Crawfish Table Number Deux.

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Domestica,Family,House,Pictures,Reflection | Sunday 22 April 2012 10:11 pm

In 1994 my brothers an I designed and built a crawfish table (well… adapted a picnic table design, to be honest) — a table made for the intent of standing at and eating crawfish.  Once a pot of bugs was done boiling, it was hoisted up and dumped out onto the table, an inner and outer rail keeping them corralled onto the table-top. Folks bellied up to the table and ate their fill without the need to grab a pile and go find somewhere else to settle in.  While eating, the shells were pitched through a hole in the center directly into a garbage can, rather than making a pile of them to be dealt with later.

Like all of the outdoor furniture we built, it was a heavy, solid, sturdy, beastly monstrosity — anything worth building, was worth overbuilding. Made from pressure treated 2x lumber, it would withstand the elements and insects. It was coated with more than five layers of outdoor polyurethane to help protect it from the crawfish, and us from the chemicals used to treat the wood. Our little furniture “company” was known as Hurricane Furniture (prophetic, I know!), on the premise that come a hurricane or tornado, you should abandon your home and seatbelt yourself into our outdoor furniture — you’d be safer (“tornadoes just bounce right off of our shit”).  It was branded with our signature logo — literally branded — burnt right into the wood.

This table saw eleven years of life in the sun, rain, heat, humidity and cold. Eleven crawfish seasons this table was put to use, occasionally hauled from house to house as needed. It stood the test of time. It was damn near indestructible.

Damn near.

It didn’t give up without a fight.  Oh no. When I evacuated for Katrina, I put it in front of my garage door to ensure the wind wouldn’t blow it open. It was a silent sentinel, a guardian of my tools. The storm hit and I was the lucky recipient of 9′ of water on my street. That foul, acidic water didn’t recede for more than a week, and the table was beneath it the whole time. Upon my return I found it, just about where I left it in front of my garage door and still holding it closed, only it had tipped over onto it’s side and turned 90 degrees. It was still intact, but the table-top had warped and twisted and it was fouled with dirt, the borderline bulletproof polyurethane coating eroding away from the wood. Sadly, the table was ruined beyond future use.

After the storm I moved to Austin, carting my meager surviving possessions with me. Among them was my crawfish boiling pot and burner… they were in the garage attic, and had survived high and dry. I vowed to return to my duties as boil-master some day, but unfortunately that was hard to do in an apartment.

It took a few years, but eventually I got back into the groove — there are live crawfish to be had in Austin, the best ones being trucked in from Lake Charles for pickup on Saturdays during the season. I host a boil a year now, and generally act as boil-master for at least one other hosted by friends, sometimes two. I missed it, dearly. It’s a lot of work, but it’s in my very bones. It calls to me. It reminds me of home, family, and good times. It allows me to make more good times, and carry on healing bits and pieces of my soul.

But, there has been a big, overbuilt table-shaped hole these last seven years. The absence of the crawfish table has not gone unnoticed, or unlamented. I’ve had a yard of my own for it to live in for many years, but hadn’t had the opportunity to build a new table.

Until now.

I knuckled down, and made a new one this year. It took a little digging to find the original designs I had, and some CSI-like action — oh yes, I was a clever motherfucker, for the original designs were done in CorelDraw v3, and nothing opens those any more, not even CorelDraw. Using a hex editor I was able to extract the shopping list and some basic notes I had jotted down. I was also able to see the postage-stamp sized preview to determine that I used five boards for the table-top, giving me the overall dimensions — 3’x5”.

I redesigned the table digitally (in a format that is more universal and likely to stand the test of time). I kept the same basic design and expanded the table-top to 4’x6′. I tweaked the height a bit. I also changed the way the inside rail fastens to the table — from pegs in holes, to a routed recessed area. I’ve also added a removable second tier table made of PVC that can be used to put drinks, paper towels, etc, replacing the paper towel rods drilled into the outside rail, and the car-window drink holders as well.

All the while I was cutting and assembling the lumber, my brain kept whiplashing back to 1994, and building the original table with my brothers. It made me smile for the connection to the past and to my family, and a little melancholy to think of the distance between us now, both physical and emotional — one more thing to thank Katrina for. All the while I was sitting underneath the giant wooden hulk, brushing on polyurethane, I was reminded of how much I despised getting that lovely crick in my neck the last time, and how much — after five days — I was getting damned tired of the smell of it.

But most of all, through all of the table construction, the thoughts looming largest in my mind were: I hope I do this justice, I hope this lives up to what we had created before… I hope I do my brothers proud.

They taught me well, those knuckleheads did. We didn’t always get along, and we never quite knew how to show healthy affection for one another other than through incessant teasing and verbal sparring, but they knew how to create, and they passed that on to me. When there was sawdust in the air, all was right with the world.

Here are the fruits of my labors, and I can’t wait to put it to the test in a few weeks time. I was even sent our brand so that I could properly mark anything I build, proclaiming it properly built in the finest tradition of Hurricane Furniture.

And here are three of the jackasses that helped make me the jackass that I am today. Love you all.

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Next Step.

Posted by DmentD | Domestica,House,Rambling,Stress | Monday 26 September 2011 4:48 pm

The bookshelves are done, now we progress to the next stage in the living room and hallway… ceilings and walls.  I’ve already started doing patchwork — proper patchwork, not the stupid crap that folks pass off as patchwork, like, say, two layers of masking tape over a hole in the wall that was then painted over.

Fuckers.

The old molding is already gone from around the doors and baseboards.  I’ve tested a spot on the ceiling that needed some TLC to ensure that we can simply wet the old popcorn texture down and scrape it right off (this worked surprisingly well!).  Tomorrow we start laying down sheeting on the floors and taping it along the walls at the ceiling line, so that we can start scraping the texture off in earnest.  Then we can re-texture the ceiling with something more pleasant and subtle (a knockdown texture, also known as a “California Ceiling”… it’s pretty much what’s on the walls already).

Then we paint.  Ceilings and walls, two coats each.  Anything will be better than the “beige available in 55 gallon drums” that’s on the walls now.

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Yet Even More Shelf Progress.

Posted by DmentD | Domestica,House,Pictures,Rambling | Tuesday 20 September 2011 11:25 pm

We’ve completed four of the six shelves — routing, sanding, staining, sealing and all — the last two should get wrapped up this week.  The completed four are stowed in the dining room until we can do all the rest of the work in the living room… which starts next week.  “And miles to go before I sleep…”

Here’s a pic to document the progress so far.  While not easily seen here, the stain brings out a gorgeous pattern in the birch, very reminiscent of ripples in water.  The maple trim on the front edges is ever so slightly lighter in shade than the birch, and I think it makes a nice accent.

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Bookshelves Progress Report.

Posted by DmentD | Domestica,House,Pictures | Friday 9 September 2011 1:24 pm

As previously mentioned, we’ve been working on bookshelves for our living room lately.  We’re building six 8′ tall, 9″ deep shelves that will take up about three quarters of one wall in that room.

The shelves are made from birch veneered ¾” plywood for strength and affordability, and the facing edges are being trimmed with ¼” clear maple.  I started with five sheets of 4′ x 8′ plywood and ripped it down to 9″ x 8′ strips, then cut those into the respective shelves and sides.  The trim started as 19 pieces of ¼” x ¾” x 10′ maple which was cut into appropriate lengths for the shelves and sides.

We’ve been assembling them one at a time in the evenings during the week, and stacking them in the dining room until we move onto the next phase: trimming/staining/sealing.  Basically, the trim needs to be routed flush with the sides and shelves as it’s a fraction of an inch wider than the plywood (useful for making aesthetic adjustments as you install it), and the nail holes need to be filled with wood putty and sanded.  The screw holes in the side have had birch plugs glued in to hide the screws, and those plugs need to be cut flush and sanded as well.

So basically, we’ve been slowly turning this…

… into this:

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A Few Updates.

Posted by DmentD | Domestica,House,Links,Pictures,Rambling | Friday 2 September 2011 12:07 am

A few things worthy of note to report ’round these parts:

The Bakers Bill, not quite in it’s original form, was passed thanks to an 11th hour Hail Mary from some dedicated folks in the Texas Legislature.  After it died in the House, they snuck that bugger in as an amendment to a Senate bill, which was then approved by both the House and the Senate.

There were some serious shenanigans, though, on the part of the Harris County Department of Health who said that they would have their friends in the Senate beat the bill down like a dog that crapped on the carpet if the Cottage Foods portion of the bill didn’t omit four little words: “and at farmer’s markets”.  Those four little words, while not completely diminishing the effectiveness of the bill, did put a serious damper on where Cottage Food can be sold… namely only from the home of the maker.  Having said all that, the bill did pass, and it’s a huge foot in the door.  The same folks who fought so hard to get this bill passed, are going to use that foot in the door to kick it open a little wider in two years.  They are going to expand the language of the law, and whittle away at the limitations.  Expect me to start making noise about it when the time comes.

So, now having the legal right to operate above board and in the open, Curious Confections is now Curious Confections LLC, complete with an EIN number, and soon to be tax ID.  We can open a commercial bank account and accept payment made to the company name.  We’ll be able to buy materials wholesale — that’s just dangerous right there.  *grins* We can advertise online, list prices, and get our name out there without fear.

Beyond the bill and Curious Confections (LLC), we’ve been having a ball with the pup.  Esme’s growing up to be a very sweet, if not energetic, bundle of fuzz.  She’s edged a little over 40 pounds, and at 8 months old, she’s likely not far from her final size.  She’s lean and long legged, and runs like a bat out of hell when she gets a wild hair up her ass… them promptly passes out on the kitchen floor under the fan for 5 minutes to recharge her batteries.  If we sit still long enough, she flops onto our feet and catches some Z’s (she’s using my feet as a pillow as I write this)  — this dog loves her some contact with her people.  Since I’m a horrible dog papa, I don’t take nearly as many pictures as Sweets does, so I’ll direct you to her gallery of pics of the pup for some cockle warming adorableness.  I will, however, just leave this lying here:

Cute as can be.

In other news, after 6 years I’m starting to feel like I’m getting some of my creative spark back.  I’m not to pre-storm levels, but my drive to get off my ass and make shit is definitely in gear.  I’ve replaced a bunch of the power tools I lost in the storm, and I’m currently making six bookshelves for the living room.  Of course, I don’t want to put them in until I paint the living room.  Of course, I don’t want to paint the walls until I scrape all the obnoxious popcorn texture off the ceiling, patch a few cracks, re-texture with something pleasant, and paint that.  Of course, once all that’s done, I’d love to replace all the painted baseboard and door molding with new, natural wood molding… oh, and add crown molding while I’m at it.  Yeah, “Sir Stuff” is definitely making a comeback, and he’s not fucking around, is he?

More than just woodworking is on my plate.  I’m dabbling in watercolors again, making art for my mead and wine labels, and I’m working on some charcoal rubbings as well.  I’m also starting to make mats and frames for the mountain of prints/posters/art I’ve collected these last six years (ok, that’s some woodworking too).

I’m not the only one with a creative drive in this household, either.  Sweets has been a crafting whirlwind, trying things she’s not had a chance to, or hasn’t done in a long time.  I’m also teaching her how to do some basic woodworking as well, and getting her familiar and comfortable with the tools.  I expect to find her out there building shit on her own before long, and that’s just dandy.

Aaaand, I’m done.  Save some stuff for other posts, or it’ll be months before I post again.

Y’all stay sane.

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Wine Bottle Lamps.

Posted by DmentD | Domestica,House,Links,Pictures | Saturday 20 November 2010 5:26 pm

I frequently run across things while surfing on the web, and say to myself “Self, wouldn’t it be cool to make that?” and that’s about where it ends.  Don’t get me wrong… I like making things, often in spite of the time and money involved versus just going out and buying something similar — it’s the ‘figuring’, you see… I like to know how something works, and what better way than to make it yourself, and even see if you can improve on a design someone else has come up with.

Recently, a project did catch my eye — something that struck chord in my brain upon first sight.  I stumbled upon THIS page on how to build an oil lamp from an empty wine bottle.  I thought it was elegant, and would work fantastically well to replace the old (and leaky in one case) tiki-style torches I have on the patio, and wouldn’t cost too terribly much to do.  Here’s the basics of what you’ll need (the image and list are blatantly “borrowed” from the original project site):

  1. 1) Empty Wine Bottle (You can use any bottle you like as long as it’s glass and the neck is 1” in diameter. Be clever!)
  2. 2) Teflon Tape ½”
  3. 3) Copper Top Plate Connector (threaded for ⅜”-16 thread rod)
  4. 4) 1” Split Ring Hanger (threaded for ⅜”-16 thread rod)
  5. 5) ½” x ⅜” Copper Coupling
  6. 6) ½” Copper Cap
  7. 7) Two Hex Nuts (threaded for ⅜”-16 thread rod)
  8. 8 ) Two #10 x 1” Zinc Plated Wood Screws (if your mounting it to wood)
  9. 9) ⅜”-16 Zinc Plated Threaded Rod (I bought a 3’ rod and cut it down to 8, 4½” rods with a hacksaw.)
  10. 10) Tiki Replacement Wick
  11. 11) Torch Fuel (For safety reasons, only use fuel made specifically for outdoor torches. i.e. Tiki brand)

Starting with that page and its core concept, I started gathering my materials.  I liked the look of the blue bottle, especially against the copper.  I gathered up some bottles from the homebrew store that suited my needs, and a stop at Lowes and Home Depot netted me most of the rest of the hardware.  No matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t find anyone local who had the tiki-torch wicks (this late in the season, with autumn upon us already), or the copper flanges in stock.  I turned to my trusty pal, Amazon.com, and ordered what I needed.  The flanges, while being copper colored, are just powder-coated cast metal, and not even copper plated.  If you look at the pieces on the picture above, you’ll notice they are too… but! my split ring hangers are copper plated, and will age nicely with the rest of the holders (except the flange… oh well).

I made a few improvements to the overall design.  First, rather than leave a plain ol’ threaded (non copper colored!) rod out in plain sight I sleeved it with a length of ½” copper pipe that tied the whole design together.  The hex huts actually make a nice accent color amongst all the copper and cover the open ends of the copper pipe perfectly.  Second, I soldered a length of copper chain to the cap so it won’t get lost, and put a copper clasp on the other end to easily fasten it around the neck of the bottle.  Lastly, I drilled through the ½” x ⅜” copper coupling and put a 2″ copper pin through it and the wick to keep the wick from slipping down into the bottle accidentally — I found that the wicks were just a hair narrower than they needed to be to actually stay put in the coupler by themselves.

That addressed the lamps I wanted to mount to the house around the perimeter of the patio, but I still wanted one out on the corner by the yard.  With nothing to mount it to, I set out to build a stand.  Keeping with the copper theme, I used ⅜” copper tubing to build the holder cage, flattening the tube in a vice to make the flat pieces where needed, and ½” copper pipe and fittings to make the stake from.  I even built in a cross-piece at the bottom so I could use my foot the help sink the stake into the ground.

Filled with a Citronella lamp fuel (which is yellow, and is what is making the blue bottles look a little green) they make a nice attractive addition to the patio, and will help fend off flying critters as well.

Also, as a bonus, the same concept can be applied to making attractive wall hanging flower vases.  Check out the how-to HERE.

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This Was Halloween… Halloween, Halloween!

Posted by DmentD | Cakes,Domestica,Friends,House,Links,Party,Pictures | Monday 9 November 2009 4:02 pm

Halloween 2009 has arrived, then expired. The decorations are once more banished to the attic, and the house has been cleaned — again! — from top to bottom… and oh, what a relief to have the house back in order again!

This year marked the return of the annual Halloween party to my home — the first time since the move to Austin — and I’m thrilled to have been able to host it again. Sweets finds it amusing that we have more containers of Halloween decorations in the attic than we do all the other holidays combined. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that, maybe, only a quarter of those containers has stuff that can be put out for generally decorating for the Halloween season.  All the rest is geared toward hosting a kick-ass party. And we added to it this year.

Every space is different, and the house in Austin is no exception. Different lighting needs, different party layout, different decorating styles. We made an investment in some new lighting options for the yard and house, and making the foray into colored CFL bulbs that will last us for years to come (in addition to just having better color output that tinted incandescent bulbs). CFL bulbs also come in true UV blacklight format too, so we can now “light” smaller spaces with individual bulbs rather than big fixtures. I also had need to start replenishing my inventory of heavy-duty extension cords, as they all went glub-glub in NOLA. I believe we created some interesting lighting atmospheres in and around the house.

We resurrected some old party traditions: the bar was a “blacklight” room, and I built a themed entryway for the guests to come through, as well as having heir pictures taken in front of (having your picture taken when you first arrive is your “price of admission”, and also guarantees that we have at least one picture of everyone that is taken while they are “fresh” and in costume).

We laid out a good spread of food, and Sweets went all out on sweet treats and the cake, which was fashioned after the skulls of El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). It was a delicious butter cake with black raspberry filling.

We had a houseful of costumed revelers, with very few uncostumed (shame-filled) miscreants — whom we love very much, but obviously are numskulls for not bothering to put any effort out, even though they were invited to a party being held for the express purpose of being a goofball in a costume, and their gracious hosts went though a hell of a lot of effort to decorate the house, and to feed and water them lavishly. And no, carrying a plastic bat does not constitute a costume, you slacker (yesI’mlookingatyouGonzoyoubastard *grins*).

Ahem.

What else can be said… it was a party, and parties are what they are. Food, drink, good company, fun.

To see the rest of the pictures, I direct you over the the Halloween 2009 gallery. If you like, you can read Sweets’ telling of the Halloween tale.

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Backyard Wildlife.

Posted by DmentD | Domestica,House,Rambling | Monday 19 October 2009 2:09 pm

I’ve had a few brushes with living nature the last week or so.  Nothing as severe as baboons flinging poop at me from the roof-line or anything… think a little more suburban.

Was talking on the phone and wandering around the house as I did so, out of a lack of anything better to do with myself, and stopped to peek out of my back patio door… to see a possum (an “opossum”, to be accurate) the size of a pug doing a slow balancing act as he walked along the top of the wooden fence between my yard and my neighbors.  This was a big boy!  This also explains why I occasionally find little dug-out spots in the yard and in the garden — no growing plants were harmed, but they were a little dug out around the roots — as something was foraging for insects and worms.

I stood and watched, entranced, as he climbed down a tree trunk and into the yard.  The spell was broken however when he started nosing around our newly acquired baby banana-tree plant, which was still in it’s original nursery pot and not very stable or able to be dug in without possible damage.  The second I opened the door, he quickly scurried off.

Last week, we watched a hawk hunt the doves that live in the trees in our back yard, scissoring through the branches and causing a huge ruckus among its prey.  More power to him, as the doves are obnoxious pains in the ass, and dumber than a sack of hammers.

I also had the startling pleasure a few months back, while exiting the parking garage where I work, of rounding a corner in time to watch a hawk take off from the concrete in front of me with a pigeon in its talons… again, I wish him much future success as the pigeons that live in the parking garage do nothing but scratch up the roofs of cars with their claws, and leave a pleasant layer of shit over everything.  Between the hawk and the cat, I can only hope the population dwindles rapidly.

Yeah, I know, I’m practically Doctor Dolittle.

Not the retarded Eddie Murphy version, though.

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Growth.

Posted by DmentD | Aggravation,Domestica,House,Rambling | Wednesday 7 October 2009 12:01 am

Well, to keep up the blogging streak I seem to have stumbled into, I’m going to continue to talk about gardening.

For just a bit.

Our seedlings are doing well, with one exception… the onions.  We’re on our third try of germinating seeds and starting seedlings as a result of very few seedlings surviving from the first two batches.  They germinate perfectly, lovely little green shoots pop up, and a few weeks later they sort of rot away.  At first I thought it was a result of too much water, but honestly once the seeds germinate and I get shoots, I mist them daily and give them a light dose of water (in the well drained seedling bags we make) a few times a week.  The other seedling varieties are thriving where these are dying.

After a little homework, I think I have the solution.  Light.  Lacking a greenhouse, we have to raise all our seedlings inside, and the best place is near the west-facing windows of our dining room where we get the most light during the day.  It’s not as much light as I’d like, but we’ve had decent success there.  Doing some poking around online, it seems a lot of folks who start onions from seed use grow lights to get them to the point where they can be transplanted outside… depending on the “season” your onions are (long or short), it can be up to 12 – 14 hours a day.  We don’t get anywhere near that much light, and with the glorious rain we’ve been having the sky is more often than not overcast these days.  I think the poor little guys are just dying off from light starvation.

So, I’ll be setting up an inexpensive grow-light system in the next few days that will hopefully let me generate strong onion seedlings, and will more than likely give a good healthy boost to the tomato, broccoli and Brussels sprouts seedlings.  Stick it on a timer, and there’ll be nothing to monitor except growth.

There, that wasn’t so bad, now was it?

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Yet Another Gardening Update.

Posted by DmentD | Domestica,House,Links,Pictures,Rambling | Thursday 1 October 2009 11:22 am

So, yeah, apparently I can’t stop talking about my garden.  Suck it up, this is my blog and I’ll talk about my dry elbow skin if I feel the desire to.

I’ve been moisturizing… so there.

Anyway, I had the presence of mind to bring out the camera this morning while the pumpkin blossoms were still open and looking beautiful.  They are the most shocking shade of yellow-gold contrasting against the greens and browns of the surrounding yard, and they are HUGE.

Pumpkin Blossom

Pumpkin BlossomPumpkin BlossomPumpkin BlossomPumpkin BlossomsPumpkin Vines

Also, our seedlings are doing very well.  The broccoli and Brussels sprouts are growing like weeds.  Meanwhile the tomatoes are filling out nicely and growing more true leaves.  Another few weeks, and they’ll be ready to plant outside.

Tomato Seedlings

Tomato SeedlingsBrussels Sprouts SeedlingsBroccoli Seedlings

My constant, obnoxious companion while I work in the yard is the neighbor’s dog — a pitbull mix — named “Noisy Bitch” (ok, more like I named her that, but it has stuck).  From the moment she hears me open the patio door she starts barking incessantly.  I’ve tried making friends with her, to no avail.  She will stop barking as long as I bribe her with homemade treats — which she will happily and gently take from me through the fence — only to have her start yapping again shortly thereafter.

She has had some training as I can, most of the time, get her to sit on command in exchange for treats.  When she does sit, or otherwise obey a command, it’s like I’m using some sort of mind control to forcibly make her obey… the look on her face speaks volumes, as if to say “I’m sitting, but I’m doing so against my will, and I’m getting no pleasure from this humiliation at all… now give me the goddamn treat.”

I have on occasion used negative reinforcement on her when she barks or lunges, such as a quick shot of water from a spray bottle while I said “no” in a stern alpha voice.  Oh, she REALLY doesn’t like that, but she backs off and barks, growls, snarls and looks for all the world like she’s gonna jump the fence and go for my throat.  It got to the point where all I needed to do was show her the bottle and she’d back away noisily.  Now, I’ve abandoned the bottle, and when she won’t obey a command or barks viciously at me, I toss the treats earmarked for her over to Killer (again, our nickname for her), the other neighbor dog that went from barking at us from a distance, to practically hopping the fence to have us pet her.

I don’t think I’ll ever gain her confidence and make peace, but we’ll see.  For now, here’s a picture of that loving, gentle creature known as Noisy Bitch.

Noisy BitchNoisy Bitch

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