Thursday, January 29, 2009

Feeling Toolish

My name is Andy, and I am a tool addict.

OK, that wasn't as hard as they make it out to be. They say it's the first step to recove... WAIT! Who said I wanted to recover? More tools, woohoo!

My latest addiction addition arrived yestarday afternoon in the form of a set of new lathe chisels. They are gorgeous. They are massive. (The bowl gouge is nearly two feet long.) They have their own carrying case. And, of course, they are tools: I didn't get them to look at them, I got them so that I could use them. (I have, of course, done this both ways: I've got a tool! Let's go find something to use it on! and, just as often, I've got a project! Let's go get a tool to use on it!)

I now have pretty much everything I need to start turning in earnest — including a patron! My co-worker ("like a Medici with less intrigue") has commissioned a matching set of peppermill, saltshaker, and coarse-salt bowl in some sort of exotic, pretty wood. She buys the wood and hardware, I get to do the turning. Not a bad deal, if you ask me.

I suppose I should find Deborah a book to read while I go disappear into the shed to try these out, eh?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Our house has been taken over by vampires.

It was my fault, really, but Deborah was the first to go. Her ravenous appetite is a spectacle to behold. She... must... read... more! Fortunately, our vampires (and werewolves, and...) are strictly of the fictional variety that live in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, and aren't any more detrimental to our health than the witches and wizards of J.K. Rowling's creation that so occupied us not too long ago. I'd heard some buzz about the books over the last few years, but when people whose literary taste I respected (Yes, Bethany, I'm blaming you) started to gush over them, I figured it was time to investigate. While I was standing around in Wal-Mart, waiting for Deborah to show up at the appointed place, I picked up a copy and started reading it. Engaging enough. So I borrowed a copy from a friend and brought it home.

I didn't get to read it.

Not right away, at least. By the time I bought the second book, and dangled it in front of her as bait, Deborah had read the first book three times. By the time I had moseyed my way through the first book (which I enjoyed) Deborah was desperately searching for a store, library, friend — anyone — who could get her the third. My friend came through again, and she's now read the entire four-book series several times, and is off reading Stephenie Meyer's website as I write this.

I'm not sure if there's a moral to this tale, but it is cautionary... these books are addictive. Bring them home at the peril of your sanity, nutrition, and housekeeping.

Now, where was I? Ah, here we are, in book 3...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Daniel and Obama

A friend of mine, who jumped into political cartooning earlier this week, posted this on his blog after yesterday's festivities in Washington:


Now, don't get me wrong — I like Obama. I think he's a great man for the job. But, at the same time, the scenes and quotes of, well, worship bug me. I couldn't help thinking of a passage I read in October of last year, in Daniel chapter 4:

17 " 'The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men.'
The lowliest of men. I had to laugh at the Message translation's wording: "He makes leaders out of losers." Regardless of where you think our new president is on that particular continuum, you have to remember: that's not where our hope lies.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Snow Angels


Look at the grin on that boy...

Fiona (a suffusion of pink, as always) is now big enough to not only go down by herself, but get herself back up to the top!

Which of these trees shall I crash into?

Don't worry, Aiden! I'm a pro at this!

And just to show you the awesome sledding skills of guys who grew up in the tropics, desert, and Mediterranean...

Monday, January 19, 2009

To a man with a hammer...

...every problem looks like a nail. Guys with a lot of woodworking tools are similarly afflicted.

Paul brought me a challenge in the form of a digital camera with a broken battery door. The door would close, but it wouldn't stay that way, and all the little plastic tabs that would help with that were broken off. We looked into several methods of external bracing, but most of them (e.g., rubber bands) interfered with the operation of the rest of the camera. At one point I joked that I could build a bracket out of walnut that would hold the door shut, and Paul, trying to hide a smirk, said that I could do that if I wanted to. Wanted to? I had talked him into the solution that he wanted me to do, apparently. Sneaky.

The camera works now...

That's what it's there for, right?

Why put a suction cup on the end of a toothbrush, unless you're supposed to stick it to the end of the faucet? I mean, really? Why else would you have one?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Yes! It LIVES! Bwahahahaha!

One of the last things I did in 2008 was to get my lathe running.

This wasn't just a matter of getting all the pieces to gether and making them fit — it involved cleaning about half the shed just so I would have a place to use the thing. I collected almost a decade's worth of wood scraps and gave them away to a family with a fireplace (I love Freecycle) and vacuumed up sawdust by the gallon. Ten years worth of junk wasn't pretty.

The lathe itself, despite the cobbled-together nature, came together very nicely.

Allan helped me a bit — electricity and I haven't always gotten along well.

You know how much stuff I had to clean to be able to get this in here?

Putting chisel to wood for the first time. What am I making? I... don't know, actually. But it was fun to do, very smooth, and nice to hold!

Now that I've got it running, I do realize one egregious oversight: I don't have any woodturning chisels! I got some practice in with a framing chisel, but there were many things about it that were less than ideal — like making a nice gentle curve with something that is inherently square. So now I need to sit down with the catalogs and find myself a good set of tools to use with my newest toy...

Christmas Photos, Part 2

Out of the gloom, out of the fog, there arrived... in-laws.

Santa was in attendance. When Deborah and her siblings were little, they used to say, "Of course Santa is real! He's my Daddy!"

Aiden and Grandpa Renaud try out Aiden's new helicopter.

"Andy, quit taking pictures so we can play the game already..."
Actually, we were waiting on something/someone else before we could start, and I couldn't resist getting a shot of the identical poses.



Fiona shows Auntie Marty a picture she drew for her.

More puzzling.

We started a new tradition this year: When we finish the Christmas puzzle, we date the back of the last piece.

Friday, January 16, 2009

For the Record

Yep, that's my thermometer. -18°F. No, it's not broken — I took a quick shot of it on my out the door to walk to work. It's the coldest temperature I have ever seen in the 15 years I've lived in Winona Lake. Come to think of it, it's probably the coldest I've ever seen, anywhere. And just last week, I was thinking that it never got below zero around here. Hah!

As I shuffled down the squeaky-snow-covered sidewalk, one of my neighbors stared at me, wide-eyed, and motioned that I should get in the car with him. He looked genuinely worried about me. I'll be fine, I said. Besides, I already knew that one of my co-workers, Amy, was hurrying through her morning routine with plans to track me down and give me a ride lest I end up walking all the way. She did find me, standing knee deep in the snow along the bank of the lake, taking several photos to stitch together later into a panorama. When we got to work, she pressed her car keys into my hand and ordered me to take her car if I needed to go anywhere during the middle of the day. That actually turned out to be a very good thing, considering that Deborah needed to go to an appointment later, and all of our cars were marooned in one way or another.

That night, as I was heading home — it had warmed up to a comfy -4°F — I noticed that the air tasted sweet. I'm not sure what to make of that. One of our friends, Julie, said that she tasted it, too. I've always heard of 20° and below described as "bitter cold" — but this was anything but. Maybe once you get below zero, it starts getting "sweet cold." I wonder what temperatures we'd assign to salty, sour, and savory/umami?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

You give a kid a present...

...and they play with the boxes.

Ooo! A box!

What's in it?

Ack! A sister!

Christmas Photos, Part 1

The kids were just about jumping out of their skin with excitement.

Aiden watches one of his new books in action. Yeah, it's a book — and it comes with pop-out figures and a tiny little wind-up tractor that zooms around the pages on a little track.

Aunt Martha gets a puzzle...

Deborah, Fiona, and Aiden check out a very cool Narnia pop-up book from my sister Sharon.

No harm in letting Santa know what you'd like, eh Fiona?

Uncle Paul explains the proper function of thumb-sized Rock-em Sock-em Robots.

The cat got a rather exorbitant trip to the vet to get an abscess drained, but was in good spirits nonetheless...

Well, what would you give a 2-month-old, that she would genuinely appreciate?

O Christmas Tree...

My Aunt Martha is braver with her back than I am!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

No-Spit Candy

My first year of college, I got adopted by a family in my church. It wasn't something any of us intended — I just needed a ride, as it would be nearly another year until I had my driver's license, and mountain biking in the snow while keeping warm was a stretch in my still-adapting wardrobe. So I rode with them. Problem is, they liked to stay and chat after church for a long time, until well after the cafeteria at Grace had closed. So they took me home for lunch. Those Sunday afternoons at their house were something I treasured then, and now. The kids — the oldest was, 10, I think — thought I was fun and cool (as much as I could tell) and the parents were wonderful to talk to and learn from. They became one of my first resources on figuring out how life on my own worked.

Now, I tell you that story, to tell you this one.

A few years later, when Deborah and I were "going out" — as much as one can "go out" when normally separated by a thousand miles — Deborah came down to visit me for Spring Break. Now, I didn't really have anyplace to go — my nearest relatives were well over a hundred miles away — and I certainly didn't have anyplace to put Deborah, so I asked if I could stay with them for the week. And, oh, can my girlfriend come, too?

Turns out we could.

The second or third day she was there, Deborah bounded out in her spritely way, and announced that she'd like to make candy. Resistance was slim, so she set to making up a big batch of coconut balls. This involved a large amount of powdered sugar, and Deborah, concerned that the kids would be... well, kids, dramatically emphasized that there was to be no added moisture to the mixture, lest the candies be reduced to balls of goo. If you sprayed when you spoke, you were banned during the first part — this was NO SPIT CANDY. She actually had me stand guard at the doors to the kitchen, which, in addition to making it more fun, made the candy nearly irresistible. It didn't hurt that they tasted really, really good, too.

Years later, when we were married, they invited us to join them for Thanksgiving. When we asked what we should bring, the answer was immediate and unanimous: NO SPIT CANDY! I think they were all gone before the meal was even served...

And now, year later than that, I see a renewed, plaintive plea in the comments on this blog, asking for the recipe for No-Spit Candy. So, here it is, guys. Enjoy.


2 lbs. powdered sugar
1 can condensed milk
1 ½ cups shredded coconut
1–2 cups chopped walnuts
½ stick (¼ cup) butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla


1 bag chocolate chips
½ block of paraffin (wax)

Mix the ingredients together and form into 1" balls. Place in the freezer until ready for dipping. Melt the paraffin (you can get this wherever they sell canning supplies) and the chocolate together in a double-boiler (or, as we did, in two nested pans with water in the bottom of one.) Dip the balls with toothpicks, and cover the hole with drizzle from a spoon. Enjoy!

Paul and Deborah demonstrate the dipping technique.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

More Ice Pictures

Remember way back when, there was an ice storm, and I said I was about to walk home in it? Well, I had my camera with me...

The stoplights added some nice color here.

It just about drove me crazy trying to get this shot just right. This is the closest one I got. Ideally, I would have had a tripod. The red in the snow and tree is from the brake lights of cars waiting at the intersection.

These limbs were beautiful and spooky.

Photo Tag

I've been tagged.

The rules are, apparently, thus:

  1. Go to the 4th folder in your computer where you store your pictures.
  2. Pick the 4th picture in that folder.
  3. Explain the picture.
  4. Tag 4 people to do the same.

OK, first off, I had to bend the rules a little, because the fourth folder where I keep pictures is "2007" and there aren't any pictures below that — only sub-folders. So, alphabetically, the fourth sub-folder is "April 4" and this is the fourth picture in that folder:

This is from when May (Deborah's youngest sister) was living with us; she was standing around, leaning on a chair being moody, but the light was falling on her in an interesting way, so I took her picture. In the first one, her expression is, "What are you doing? Why are you taking my picture?" but by the time we get to the fourth shot, she's snapping out of it and is about to laugh.

I tag...

Thursday, January 08, 2009

'Cause cheese isn't crunchy enough?

The latest trend in fine dining here at Patience Corners? Adding carrots to your grilled cheese sandwich.

Both Fiona and Aiden heartily recommend this new recipe. According to Fiona, this makes the sandwich smell like tuna, although neither Aiden nor I were able to confirm these findings in an independent study.

If I don't respond to your email right away...'s because I can't access it.

Embarq reports a major outage in Indiana (as in, most of the state) and both KCOnline and Eisenbrauns get their main connections through them. So: no email for me! Unfortunately, that also means no sales for Eisenbrauns, either...

A Boy and His Train: Bank On It!

Aiden loves trains. He comes by it naturally — I was crazy about trains when I was his age; perhaps it's genetic somehow. Aiden also has always admired Fiona's "elephanty" bank (as opposed to the "piggy" variety) that my Aunt Martha made for her several years ago. So, when Deborah discovered that the local paint-your-own-pottery studio, Pottery Bayou (get it?) had train banks... well, it was obvious what needed to be done!