floor and still allow for things like water/sewer tanks, electrical and insulation around the edges.

also in the extreme space saving category is a concept i dreamed about [here's the white hot hammer for this week] : a tambour styled pantry.
tambour being the rolling part of a roll top desk or the door that curves back into the wall
more on that when i have developed the idea more, but the vision includes a curved ceiling track and some sort of hanging, connected narrow/shallow shelves that roll back into a deep but narrow wall pocket.

of course the usual folding tables and fold out computer shelving is in order, all apparently available from ikea.

energy efficiency is also a major goal.
being obviously off grid, as any mobile structure must be, i will need power generation and storage.
AGM deep cycle batteries are an option for storage
all that lovely roof can be solar [i'm liking the brunton solar roll for right now, but more efficient options are coming every day]
and of course any moving thing can benefit from the power harnessed by mini windmills. i'd love to come up with some vertical mini turbines that collect any time i take it down the road.

things still to work out:

i want a tub, i want a shower. can i find or build a sitting up style japanese soaking tub with a walk in door that will fit?
the smallest footprint i can find for a walk in tub is 36x34. with a 5 foot interior width, 34 inches takes up most of the room available at one end.
not sure what the tiniest toilet i can find will be - i did see some tiny ones in europe
but i recommend NOT doing a google search for 'tiny toilet' with your safe search filters off. ewwwww

it's bedtime now, more another day

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

past failures

was just surfing an organizational product online catalog and saw:


which reminded me of the 'stained glass' window shades idea i had several years ago.

the idea was a pull down window shade with a nice view, or a stained glass window look or a favorite painting.
dim the light but still let some through
block out an ugly view

never got it off the ground and in retrospect i'm kind of glad i didn't.
it seems like a silly and wasteful idea now.

Monday, January 12, 2009

foodie dreams

here's an old one to start it off:

sometimes i dream in food. rich flavors and vibrant colors. i awake with the taste of them on my tongue's memory.

a few years ago i dreamed of baklava.
mandarin orange and almond baklava.

and i dreamed of the secret ingredient.
not the part about boiling the honey lemon syrup with a mandarin orange spice tea bag, although that is good in any baklava.

cayenne pepper.


just enough cayenne pepper to keep it feeling warm on the tongue. rolling it around in the roof of your mouth gives a delicious hint of heat but not enough to know that someone spiked your brown sugar with capsaicin.

and considering that i made some for a friend's party and it all got eaten, i have to guess it was a great idea

not a world changer but they can't all be mind shattering concepts.

like a white hot hammer to the back of the head

when i get a really great idea* it strikes me like a white hot hammer to the back of my head. inspiration is not kind, it's a maddened, frenzied thing that leaps on you and blinds you to reality until you wrestle it into a semblance of rational thought

sometimes ideas get stuck in my head and they crawl around in there until i make something of them or put them down in words.
if they get stuck too long i start to dream them. this is all well and good for a developing story or an ongoing design but eventually i need a place to lay them to rest.

and some ideas should be shared. you know, the ones other people can use.

things seem to be pointing at one central place where the ideas in my head should go, unfettered by unrelated personal stories and uncluttered by the gasps of awe about some shiny new thing that caught my magpie eye.

welcome to the inside of my mind's idea factory

*'great' in my own opinion. i will be the first to admit that making eggnog cookies in the microwave when i was little wasn't a great idea in anyone else's opinion