Stuff I’ve been doing lately

I’ve been busy lately. We finally got the Subaru out of our driveway yesterday. I was going to donate it to a local organization, but they were having trouble working out the details so they could accept it, and Ron finally gave up and called a salvage yard to come and get it. They gave us $150 for it, which isn’t very much, but it’s better than nothing, and at least we don’t have to pay county property tax on it now. Bonus: The guy at the salvage yard thinks he can get my Judy Sings Dylan CD out of the stereo. It’s been stuck in there since it broke down. I don’t know why, but I was more mad about losing a CD that I bought used for $5.99 than I was about the $21,500 I sank in a car I only got to drive for a year and a half before the engine blew up and took the radiator with it.

Sometimes I don’t understand how my brain works at all.

In any case, I’m probably getting my CD back, and in the meantime, I have my driveway back, it’s spring, and vacation is coming up soon.

Here is a sign of spring:

Crocuses!
Crocuses!

And here is a project I am working on ahead of vacation:

Ignore the reflection in the middle. I'll take better pictures when I finish the whole project and seal the paintings.
Ignore the reflection in the middle. I’ll take better pictures when I finish the whole project and seal the paintings.

Bob Waldmire’s brother Buz gave me permission to recreate several of Bob’s postcards on 30-inch-wide pieces of Masonite board to take out to the Blue Swallow Motel next month and install in the same garage where I painted the mural of Bob in his VW last summer. I’m hoping to do five of them and get them sealed and cured and ready to deliver by the end of the month.

And finally, for no particular reason, here is a picture of the Esquire Theater in Cape Girardeau:

I happened to catch a bit of magic light just as we were going to dinner the other day, so of course I had to shoot this.
I happened to catch a bit of magic light just as we were going to dinner the other day, so of course I had to shoot this.

I’ve also been doing a lot of tiny-house prep lately. I got rid of a bunch more books and craft supplies, reorganized two closets, and bought three new kitchen tools that save a lot of space in the cabinet. I’ll share those in upcoming posts.

Emily

Scaling back

Late Saturday night, I realized I’d spent nearly 10 straight hours doing blog-related stuff and STILL didn’t have a whole week’s worth of posts filed, and I ended up so tired and frustrated, it literally made me sick. It occurred to me that I’ve taken something I started for fun and made it stressful. That’s really screwed-up.

My New Year’s resolution was to do less, live more, and hopefully spend less time battling the stress-related health problems that plagued me for most of 2016. To that end, I’m making some changes around here:

Vegetarian Friday. When I started this feature in 2014, my goal was to try one new vegetarian recipe every week for a year in an effort to incorporate more plant-based meals into our diet. Posting them was a way to keep myself honest. Three years later, a good 80 percent of the meals I cook are vegetarian, probably a fourth are vegan, and I’ve learned a lot about staging food photos. The most important thing I’ve learned is that I don’t like staging food photos. I see no point in doing something I don’t like if I’m not being paid for it, especially if other people are better at it. With that in mind, if you enjoyed Vegetarian Friday, I would encourage you to visit Oh She Glows and Minimalist Baker. If I dream up something really exceptional, I’ll still share it like I always have, but it’s probably not going to be a weekly occurrence.

Eco-Saturday. I’m not getting rid of this, but I’m changing it. Like Vegetarian Friday, Eco-Saturday was supposed to run for a year. Three years later, I’ve gone about as far as I can where I am, so I’m going to focus more on reviews, recommendations, links, and daydreams about things I’d like to do someday. If there’s anything you’d like me to cover, feel free to suggest it in the comments.

Make-It Monday and Tiny Tuesday. You’ll get one or the other each week, but probably not both, because they overlap a lot, and separating them out is starting to feel forced.

I hope that doesn’t disappoint anybody too terribly. At this point, trying to do too much is easily my worst habit, and I’m trying very hard to break it. Bear with me; down time is still an alien concept for me, and self-care isn’t really one of my strengths.

Emily

Tiny Tuesday: Digitize your photos

Last year, as part of my ongoing effort to minimize the amount of stuff I have to store, I started sorting through my collection of 35mm prints and scanning as many as possible.

Digitizing your collection is a worthwhile undertaking for several reasons.

First, it saves space. You can fit thousands of high-res images on a thumb drive; 4×6 prints of those same images could take up an entire closet. Second, it allows you to keep an off-site backup of your memories so you won’t lose your cherished family photos in the event of a flood, fire, or other disaster. Third, and maybe most importantly, it gives you an excuse to sift through your personal history.

Here are a few of the memories I found while I was going through my collection of prints from trips I’ve taken on Route 66:

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My rules of thumb for sorting old photos:

1. Keep all your negatives. They don’t take up that much space, and you never know who might want to see them in the future. Even the shots you aren’t especially proud of could prove useful to a historian two or three decades from now.

2. Scan as much as you can. Even the mediocre stuff. Digital files are much easier to search than boxes of negatives if, for instance, somebody needs to know the color of the neon at Jobe’s Drive-In or the type of shingles on the roof of the Bagdad Cafe in 2001.

3. Keep one print of the shots you’re really proud of. Sometimes it’s nice to look at actual prints.

4. Share pictures that might be meaningful to somebody else. While I was sorting photos last spring, I put together several little packets of prints to send to friends. One packet featured images of a friend and his late wife working on a couple of projects they’d spearheaded years ago. Our friend later told me he’d really appreciated seeing those photos and remembering happy times we’d all spent together.

5. Organize as you go. This means using memorable filenames and saving things in folders that make sense instead of just letting your scanner call them “scan001” and save them to some random default folder you may or may not be able to find later.

Emily

P.S.: The top image is of El Rancho on Route 66 in Gallup, New Mexico. I think I shot that in 2002.

Make-It Monday: DIY phone speakers

Several weeks ago, I wandered down the book aisle at Lowe’s. The book aisle is the main reason I can’t be trusted at a hardware store without adult supervision. I start thumbing through some home-improvement book, thinking about all the stuff I’d like to learn to do, and the next thing you know, Ron is coming home from work to find the bathroom sink on the curb and me sitting on the bathroom floor with a wrench in my hand, tightening the supply-line valves on our brand-new faucets. (This has happened twice, and given the condition of our current vanity, I think the odds are fairly high it’s going to happen again as soon as I find a sink I like.)

Ron was with me this time, so I just came home with a copy of 5-Gallon Bucket Book by Chris Peterson.

Anybody who’s ever walked through a feed store with me already knows I can’t resist a 5-gallon bucket. They’re just so bloody practical. I’ve got one I use for cleaning the pond, one for cleaning the quail pen, one in the backyard that Ron uses as a dog-poop receptacle, one for mixing laundry detergent, one with a spigot attached for filtering honey, one in the basement for mixing cold-process soap, two on the porch for growing plants, and one tucked in a cabinet for use as a trash can.

Some of the projects in 5-Gallon Bucket Book are kind of goofy, but some seemed practical (swamp cooler, pond filter, worm bin), and a handful were intriguing enough, I thought they might be worth trying later.

One of the intriguing projects was an acoustic speaker dock, which I built last week from a pair of buckets, a 10-inch length of 2-inch PVC pipe, and a couple of PVC slip couplings.

The instructions called for sealing the whole thing with PVC cement and silicone caulk, but I skipped that step so I can disassemble the system and store it easily when I’m not using it.

I think the finished product — pictured above (minus the iPhone itself, which I used to take the photo) — works pretty well for listening to Joni Mitchell while I’m cleaning the house on a lazy Saturday afternoon, and it would make a killer science-fair project for one of my nieces or nephews in a few years.

Emily

Sunday Self-Care: A virtual ride down Route 66

I have kind of a long-term goal — nothing really pressing, but just something I’ve thought might be cool to do — of pedaling the equivalent of the length of Route 66 on our stationary bike. About a year ago, I got on Google Maps and planned rides in increments of anywhere from 7 to 35 miles, following the road from landmark to landmark. I entered that information into Excel, printed out a chart, and hung it in the basement, where it’s been sitting, mostly ignored, for months. I noticed it a couple of weeks ago when I was testing out the new bike Ron bought after the old one broke down, and I decided to give it another go, just for fun.

I’ve logged over 100 miles in the past couple of weeks. It was easier than I expected, even with the tension turned up on the bike, and it’s a comfortable way to burn a few calories and generate a few much-needed endorphins while I wait for spring.

I don’t have the time, money, or endurance to go out and take a real ride down Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles right now, but this virtual trip is kind of a nice way to revisit favorite attractions in my head and daydream about where I’d like to explore on our next road trip.

By the way, 100 miles puts me somewhere south of the Route 66 Museum in Pontiac. If I were really on Route 66, I’d have started at the “Begin 66” sign in Chicago and passed the Berwyn Route 66 Museum, the site of the late, great Wishing Well Motel, Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket, White Fence Farm, Haunted Trails, Route 66 Raceway, the Gemini Giant (pictured above), the site of the fabulous Riviera Roadhouse, Ambler’s Texaco, Odell Station, and the Pontiac Route 66 Museum.

Emily

Eco-Saturday: Incense energy audit

Want to find all the spots in your house that are making your furnace work overtime? Grab a stick of incense and a lighter and spend a few minutes performing a sort of informal energy audit. Here’s how:

1. Shut off the furnace and any fans you might have running.
2. Raise all the blinds and pull back the curtains.
3. Light a stick of incense. Holding it very steady, pass it around the edges of all your windows, doors leading to unheated spaces, and electrical outlets and switches on exterior walls. Use a slow, steady motion, and pull the stick away from the burning end rather than pushing toward it. As you move, watch the smoke. It should rise smoothly from the burning end of the stick. If it shimmies, pulses, or otherwise appears to be disturbed, you have an air leak that needs to be sealed. (You’ll also want to pay attention to the burning end, taking care to keep it from touching curtains or other flammable materials, and be sure to have something handy to use as an ashtray as you work.)
4. Make a note of all the places you found leaks, and find an appropriate method to seal them.

If you find leaks around windows, the easiest solution is to seal them with plastic film; if you’re feeling ambitious, you can also insulate the panes themselves with bubble wrap or make Roman shades out of blankets to put an extra layer of warmth between the great outdoors and your living space. You can plug leaks under doors with an inexpensive DIY draft stopper made from rice and fabric remnants. You can buy insulating shields for electrical outlets and light switches, but I prefer to make my own for free out of the polystyrene trays that come with meat and some produce at the grocery store.

You won’t find every single source of wasted energy with a stick of incense, but in the absence of a professional energy audit — which can get pricey if your utility company doesn’t offer them for free — it’s a good, inexpensive jumping-off point to help you identify some of the most easily mitigated culprits. A stick of incense and an a little elbow grease can go a long way toward reining in high heating bills.

Emily

Sustainability on a shoestring