cleaning, cooking, and welding

Warning – This post is a rambler:

This past weekend was free from social engagements. I thought about getting out and riding a little, but Saturday was nasty, so no dice. The wife and I went about cleaning up around the place and having one of our first ‘cooking weekends’ of the cool season.

Part 1 – Cleaning.
First thing we tackled was getting rid of some of the old stuff. We loaded up the trunk and went to The Book Thing of Baltimore and the Baltimore Free Store which are kind of like Goodwill. The big difference is both are totally volunteer, they give everything away to those who need it, and nearly anything they take gets reused (and they’ll take nearly anything). This is different from Goodwill where they toss most of the stuff they can’t sell. I was going to go over to Velocipede and drop off the specialized frame and bike stuff I sorted out a few weeks back, but got sidetracked. I also made a pile of all the old computer/electronics stuff that I need to get rid of so I can get dispose of it at JHU’s recycling center as soon as possible. After all the stuff was out, I swept and organized in the basement. Cleaning out like this can be so depressing. When I carry off huge piles of junk that I remember not too recently paying hundreds if not thousands of dollars for, it really makes me think. The biggest such thorn in my side which I have not dealt with yet is a weight bench I got back in 2005. Real nice, and I’ve used it a bit, so compared to the gym memberships I’ve had in the past it wasn’t a bad deal, but I must have been sipping crazy juice when I decided to buy it because…

  1. Even though it folds up, we have nowhere near enough space for it.
  2. At my weight, I could accomplish the exact same thing doing some pushups and crunches.

Until I can find a buyer for it, I found a more compact place to store it. Over the last few years we’ve really confronted the issue head-on of ‘STUFF’. While we still have our vices, regular shopping trips just about anywhere are a cavalcade of introspection into our real ‘needs’ and ‘wants’—almost too much so. I’m sure at this point our frugality will carry through wherever life takes us now. At a minimum we have it controlled to the point where we don’t have unrecognizable boxes of stuff piled behind the boxes of things we’re storing for a rainy day behind the boxes of stuff we actually use.

I’m torn between wanting a larger place with a garage to work on things in and the benefits of our current home—financial stability, sanity, residence near our work, low maintenance effort, and the forced simplicity of limiting our possessions to what we can fit in our tiny cave. For the most part, our current living arrangement fulfills 95% of our needs. Every now and then the itch to move sets in. This usually manifests itself at the most inopportune times, like when…

  1. I go for a month without doing some simple task like replacing one of the headlight bulbs in the wife’s car because I find out that I can’t reach the bulb without removing the battery, and who wants to go outside 40 minutes before dusk on a Tuesday afternoon (or anytime on a rainy fall Saturday) with a toolbox on the curb and fix that. Don’t even get me started on how often I don’t wash and wax the cars.
  2. I think about the garden we could have if we had a backyard that was not covered with a concrete pad.
  3. We think about entertaining more than 6 of our friends.
  4. We think about kids.

Eventually we will give in to the dark side of a larger place, but for now we’re staying where we are until house prices finish descending from the clouds, or our wages ascend there (ha).

Part 2 – Cooking.
One of the nicest things about cool weather is ‘heating the house’ for 2 days straight with cooking for the week and beyond. I don’t do canning yet (see rants up the page for hints as to why we haven’t bought the necessary supplies), but we do a lot of storing things we make in the freezer. Over the course of the weekend we made quite a few simple dishes –

  1. wife – Cooked our first Butternut Squash soup of the season. This is one of our favorite fall-late winter recipes.
  2. wife – Bread crumbs made while the oven was still warm from leftover bread and roll scraps.
  3. me – Spicy Turkey chili. not an award winning recipe or anything, just whatever I had on hand.
  4. me – roasted and brewed espresso. My ‘weekend batch’ I roasted on Thursday was spot on, and I drank the best coffee on Saturday that I’ve had in about 9 months.
  5. me – The store had roaster chickens on sale, so I got the biggest one I could find. Brined it on Saturday evening using a modification of Alton Brown’s Food Network technique, and roasted on Sunday morning.
  6. me – using the same pot, pulled the last batch of chicken stock I brewed last winter and made chicken noodle soup. You can’t get it from a can. mmmmm.
  7. wife – after the soup was finished, she stole the kitchen back to make her specialty tomato vegetable pasta sauce effectively using up the leftover greens from around the house.

That took us up to about 6pm on Sunday, and even with the dishwasher, we were cleaning up the kitchen until about 8. I saved the carcass from the chicken, and I’ve got just about enough remnants in the freezer for another batch of chicken stock. Just need another free weekend where the house needs ‘heating’.

Part 3 – Welding.
While digging around in the basement looking for things to dispose of, I came across a silent air compressor that I’ve had since I was in high school. I used it for tons of stuff from graphic arts, airbrushing t-shirts, and even custom paint on a few cars. Sometime in the late 90’s, the tank developed a little pinhole leak on the bottom that essentially made it useless. Since the compressor would have to run constantly to keep the tank pressure up, the motor would burn out if you turned it on for any length of time. In the spirit of ‘use-it-or-lose-it’, I decided that this weekend would be when I figured out if I was going to get rid of it or not. I never looked into fixing it before because the tank and the mounting base are welded together in one seamless piece, and the affected area was hidden from view until I ground away the attachment points and peeled it open.

After exposing the hole, it was obviously a manufacturing defect that took 10 years to reveal itself and not total destruction from rust corrosion, so I pulled out my Lincoln Weld-Pak 100 (which was the second-most-buried tool in my basement) and tacked a bead the size of a peppercorn over the area. Plugged the tank, pulled out my other compressor, pumped it up to 100 psi, and let it sit for 20 minutes to see how it held. Perfect, that’s how. Sunday afternoon while the wife was in the kitchen, I retreated to the back of the house to bend the tank housing back into shape and spot weld it together. It’s solid again, but welding is one of those things that I definitely only know enough about to get by with. Now I’ll have a compressor if I ever feel like picking up a clean airbrush and trying my hand at a little cake decoration. Seriously, I’ve had a few times over the past years when I would have used it if I could, so even though it was superflous for the moment, I’m glad I had the chance to fix it. It helped my manliness to balance out all the cooking and cleaning with a little ‘real work’.

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