Monday, March 31, 2014

March 23-29 in Pictures

The trail on Mt. Si became snowy about 2/3 of the way up
Jacob has Andrea pose just so with him for a picture before bed
Jake sports his new knee, elbow and wrist guards with a homemade... weapon?

A regular dilemma for us: rustic and satisfyingly earthy? Or rich, complex and full-bodied?

The library on my walk home

Reed had his first sleepover on Friday

The boys play with a a diverse set of toys all trying to make it across the bridge

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Experiment #2014-03-12a: liquid dish soap

A couple weeks ago, I made my first two batches of soap. The first batch turned out okay; the second, very watery and not so much. So with our supply dwindling fast, I decided to try it again and try to meet in the middle a bit.

The first recipe called for 0.25c grated castile soap, packed, which made for a difficult time dissolving in hot water. I guesstimated about one cup unpacked as a rough equivalent.

To make it slightly less solid, I increased the water from 1.25c to 1.5c, melted, and added the other ingredients in turn.

This experimental batch contained the following ingredients:
  • 1.5c water
  • 1c grated castile bar soap
  • 1 tbsp washing soda
  • 1 tbsp glycerine
  1. Boil water, adding and stirring grated soap until dissolved.
  2. Add washing soda and stir in.
  3. Add glycerine and stir in.
  4. Pour into a heat-resistant container (eg, mason jar) and let cool.
After an hour, the soap had an excellent viscosity exactly as I had hoped for. Unfortunately, the next morning, it had a Gak-like consistency.

And since then, it has become more solid -- still soft enough to scoop out with a dobie, but certainly not free-flowing. More water next time?

This version seems to do a reasonable job of cutting grease, so I think it is better than the previous two.

Monday, March 24, 2014

March 16-22 in Pictues

Mailbox Peak on Sunday was rainy at low altitudes, snowy at high

Playing at Catharine Blaine, Reed "adjusts" his glasses

We caught Reed quietly enjoying his book

I discovered Washington has "horseless carriage" license plates

Checked out Batch 206 Distillery on Friday

The boys climbed the orca art at Seattle Center

Hanging out with Baz

Monday, March 17, 2014

Experiment #2014-03-08a: alcohol camp stove

I've been trying to streamline my hiking gear for minimal weight and bulk, and I've been looking at homemade soda can stoves as an alternative to the Trangia stove that had caught my eye.

My first version DIY stove didn't turn out terribly well, but it was fairly straightforward and should improve with subsequent iterations.

I started with some small juice cans like this one.

Putting a razor blade in a book as a makeshift jig, I scored the cans until I could easily split them.

With a small amount of work, I was able to get a couple uniform half-cans.

Then filed down the edges to prevent unnecessary cuts.

I had some problems assembling the two can bottoms, so I started with a sort of shim to try to get the top piece fully contained in the bottom.

That failed to be fruitful, so for this version, I cut little notches around the inner piece, folded each tab in, and made it work. Sort of.

The problem with this approach is that the tiniest jut on this piece will shred the outer piece when the two are compressed together.

Once assembled, I drilled 16 holes around the edge for the stove jets. I also added a hole in the middle as a way to fill the stove with fuel.

Unfortunately, I only had 70% isopropyl, which I found is terrible for stove fuel. So bad, in fact, that it couldn't self-sustain. My local ACE Hardware had some denatured alcohol that is significantly better.

I'll be working on alternate versions -- likely using soda cans -- in the coming weeks. I'm evaluating the stoves on the following primary criteria:

  1. Ease of construction, use. I'd prefer not having to separate the pieces when done cooking.
  2. Strength. A stove that doubles as a pot stand would be great.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

March 9-15 in Pictures

Puget Sound from Golden Gardens Park

The trees are in bloom and temperatures approaching 60.

Got my first tattoo on Tuesday at Hidden Hand in Fremont.

Trying my hand at soap again

Snuggling with Reed before work

Posing at the Ballard locks

Waiting for our table at Chinooks

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

First tattoo

On March 11th, after years of talking about it and months of planning and scheduling, I finally got my first tattoo at Hidden Hand Tattoo in Fremont. I met with Jeff Cornell in early February for a consultation and got an appointment for the 11th to get it done.

I'd considered various designs and sayings, but what I settled on is a design lifted from a photo I took on my hike through The Enchantments: A cairn with mountains on either side of the background.

The design Jeff came up with - based on our discussion - included a mountain in the background, but my intent is to (possibly) add this after I summit Mount Rainier this summer.

Jeff's original sketch

Stencil placed and good to go.

For me, the cairn is an elegant reminder of my love of hikes, solitude within nature and of simplicity. It has the added benefit - if I am to apply any deeper meaning to it - of being a navigational aid on the trail: when you don't know where to go, cairns are non-destructive signage guiding your way. There's a metaphor for you.

The outlines took perhaps a half hour (I wasn't keeping time), and when Jeff had to plug the meter for his car, I had Andrea snap this picture.
Outlines done.

After a thirty minute setup, my sitting took around two hours total, with this final result:

Final version immediately after completion.
In a few days, I'll update this post to include a shot of the tattoo, healed.

With this, I've scored one new adventure.

Edit: Here's a shot of the tattoo after almost two weeks of healing:

March 2-8 in Pictures

Bedtime snacks must be eaten in a particular way.

I've been doing the half-lotus position all wrong. Jacob and Reed show me how it's done.

Heavy traffic is made tolerable by the beautiful rain.

My latest REI purchase. Annotations on my hikes forthcoming.
Reading books and snuggling with Grandma Sarah

Jake got in the car and got buckled without being asked.

Saturday night I stayed up late and made my grandma's Hungarian Coffee Cake for Sunday breakfast.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Soapmaking, pt 1

I remember when I was young -- maybe seven years old, give or take -- my parents' neighbors gave me a bar of homemade soap. He made some statement about how easy it is to be self-sufficient. I thought it was so cool that I kept that bar of soap in a Ziploc bag in a drawer for years, not wanting to use up what I considered a gift.

Lately, I've seen a lot of blogs and DIY sites discussing how to make your own bar, laundry or other kind of soap, ostensibly saving yourself a lot of money. With bars of hand soap going for as little as $0.50 each and more natural castile soap for $1.66 each, I don't imagine there's a huge cost savings in that. But we certainly use a lot of dish soap in no small part because our dishwasher doesn't actually clean our dishes.

A couple weeks ago, I picked up some of the ingredients for homemade dish soap -- mostly on Amazon but some at Target. I started by baking a $0.75 box of baking soda into washing soda.

Once our castile soap came in, I took out the cheese grater and a beer, shredding and drinking them, respectively.

I made two different recipes: the first from Nature's Nurture is, in short:

  • 1 1/4 cups boiling water
  • 1/4 cup (tightly packed) castile bar soap, grated
  • 1 tablespoon washing soda (use a little more for a thicker soap)
  • 1/4 cup liquid castile soap

Combining ingredients one at a time, in order, mixing as you add them. I found the tightly-packed grated soap seemed to be rather counter-productive: I was left with big chunks of soap that should have long been dissolved but that I spent an inordinate amount of time stirring away. This version is pretty viscous but seems to do okay.

Delicious on pancakes.

We already had some Dr. Bronner's liquid soap, but I estimate we used about $1.20 of it in this batch, around $0.30 bar soap and negligible washing soda.

The second version from The Prairie Homestead adds glycerin (I used this product)

  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons grated bar soap
  • 1/4 teaspoon washing soda
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable glycerin

This version uses about $0.10 of glycerin, about the same in soap and a negligible amount of washing soda. The result on this first batch is extremely watery and thus not very effective.

My first go at this batch produced perhaps twice the amount shown in this picture. I since combined some of this with the first batch in order to produce a soap with better consistency. When these two batches are out, I will experiment again with two iterations more near each other -- probably with the first recipe using less liquid soap and the second, less water.

Monday, March 3, 2014

February 23-March 1 in Pictures

Playing "chess" with Reed.

Walking home in the rain (albeit much happier than Hemingway was).

Reed offered to help with dishes.

Jacob made a salad for all of us consisting of apples, carrots, cauliflower, raspberries, cheese and saltines.

Jake poses with my birthday cake, decorated by him and Reed.

The hang-glider launch pad atop Poo Poo Point on the Chirico Trail.

Nice and oily coffee at Ballard Coffee Works.