30 May 2014

What in the What June

I was just editing some recipe photos and about to start a new blog post when I looked at the date - holy crap, another month has passed.  You know what that means:  time to recap my month and my goals.
So here's the list:
  • Lived without A/C until Kyle moved down.  I did turn it on when the movers were bringing stuff in, but they left the door open and were running so late that it had already cooled off so I turned it right back off again. 
  • Get my plants into bigger pots.  I did this, but now the peppers need to be put in bigger pots again.
  • Move all the furniture down here.  Bleh.  Done.  The entire apartment was full of boxes, with barely space to squeeze through.  It was awful.  I survived.
  • Ship the bus down here.  Bus is shipped!  And hardly worse for wear.  Looks like there were some minor scratches where the bumper hit the pavement.
  • Move Kyle down here! After a 2.5-week (more-like-forever) separation, my husband moved in with me, two days before our first anniversary.  Life is good.
  • Find a good place to get coffee.  After trying several options, I have determined there's no coffee like home coffee.  The best substitute is popping some hazelnut into my reusable k-cup and using the machine at work, but that was barely more than flavored water.  At least it didn't taste burnt and bitter.
I feel like I have been living this list day in and day out, unlike most months when I need to look back at the previous goals post just to remember what I had planned for myself.  I honestly have no idea what the next month will bring, but my to-do list never seems to shrink so that's a good place to start.
  • Farmers market - I still haven't been to one and that's. not. okay.  I meant to fix that this week but it didn't happen.
  • Go house shopping.  We still debate buy vs. rent, but it can't hurt to look, right?
  • Make a meal plan for clean, healthy eating.  It seems like pretty frequently we'll find ourselves out exploring and suddenly it's two hours past mealtime and we're both hungry...and that's when the bad choices get made.  Planning ahead will prevent that.
  • Compile some photos to print out for our families so that they can get a glimpse of our lives here.
  • First visitors!  We've got visitors coming this month and I'm so thrilled.  I'm already planning out potential activities in my head...beach, downtown, flea market, farmers market, everything! 
  • Avoid getting sunburnt.  I've learned that the car must always be stocked with ice water and sunscreen before I go anywhere, because it's so hot and sunny.  I love it.  I love every minute of it.  So does my garden.
  • Activities with new friends?   I recently read some excellent advice about making friends as an adult.  Step 1:  invite people to things.  Repeatedly.  Corollary:  if you're invited to things, go.  Nobody likes rejection, so after the first or second 'no' they might stop asking.  Step 2: treat people like your friends, even if they aren't yet - be friendly with people, it will open them up to being friendly back to you.
I took a ton of photos this month, so I'm debating whether to be choosy or just post a little of everything.  First off, here's how the garden is progressing.  Remember when they were just baby seedlings in paper cup pots?  I do...they grow so fast!  I just noticed the first buds on the tomatoes today.
Here's my horror story - boxes upon boxes upon boxes.  Our space has downsized, and it shows.
The bus arrived at the same time, and it was a pretty nerve-wracking experience.  Mr. Ear Buds thought my reaction was pretty funny, but the bumper was really close to the pavement.  How do you think they learned they needed to reduce the angle on the ramp with those blankets?  There were some new scratch marks on the bumper.
I've been a tad obsessed with cookies lately, so on the morning of our anniversary Kyle made me some chocolate chip cookies.  He claims he'd never made cookies before, which explains why a pan of cookies turned into one giant cookie.  He was so disappointed!  I am not picky about cookie shape however; they were delicious.
In between cleaning, we managed to go on a couple field trips last weekend.  A coworker told me about this enormous flea market with the strong claim "You can find just about anything there - cheap, too."  She was not wrong.  I picked up these adorable earrings for a dollar.  We found a couple other things that were on our list and stocked up on some fresh veggies.
I did a lot this month.  There's just so much to do and so much to explore.  We've still only been to one brewery so far, which is partially due to the fleeting hours they all keep.  Oh yeah, I have a photo of that too.
Anyway, my point is that I'm really excited for all the opportunities here.  I keep getting warnings that July and August are pretty miserable, so June will be my month!

23 May 2014

Bus Discoveries: Windshield Install Tutorial

To preface, a little back story. After finally getting Sixer on the road, she sat in our apartment complex’s parking lot, instead of a garage. After a few rain showers, we started noticing a little water settling in near the doors in the front floor mats. 
The most likely culprit was the vent (wing) windows, as their seals are fairly old and cracked. Unfortunately, this was not to be the case… Sixer received a paint job just prior to our purchasing her. Evidently, the painter and cohorts were slightly less than detail oriented, at least when it comes to the functional parts of the vehicle. The paint itself is quite nice, smooth, and glossy. The issues become apparent where the painter had to remove and reinstall functional items like headlights, license plate brackets, and yes, the windshield.
I was sitting in the bus one afternoon in the rain, looking to deduce where the water intrusion was coming from. As the rain came down, I started probing around the suspected are of leakage, when I felt a cold draft. Searching for the source of this irritation, I noticed a ¼” gap at the lower passenger side corner of the windshield. My survey complete, I was astonished to find that through several weeks, a four hundred mile trip on a trailer, and a number of local drives, our windshield was being held in by the force of the wind against it and the pressure of the wiper blades. It was simply setting in the opening of the body, with a few dabs of weatherstrip adhesive in the corners. Oh, and they managed to crack the windshield in the process of not installing it. Needless to say, this had to be rectified.

So, on to a short picture tutorial on how to install a windshield into a ’76 VW bus…
First, gather your tools:
- Windshield (I reinstalled the one the painter cracked here, as Sixer needed to be on a car carrier before I could get my hands on a new one. Plus, practice is always nice.)
- Windshield seal
- Spray bottle with straight Simple Green
- More Simple Green
- Small Tupperware container
-  ~23’ of paracord (enough to go around the windshield twice, plus two feet)
- Beer of your choice. I recommend a session IPA for this job.
- A friend. You’ll probably need a beer for them as well.
Next, remove the windshield and sponge out the standing water on your dash.
While that dries, fill the Tupperware with Simple Green, and soak the cord in it. The Simple Green acts as a lubricant that will neither absorb water, which you don’t want under the seal, nor will it attack the rubber of the seal. As the cord is soaking, find a caulk tube topper thing (the little white thing in my hand in these pictures). Spray everything with Simple Green. Cut it so the cord passes through easily. Thread a cord end through the caulk tube thing and into the seal. Using the caulk topper to spread the rubber lips of the seal, run the cord in the lip around the entire windshield twice, ending about a foot past the center of the top of the windshield on both sides. Leave about six inches of cord hanging out of the lip on either side of the center.
Spray the rubber seal and the sealing surface of the bus body with Simple Green, and help your friend set and position the windshield in the hole. Once in place, get inside the bus (you’re pulling the seal lip from the outside of the bus across the lip into the inside of the bus), start pulling the cord ends evenly, a few inches each side at a time, 90 degrees to the seal. If everything is set correctly, when you pull the cord out, the seal will be forced to the inside sealing surface of the body lip, securing the windshield. In certain places, it might help to have your friend put a small amount of pressure on the windshield from the outside. Too much pressure will make it more difficult, however.
And that’s it. Our windshield went in the first time around with the cord. I had the second wrap of cord in the seal as a backup, but it was not needed.
Summary of steps to install a windshield in a 1976 VW Bus:
1.       Gather materials
2.       Lube seal with Simple Green, install on windshield
3.       Soak cord in Simple Green, use caulk tube top to insert cord into seal where it will interface with the bus body.
4.       Spray everything with Simple Green again
5.       Position windshield in body opening
6.       Pull string out of seal from inside the bus, rolling the seal lip to the inside of the bus.
7.       Test drive and marvel at how dry and quiet everything is now…

Also, choose a nice sunny day to do this job, and you won't have to sit in the bus and drink your installation beers while it rains like we did.

16 May 2014

Minimalist Kitchen: Quesadillas

I brought the bare necessities when I moved.  That means a camp chair, a skillet, the pressure cooker, the camp silverware and my travel mug.  And two cases of wine...
In keeping with the minimalism, all these photos are taken with my cell phone.  It just felt right.  This is a one pot meal! if you do dishes a couple times while making it.  Start with chicken.  I fried up a chicken breast, about three minutes on both sides over medium heat.  Let it rest for a few minutes, then shred it.
You might want to wash the skillet here, or maybe you want all those chicken flavors to get soaked up by the tortilla.  While the chicken is resting, prep your toppings - chop peppers, shred cheese, slice avocado.
Lightly grease the pan and add a tortilla, then a light layer of cheese.  The stove should be on medium heat.  Cheese is the glue that holds quesadillas together.
Top with veggies, chicken, and salsa. 
Then add another layer of cheese.
And finally, top with a second tortilla.  Around this time, the bottom layer of cheese should be melted and so you only want to wait another minute or so before flipping it - ideally the top layer of cheese will have started melting to hold everything together.
Then flip.
Fry for a couple minutes until the bottom tortilla is browned.  Serve it up with cilantro and avocado!  I saved this plate from free pizza day at work, because I didn't bring any plates with me.  I probably could have done a little better packing my kitchen.
And now for a bonus recipe!  Kyle calls this "cowboy coffee."  The virtue of this recipe is that is requires nothing more than a pot for making coffee.  Although I did buy a couple coffee mugs at a garage sale (can't beat 5 cents each!).
This is very similar to how I make french pressed coffee.  Heat water up in the pot until just before boiling (ideally you're aiming for ~200 degrees F, water boils at 212 F).  When the water has reached this point, take it off the burner and add your coffee.  For 16 oz, I added about three spoonfuls of coffee.
Give it a little swirl, then let it sit for 3 to 5 minutes (more time = stronger coffee).
Slowly pour the coffee into your mug.  The grounds will clump up at the bottom of the pan.  I trickled the coffee into my mug just to see if any grounds were floating, but I didn't see a single one.
Voila!  Easy coffee.
That's it for the minimalist kitchen - all my stuff is here now and I want to wash a lot of it before I use it again, but at least I have it here.  Except for all the silverware, which the movers apparently missed (so did Kyle, until I whined that I'd opened up all the boxes labeled "kitchen" and still hadn't found the silverware).

09 May 2014

Bus Discoveries: Meet Sixer

We've been doing a lot of work on the bus, so here's an update of what we've found.  It's pretty clear that the guy we bought it from didn't do any work on it other than to keep it running.  The more we dig, the more work we find.  So it's pretty much a normal VW bus.
Step one was to replace all the fuel lines with Gates Barricade fuel line from O'Reilly auto, because it is resistant to the ethanol in modern fuels.  I'm not sure on the specifics, but faulty (old, cracked) fuel lines are notorious for causing these buses to go up in flames (in Kyle's words, when the lines crack, "they spray fuel over the engine, which has a multitude of sparky things").  In doing that, Kyle found some OEM fuel lines on the bus, and some aftermarket fuel lines that cracked when he pulled them off.  Comforting.

Kyle sent out the fuel injectors to be tested, cleaned and rebuilt, and he cleaned the seat belts.
We washed and waxed her, and therefore got to know all the little nicks and dings in the paint.
The sliding door was sticking, so we unstuck it.  It is still hanging up a little bit but it's functional, and I'm sure more use will make it easier.
Kyle replaced the heat exchangers and added an exhaust pipe.  It's now functional, although there might still be a couple leaks in the exhaust system.  This was a pretty big project that deserves more than the two sentences I'm giving it, but I wasn't really involved in this and also we don't have photos.

We took it on the first real drive - from my parents house to the apartment.  About a mile down the road it died, but we (Kyle) quickly diagnosed a loose wire on the fuel pump.  Later on that drive, the passenger mirror fell off.  We were able to retrieve the fixture but the glass was, of course, shattered.  It had been loose and my dad tightened it up, but the threads were stripped so it had loosened again.

There was a braking issue.  Most obnoxiously, an extremely loud squeal.  But more concerning, when braking hard, one of the tires would lock up and the bus would pull hard to the left.  So one Saturday we pulled the tires off and poked around.  We bought replacement pads, but the pads were still good.  The driver's side was missing a pin - you can see where there should be a second pin in the photo below - so we fashioned a new one and replaced that - it was all we could see that was wrong with the system.  However, the problem persisted.  Some excellent help from the samba leads us to believe we have a collapsed brake line, so we'll be replacing the front brake lines soon.
We discovered an issue with the headlights the first time we drove her a little after dusk - they seemed to point straight up.  So I started investigating the headlights, and we found that they were both installed upside down.  The bracket for the license plate is also installed upside down.  These are the most minor of annoyances caused by an ignorant painter.  The really scary one is below.
Kyle worked on the wiring.  He found a ground that wasn't attached, and after he fixed that we were practically street legal (up to that point, the right turn signal didn't work).  The left signal still flashes at 2x speed, but is working in both the front and the rear so that still needs some work.
Does anyone have a spare tire they want to sell us?

Lastly, Kyle discovered that the windshield was not properly installed after the bus was painted.  It was basically just sitting in front of the bus, not really attached to anything.  This was truly horrifying because we had hauled the bus from Milwaukee and drove it at least 40 additional miles by this point.  I guess the worst case scenario is that it would have fallen out while driving, but since there is a huge crack in the windshield it already needs to be replaced.  Kyle has written up a great tutorial on how to install these windshields, because it's known for being difficult but the method he researched made it pretty easy.  I think he will post that in a couple days (as time allows).  I don't really have a good photo of the cracks, but you can see it a little here.

02 May 2014

May Goals

So April happened.  I lived through it.  I turned my apartment upside down, I bottle fed some lambs, I moved a thousand miles, I got the crap scared out of me by a cockroach, I started a new job.  I'm exhausted.  Isn't May supposed to bring flowers?
Here are the goals I picked out for April.
  • A lunch date w/ the fam.  April included lunch dates with both grandmas on my side of the family, Kyle's mom and brother, brunch with friends, and numerous weekday lunches with coworkers.
  • A block party w/ the friends.  With 99 beers on tap, Short's Brewery had their hands full. 
  • I recreated a recipe for awesome seared tuna tacos that I had on my first trip down to Charleston.
  • Some montepulciano wine needs to be bottled.  I was skeptical, but this one is really great!
  • Plants!  They are growing so well!  They survived a thousand mile car trip and are flourishing.
  • I wanted the lake to melt.  It melted - and then we got that gorgeous sunset pictured above.
May is undoubtedly going to be full of ups and downs.  I really just want to get through May with a positive attitude.  But other things that should get done this month:
  • Live without A/C until Kyle moves down.
  • Get my plants into bigger pots.
  • Move all the furniture down here.  It's been two days and I already can't wait to see a real mattress again.
  • Ship the bus down here.  It would be great to drive it down, but the logistics haven't been easy - we'd have to avoid freeways, we'd have to take it through the mountains, and even if it didn't break down it would still probably take five days to do.  So it's getting shipped.
  • Move Kyle down here!  This one is really easy for me because I don't have to do anything for it.
  • Find a good place to get coffee.  With no coffee pot, I'm having a hard time getting my morning caffeine fix.  This is kind of moot, I guess, since I will have the coffee maker here by the end of the month.
 And as always, photos from my month.  The montepulciano, bottled and ready to be put away.
 A tiny friend gets a tiny bus ride.
Tasting ALL the beers at Short's.
The halfway point of my drive:  Uncle Mike and Aunt Kim's farm!  I got to help out with the cutest chores.
And then drive.
And then drive.
And then move into an apartment with basically an air mattress and a camp chair.
My forest of tomatoes, basils and peppers!
How many photos is too many photos?  I feel like that's enough.  Hopefully this month will end with me sleeping on a real bed again.