Wednesday, December 19, 2012

2013 Snowflakes

Every year about this time, I get in the mood to make some snowflakes.  I've got a few here that I made this  year as well as a couple I made last year.   People always ask me to tell how I make them, so I'll explain.

First you take a piece of paper, fold and cut it into a square.  You can use regular copy paper if you want, but I've found that there are two things that will make things easier on you. 1) The bigger the paper, the better ( I like 17x11).  Super tiny cuts are easier when they are not super tiny. 2) Thinner paper is better because it's easier to cut through.  This year, I used 11"x17" drafting vellum. (#80MP 17lb 100% Rag Vellum).  It's very thin, but still bright white.  My knife cuts through it in one or two strokes.

Next fold it correctly. This site shows you how.

Lastly cut it out.  I prefer to use an exacto knife.  Sometimes you have to because the cuts are not on the edges.  When you use scissors, the blades push the individual layers of paper out of the way so you get messy edges.   When you use an exacto knife, don't try to cut all the way through in a single cut.  You're cutting through 12 layers of paper.  Cut just 2 or 3 layers at a time, so go over each cut 3 or 4 times.

That's it.

People have asked me where I get my designs.  The answer:  I make them up.  I may sketch a little first to work out what I want to do, but then I lightly draw my design onto the folded triangle.  Once I cut it out, the drawing is gone.  Maybe one of these days, I'll remember to scan it before cutting it so maybe other people can use it as a pattern.

Now onto the snowflakes.

These first few were from last year.  The first 2 feature characters from Pixar's Brave.  Because the film hadn't been released yet, I couldn't share them last year.  I've included a key so you can identify the specific shapes.

The Royal Family: Merida with her Bow, Queen Elinor, King Fergus, and the triplets.

The three Lords: Lords Macintosh, Macguffin, and Dingwall

This Star Wars one I may have posted before.
The Rebel Alliance symbol, Yoda, the Millenium Falcon, and an X-wing Fighter.  Notice that Yoda's face is correct both upside down and right side up.

For this one, I wanted to make a snowflake with snowflakes inside it.

Those were from last year, here ar the ones from this year.
Hanukkah.  I messed up because I meant to have a 6 pointed Star of David in the center, but I made a 12 point star instead.

Christmas trees and lights.

This was a quick simple one ( about 5 min)

A nice lacy one.  My hand hurt after cutting this one out.

If I make any more this year, i'll post the pattern.

Oh. One more thing I should mention.  After making all these snowflakes it was brought to my attention that someone has put together a program in CT for people to send snowflakes to Sandy Hook School in an effort to brighten up the school and the kid's lives.  I passed on all my snowflakes to become decorations at the school.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Saving Money

Q: What do you do if your dishwasher stops working?

A: You kick her.

Stop laughing! That's mean. And it really happened to me once.

Last November my dishwasher stopped working.  No big deal, right?  It was old and had just reached the end of its life.  Time to get a new one. The new one would be quieter and would clean better. It was kind of exciting.

We went to Sears and looked at the selection.  Our first thought was "Wow, they are a lot more expensive than we thought!"  After that initial shock, it became apparent that we didn't know enough about what size we needed.  After dealing with no-longer standard door sizes last year when we tried to replace our interior doors, I was suspicious that the dishwasher space was probably not standard anymore either.

Good thing we decided to double check before dropping a half-thou on a new machine.  It turns out that the space from floor to the underside of the counter top was a full inch shorter than standard.  An inch isn't a lot, but it's enough to have to special order a dishwasher at a cost of another three hundred above regular price!

I'm sick to my stomach!

I was curious about how our broken one was wired up to the electricity.  I've installed a dishwasher before, and they are very simple.  But I was sure the previous owner had done something overly complicated.  I wanted to get back there and check it out to see if I would have to pay for some pro to install it for me.

I unscrewed the flanges connecting the machine to the underside of the counter top and tried to slide it out.  It would rock a bit toward me, but would not slide forward. When I climbed down to the floor to see what was preventing it from moving, I found out a couple of interesting things.  The first being that previous owners had built up several layers of floor around the cabinets - including the dishwasher.  In fact, they had built up and entire inch of flooring from the original sub floor on which the dishwasher sat.  So there was no way to get the dishwasher out without completely removing the counter top first.

The second thing - the silver lining, is that the space was actually the standard size from the sub floor! We wouldn't have to spend all that extra money to get a custom sized dishwasher!

Total Savings: $300

Well, Valerie was of the opinion that if we were going to go to the trouble of removing the counter top, we may as well just get an entirely new kitchen.

Sure, Why not.

Our Old Kitchen

We decided to wait until after we got our tax return and then use that money to buy all new cabinets and counter tops - and of course a new dishwasher.

Eventually, the time came to get working on it.  Our first step was to do some shopping around.  We went to Lowes and sat down with an old guy on a computer who helped us design a new layout for our kitchen.  He printed out some images of the plan for us and quoted a price of around $7500 for just the cabinets. $7500 for installation, $3000 for granite counter tops, and $3000 more for installation of that.

I'm sick to my stomach again.

I was considering the possibility of installing them myself when our good neighbor recommended his contractor friend.  We invited him over and showed him the Lowes plan.  He worked up a bid for us that was less than $15000 for all the cabinets, granite counter tops and installation!

Total Savings: $6300

Of course, I would have to take care of the demolition of all the old cabinets, which would save us about $1500.  We planned on simply removing the old cabinets very carefully, so we wouldn't have to patch up the drywall before the new cabinets were installed.  We also planned on building up the sunken areas in the floor so that the floor would be even and the new dishwasher would fit wonderfully.

Total Savings: $7800

But we hit a couple of problems.

First, the building code indicates a minimum allowable distance between the countertop and the bottom of the upper cabinets.  With the floor built up so high, there was no way there was going to be enough space.  So we would have to tear out the floor to the sub floor.  Val was happy with this because it would mean we could put in a nice tile floor and still be OK.

Second, even though we were careful as we removed the cabinets, we found a huge gash in the drywall behind them. The previous owner carved it out to accommodate an electrical wire running across the wall to power the range hood.  So much for saving the wall.  We would have to replace it.

So we tore out the floor and all the drywall.

It became apparent that the electrical wiring was neither adequate, nor up to code.  We would need to add a bunch more electric sockets and circuits.   Not too bad.  I could do all that my self fairly simply.  Except one problem.  Our sub-panel (the circuit breaker box) was old and tiny.  There wasn't enough space to add any more circuits, and even if there was, they don't sell the old circuit breakers anymore.  I guess we will have to upgrade that as well.

Sick stomach again.

After some reassurances from my brother Joe, and some research on the internet, I decided I could do it myself.  It took several days and several trips up into the fiberglass oven of our attic crawlspace, but I got everything wired up and saved several thousand dollars in the process!

Total Savings: $11,800

Next, we hung the new drywall - after saving a few hundred dollars by plugging off some old plumbing and re-routing some gas pipes inside the wall.

Total Savings: $12,600

Then we tiled the floor with nice porcelain tiles.  It took well into the wee hours of the morning, but I got my own wet saw out of it and saved a thousand by doing it myself.

Total Savings: $13,600

We realized that our air conditioning vent was placed directly where the new cabinets would be placed.  I would have to scoot it out toward the center of the room by about two feet.  So back into the fiberglass oven and a few hours later, I had saved several hundred dollars!

Total Savings: $13,700

Finally the cabinets were installed.  We bought a new microwave to go over the range.  But there was a problem.  The new configuration positioned the oven 120 inches away from it's former location, so the vent to the roof no longer lined up.  Another chance to save some money!  I climbed into the fiberglass oven again (the outside temp was 100 degrees), and re-routed the duct work then installed the microwave.

Total Savings $13,900

To prepare for the sink plumbing, I wanted to replace the water shutoff valves.  I grabbed one and twitsted and *snap*, the pipe had rusted completely through and broke right off.  Same for the other one.

AHHHHHHHHHH!  That happens every time!!!!

I gripped the pipe with my pipe wrench to remove it and twisted.  It turned a quarter turn.  Except it didn't.  the copper pipe below had bent 90 degrees and collapsed in on itself.

AHHHHHHHHHH!  Time to save some money by calling a plumber to fix the mess before i made it even better.  I would surely have made it another $200 worse if I didn't defer to the pro at this point.

Finally, the counter tops were in.  I installed our new silent garbage disposal and the kitchen faucet that cost more than the disposal.  Lastly, I installed the new dishwasher.


On Father's Day.

The best present ever!

Total Savings all together: About $15,000!

That means that after the cost of everything involved, our new kitchen was basically free.  i'm sure that's what that all means, but I've never been very good at math.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hairy Times

So I spent nearly two and a half years working on Brave.  As you can tell from the trailers alone, hair was a big deal in this film.  There was a lot of hair, fur and feathers.  When we finish a film, we have a huge celebration where we get to see all the work everybody else did along with our own in the finished product.  Sometime last year I decided that I would be wearing a kilt to the party (Brave being set in Scotland).  I wanted to go all out with the scottish feel, so I decided to grow out some "Friendly Mutton Chops".
For those that don't know, Mutton Chops are really big sideburns that cover the cheeks.  The "Friendly" part means that you have a mustache that joins them.  Speaking of sideburns, do you know how they got their name?  There was a Union general named Ambrose Burnside who sported some friendly mutton chops.  He was known for his impressive facial hair,  and the name was adopted.  Well General Burnside was one of my initial inspirations.

I decided to stop shaving my mutton chops at the first of the year and not shave them - or even trim them until after the Brave party, six months later. 

Initially, I was going to grow my mustache out too so that I would have an impressive Handlebar mustache to go with the massive chops.  After two months, The mustache was long enough that I had to start styling it everyday with wax.  The wax would wear off after a couple of hours, so I had to be persistent with the maintenance.  It was really too much work.
Eating was a pain because I had to wipe my mustache after every bite.  One day I was eating a sandwich. As I took a bite, I didn't realize that a bunch of mustache had folded up between my teeth and my sandwich.  When I bit down I had the sensation of dozens of hairs being yanked out of my top lip.  Thats what it felt like, but very few were actually pulled out.  Facial hair is much thicker than head hair and stick in there really good.  But it hurt. A lot.  I decided I didn't need a handlebar mustache.  I would just shave the 'stache, and start regrowing it a few weeks before the party.
It was so much more pleasant to NOT have a mustache.  Valerie would even give me an occasional kiss!

I usually kept the chops combed down as close to my face as posible so as to not give away their full awesomeness.  But after four months, I decided to try styling them for church one Sunday.  I was certainly curious to see what it would look like, but I also hoped to ease the minds of the whole Relief Society with my effort at grooming.  They were quite concerned about my facial hair and what it signaled about my testimony.

I don't think it made much effect on them.  If anything, it let them know that I was fully aware of my own facial hair and that I was growing it on purpose.  I didn't bother styling it after that more than simply brushing it down.

Eventually the week of the party came.  I was tired of this thing and really wanted to get it off of my face.  Valerie could barely look at me.  The Ward was preparing an intervention. The only one who didn't seem to mind was Zoey.  She asked me every day "Dad, Where your mustache?" I guess she missed it when I shaved it.  She also would run her tiny hands through my beard and pet it.

I decided to try some creative styling that last week before I finally shaved it.  

I tried curls

I tried Braids

Finally it was party time.  I dressed in my kilt and brushed out my three inch long friendly mutton chops and celebrated with my beautiful wife.

It was well worth the hassle.  I don't plan on ever doing it again though.  When it was time to shave it, I decided to have some fun.  I shaved stripes into it, then shaved it into a Fu Manchu.

Afterwards, I was looking at the pictures of my chops and realized that my beard styling was my own twist on the Pirates of the Caribbean movies: