Sunday, March 6, 2011

Basement - Finished!!!!


This is a finished project that has been a long time in the coming.  Renovating the basement common area to something usefull and tasteful that will entice people to use the space - for something other than a dumping ground.

The youngest had a large table for Lego, and it's been used as a game room/Xbox room off and on.  But yet, it wasn't comfortable or enticing.  Just some space where junk accumulated.

Our oldest is away at college and comes home from time to time during school breaks.  With his departure to college, his bedroom was immediately taken by one of the younger kids.  We still needed a place for the oldest to come home to.  So the Basement Improvement Project was conceived.

We hauled out all of the junk, finished out an archway area into more wall space and a door, painted the walls, replaced the skanky carpeting, bought new furniture, and made the basement a combination part time bedroom and teen rec room.

I think it turned out wonderfully! 

Ikea Billy bookcase and Hemnes TV stand
Hemnes 3-drawer dresser
Conference table, four chairs and Manstad sleeper sofa

Moving in - homework, computers, guitars
Seating area - couch and 2 bean bag chairs
Ikea Manstad couch folded out to a double/queen bed

I'm thrilled with the results.  It's the way I envisioned the colors and features.  Hopefully, Big Boy and other kids will enjoy the space for years to come. 

The Flor carpet squares worked out really well and the furniture looks to meet the function.  The party starts here tomorrow!

On to the next project.

Start here for the first Basement post.


Basement - Carpet!

Male bonding - Stuart, Jake, and Kris laying (on) carpet squares
The Flor squares are pretty cool! 

After laying down a few squares to get the feel and squareness of the room - all it takes is a little sticky to join the corners and you're good to go.  The floor was carpeted in no time. 

Joining the corners with little stickies

On to the last phase - moving in the furniture.

Previous basement post - wall painting
First basement post here, the "before" picture


Saigon Kiss

Motorbike jam in Vietnam
I've expressed my love of Wiki from time to time.  Another one of my favorite websites is Urban Dictionary which helps me to keep up with modern slang.  A while back, I checked on some lyrics of a song I like by The Cult, Li'l Devil that mentions a "Saigon Kiss", which after checking with Urban Dictionary, means a burn on the inside of the right calf caused by the exhaust pipe of a small motorbike.  Which leads me to today's post!

Recently, a friend returned from Hanoi, and was telling me how jam-packed the city is with motorbikes and that the sidewalks are almost impassible with parked bikes.  To bring this concept home, he gave me a copy of an article from Friday's Wall Street Journal by Daniel Henninger which echoed the same theme!

There's nowhere to walk here explained a waitress in a Saigon restaurant.  The sidewalks are covered with motorbikes.  Saigon has been described as a city of nine million people and 30 million motorbikes.

Sidewalks taken over by parked motorbikes

I had no idea!  The article went on to describe Vietnam as a motorbike culture.  I'll have to check with Copenhagenize and see how that squares with his interest in alternative commuting - bicycle cultures. 

Thanks to those who contributed to today's lesson in world cultures, I learned something new today.


March Breakfast Meet-up

Fresh few inches of snow from last night
As today is the first Sunday of the month - that means breakfast at Mark's Mid-Town Coney Island.  We met friends at the top of the street and trudged through fresh snow and ice.

We enjoyed the usual odd assortment of foods off the menu plus copies amounts of coffee, juice, and Mountain Dew.

split grilled cinnamon roll

chili cheese fries - the cheese is underneath the chili

hash browns, eggs, sausage and cinnamon raisin toast

omelet with rye
And then the little people got restless!

See you next month for another great time - Sunday April 3, 2011 at 8:00 am.  Mark's Coney Island at Plymouth and Green, Ann Arbor.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Chevy Volt Sales

Chevy Volt

Here's a funny and sarcastic story of Chevy Volt sales that my Dad caught on the Weekly Standard Car Talk yesterday. 

Hey everybody--it's the Age of the Electric Car! Sales numbers for the Chevy Volt are out and you'll never guess how many of these future machines consumers gobbled up in the month of February. Go ahead and try. I'll wait.Is that your final answer? Okay. Well the real number is:
Yup. 281 Volts were sold in February. That might sound terrible to you, but it's actually really strong. Because Nissan only sold 67 Leafs (Leaves?), and the Leaf is both cheaper and, as far as over-priced econo-boxes go, way better than the Volt. So really, the Volt is doing pretty great. In fact, if you had told GM execs last year that the Volt was going to out-sell the Leaf by more than 4-to-1, they would have been thrilled.
Now if you wanted to be a Grumpy Gus and fixate on the bad news, it's true that the trend isn't great. In January, GM moved 321 Volts, so February represents a 12 percent decline. But again, there's a bright side: Leaf sales dropped by 23 percent! So actually, the Volt has better legs than its prime competitor, too.
What, you want more good news? Okay, how about this: Because the Volt and Leaf sales are so . . . emerging, taxpayers saved money! The government gives everyone who buys one of the overpriced Volts or Leafs $7,500. So every electric car that doesn't sell is money back in our pocket!
The only real problem is what these numbers mean for President Obama's goal of having 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015. At this rate, it'll take 232 years to hit that mark. But never fear. As Fred Barnes reminds us, Washington won't ever give up trying to influence how Americans drive. They'll think of something.
Bonus Fun Fact: The Volt's 2011 production run was originally supposed to be 60,000 units. GM cut that number to 10,000 units. At this rate, the Volt is on track to sell 3,612 Volts this year. (Assuming sales don't decline any further.)

I, more than most people, desperately want the electric cars to take off, so that I can have a car to buy, seeing as how we are between cars.  Imagine a future for your kids, that ride/drive cars but have never pumped gas?

I did yet another survey for the Nissan Leaf yesterday that asked endless questions about my perception and what the hindrance was to sales...lack of charging stations, perceived battery shortfalls, how many electric cars did I think would be sold by 2015?  all sorts of goofy questions.  At the end, I was asked if I had any questions and answer?  Why can't I go to a dealership and try and electric car now?  Why is it that I live near the Volt manufacturing facility but can't test drive a Volt?  How come the Toyota Rav 4 EV was available in the mid-90's and now totally unavailable even after all this time?

Our family is the perfect candidate for an electric vehicle - we have short commutes and a garage.  We can easily charge the EV at home and do all of our running around within a few miles from our house....and yet we wait.....


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mexican Night - Feeding My Peeps

Black beans and lamb over lettuce with some tortilla chips
I recently learned from Urban Dictionary that "peep's" is short-hand for "people".  Too cute!  So now I think of my kids as peeps - a cute name for my cute kids.

As it's Wednesday night, we had something vaguely Mexican made with dried black beans.  We also had a pound of lamb hiding in our chest freezer.  I thought I had used it all up, but no.

2 cups dried beans - I used black but any other dried bean or canned will work
1 pound meat - beef, pork, or lamb, or no meat at all!
1 cup salsa

Soak beans for a few hours or overnight.
Cook beans until tender, if not using canned.
I use a pressure cooker with enough fresh water to cover the beans and then a bit more water.
Pressure cook for 40 minutes.
While the beans are cooking, fry the meat in a medium to large sized pan
Add 1 cup of salsa, salt and pepper to taste.
If you are inclined - season with cumin and chili powder
Add canned beans or cooked beans to meat and salsa mixture
Heat and taste.

Cooking ground lamb

black beans just finished in the pressure cooker

Lamb with salsa and black beans

Tomorrow's lunch for the peeps - they prefer the ingredients rolled in a tortilla instead of as a salad

extras - salad dressing, cheese, romaine, sour cream, chips, more salsa

My plate

Condiments of the gods - I put sriracha on pretty much everything!

This is an easy dinner to throw together, especially if the beans are already cooked.  I've been pressure cooking beans for years and don't give it much thought.  I just need to build in 50 minutes to have the cooker come up to pressure, cook, and then release. 


Biking in Amsterdam - No One Sweats

Bikes parked along a canal in Amsterdam

Wow, I loved this article posted on Yahoo yesterday via the Associated Press!

AMSTERDAM – Nearly everyone in Amsterdam rides a bicycle.
No one sweats.
As a longtime cyclist in New York City, and a sweaty guy who can raise a few droplets going to the end of the walk to retrieve the newspaper in January, that's how it seemed to me when I was there. I was prepared for the ubiquity of cyclists. But the refinement was a surprise.
Who knew that urban cycling — which I find mostly exhilarating and joyous, but occasionally a grim struggle for a sliver of pavement — could also be elegant?
This is how I saw the Dutch cyclists.
I ride to news assignments, sometimes in jacket and tie, feeling overdressed. I saw well-dressed men riding to work in Amsterdam, and they didn't seem remotely uncomfortable.
And the women! Granted that riding a bike is like playing the cello — one of those things that makes men look dorky and women look hot — but women bikers in Amsterdam seem to cut no fashion corners. High heels and skirts are not uncommon, whether they are headed to the office or carting a crateful of kids to school on one of those cargo bikes with a big box up front.
Part of staying fashionable is that no one wears a helmet. Not the riders; not the kids sitting up front or on the luggage rack. Either cycling is extraordinarily safe in Amsterdam or the lawyers aren't in charge yet.
I came back to New York determined to apply the lessons of Amsterdam cycling to my own life. Some I couldn't. The helmet, for instance is non-negotiable. But could I ride elegantly in an aggressive city like New York?
Mainly, it meant slowing down. This is harder than it sounds. New York moves faster than Amsterdam. Plus the bikes we ride here were mostly built to race on the road, in the mountains or on a track.

There's more....

I'm going to have to try to a bit harder to live up to this image!