Showing posts from February, 2018

Air Filter and Vent For Home Basement Shop

As I've posted about here on the blog, I'm working on my home shop.  It is going in the basement and may or may not have a window and a wall-hung bench.  I'm planning on closing up all the available space with a wall and door, but also planning on filling the joist space above the wall to ensure that the dust from the shop stays in the shop and doesn't carry out into the rest of the basement space.

One concern about that is pressure.  Meaning, if I stuff the joist cavaties and seal the door with an external steel door, it is going to be a pressurized space.  The walls will be like a balloon everytime I close/open the door.

When I was on the train home one afternoon recently, I saw this air filter/vent in the stairwell coming down on the Metra cars and it gave me an idea.  What about making something like this on the inside of the wall:  a spot where I can place an air filter.  And on the outside - drywall side - of the new wall, I cut a whole for one of these vent cov…

Pizza Nerdery: Diastatic Malt Powder for Color and Oven Spring

For years, I've been poking around this thread (and the various sub-threads) on that focus on Chicago-style thin crust (aka Tavern pizza) and in various places, posters have occasionally mentioned using diastatic malt powder - or sometimes non-diastatic - in their dough formulations.  And while I've been intrigued, I've never gone out and procured the stuff, let alone find out where I could buy it locally. 

But then, this happened over the weekend on Instagram.  Slice (RIP) Head Honcho and "pizza influencer" Adam Kuban posted this upskirt and description in his recent stories.  I screenshot it above.  (You can follow Adam here on Instagram.  Or you can learn more about his pop-up Margot's Pizza here.)

He called out that he added diastatic malt powder for oven spring and color.  Color, people?!?!  That's one of the things that I've been working on over the years is a consistent undercarriage that looks a lot like what he's holding …

Jelly Belly Warehouse - Tour and President Reagan Stuff

We found ourselves near the Jelly Belly Warehouse up in Pleasant Prairie Wisconsin recently and decided to take the two youngest kids on a tour and stop at the factory store.  The tour is free and is a nice way to spend an hour.   They put you on a little tram ride that takes you around the facility and shows you how they make the beans.  But...this isn't a factory.  It is a warehouse.  And we went on a Sunday when the place was shut down.  Still was fun, though.  They also have an in-house bean artist that does displays like the one you see above with Mickey and Minnie Mouse made entirely out of Jelly Belly jelly beans. 

Here's the non-operational warehouse:

One aspect of the tour is the wait for the tram to arrive.  There's only one tram and if it is out on a tour, you have to wait for it to come back into the station for the next tour.  They have you wait - not in the warehouse - but in a separate spot.  The waiting room is actually upstairs where they have a window to …

Chellino Scamorza Cheese @ Angelo's Italian Market in Downers Grove

Earlier this month, I posted about Nature's Best Market in Westmont and the deal they had on Chellino Scamorza Cheese out of Joliet.  Nature's Best Market sells it for $5.99 and that's quite a bit cheaper than what I normally see the stuff at Italian markets or a place like Angelo Caputos or Pete's Fresh Market.  
I can't say it enough:  go find this Chellino Scamorza cheese.  If you are in the business of making pizzas at home, it will change the way you dress your pies.  It is super salty and seems to have a very high burn point, so you can really cook your pies well done and not come away with a very dark/too dark top.  
The reason why I'm posting about it again, is that I've now found a second source that is in close proximity to our #newoldfarmhouseAngelo's Italian Market on 55th Street in Downers Grove.    Having lived in Downers Grove for more than half-of-a-year, I've now driven by this place more than 100 times.  It is right down the st…

Hey Google: Turn off the Lights in the Family Room

I've just about gotten to the end of my "Christmas Haul" posts here on the blog with this light bulb post.  Most recently, I - hopefully - convinced those of you who are reading that I'm NOT just a bird-crazy personand thatall Iwanted wasbird stuff.  I sure did get a lot from Nat and the kids, but I also scored a few other things from my brother-in-law (the Sortimo T-Boxx from that I recently posted), my father-in-law (the Craftsman Multimeter that I posted last week) that are both destined for my basement shop. the naming convention around here insists:  my #NewOldWorkshop

Nat's Mom and Dad gave me this LIFX bulb that is one of a handful of smart bulbs that work directly with our Google Home and don't require a Smarthome bridge/hub.  That has a lot of appeal to me.  You can find the details of Google Assistant/Home + LIFX here on the LIFX landing page specifically for Google Home.   They show you a bunch of the commands.   

I have just one of the…

Out on the Weekend

See the lonely boy,
out on the weekend
Trying to make it pay.
Can't relate to joy,
he tries to speak and
Can't begin to say.
Think I'll pack it in
and buy a pick-up
Take it down to L.A.
Find a place to call my own
and try to fix up.
Start a brand new day.

The woman I'm thinking of,
she loved me all up
But I'm so down today
She's so fine, she's in my mind.
I hear her callin'.

See the lonely boy,
out on the weekend
Trying to make it pay.
Can't relate to joy,
he tries to speak and
Can't begin to say.

She got pictures on the wall,
they make me look up
From her big brass bed.
Now I'm running down the road
trying to stay up
Somewhere in her head.

The woman I'm thinking of,
she loved me all up
But I'm so down today
She's so fine she's in my mind.
I hear her callin'.

See the lonely boy,
out on the weekend
Trying to make it pay.
Can't relate to joy,
he tries to speak and
Can't begin to say.

(I figured since we were Young-…

We're a NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat

As you guys know by now, we've become bird people.  We're now running four different feeders, a birdbath and even installed a water wiggler to attract the birds with moving water.  And while we have plans to install even more landscaping, trees and (gasp!) even a water feature, we have quite a bit of existing trees, shrubs and brush in our #newoldbackyard.

We're pretty lucky to live on a mature and wooded lot with close proximity to a big pond (Barth Pond) and a creek that runs north from the pond behind some of our neighbor's houses.  That water source is a big factor in our neighborhood being able to attract and support wildlife.  Some of it is great!  Like birds and owls and hawks and rabbits and even foxes.  Some not so great?  Skunks and coyotes are also around.  Little Lizzie was skunked last fall and I'm sure it won't be the last time.

Now listen...we're not camping people.  Or at least I'm not a camping person.  But, I do love critters.  And wi…

New from Lionel in 2018: Moe & Joe Lumber Flatcar

Yesterday, I posted about an operating chicken-sounds boxcar which is the first of a few of my potential pre-orders from the 2018 Lionel O-Gauge catalog.  Today, I'm sharing the second item that I am eyeing in this year's catalog:  the Moe & Joe Lumber Flatcar. the image above from the catalog the red "NEW!", which the chicken-sweeping car from yesterday didn't have.

Trainworld has this one up on their pre-order site for $20 less than the listed price above and includes this description: "Moe & Joe figures unload boards at the touch of a button".  The Trainworld image and description also includes the unloading bin, which is absent in the image above from the catalog.

I poked around YouTube and came across this same car, but the description says that the last time it was made was 2004.  So, this will be the first one in 14 years?  Watching the video (I've embedded it below), I'm surprised that Moe & Joe unload just one boa…

New from Lionel in 2018: Chicken Sounds Dispatch Sweep Car

The folks over at Lionel Trains have recently released their 2018 catalog or 'Big Book' as they call it.  You can find it here in this magazine-style viewer.  Or you can download it as a pdf here.  I've been thumbing through it and like a kid with the old Sears Catalog, I've been circling the items that I'm interested in and will likely pre-order.  The catalog is split between O-Scale and O-Gauge.

O-Scale is Lionel's premium product.  And it isn't meant for kids.  The locomotives and cars come with high-end features, are more realistic - meaning they are true 1:48 scale, all have built-in bluetooth/other power controls and cost quite a bit more.  We're talking about $700 to $900 for a locomotive.

O-Gauge is where we play.  They now call it 'traditional O-Gauge'.  The pieces are smaller than O-Scale (not by much) but still run on the same 3 rail track that Lionel is famous for.  This is also where they seem to have more fun with things in terms …

I Have Been Around The World...

In my mind, I kind of combine the seven new wonders of the world and the seven natural wonders of the world

I think one of my sisters has seen the Northern Lights when she went on a trip to Finland.   And I think my oldest sister has seen the Southern Cross when they went to Polynesia for a trip.  Nat's Dad has been to see the Pyramids.  Me?  I've been inside the Colosseum. But it doesn't have a song like this one written for it (that I know of, at least!)

Enjoy a little Stephen Stills.  And dream about seeing the Southern Cross...for the first time.

(pssst...don't tell anyone, but turns out that the Southern Cross isn't a wonder of the world.  Technically. )

Male and Female Cardinal Pair Visit our Fly-Through Feeder

Two weeks ago, I posted about the new fly-through bird feeder that we added to our backyard birding setup and mentioned how we had not yet witnessed it being used (but...knew it was due to the bird poop on the squirrel baffle).   I've posted two visitors to our feeders here in the [bird visitor log] tag but they were on different feeders.  First was a red-bellied woodpecker on our suet feeder.  Then just last week, I posted a photo of a house sparrow on one of our hanging gravity feeders. 

When we put up the fly-through feeder, I was hoping for Cardinals.  Guess what?  We had a few visitors!  While these photos aren't awesome because they're with my phone all zoomed in and through Winter windows with screens, I'm hoping you can make out what is happening.

First...this beautiful red male cardinal.  If you look closely, you'll see he's on there with a House Sparrow chowing down.

And like two minutes later, he took off and stood guard.  So his lady could come in …

I've Taken the Sortimo Plunge

Thanks to my brother-in-law, I've now stuck my toe into the Sortimo universe with my first T-boxx for storage of fasteners and other small parts.  My interest in them came about due to a confluence of events:  the whole [contractors of instagram] thing that is happening with all those guys in love with their Festool systems and says along with this video showing Adam Savage's shop and the glory of his Sortimo setup.

I started with a sorting container, but they make entire systems both for mobile uses (in vans) but also shops and include sorting containers but also tool containers.  I think the next step in my plans for Sortimo is likely the WorkMo 24-500 T-BOXX Ready rack that holds up to 4 T-BOXXes.

Here's the handle on the T-BOXXes with the Sortimo branding:

This leads me down a path towards carrying an inventory of fasteners in my shop - now that I have a good place to keep them.  I'll likely start with a screw and bolt/washer/nut inventory and grow from there.  Of…

A Multimeter - Workshop Addition

My father-in-law gifted me this Sears Craftsman 8-function Multimeter for Christmas and I've just gotten around to unboxing it and finding it's permanent home in my shop.  I wasn't quite sure what to do with a multimeter (or multi-meter as it is sometimes spelled), but Nat's Dad also sent along with CNET piece that explains all that this tool can do.  
Here's the list: 1.  Test batteries 2.  Check extension cords 3.  Determine the life of lightbulbs 4.  Identify the 'hot' wire 5.  Find bad switches
So...turns out, it wasn't all bird stuff at Christmas this year, right?!?

One Year Ago Today: We Just Got Windows Installed

One year ago today, I posted that photo above here on the blog to mark the milestone in building our #NewOldFarmhouse when we had our windows installed into the framed house.  Hard to believe that was a year ago as it feels like yesterday that we were making the regular visits to Downers Grove to check on the status of the construction job.  Welp...Nat was there EVERYDAY because she was a trooper who took our one of our kids all the way to Downers Grove for school everyday from Elmhurst.  Then made the return trip back to pick her up. 

We're one year removed from the installation of the windows, but still in the thick of things in terms of getting the house situated.  I've posted quite a bit about the needs in the yard/garden, but there's also so much still to get set-up inside.  Like window treatments, furniture, wall-hangings and what-have-yous.  Nat has done a really great job of introducing elements a little at a time and we're this/close to our installation date …

The Arlo - Added to the Coaster Collection

The last time that I added a coaster to the [Coaster Collection] here on the blog was back in December of last year when I added #22 - The Adolphus Hotel in Dallas.  Right before that was #21 - The Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs.  The coaster you see above is also from a hotel, making the streak 3 straight of hotel-related coasters.  This one is from the Arlo SoHo in NYC.  The Arlo is right directly across the street from our office, so it is super convenient, but man-o-man...the rooms are small.  I think they call them 'micro rooms', actually.  The coasters, however, are normal size.

Our Black Squirrel Survived The Winter

Now...I know that Winter isn't quite done here, but we're already close to the middle of February and my mind is clearly on Spring and planting things, so let's properly caveat this next statement:  Good news!  Our black squirrel survived this winter.

Black Squirrel?  Yeah.  Back in September, I posted some photographic evidence of a Black Squirrel living in our backyard and - at that time - feasting on the walnut and acorn smorgasbord that had fallen from our trees.  I noted at the time that they were rare (1 in 10K).

So, imagine my delight when I was peering at some of our feeders and noticed this guy above lurking on the ground right outside of our kitchen windows.  The Black Squirrel I squealed!?! 

And the best part?  He had a partner out there - a Grey Squirrel - that you can see in the photo below for color comparison/contrast.  At first, if you just looked at the photo above

Good to see that he's made it through much of the cold and snow.  I've been trying…

Bird Visitor Log: House Sparrow

Back a few weeks ago, I posted a photo of a Red-Bellied Woodpecker that had visited us on our suet feeder as the first documented bird since I was gifted the Field Guide to Birds of Illinois by Nat and the kids for Christmas.  When I posted that, I also created a new tag here on the blog [Bird Visitor Log].  That's now a *thing* here on the blog.  And this, becomes the second entry.

I snapped that photo above through the kitchen windows (and screens) of what I'm pretty sure is a House Sparrow perched on our feeder.  According to the Field Guide (which you can see below), this is the #1 bird to get to your feeders.  So, that fact coupled with the feathers/patterns/colors make think that we're checking the "House Sparrow" box.

From the entry in the book:  "When you put up a new bird feeder, there's a very good chance that the first bird to attend with be a House Sparrow."

Turns out, it was introduced to North America from Europe in the mid-1800's…

Firewood Consumption Check-in (February 2018)

Here's a little update on our firewood situation.  I'm posting this mostly for my own historical marker of what we consumed so far this winter, both for planning for next year and to document where we are in early February.  Back in early January, I posted a photo of our Face Cord (or Rick) of firewood that we had delivered and stacked in our screened porch.  Thanks to Google Photos, I made this little top/bottom comparison of the current situation (top) to where we started when the Face Cord was delivered.  
For full historical accuracy here on the blog, I suppose I should mention/link to the origins of this series.  There's one more before/after photo in my firewood series, but it is from November when I started to chop my own wood from logs that were left behind on our lot when we cut down some trees pre-build.  
But back to the current state in the top photo.  Based on my eye, we've used about half of our Face Cord?  Seem right to your eye?  Maybe a little more th…

Illinois Governor's Race Money Widget From ProPublica

Early this morning, the folks at ProPublica Illinoisreleased a widget that documents the fundraising and spending of the gubernatorial candidates in Illinois. shows most of the candidates - the ones who are *in* the race with a shot at winning their respective primary.  I'm embedding their widget below.  ( cute thing to mention here:  the url of the story is at: their domain/nerds/story.  Nice touch, right??)

There's obviously some interesting things going on here in the race (like JB Pritzker's burn rate?!?) thatsmarterandmore tuned in political people can provide context on, but the reason I'm posting this is that it reminds me of the old days.

The old days? back in the mid-aughts when there were plenty of local bloggers - and specifically local political bloggers - that hadtheirownlittlehomesteadson the Web.  That's when I fell in love with the Web and met so many people who shaped both my life and my career. 

Back i…

Winter Check-in On One of Our Chanticleer Pear Trees

Yesterday, I posted some photos of the buds on our front-yard Saucer Magnolia here on the blog and talked about how it appears to be quite happy and ready to put on a show once the weather warms up.  Today, I'm sharing a photo of a tree that tells a different story.  A, what I believe is going to turn out to be, a not-so-happy story.  That tree, above, is one of the Chanticleer Pear trees that we planted last year.  This one was planted before we moved in by the builder/landscaper.  It is just to the north of our driveway and right outside of our garage door. 

It is a big specimen - more than 3" caliper.  And it didn't do well last year.  At all.  Despite it being drenched pretty regularly - both from watering the grass but also by specific tree water-ers, it continued to turn brown and many of the leaves dropped prematurely.  I've posted about these flowering pear trees (Cleveland Pears, Chanticleer Pears, etc) over the years and had a few of them on our lot back in…

Winter Check-in On Our Saucer Magnolia

Last we checked in on our Saucer Magnolia in our front yard was back in September before it shed its leaves and went to bed for the winter.  I also talked about it potentially having sooty mold a few days later.   The first time I posted a photo of this particular tree was in August - about 45 days after we moved in - when it was growing and happy after being watered all summer.  I had decided to do some early in the growing cycle, preventive pruning to 'limb up' the tree and remove some suckers in order to allow the tree to put all of its energy into the main trunks. 

With some decent weather recently, I went out and looked at a few of our trees.  I'll post some other photos of the other trees in the coming days, but today, let's look at the Saucer Magnolia.  Officially, it was the 9th tree added to our 'arboretum', but it was actually in before some of the others.  I just didn't get around to posting about it because it is in the front yard.  It is one o…

Fly-Thru Feeder Added to #NewOldBackyard

Over the weekend, I came across this clear plastic round fly-thru platform feeder at where else?  Menards of course..  It comes with a wide, deep platform for seed and a broad, clear plastic dome cover that shelters the seeds and what-have-you from the weather.  I paired it with a Stokes Select Bird Feeder Pole and a Northstates two-way squirrel baffle.  The feeder was a discontinued item and had no packaging on it, so it was a screamin' deal.   It was the last one and marked way down, so I, of course, glommed on to it.

I've been thinking of adding a fly-thru feeder to our mix back there.  What's a fly-thru (or fly-through) bird feeder?  Well...they're exactly what you think:  a platform of some type with a roof over it.  That allows birds to fly through and land on the platform.  Instead of perching on the side/edge of a feeder, this one encourages a different behavior and (hopefully) different type of bird.

The advantages of a fly-thru feeder, according to BackyardB…

Chellino Scamorza Cheese @ Nature's Best Market in Westmont

Back in 2011, I posted about Chellino Scamorza Cheese on the blog and said - at the time - that it was the *BEST* cheese to shred and dress on your pizzas.  I mentioned that I had been using it for a few years and that it isn't cheap.  Today?  Still the best pizza cheese.  And, frankly the ONLY cheese that I'll use to dress my pies.  Over the years, I've mentioned this variety of Scamorza Cheese on the blog.  Here's a post about a pizza place that opened in Naperville that uses the stuff.   And then in 2012, I posted about a visit to this Italian Deli in Westmont called Amici Italian Deli.  (Kinda funny...but we live like 2 minutes away from this place now.  Too bad it closed!?!  I would have been all over it.)

This stuff from Chellino - out of Joliet - is different than most Scamorzas in that it isn't smoked and is much more like a part-skim mozzarella that you can take a box grater to the ball.  And it is a surprise when we find it in stores.  Since we moved to …

Another Live Oak At WDW - Epcot World Showcase

I don't know exactly what I was doing - maybe waiting for Nat or trying to find some shade.  Or both.  But, I found myself face-to-face with a tree that had this plaque right underneath it on the entrance side of the World Showcase at the Epcot Center on our most recent trip.  This is right behind the Refreshment Port and that little body of water you see in the background is the pond/lake/lagoon that is normally done up with the flower quilt during the Flower and Garden show.  
But, back to that tree.  And the plaque.  Here's a close-up of it:

It is a Quercus virginiana - a Live Oak.  The plaque at Epcot reads: Native to Southeast United States
This stately tree measures its lifetime in centuries.  A massive tree, the "Live Oak" can reach a height of 60 feet with 100-foot spread.  The wood is very strong and hard, making it one of the heaviest of North American trees.   Those of you paying attention know this isn't the first time I've posted about Live Oaks.�…

Gray's Root Beer - Southern Wisconsin Brewed

We wandered over to Kenosha one afternoon recently to make a stop at the Mars Cheese Castle and while we were out we, stopped at The Garage for a few burgers and root beers.

When we asked, "Do you have a good sarsaparilla?".  The didn't say "Sioux City Sarsaparilla".  But they said "Gray's". 

That's a good one.

So, we all enjoyed a few bottles of Grays and it was tasty.   I've never heard of the stuff, but a quick look around the Web, I discovered it is from Janesville, Wisconsin by a family that has been making beers, ales and root beers for more than 150 years.  And, according to this review on the Soda Jerks, it is a local Southern Wisconsin delicacy.
...The root beer recipe dates back 140 years and is made with pure cane sugar. It’s a nice grog, good creamy head, rich vanilla flavor and decent carbonation. It’s one of the better root beers I’ve tasted. It’s only available in southern Wisconsin as far as I know, so a road trip might b…

Walt Disney: "I can never stand still. I must explore and experiment."

This is one of the Walt Disney quotes that seems to resonate really strongly with me.  These are, of course, posted on construction walls around WDW.  And I've documented them over the past few years.  
The first one that I can find in the archives is this one that reads "Everyone needs deadlines" and was placed on the construction walls outside of the International Gateway.  I posted it in July of last year.   These are nice ways to dress up construction walls and in a cute way keep Walt's legacy alive.  
But this one about standing still... Between my wandering mind and my intense focus on different subjects at specific intervals in time, I really feel that this is something that hits home.  Now....I'm not talking about standing still in the sense of being 'out there'.  Nat will tell you...I'm a homebody.  But, in terms of not repeating the things we do everyday and learning more about different things.  Birding is a prime example.  A year ago, we …

Windows into My Shop/Laboratory?

That photo you see above is from the Polite Pig down at Disney Springs.  It is basically a window'd box that has inside a butcher's counter, supplies, and at least one big smoker where they smoke many of their fine meats.  And....let me tell you...they have very fine meats. I had the brisket sandwich that was served with pimento cheese spread and crispy onions.  
Anyway, the windows.  Yeah...they've put this window setup right in the queue where patrons line up to order their food.  It is kind of a show kitchen of sorts.  At the time we were there, there wasn't anyone working in there, but I can imagine a cast member/chef cutting up brisket or pulling pork or what-have-you in there.  
For a long time, I've been fascinated with these windows into workspaces.  You see them a lot in restaurants, but you also see them on cooking shows or science shows.  Where they have a 'lab' next to/adjacent to the stage that sort of serves as a visual cue that important …