crafty · DIY · hackin' it · Jewy goodness · The COVID files

Day 301: Mikdash Me’at (a little temple)

Jewish tradition says that ever since the Beit Hamikdash (main temple in Jerusalem) was destroyed, each Jewish home is a Mikdash Me’at (little temple.) I usually take that to mean that all the small Jewish rituals we do in our homes—Chanukah candles, Kiddush for Shabbat, Havdallah, even thanking God after meals—make our homes a place for spiritual connection with the divine. But today I got a bit more literal with the whole “little temple” thing: I turned my living room into a chapel of sorts for K’s bat mitzvah.

I feel like this should be a tutorial. I could show you how to make a Torah-reading table out of an IKEA desk, some leftover moulding scraps, a spare drawer box, and some Masonite. You have all of those things at home, don’t you? Doesn’t everybody?

*crickets*

Does that mean you also don’t have seven metres of sheer drapery fabric sitting around? Because that would be really useful to hide the computers and messy cubbies from the webcam.

Nevermind, then.

Image description: white plastic envelopes, each sealed with a duck-shaped sticker.

K and I prepared little packages for some of our more local friends and family, containing the siddur (prayer book) I’ve compiled for the event as well as some soft candies to throw at the bat mitzvah girl. We sealed them with the logo stickers I designed (rubber ducky silhouette wearing a blue kippah and a blue mask,) and spent two hours driving around to deliver them in person, before the stay-at-home order comes into effect at midnight tonight. We didn’t get to a few people, but they’re the ones who live close enough that we can go for a walk and just drop the package into their mailbox, so we can do it tomorrow or Friday (I’m pretty sure a stay-at-home order still allows us to go for a walk.)

Below are some pics of our reading table uncovered, N playing on the computer behind the drapes we put up (using a tension rod) to hide all the clutter, and K reading during our Zoom rehearsal (note the computer sitting on a stack of game boxes.) There’s plenty I could tell you about our rehearsal, but I’ll just say that it was much needed. And now I’m off to relax a bit before my bed beckons any louder.

DIY · hackin' it · Keepin' it real · love and marriage · snarky · whine and cheese

Day 255: I’m Not a Tootah

Did you read the title in Arnold Schwartzenegger’s voice? Just wondering, because that’s how I wrote it.

After building my first FIFO can rack, I realized I’d need another, and decided it was high time for me to post a tutorial. I thought about the modifications it needed and designed the whole thing in SketchUp. Then, one morning last week, I gathered my materials and set up Buttercup, my beloved table saw. I even asked Mr. December to take a good photo of me cutting the material.

I was going to explain to you how I upcycled my IKEA PAX drawer dividers from my old closet to serve as the dividers between rows of cans, and how I cut dadoes (grooves) in the shelves to hold the dividers.

Even when one of the boards slid sideways during cutting (note to self: ALWAYS double-check to make sure the guide fence is locked!) and I ended up with some dadoes that looked more like the mark of Zorro than a straight line, I was still committed to the tutorial.

But then I aligned, glued, clamped, and screwed everything, and my mistake became glaringly obvious: the top shelf was too narrow. Where it should have let just one can drop through, it had space for at least two.

Mr. December heard my frustrated moan and my cry of “OH, COME ON!” and laughed. Then he came out of his office to see what the fuss was about and he laughed some more. And that’s when I gave up on making this thing a tutorial.

I fixed it, in the end, by adding a small strip of wood to the back of the top shelf. You can see it in this photo:

Instead of being a relatively quick project with nothing but simple assembly once the pieces were cut, the can rack became a labour-intensive piece of work. I didn’t have the wherewithal to drag Buttercup back out to make dadoes on that tiny piece of wood, so I used my acrylic cutter blade to carve into the plywood. Then I used a flat-headed screwdriver to pry out the top few layers of wood, so the dividers could fit into the slots.

Finally finished, I carefully slid the whole thing into the shelf it was destined for… and discovered that I’d made it about three inches too short. $#!%!!!! I could have fit a whole ‘nother row of cans in there! At this point my confidence in both the ease and quality of this build was shattered.

The rack works, and it makes Mr. December inordinately happy to look at (I picture him walking in there after a tough work meeting and taking a deep, cleansing breath at the sight of his stockpile,) so in that sense it’s a success. My plan for a tutorial, on the other hand, was not. The whole process was a lot less Instructables and a lot more Fail Blog than I thought.

But if you’re a crazy survivalist prepper with a large family, or if you’re married to one, you could make one of these with only some IKEA drawer dividers, plywood, trim, a table saw, lots of glue, some clamps, and a Perspex cutter. And if you manage it in under 8 hours, send me a picture, will you?

DIY · el cheapo · hackin' it · The COVID files

Day 243: When Hoarding Pays Off

I spent part of my day yesterday with a spreadsheet, taking inventory in our basement. Mr. December felt that today was the day to do it—he thinks that we’ll be seeing shutdowns soon and wants to be prepared—so we counted cans of beans and calculated kilos of rice and so on, so that I could then go and order all the stuff we don’t have.

While we were down there we started talking about finding a different way to organize the canned beans. We decided we need a FIFO (First In, First Out) system, which I then found for sale on the internet for Too Much Money. I mean, we can afford it, but it seemed ridiculous, so I did what I always do in these circumstances: I made it myself. The best part? I used old scraps of wood and masonite that I saved from other projects.

Remember when Mr. December and I broke the bed? I saved the broken slats all those months ago, and yesterday I ran a few of them through the table saw to create dividers for the rows of cans. A few more of the bed slats performed a supporting role in the rack. A scrap piece of plywood turned into the two sides, and various odds and ends of trim came in handy for edging the shelves. Here’s what it looks like so far:

See, you put the cans on the top shelf and they roll towards the back of the shelf, then drop through to the bottom shelf and roll to the front. The oldest cans will always be the first ones we reach for.

I spent the rest of the day working on the puzzle I blogged about yesterday. Mr. December asked me where it’s going to live while we’re working on it. I had no idea, but I went downstairs to where I keep all my extra stuff and came back up with a cabinet door. I stuck felt pads on the corners so it wouldn’t damage the floors when we slide it under the couch. Then I grabbed my glue gun and ran a bead of glue around the edge of the door so the puzzle pieces can’t slide off.

As you can see, we’ve made some serious progress on the puzzle (although looking at this picture, it looks to me like one or two of those pieces are in the wrong place. The colours don’t match.) It’ll still take us a week or so to finish it, so I’m glad we can now stow it and pull it out easily.

I guess Mr. December and I are both kind of hoarders in our own way. He’s a bit of a crazy survivalist prepper, and I’m the kind of person who says, “I’ll save it—it’ll come in useful someday.” But is it still hoarding if the stuff actually ends up getting used?

DIY · hackin' it · Jewy goodness · Just the two of us

Day 234: Take Stuff Apart

I put up a lamp over R’s desk today. The cord was way too long, and rather than just tying it with a cable tie and forgetting about it, I figured out how to shorten it.

The lamp is one of these:

So I looked at the hole where the cord comes out and thought, Maybe I can just stuff the cord in there. I tried, but I could only get a few centimetres in.

So I opened the back of the metal part that attaches to the wall and had a look. Inside there was a white plastic box that was screwed shut.

If it can be screwed shut, then it can be unscrewed and opened, I reasoned. So I opened up the inside of the lamp. Inside I found more cords and what I assume is some sort of LED-friendly transformer. I also found a bunch of empty space. So I filled it:

Then I mounted the lamp on the wall beside R’s desk and patted myself on the back for a job well done.


I took apart our sukkah frame today. The walls actually came down (and got washed, folded, and neatly stowed in a plastic box) the day after Sukkot ended, but the frame has been up this whole time.

I couldn’t find the ladder I had used to put the frame up. A normal person might have gone looking for the ladder; I am not a normal person. I thought about it for a minute and then figured out how to take down the sukkah without needing a ladder at all. And if I can take it down without a ladder, doesn’t it follow that I could put it up without a ladder next year?

Bear with me for a moment while I write a note to myself:

Dear Me,
Next year when you take out the sukkah frame, assemble it as follows:
1. Assemble the north wall (two posts and top beam) and attach the first ⅔ of each north-south ceiling beam as well.
2. Use the partial ceiling beams to push the north wall frame upright. Secure posts by screwing them into the fence.
3. Assemble the south wall (two posts, top and bottom beams) and lay it out on the ground, with the bottoms near the base of the north wall.
4. Attach the last ⅓ of each ceiling beam to the other ⅔. Then attach the free end to the south wall assembly (which is still lying on the ground.)
5. Before you raise the south wall into place, attach the bird netting to the ceiling.
6. Attach the 2×3 to the wall of the house with the blue concrete screws. The anchors are already in the brick.
7. NOW raise the south wall into place. Attach the south-west post to the 2×3 with pipe clamps and screws.
8. Anchor the south-east post with a concrete deck block.
9. Give yourself a pat on the back. You’re awesome.
Love,
Me.


One more thing got taken apart today, but it won’t ever be reassembled. Our fancy corkscrew died. The arm wasn’t moving like it was supposed to, so Mr. December started to fiddle with it.

“Do you have a hammer?” he asked. “I think if I just tap on this part I can get these cogs to line up again.”

We went down to the makery. Several taps of the hammer later, it wasn’t looking good for our corkscrew.

“Uh, sweetheart?” I offered, “Maybe this metal piece with the snapped-off edge has something to do with the malfunction…”

“It’s dead, Jim.”

I was right. Of course I was—putting stuff together is my area of expertise. So is online shopping, which comes in handy for replacing things that get broken, if a replacement is needed. Most of the time, though, I can fix things—or even improve them—by taking them apart.

DIY · goodbye clutter! · hackin' it · IKEA · Kids

Day 223: Can’t hack it? Think again.

Sometimes the solution to a problem is just staring you in the face, and you don’t see it for what it is.

This weekend I decided to clean up one of the desks in our living room—the one where the family laptop is supposed to live. I started with the clutter, obviously: old papers, cups that should have gone back to the kitchen (even though there’s a no-drinking-near-the-computer rule,) and a mess of cables that weren’t even connected to anything. With those gone, I was dismayed to find that it still looked messy. I may have gotten rid of the unconnected cables, but there were still plenty of cables all over the place. It was still a mess. Sigh.

I decided to accept the mess for now and set about connecting the laptop to a full-size keyboard (better for typing practice) and a mouse. It became obvious that the laptop needed to be raised a bit for the screen to be properly positioned. Immediately my mind turned to how I could build a platform: I could use some of my scrap plywood, or maybe just some stiff cardboard, or maybe I should buy a fancy laptop dock…

I looked up for a moment, and the answer was staring back at me.

I had these two wooden magazine files (from IKEA, naturally) being used to hold some of my homeschooling papers and booklets. Those are basically boxes, I mused, and they have convenient holes on both sides… and I bet they’ll interlock nicely… a minute later I was emptying them and finding somewhere to stash the papers (if you visit my house, please don’t open the cabinet between the desks—you’ll cause an avalanche.)

As I suspected, the two magazine files fit together to create one long, rectangular box. I ran the power cord in through one rear hole and out through the other, to the USB-port side of the laptop. I ran the cords for the keyboard and the mouse through the front holes of the box and then out through the hole closest to a USB hub I scrounged up from the basement. Then I set the computer on top and hooked it up to the hub. Here’s how it looks now:

Much better. The best part is that it required absolutely no cutting, drilling, gluing, or screwing. It was fast, clean, and completely reversible anytime I want. And the worst part? These magazine files have been discontinued in Canada. What a shame—I have so many cool ideas for them now.