Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Low humidity in the house

Today's photo is nothing special. We've been noticing a lot of the wood trimwork in the house has shrunk quite a bit in the dry Illinois winter. We're trying to alleviate the problem with a humidifier, but it has only been running for a few hours.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Handles added!

These cabinets have been in the basement since almost the first weekend we were moved in. I finally got the handles added this weekend.

The cabinets and handles are both from Ikea. Ikea sells a slick template for marking the holes for drilling to mount the handles. But the catch was, we wanted the run of doors to look like the handles were all continuous so they had a more "built-in" look. The template was not designed to center the handles in the vertical orientation, so I taped a piece of cardboard to the side so that I could have the template centered on every single door as I went down the line.

I was also a bit worried that the handles would look a little "wavy" since the doors are not all perfectly plumb. But, the "waviness" is most noticeable from this angle, which I don't think it too bad at all.

So all the worrying I did was really for naught, and the project only took about an hour and a half to complete. Should have done it months ago!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Homemade wall art project

Our home is slowly coming together.  The boxes are (mostly) unpacked and we've pretty much got all the furniture we needed to fill the space.  One thing that is we've been lacking is artwork for the walls. We have all the artwork we've had in previous places we've lived, but now we have more wall space to fill and some of the rooms use colors we've never used before.

Renae has wanted to hang fabric stretched over a frame on the wall for awhile now. Recently, I get a Kreg Jig Pocket Hole System, so I made her a frame for Christmas. She found a fabric at Ikea which really went well with the wall color and the rest of the furniture in the room.

Over the weekend we had some time to actually stretch the fabric over the frame. (We had to buy a staple gun, since we couldn't find our old one.)

From Wall hanging craft project

You can see the pocket holes in the photo.  We had the fabric facing up so we could approximately center it how we wanted.

From Wall hanging craft project

Cutting it out.

From Wall hanging craft project

We put a single staple in the center of each side.

From Wall hanging craft project

Then we worked our way out toward the corners. I don't have any good photos of the corners. What we did was once we got the first corner folded flat and stapled down we used that corner as the model for the other corners. You have to pick a side which has the creased fabric exposed. We made sure the two on the same side were angled the same way. I'm not sure anyone will ever notice, but it seemed like the right thing to do. You can see one way to do the corners here or google around a bit.

From Wall hanging craft project

Finished project!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cat discovers faucet

I'm trying hard to limit the number of times I use the cats as models. But sometimes the opportunity is too good to pass up!

Recently the cats discovered that water dripping out of a faucet is a great source of entertainment. Fortunately for us (unfortunately for them), none of our faucets drip unless we intentionally let them. Renae lets them play with a dripping faucet for awhile and then shuts it off.

The downstairs bathroom has a vessel sink made of thick clear glass. I shot this photo looking up through the glass bowl towards the side with the faucet.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Home card catalog

This is the card catalog that I have in my room in the basement. It came from a college in Chicago (not one that I've ever worked for or been to) by way of a craigslist find soon after we moved in to the house. I posted a fuzzy photo of it to facebook then, and I think it deserves better, so this is my first attempt at a better photo.

What's great about having a card catalog is that it's like having 60 junk drawers in one unit. What's bad about having a card catalog is that it's like having 60 junk drawers in one unit. Usually I can find exactly what I'm looking for. Sometimes, I forget what I've put in the drawers. Eventually, I'll get around to organizing and labeling the drawers. For now, I'm just enjoying it as is.

Monday, January 17, 2011


This is what our living room has looked like for the past three weeks. Renae put tape on the sides of the couch, ottoman, and all the dining room chairs. She also covered all the couch and ottoman with towels and blankets. So far, the cats have been pretty good about not scratching the exposed parts of the furniture. We're planning to slowly remove the towels and tape over the next few weeks. Since they have plenty of scratching posts we're crossing our fingers that they will leave the furniture alone.

What android apps to use?

Sometimes friends and family ask what apps I recommend for their smartphones.  Renae and I have been using the Motorola Droid since the day it was released in 2009.  I have downloaded and played with a LOT of apps. Sometimes I have really good recommendations for apps to try out, and sometimes my mind goes blanks.

Over the weekend, I found Lifehacker's round-up of their best posts about android from 2010. I'd recommend any android user at least look through the first two posts on this list.

One of the new apps I discovered from those posts is AppBrain. AppBrain is primarily a way to find the best android apps in a way that is easier than browsing or searching the Android Market.  But it also provides ways to sort through apps you have installed on your phone and easier ways to install/uninstall apps, depending on your phone.

I've used AppBrain to assemble a list of apps that I would recommend to family and friends. Check it out below.  Or, see the entire list of every app I currently have installed on my phone

My most valuable apps
  • Barcode Scanner : I use this app all the time for scanning product barcodes and QR codes for looking up URLs.
  • Droidlight LED Flashlight : Renae convinced me that I would use this app. After downloading it, I can't believe that I went so long without it. I never need to look for a flashlight if I have my phone.
  • Cozi Family Organizer : We are using this app to coordinate our calendars and keep track of a single shared grocery shopping list.
  • Key Ring Reward Cards : I store all of my store membership/loyalty bar codes with this app. It includes a bar code scanner to help enter new codes. If you use this, turn the brightness on the screen way down so it can be scanned easily at the store.
  • Slacker Radio : I like slacker radio better than pandora because I can listen to stand-up comedy as well as music.
  • TWIDROYD PRO for Twitter : My preferred twitter client.
  • Springpad : Store notes, tasks, recipes and much more with this app.
  • Listen : Podcast player. Currently in beta, so expect bugs.
(8 total, 7 free (87%), 1 paid (12%), 8MB total size, $3.99 total price)

View this Android app list on AppBrain

Honorable mention apps
  • Shazam : Don't know what the tune is called that you're hearing on the radio? Use this app to try to figure it out.
  • My Tracks : Uses GPS on your phone to keep track of a route you have traveled. Useful for running, biking, or hiking.
  • Groupon : Sync with your groupon account.
  • AppBrain App Market : Better app browsing and management. I like this app more and more every day.
  • Google Goggles : Take a photo of an object and landmark and use google to help identify it.
  • Kindle for Android : Ebook reader. (I like the other ebook readers on Android, too.)
  • Google Reader : The really cool feature of this app is that you can use the volume buttons on the phone to quickly scroll through your feed items.
  • Blogaway : One of the better blogger clients for the android operating system.
  • Gmote 2.0 : Control your tunes playing on your desktop computer from your phone.
(9 total, 9 free (100%), 0 paid (0%), 12MB total size, $0 total price)

View this Android app list on AppBrain

Apps for nerds

  • Subsonic Music Streamer : I'm using this app to stream all of my mp3s from my home network to my phone. Love it!
  • Tuner - gStrings Free : This is a great little tuner app. (For music nerds.)
  • Comics : This app is a good comic book reader. It has an integrated store which works really well, too.
  • Virtual Recorder
  • MyBookDroid - books library : I use this app to keep track of my books and sync with
  • GeoBeagle: Geocaching : Do you like to go geocaching? This app helps you plan which caches to go looking for.
  • deciBel : This is a sound level meter. It is not calibrated for scientific use, but it's pretty good for relative sound level measurements.
  • Scientific Calculator : This is my favorite scientific calculator app.
(8 total, 8 free (100%), 0 paid (0%), 4MB total size, $0 total price)

View this Android app list on AppBrain

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Leaky drain!

Last week, Renae discovered that our kitchen sink drain had sprung a leak.  It was a slow leak and she mopped up the mess, put a bowl down to catch the leak, and we mostly stopped using that side of the sink for a couple of days.  After a few days I had enough time at night to tackle the problem.

The above photo is what the drain looked like before I started. Note the black smear around the joint right above the trap coming out of the garbage disposal.  That's where the leak was coming from.

I tried just tightening the joint by twisting the "nut" part, but it didn't help.  Then, I removed the trap and the piece above it, so I could get a better look.  (The top white piece is a 90 degree turn which connects to the galvanized pipe.  It was not leaking so I didn't want to touch it, if possible.)

The problem was that the extension piece which connected the trap to the 90 degree piece had been incorrectly installed.  The straight piece had been cut and the end of the trap it was connected to was not designed to allow a straight piece to connect to it.  The trap is designed for a 90 degree piece to be connected to it with a long end on it to go directly to the house drain.  But, in our kitchen the drain pipes were too high to do that. So I can't blame the previous home-owner for putting in the extension.

What I can blame him for was how he tried to make the joint watertight.  There was a thin bead of caulk used to "seal" the pipe.   I'm no plumbing expert, but I'm pretty sure that is not a recommended use for caulk.

I went to the home center and stared at the wall of drain fittings for a good half hour.  This type of fitting is called a "slip joint".  It is really simple to assemble and disassemble (for cleaning the trap if needed).  But the fittings only go together in certain ways.  Finally, I was able to use a flexible (bendy) tube to make it work.

The photo didn't turn out as well, but hopefully you can see I went from the trap (which is now turned out toward the camera in this photo) to a 90 degree fitting (as the trap is designed) to the flexible pipe to the 90 degree fitting which connects to the galvanized drain pipe.

So far, no leaks.