Thursday, March 26, 2009

Truck Trunk Dividers

Trunk Truck Dividers ... that's kind of a tongue twister huh? Well, some visitors of this blog told me I should post a "how to" whenever I make stuff. Let's see how this turns out:

I've probably pointed this out 20 times, but my slick new truck has a trunk! A couple of weeks ago I noticed that there are 3 sets of grooves where you can put in dividers. When I checked online for the price of Honda OEM dividers I almost fainted- $45 plus shipping (WTF)! It was at that moment I decided to build some.

Let's start with the tools\supplies I used:

That's right, you see a jigsaw, router, sander, compound miter saw, and puppy dog. For the wood I chose 1/2 inch MDF because it's so easy to work with. I also need one can each of primer and paint. I actually already had all of this stuff, so I didn't have to spend a dime for once.

First came the initial cuts. Lucky for me I wasn't the first person to think of this and I was able to find dimensions online. Below you see my first divider cut to the proper dimensions. You can't tell in the pic below, but you are looking at a trapezoid shape.

Next I had to account for the fact that the trunk is rounded on the bottom. Instead of wasting time with math I just looked around the garage until I found something with the same radius.

After cutting with a jigsaw I sanded the edges smooth. If the edges remain even the slightest bit rough the next step would look like poo.

The next step was routing all of the edges with a 1/4 inch roundover, and it just so happens to involve one of my favorite tools- the router!

Look at that, smooth as a baby's butt:

Once I test fitted the divider I went ahead and built the other two. It would have been much quicker building all three at once, but I wasn't sure if I would have to tweak anything. I closed out the day by priming all three dividers. One bad thing about MDF is that it swells if it gets wet, and I'm pretty sure they'll get wet at some point (so I had to paint them). I'm also a perfectionist, so they had to match the trunk anyways. :)

The next day I pulled out a can of trunk/truck bed paint and went to town. This paint is more durable than regular paint and I already had some.

Look how purty:

In they go:

Add some assorted shit and you've got a reason for the couple of hours you just spent!

There you go, I got me some trunk dividers and my wife Courtney is $60 richer ... everybody wins! Man, that's a long picture-laden post, anyone still reading? By the way, if that wasn't enough pictures for you, the entire collection is here.

Landscaping Project Step One

We have a huge landscaping project that we will be working on throughout the summer that involves many different steps, stages, and phases.  The overall project is to complete landscaping around the deck and patio, build a water pond, redo the front landscaping and possibly put in new landscaping trim (this one might wait for another summer season).

The first step of the landscaping project was started last weekend.  I moved a majority of the plants in the front of the house to the back and planted them around the deck (8 plants total).  When our home builder created our front landscaping, they put in a lot of plants, but they put them in wherever they felt like it (smaller ones in the back, hidden by larger plants in the front) as well as some plants that I don't find to be all that exciting to look at (mound spirea anyone?).  So instead of wasting these plants, I moved them to the backyard where they will look great around the deck.

As you cannot tell in the picture (everything is still brown!) there are two barberry plants and four spirea (two different kinds), as well as a dwarf ornamental (maiden?) grass.

On this side of the octagon there is another dwarf ornamental grass, some sort of shrub that gets really big and leafy if you don't keep it trimmed and an evergreen ground cover.

So, the next step will probably be to dig the hole for the water pond.  We may decide to put a pergola up over the water feature so we will have to dig post holes for that too.

Oh, and here is a pic of the barren front landscaping.

I will be moving all the plants that are currently there right now into new locations (still in the front), except for the tree, which will be moved to the back near the water feature.  Does anyone have any opinions on an easy shrub that would look good (also slightly taller than) the holly bushes seen in the pic?  Maybe dogwood?  I had originally thought to use more burning bush (don't laugh) but I don't really like what they look like when they get really big.  Right now I have one that I am going to keep small (the plant right in the front) and I will probably put in a second, but they will go in front of the holly bushes.  Anyways, any opinions would be great.  I probably won't plant anything for another couple of weeks.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

My Truck is Yummy

Consumer Reports just released their annual automotive issue. They rated Honda as the most reliable car manufacturer, and the Ridgeline as the highest rated mid-size truck (yes, even better than Toyota). They also gave the Ridgeline the highest possible rating for reliability (excellent).

Sorry, just had to gloat for a moment!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

DIY Chaise Lounge Table

Anderson Household Updates

We've been up to some exciting things this past week and are getting ready for some exciting things to come!

First, we are planning for a couple of trips this year. As you already know, we are going to Talladega again, but as of Monday, we are going to take a trip to New York at the beginning of June to see my brother and.... Nine Inch Nails! We are going to be seeing them from the third row at Starlight in May, but Brian also scored us two eighth row tickets to see them at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey (about an hour from Manhattan).

We are going to rent a car for a day and do a little sight seeing in NJ and elsewhere and then end up at the concert. I think it's going to be a blast. Neither of us have seen any of NJ, so it should be fun, as well as the whole driving downtown in NYC.

Secondly, Brian celebrated another birthday this past week. I made him a dinner last Friday of shrimp, tenderloin fillets with roasted red pepper and black olive sauce, roasted asparagus and twice baked potatoes. All excellent. And remember this cheesecake I tried to make? Well, it was a success! Sort of.

It really tasted amazing, but I don't think I will make it again. I don't think the recipe is written well for somebody who doesn't really know how to make a cheesecake (I think you need to use bigger than a 9" springform pan, and you cannot take the ring off the pan after 10 minutes, but more like after 10 hours, and the chocolate for the topping becomes rock hard, which makes the cake impossible to cut after the fact, so presentation ends up being a pile of mush). But anyways, it tasted awesome, and still does!

The birthday celebration continued with a good dinner at Lidia's (and I say good, because it wasn't excellent for many reasons that I don't feel like going into, but overall I wouldn't recommend this restaurant for what you have to pay) with Brian's mom, sister and niece. They also brought him awesome presents- this camping chair from Cabela's, a bluetooth headset to wear in the car, and a fancy bottle of Cabernet.

And last but not least, our household projects have made some progress. I spent many, many hours prepping, taping, and painting the the rest of the walls on our main floor.

Before (ugly peach/tan walls):

After (warm, brown/grey/green inviting walls):

This is going to allow us to trim out the doorways and put up crown molding in the next month or two. And to help us bring home the crown molding, Brian bought an attachment for his truck so we can haul 16 foot boards (it was this or a trailer, I picked the cheaper option).

Brian stayed busy in the garage putting up more shelves and rearranging in the never ending fight to make a two car garage feel like a three car garage.

Brian also built us a side table to use when we are on the deck relaxing in our lounge chairs. It works perfectly!

And we haven't left Monkey out of all the fun. He had a blast playing with Brian's mom in the backyard.

He's also been learning a new trick- "bow". It's a tough one, so he's defiant and only does it when he really feels like it or when there's really good treats around. And on Sunday he got to go to the Shawnee Mission dog park and play with the millions of other dogs that were there. His favorite thing is to swim in the water and try to steal balls from other dogs after they have fetched them for their owner. Next time we need to bring our own ball so he is not ruining other dogs' fun.

I guess that's it for now. We will keep you updated on the progress of our current home projects as well as future projects. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The B.A. Economic Indicator

Since everyone is talking about the economy, and how to figure out how screwed we are, I would like to share my personal financial bellwether, something I call:

The B.A. Economic Indicator

Simply put, The B.A. Economic Indicator is an attempt to simplify economic trend data, and models, so that everyone can understand them. The data itself used to arrive at The B.A. Economic Indicator is the quantity, or consumption, of beer I drink in different colored bottles. Now everyone know that my favorite beer is Heineken. Everyone also knows that only during extreme times of hardship would I consider drinking cheap American beer that comes in brown bottles.

So where am I going with this? Well, I recently noticed that my recycling bucket that holds brown beer bottles is overflowing. I also noticed that my "green glass" recycling bucket is barely a third full. During the robust fiscal economy that we all experienced one year ago I routinely remember the exact opposite- ugly brown bottles barely noticeable next to my bountiful pile of beautiful green glass.

Mathematically speaking, I have gone from a green/brown glass ratio of 2.0 (during the boom times of 2008) to an all-time low of 0.33. Ladies and gentlemen, that is an economic slide of either 83.5% or %506 (sorry, I have a buzz). I think we can all agree that we are experiencing some serious economic hardships. Additionally, I haven't even bothered to factor in that most of those brown bottles during the boom times were my friends coming to visit. Nowadays nobody can afford to drive to the Northland. This skews us even more into trend data that suggest we are totally fucked.

I only see two ways to reverse this economic slide:

  1. Heineken Sponsorship: If Heineken were to sponsor me, with payments amounting in large quantities of beer, The B.A. Economic Indicator would take a dramatic turn for the better. This would of course benefit all of mankind.

  2. Heineken Welfare: If my friends were to bring me 12 packs of Heineken bottles (a couple times every few weeks- each friend) I think we could crawl out of this economic nightmare over the next few months. The economic ascent would not be as dramatic as a Heineken Sponsorship, but I think we would all feel like we contributed more. Some things, such as self worth*, may be more valuable than a Heineken Sponsorship .
    *OK, not really, but I don't hold much hope for a Heineken Sponsorship.

My fellow Americans, I think it's time we all chipped in. Who on Earth would have purchased mortgage-backed securities if they would have known it would turn to this:

So ugly.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Food Cost Analysis

Over the weekend we made a lot of different types of meals, none of which I took any pictures of, so I decided to do something a little different with the food we ate.  Lately all you hear about is how bad the economy is, so I decided to see if my cooking is cheaper, equal to, or more expensive then going out to eat at McDonald's (or Subway, or Taco Bell, etc.).

In this analysis I broke down each meal we ate, as well as our salad (we eat one with pretty much every meal) and our milk (people scoff at the price of organic milk, but if I could afford to buy all organic, I would in a heartbeat), by ingredients, the cost of each ingredient, and then the total cost per serving.  I have done a lot of rounding to make the numbers easier to calculate, but I always rounded up (possibly making the food more expensive, but not by much).  Also, I almost exclusively buy Walmart brand food, so if the prices of certain things seem low it may be because you are comparing it to the outrages prices of Hy-Vee (which is my other grocery store option).

I will start with the cost of our milk.  We buy one gallon of Horizon Organic Skim Milk per week.  Each gallon is $6.00 after tax.  So that breaks down to $0.86 per day, and there are 2 meals we drink milk at per day, so that is $0.43 per meal.  So at dinner, we can each have a glass of milk for $0.21.
MILK=$0.21 per serving

Now I will figure out how much our side salad costs.  I used to buy the pre-bagged salad, but I have just recently started buying heads of lettuce and making my own.  It is MUCH cheaper this way.  I have totaled the cost of the salad for as much as one head of iceberg and one head of romaine would make (which is about 16 side salads, 2 weeks worth).
Iceberg lettuce= $1.50, Romaine lettuce= $1.50, tomatoes= $3.00, cucumbers= $2.00, croutons= $1.50, bacos= $2.00, almonds= $2.00, cheese= $2.00, onions= $0.50, dressing= $2.50.  Total= $18.50

SALAD= $1.16 per serving

Friday night meal: Stuffed Chicken Shells (makes 4 very large servings)
Large Pasta Shells (half box)= $1.00, 3 large chicken breasts= $3.00, 8 oz. mozzarella cheese= $2.50, 2 cans Cream of Chicken soup= $1.50, one box of stuffing= $2.00, half pint of sour cream= $1.00, spices= $0.50.  Total= $11.50.
STUFFED CHICKEN SHELLS= $2.89 per serving

Saturday night meal- FREE! Much thanks to Chris and Heather for making us really yummy cream cheese and chicken enchiladas!

Sunday night meal: Homemade Basil Pesto Pizza (makes 4 servings)
Pre-made pizza crust= $2.00, half pound Italian sausage= $1.50, half bag of pre-cut pepperoni= $1.25, small can of sliced black olives= $0.75, green pepper= $0.75, banana peppers= $0.50, red onions= $0.50, pesto= $3.00, 8 oz. mozzarella cheese= $2.50.  Total= $12.75
BASIL PESTO PIZZA= $3.19 per serving

Monday night meal: Spinach and Feta Stuffed Pork Tenderloin, Roasted Red Potatoes, and Green Beans with Bacon and Onions (makes 4 servings)
Hormel Always Tender Pork Tenderloin= $7.50, 6 oz. feta cheese= $2.50, one package frozen, chopped spinach= $1.00, gravy packet= $1.00, 1.5 pounds red potatoes= $1.50, spices for potatoes= $1.00, half pound green beans= $2.00, 3 slices bacon= $0.75, whole yellow onion= $0.75.  Total= $18.00.
Stuffed Pork, Potatoes and Green Beans= $4.50 per serving

So it looks like eating at home is cheaper than eating at McDonald's or Subway (if you're trying to be all healthy).  All three types of meals ended up being around $5.00 per serving (if you added in salad and milk), which is pretty cheap in my opinion.  I know I didn't add in the wine I drank while cooking, the water I used to wash the dishes, and the electricity I used to cook with, but it still seems to be a significant savings.  I had never really thought about any of this until recently when the possibilty of losing your job is more real than ever.