Saturday, May 18, 2013

Caulk. One of those words I've never been confident about how to pronounce so I won't get funny looks.

OK, as a girl DIY-er, walk into home depot, look one of the guys in an orange apron in the eye, and say with a straight face "Can you show me where I can find some caulk?"  I dare you. 

Seriously, caulking around joints in wet areas (bathroom, kitchen) is incredibly important to help preserve and protect everything.  I just installed my new vanity in the bathroom (more on that later) and of course the new cheap factory-produced vanity is fairly perfectly square and my old house... isn't.  So there were substantial areas of gaps between vanity and floor, vanity and wall.  Gaps where water could splash, where a lost contact or bobby pin could get lost, etc.  Meanwhile, in the kitchen, the seal between sink and countertop had broken, so whenever I wash dishes by hand the water slips down into the cabinet below.  So... caulk.

And I was pleased to discover a newer, better way to caulk.  In the past I always carefully cut a small opening in the top of the tube, then carefully and slowly tried to apply a perfect even bead, with steady hand and no gaps and no excess glops and... well, that never works for me.

So I was intrigued to find this approach to caulking on da intrawebs, and I was really psyched by how well it works.   Basically, it suggests that you mask the caulk area with tape just like you are painting.

So... you first go over the whole area, carefully taping a nice even distance from the gap:

Then you slop on the caulk.  Doesn't matter too much to get it fancy - I glopped it on like a kindergarten crafts project, and mushed it all down smooth and flat with my fingers.
Then, before the caulk has set, peel away the tape to get rid of all that sloppy overage, leaving a smooth pretty caulk line.

This is so much better than the alternative where you fight with the caulk, getting a sloppy gloppy line in place
And then wiping it down over and over with a wet rag to try to clean up the mess
And end up with something that was six times more work and still doesn't look as nice as the tape effect:
So yeah.  I learned a nice trick about caulking and my life is better thereby. 

On other fronts:  Once you get a pocket hole jig, you feel mildly irritated that you didn't try that sooner.  And once you get a nail gun.... well, everything in the world looks like it needs screwing or nailing now!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Kale Chips

Not to be terribly original here since everyone in the web-o-sphere says "ooh - la - la, Kale chips!" so I decided to try some.  A quick google search found me some directions so I heated the oven to 375 as instructed and cut a bunch of kale from the garden, chopped it into smaller pieces after giving it a good wash, and tossed it in a plastic bag:
Now, everyone talks about spraying or misting or drizzling oil onto the kale.  I wanted it finely distributed and didn't want to use too much oil so I drizzled a very small amount of oil right into the bag:
And then I just pulled the edges of the bag closed and shook it like a maniac, which seemed to distribute the oil over all the leaves quite evenly:
Then spread it out on a baking sheet.  I have this cool sheet that's mesh instead of solid so it will let heat circulate around the food better.

Sprinkle with salt,

Then pop it in the oven for 15 minutes.
At which point it looked like this:
The verdict?  A bit too salty.  I think next time I'll use less salt, maybe put it in the bag with the oil to more easily spread it thinly.  Also a few of my chips tasted a bit burnt and I couldn't decide whether that was really overcooked or whether it's just that kale can naturally have a bit of a bitter undertone.

But.  It was kinda nice and I think it has potential.  Next time instead of salt I think I'll use parmesan and I'll put it in the bag for shaking to get it evenly distributed.  And maybe I'll taste test at 12 minutes instead of 15 to see if they're better a touch less cooked. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Dispose-all?  Disposall?  Disposeall?  Garburator.

That thingie in  your sink that grinds up food is called a garburator, up in Canada.  Apparently I have no idea how to spell what we call it down here so maybe I'll just go with "thingie".

When the thingie doesn't work and gets all rusted and clogs up, there's a cascade of ill effects.  The sink backs up, the dishwasher doesn't drain well and the dishes don't get quite clean, and so on...

So when I had electrical work done some time ago and it somehow messed up the circuit to my sink.  So the thingie didn't work.  And since it took me a while to get that fixed, the thingie had managed to rust to a solid block of dysfunction by the time power was restored.  I considered paying the nice people at BigBoxHardwareStore to come put in a new one and then I looked online and discovered how ridiculously simple it is.  And by doing it myself, I can spend the installation budget on something else, right?  I Saved Money!

Tools you'll need:
Pipe wrench for the drain pipe hookups:
Screwdriver for the dishwasher hookup and the electrical access on the unit, and needle-nose pliers for manipulating wires:
(Note the water damage inside the sink and on the nearby floor tile.  Now that the unit itself is fixed, I can repair those and expect the repair to last awhile...)

So how do you install a garburator?  First step is to simply remove the old one.  I didn't take any photos, but the process simply involves:
  1. (IMPORTANT) Turn off power to circuit powering unit.  Make sure it's actually off.  My electrician helpfully labelled the garburator circuit "dishwasher" and (I assume) the circuit labelled "sink" probably powers the dishwasher.  
  2. Detach the dishwasher and drain hookups.  You'll want a bucket or dishpan under your work for that, since u-traps always have stinky, stinky stuff at the bottom of them.  Especially if there's been a non-working garburator with slowly rotting food above them.
  3. Remove the old unit from where it's hanging from the drain assembly.  This is a simple matter of twisting the thing - they come with a sort of lever bar (looks like an allen wrench wanna-be) to help with the twisting.  Be prepared to catch it as it falls.
  4. At the base of the unit is a little cover protecting the wiring.  Unscrew that, and detach the wiring.  Should be three wires - white, black, and ground.  Pay attention to any irregularities in the hookup but usually there should be a simple match-up of colors between the old unit and the household power source.
At this point your old unit should be fully detached so set it aside.  You have a tabula rasa to install your new unit:
So then you just follow directions.... 

Now, the first step would normally be to install the drain part in the sink itself.  But since I was replacing with the same brand and the existing drain is in good shape, I elected to not bother to replace it. 

So first you want to prep the unit a little bit. 

(no picture) If you plan to use the dishwasher, you need to knock out a little plug of plastic blocking the dishwasher drain intake.  Otherwise you'll get the whole thing installed, proudly run the dishwasher - and then come back to find your dishwasher full of nasty, dirty water that had no place to run.  This is apparently confusing to the dishwasher which takes a bit of fussing to remember to drain itself and restart its rinse cycle after the problem is fixed.  Don't ask me how I know this.  Another mysterious piece of knowledge:  It's possible to come back and pop that piece of plastic out using a hammer and screwdriver after the unit is installed and in place, though I'm sure the manufacturer doesn't recommend this approach.  Let's pretend that I didn't take a picture of this step because it's a two-handed process so I didn't have a free hand to hold my camera...

Attach the drain pipe piece:  There's a L-shaped piece of pipe, a rubber gasket, and a metal piece with two screws to hold the pipe against the gasket.  Easy-peasy:
Electrical access is on the bottom of the unit, and the hookups are protected by a little metal plate held on by a single screw:
You're supposed to pass your power line into the round hole to the side, which is configured to accept a wiring connector/clamp.  As I didn't have one on hand, and the previous unit didn't have one I could salvage, I'll have to come fix that later.  Once the wire is dunked through, push the white and black wires aside and hook up the household ground to the screw at the side of the unit:
Notice that there's a weird piece of cardboard in there with a strip of tape saying "do not remove" in a bunch of languages.  I assumed they wanted me to leave that in there.

Then it's a simple matching game:  white to white, black to black, and secure with wire nuts. 
Then because I am a bit inclined to over-engineer things, I secure the wires/nuts with electrical tape for extra safety. 
Shove it all back inside the space, re-attach the metal plate, and you're ready to hook up your unit!  The only hard part about installing the thing is that it's a bit heavy and you have to hold it out and lift it up at arms length - there's no real opportunity to get right up under it so you have to have a little strength to make it go in right.  But it's just a matter of lining up the unit with the opening (there's a big rubber gasket seal that's actually helpful for being sure you're in the right place) and sliding some metal tabs over a metal lip, then turning to tighten.  Hard to show in pictures; here it is installed:
Then hook up the drainpipe.  The dishwasher line fits over the tube and tightens on with a band as you see in the picture above.  For the main drain line, you slide on a connector and a gasket,
And then just screw those onto your u-trap infeed.  With the u-trap connected, the job is finished.  

Recommend filling the sink with water and then draining it all at once through the thing to see if you've got any leaks, then turn on your power and do a little victory dance when you see it works!

Saturday, May 4, 2013


 My parsley was all threatening to go to seed.  Four bushy plants had started to produce tall leggy flower stalks:

So, I figured I should harvest and use as much as possible.  It occurred to me that if I cut it way down, it might get another wave of growth before it tried to go to seed again.  If not, well, it wasn't going to be edible much longer anyway. 

So I gave all four plants a brutal haircut:
Which produced massive quantities of fresh parsley:
The problem with parsley is that it always seems like such a pain to clean and prep fresh parsley for eating.  Usually I carefully snip off each leaf from the stem.  This time, with so much to prep, I decided I really need to be far less prissy about removing every bit of stem.  So I filled the sink with water to wash off the grit and bugs, then snipped off just the main thick center stems and left the rest of them on. 

I started out chopping it in my usual style, efficient for small batches:  Dump the parsley in a bowl and then snip madly in the middle of the parsley mass with a decent pair of kitchen scissors:
But then it occurred to me that I'm a typical spoiled American with more kitchen gadgets than I could possibly need, so I pulled out a food processor.  So that gave me several quarts of chopped parsley in minutes.

So then it was time for tabouleh!  Or ersatz tabouleh since I didn't have cracked wheat on hand.  So I subbed in barley.  Sorry, no pictures - recipe was roughly as follows:
Cook up two cups of barley and let cool.
Toss with all the parsley
Add a finely chopped cucumber and about 4 finely chopped tomatoes.
Normally I'd add some finely chopped onion; didn't have any this time.
Juice a bunch of the meyer lemons left on my tree from last season to make two full cups of lemon juice.
in blender, mix the lemon juice with a half-cup of olive oil, a healthy slug of garlic powder, and a tablespoon or so of salt.  Pour that over the salad.