Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Keurig Khristmas

This year we flirted with disaster and decided to mess with one of the most sacred and coveted processes; the making of the mighty cup of COFFEE. It began with an instant double volley. Debbie bought me a Keurig Mini B30 one cupper, and I got her the larger B60 model. Dualing Christmas presents if you will. I was skeptical, since we're both sort of Coffee-Snobs. While we don't (yet) roast our own, but we DO grind our own beans. The price of the individual K-cups is not cheap, but there are deals to be had, and the clincher for me was when I discovered the My K-Cup reusable filter, meaning no more total reliance on those oft-pricey K-Cups. It's only been 5 days so I'm not sure if it's a novelty thing, but we sure love these things. I had both coffee and English Breakfast tea this morning. Yes there are Tea K-Cups, as well as Cocoa / Hot Chocolate. The cost is in the 40 cents per cup range; not cheap but with our regular pot, I notice we throw lots of coffee down the drain so I'm not sure we were getting off much cheaper. One thing I can say though, these things make a consistent cup of coffee at 192 F. The larger model can adjust the temperature, as well as cup size (no bra jokes please). Anyway, drop by for a cup...
The B60 for the Kitchen
The B30, for my office :)
How a K-Cup does it
The reusable filter
I haven't tried the Kahlua yet...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Banjo Dad :)

This is kind of neat; I found an old Diploma that my Father got in 1935...in Tenor Banjo no less...
(click on the picture for a larger version)
I wondered how he came across such an institution, and a Google search turned up the following ad from a 1926 Popular Mechanics magazine..I'm thinking this is where he found it, as Popular Mechanics was the 2nd gospel in our home :) apparently the Siegel-Myers School of Music in Chicago was quite the place...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Another sign of winter

The Grand Vitara now has some new slippers. 4 new GT Champiro ICEPRO SUV winter tires on "Genuine" Suzuki steel rims. I tried to re-use the winter alloys from the old SX4, but the mechanic said they rubbed on the brake caliper. Always fun going from 17" to 16" wheels. I guess they will go to Kijiji in an effort to minimize the financial bleed. I haven't seen Debbie since  :)

Decent tread...should have some "bite"
I kind of like the rims. Clean and basic but not like the normal ugly black steelies

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Black Friday, The Bigger Picture ??

Hmmm...this is interesting...but I'm a bit perplexed. Food for Thought. Comments ??

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Kijiji "Find" :)

I've long wanted some sort of camping "chuck-box" or portable kitchen thingy. I just got one on Kijiji for $20. It's pretty heavy and robust. The 3 covers flip out and transform into shelves, while the front side folds down to become a stove shelf. It should make a nice base-camp kitchen unit. The legs are removable. I thought it was a bit heavy but when I got it home I discovered some bonuses inside; a 3 burner propane stove, a propane lantern with a plastic case, an aluminum griddle, and 2 containers of propane. All for a measly 20 bucks !!
closed
shelves and stove

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Woodstove Season Cometh...

Well I couldn't resist any longer. I had to get a wood fire going on this cold and damp Saturday. I had to take my old Vermont Castings Resolute out of service. It has a couple of cracks in the rear and left side refractories, and it's prone to over-firing. I took the opportunity to flirt with a little EPA approved number from Canadian Tire. It's made by Drolet, and the model is "PyroPak". It has some secondary combustion features, and claims to be 83% efficient. That's a number I'm highly suspicious of, but it was on sale for $100 off ($499). These EPA stoves claim to burn 25% less wood, we'll see :) So far, I'm pleased, except that the firebox is small, so I don't think it will last through the night. That means I'll be cutting much more kindling, or "splits" if you will. That's a trade-off I decided to live with, since most larger stoves produce too much heat. The large window in the door provides mucho ambiance, and the airwashing system actually works in keeping the glass clean...bonus !! See some actual views below...
  video

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembrance Day 2010

Today, I whisper a prayer for anyone who has suffered because of war, especially the wounded, widows, and orphans. I pray for your continued strength to carry on day after day...
My Father fought in World War II, in the 59th Royal Newfoundland Artillery Regiment

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Oh Oh Oh O-O-h-h, Little China Stove

Apologies to David Bowie notwithstanding, I recently added an interesting multi-fuel camp stove to my collection. Normally, these remote fuel bottle stoves go for about $150 at reputable outdoor vultures stores. After reading lots on these Chinese knockoffs, I had to have one. Got it on Ebay for $29, but the total was closer to $60 by the time I had it in my grimy paws. First, a couple of photos:
The Box, Notice the spelling mistakes :)
Pump, Burner, Wrench, Fuel Bottle
Ready to roll
The orange fuel bottle will take white gas, car gas, kerosene, etc and will burn with varying degrees of success. The first drawback is the horrific blasting noise the thing makes. Look at this video to see/hear what I mean:
video

One of it's strong points is in the choice of fuel. If none of the liquid varieties suits your fancy, it easily attaches to most of those overpriced iso-butane canisters:
attached to $7 rip-off canister
I don't like the above canisters, but only because of their cost. The tightwad in me prefers the cheap "4 for $10 butane cans from Home Hardware". With an appropriate adapter they can be used, and are the choice if you don't want to mess with liquids. Adapter set-up below:
Cheaper option...
Close-up of adapter gizmo

Overall, I'm pleased with this little gem. With White Gas, it will boil a litre of water in under 3 minutes. It is also of a pretty simple design, and it comes with a wrench that can dismantle the burner, clean the nozzle/jet etc. Again, you get what you pay for (YMMV)...
Field Repair Wrench

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cheap Slide Scanner

Like many photo-geeks from the seventies and eighties, I probably have a couple thousand 35mm slides. As time passes of course, they get scratched, fade etc. Scanning them is often an expensive and tedious process. The required resolution makes the process slow. However, if you only need "Facebook" or Web-quality images, there's a cheap and quick way; The Optex Scanner is not really a scanner at all, but rather it's a 5 megapixel digital camera that takes pictures of slides. Knowing its limitations, I bought one anyway. Adding to the decision was the fact that it was half-price, $59.99 instead of $119.98. It also "scans" negatives, but I have yet to try that.
Unit with both Slide and Negative holders...
...with negatives inserted...
  This thing is fast too. In about a minute, I can have three slides transferred to the computer. A couple of examples below, with more HERE and HERE. This thing gets poor reviews, but I love it. It's not a thousand dollar scanner...you get what you pay for  :)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Personal Physical Preparedness ???

Overlooking the obvious is of course, one of my stronger traits. While I like to be somewhat "prepared" I seem to have overlooked an important area; Personal Physical Preparedness. Case in point: a little over a week ago I hurt my back. That's nothing new, for I usually do that two or three times a year. This time, however, was much more severe. I spent 2 days in bed and I was completely helpless. The pain was too severe for me to stand on my two feet. When it was determined that things were getting worse and not better, our options were few. We called the Doctor, and called the 811 medical help line. In a short time, three paramedics were standing in my bedroom. If not for the pain, it would have been humorous. They managed to get me into a chair and down the front steps onto the street. Then they transferred my carcass to a stretcher, and took me to Emergency. After an hour or so, examinations etc I was given three needles. One in each arm, and one in the old caboose. 30 minutes later, I could get up and walk, albeit feebly and slowly. They concluded it was "only" a pulled muscle, and nothing spinal like a slip disc. For the next five days, I rested, took pain killers, and tried to walk around as much as possible, just to keep from seizing up. What a week. Even a week later, I'm still on pain meds, and I still move very slowly, with jolts of pain at every wrong twist or turn.
Getting back to my original point, what good is emergency food and supplies when you find yourself in a situation that you can't move ?? This is surely a weak link in any preparedness plan. I will say first though, that the injury was a little self-inflicted. I was stacking firewood, hurt my back, ignored the warnings and pain, and kept on working. So the first lesson I guess is to listen to your pain. Had I stopped at the first warning sign it might not have been so bad. That aside, I need to address a couple of things. First, I don't exercise enough, Second, I don't exercise enough. I sit at a desk for most of the day. Somehow, I have to muster the discipline to be more active; especially with winter coming on and the tendency to be even more sedentary. Let's see how it goes...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Power Outage Prepraredness

Being ready for a power outage is of course, a timely consideration given hurricane season, ice storms etc. However, common sense must prevail, and "readiness"  needs to be relative to your specific location. For example, in 21 years, we have only seen one "significant" power outage. That was in 2003 when Hurricane Juan came ashore. I know people who have "whole house" generator setups with automatic circuit switching, but all of this is expensive overkill from my point of view, especially when it will hardly get used. Why? First of all, I have a wood stove and a pellet basket so with a supply of wood and/or pellets, I have emergency heat. My only other real requirement is electricity for a deep freeze and possibly a fridge. To do this, I rely on a 3-pronged approach. First, I have a couple of good deep cycle batteries and an inverter that will run our freezer. Secondly, I have a small solar panel array tho help charge the batteries. Finally, my small generator can both charge the batteries, and run the freezer. With this setup, I should be able to at the very least run the fridge and freezer in an intermittent manner enough to keep things from spoiling. The bonus with this type of approach is that the components are both cheap and multipurpose. The generator is very portable and the batteries, inverter, and solar panels can be used for camping and other transportable power needs. Overall, it's a more flexible solution.
The little 800 or so watt Chinese import generator is amazingly inexpensive. For my American friends, Harbor Freight has them for $149 but on sale right now for $79 or so. I've seen this same generator sold under a bunch of different Brand-names such as King Canada, Power-Fist at places like Princess Auto, Canadian Tire, Walmart etc. Read more about these little gems HERE
Other requirement of course include light and cooking, and my collection of Coleman stoves and lanterns are up to the challenge. It's better to have and not need than to need and not have...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Why "Prone To Wander" ?

I have been asked about the significance of the phrase "Prone To Wander".  In my ignorance, I guess I thought most folk would know that it comes from the words of the hymn "Come thou fount of every blessing". One particular verse is my favorite:

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
It was written by Robert Robinson in 1757, and is a handy reminder to me of how hopeless and lost I am without God's goodness and accompanying "binding", for I fear I have nothing good of my own to offer...

More Alcohol Stove Fun...

I did a little more playing around with this. The stove I put together had 8 little Jets or Holes (see previous post). I punched another 8 in between for a total of 16. As expected, the heat output is dramatically increased, but the burn time is much less.
Here's the thing though, for about $4, you can go to Canadian Tire and pick up a 6-pack of 5oz bottles of alcohol-based gas line antifreeze, and make a couple of different sized stoves for nothing. Then, during a power outage you will have the wherewithal to boil water for tea or coffee, or do a little cooking or heating of food. A disclaimer though; The anti-freeze is a bit nasty and poisonous so watch what you're doing...
A slightly safer option might be the bottles of blue cheap fondue fuel from the Dollar Store.
My next step is to make a bigger stove from larger diameter cans...I think my Pyromania is no longer in remission...mooo..ha..ha !!!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pop Can Alcohol Stove

Youtube is replete with plans for these alcohol burning mini camping or emergency stoves. Given my interest in stoves, not to mention other gadgetry, I decided to have a look into this intriguing area. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised. I just made a very basic one, using the bottom inch or so of 2 Pepsi cans. For the "alcohol", I used gas line antifreeze. As a fuel, alcohol is relatively safe as it's not too volatile. However, once you heat it a bit and get it to vaporize, it burns with a roar not unlike that of a Coleman stove. I think I'll make a more deluxe model later.
firing it up
place water on top
boiling...
This was just a quick conceptual test, but I'm going to make a better one...more to come :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fall: Summer's Cooler Cousin

It's likely a sign of my age, but I seemingly blinked, and there the summer was...Gone! The boys are back in school, Hockey is starting up, with a 5-0 loss by the Leafs, but I digress, Debbie is calling for the furnace to be doing its thing (rats), and I'm thinking of firewood, migrating the freezables from garage to basement, winter tires, snow shovels, Christmas presents. Where does the time go? I must remember to live in the sweet here and now, for this great season is flying by too. This is a great time for walking, and even camping. I must get another night or two in. The chill is the only thing to contend with. There's no bugs, no suffering heat. Bring it on...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Emergency Heater

With winter fast approaching, I often marvel at the chances we all take. Have you ever went somewhere in your vehicle for example and not bothered to even take a coat? Heated seats notwithstanding, you could easily break down, skid off the road, or otherwise get sidelined and literally freeze to death. That would be sad and stupid. See the following video, outlining the construction of a "heater" that consists of a roll of toilet paper stuffed inside a quart paint can. The can is then filled with isopropyl alcohol. Take a look:

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Overnight Canoe Trip...yes.

Just returned from an overnight canoe jaunt. "Portage" is not my favorite word, but a nice time anyway...


Giv'er

Yours Truly
Pat, Me, Derek, Brian
time to head back...
My Suite
Fire
my pack made it home...

Monday, September 6, 2010

New Wheels "again"...

With the write-off of the SX4, we needed new a new reliable drive. After some window shopping, and pondering of new, used, buy, lease etc we went for a 2010 Suzuki Grand Vitara; a big brother to the SX4, and in the same color. Hopefully, the cement trucks will stay away from this one :)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Hurricane Earl: "Here's lookin' up your old address !!!