Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye 2011

It was an amazing, challenging, life-changing year.

After working for a non profit for several years, I started the year on a sabbatical...trying to figure out what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go. And then James got the opportunity to telecommute and work from home. Side by side 24/7? Is there a thing as too much togetherness?

Apparently not because we loved it!

And we decided to completely revamp how we eat and exercise, cancelled our gaming accounts and finally went out to see what this beautiful state had to offer.

Punchbowl Falls at Eagle Creek

Breathtaking.

Admittedly, we fell off the healthy living wagon for a while with the Holidays and all but we're committed once again. Sorry, Tony H, we're back!

We also went a little overboard on our hobby/obsession - LEGO - tripling our collection which required a dedicated room...

LEGO Room

And my most viewed blog post of the year (or all time, really) came about from helping out a friend with a design concept for her new store - a penny countertop.

Penny Countertop: with resin coating

Then there was Lucy.

Shy little Lucy.

Living with a kitten has been a mixed bag - some wonderful moments and some incredibly exasperating moments. But how can you see that little face and not fall in love? She is so obviously smitten with Daddy, curling up next to him, playing fetch and following him from room to room. Can't blame her though - he is pretty irresistible.

And I turned 40.

No parties, I said. Something about this milestone was so hard to swallow, I didn't want to celebrate it. So, James just bought me this...

2011 Infiniti G37X Coupe

Which made it a bit easier to handle.

I ended the year with a new job in a new field. A little daunting, somewhat overwhelming but I love a challenge. With it, came the opportunity to work with people I both liked and respected! It's been a long time coming.

Thank you 2011 for one of the best years of my life. And throughout it all, I had the fortune to share it with my best friend - who makes me smile and laugh and thinks I look at him with rose colored love goggles. But honestly, what's not to love?

James

Handsome and funny. The perfect combination.

Friday, December 16, 2011

One LEGO To Rule Them All

We've been talking about this off and on since 5:45 am. Summer 2012 can't get here fast enough. Actually, I take that back. We need to save.

Hang tight, my precious.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Full Moon

The day before a total lunar eclipse. We set our alarms for 5 am and jumped (okay, crawled) out of bed. And were promptly met with a wall of fog. Thanks Portland!

We drove around trying to see if the fog was better in other places with no luck. After James had to answer my question "Is that the moon?" with "No, that's a street light", we called it and went back to bed.

Bummed.

This photo was taken on Dec 8th. Clear skies. I think the Moon is just f*cking with me.

Full Moon Dec 9

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Lucy, Weeping Angel

The Blink episode of Dr. Who scared the crap out of me. It featured these aliens/monsters, Weeping Angels. They freeze in place (as stone statues) when they're being observed, but if you blink or look away, they quickly and silently move... towards you. o.O

There's even a Minecraft mod featuring them. I had a REALLY hard time watching this Yogscast video.



I think Lucy is part Weeping Angel. I'll be in the kitchen making dinner or washing up with no sign of the elusive kitten. But then I'll turn around and there she is. Silent and immobile. Just staring. Look away for a moment and look back - she's inched her way closer. Still staring.

So I laughed and said "Hey James, I think Lucy is a Weeping Angel..." Then I stopped laughing.

And now I'm scared of my own kitten.

Lucy the Weeping Angel

[Update: And I thought Lucy was creepy. This cat takes the cake.]

Lucy's Mani/Pedi

Look at how much she's grown. This is where I sigh nostalgically and think about how tiny she was when we first brought her home. That was over 3 lbs ago. She's more than doubled in size now.

She also likes to scratch, scratch, scratch. We've been using soft paws for a month now with mixed results. One application is apparently supposed to last for 4-6 weeks. Yeah, right. We have yet to go more than a week without one or more disappearing. I have no idea if they're falling off or being chewed off (likely).

Luckily, Lucy is pretty calm during the mani process, despite being obviously unhappy. This week, I used pink caps which are much more noticeable. So I can quickly see if she's missing any. Also, they look hilarious. Definitely getting glitter for the next batch.

Lucy's Manicure

Only did a few on each paw this time since she still had some clear ones on.

Pink soft paws

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

James and The Bus

This is for Ian, who seems to think this blog is dedicated to waxing poetic about my husband. I just wanted to point out what the true purpose is...

Remember the kilt? Keep this in the back of your mind as we walk down memory lane.

Classic.

And remember the time he signed up for Zumba before he knew what Zumba was? I think this is my single biggest regret in life - that I wasn't there to watch or record it. It still keeps me up at night.

But back to his fashion choices. If you thought the kilt extravaganza could be explained away as the follies of youth, think again. Spandex.



The man knows how to rock some sunglasses.



His come hither look.



Yup. This one always gets me. James is the one wearing the manly powder blue bow tie and cummerbund..



One time, he forgot to fill up the tank in the car and I wrote this post and uploaded this photo. I didn't really need an excuse - this pink tank top is solid gold.


There's more, a whole lot more - I mean, there's all his Renaissance Faire years!!

James at Ren Faire

You see?!

There he is.

My husband.

Hmm. I guess Ian was right after all. Because seeing all these photos reminded me how amazing and funny he is. I adore you, James. My best boy.

James @17

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lucy Zoom

Lucy can be a little wary around me at times - I think it's because I can't resist picking her up and smooching her silly. And she's currently in this "you can hold me but only on my terms" phase. Depending on her mood, she'll cuddle and purr for hours or be completely standoffish.

Luckily, my camera has a 60x digital zoom. So, I can get right up to her eyeball. As I was zooming back out, I realized she wasn't getting any smaller. The zoom lens had piqued her interest.

She's growing sooo quickly. I want my little baby back.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The LEGO Store: Washington Square

We are lucky enough to live within driving distance to a LEGO store (well, maybe not so lucky on our credit card) so we end up visiting at least once a week. Yes, there are other places you can buy LEGO, like Toy's R Us (but they markup their LEGO so be aware of that when they go on "sale"), Target, Amazon etc... but the customer service at the LEGO store is fantastic.


                                                   Source LEGO

The staff is in a word: amazing. Especially Daniel and Lauren. Lauren actually helped me feel through the various Series Minifigures packages, identifying different shapes. Great attitudes - especially when you consider how chaotic it can get in there (it's a kid mecca!), the burning lights (my only gripe) and now, the Holiday crowd, I'm always impressed by how friendly and helpful everyone is.

Also, be sure to join the VIP program. It's free to join and tracks your spending at the store - you get points for every purchase which you can use towards future purchases. If you're buying at the LEGO store and not on the VIP program, you're passing up free LEGO.

If you live in the Portland area, go!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

The LEGO Room

[Note: Here's a how-to-guide on how to build the Lego Minifigure Display case.]

I decided a while back to turn my crafting studio into a LEGO room. I never used it so I packed up my scrapbooking supplies and sold them on Craigslist. I did however, keep all the furniture since it was ideal for storage and building models and MOCs.

Here's the view from the door. Most LEGO builders have their work surfaces pushed up against a wall so they can stack small, modular shelves for easy access. We might do that eventually but this allows both of us to work on either side. Plus, I kind of like the flow of the room this way.

LEGO Room

The desk is made from the Adams tabletop and Adams shelves from Target and those are IKEA Expedit shelves. I'm really, really happy with my choice of desks. I went back and forth between the Pottery Barn version and Target's version but in the end, the Adams table made much more sense and it was half the price at the time.

Unfortunately, it looks like Target jacked up the price - the table top and 2 pairs of side shelves are now $750 total. I think I paid $475 with discounts and free shipping. And you definitely want to get free shipping since it weighs close to 200 lbs.

View from the window.

LEGO Room

One of my favorite things in this room are the new minifigure display cases. It's so nice having them out on display and dust-free. The link will show you a how-to guide on how to build them - they're super easy!

LEGO Room - Minifigure display

The main Expedit shelf is divided into 2 sections. I used the top shelves for display and the bottom half for storing different sets. The white magazine holders have all the instruction booklets sorted by theme.

[Yes, those white and green tissue flowers are not exactly LEGO related but they're pretty and one of the few holdovers from when this room was all girl-crafty!]

LEGO Room

Here are the bottom shelves. Store sets or part them out? This has been an ongoing debate for quite a long time. I like storing individual sets in containers - saves a lot of time digging around when we want to re-build. But James wants to part everything out so we have access to LEGO that would otherwise be sitting in bins.

We compromised and only store the sets we know we will rebuild. There are umm... 75 more bins downstairs waiting to be labeled.

LEGO Room - Sets

The closet holds our loose LEGO and UCS sets. (I updated it since I first wrote this post now it looks like this instead of the photo above when there was still a door - more info here)

Wall Mounted Shelving

Each of those storage containers are individually labeled and then organized by element and color. I won't even mention how long this takes us - suffice it to say, it's a labor of love.



We still have a crazy amount of LEGO to sort through and organize since our dining room table still looks like this:

LEGO Organization process

That's it - a brief tour of the LEGO room in progress and how we store and organize our collection.  And yes, we know it's a little over the top. But it makes us smile!

Lego Minifigure Display: Star Wars

Update: May 28, 2012. We revamped the Lego Room again to accommodate our growing collection - here's version 2.0.



Linked to House of Hepworth, Thrifty Decor Chick and I Heart Organizing.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

For Henry

A while ago, I had a little chat with a Lego obsessed little boy (no, not my husband) and he was unimpressed with my Stormtrooper knowledge. Or lack thereof.

After some research, I realized just how woefully ignorant I was of the many, many flavors of Trooper goodness.  Here's a small sampling:

Storm/Clonetroopers

First Row (left to right): Clonetrooper, Clone Pilot (Ep. 3), Clone Wars Pilot, Commander Cody, ARF Trooper, Shadow Stormtrooper, Captain Rex

2nd Row: Clonetrooper Commander, Bomb Squad Trooper, Snowtrooper, Star Corps Trooper, Clone Recon Trooper, Stormtrooper

3rd Row: Biker Scout, Jet Trooper, Tie Fighter Pilot, Phase II Trooper, Shock Trooper.

Monday, October 31, 2011

LEGO Minifigure Display Cases

[Update 2013: The cases are complete! You can see my finished wall of Minifig cases as well as some other versions that people have made. And here's a tour of the Lego Room and its most current iteration.]

I was always disappointed that we collected LEGO minifigures and then stored them in plastic containers out of sight. I thought about displaying them on a large base plate but my nose itched at the thought of all that dust.

Ideally, I wanted something enclosed that could be hung on a wall. With a rough idea in mind, I dragged the boy to Michael's. We scored some amazing deals on shadow boxes - they were originally $64.00 each but were on sale for 40% off and we had a coupon for an additional 25% off the total purchase. Don't buy these without the coupons.

The measurements of my shadow box are 18 x 24 and approximately 2 inches deep (I checked on their website and didn't see the model and size that I bought, sorry!). Also double check each case even if they're from the same manufacturer. We noticed a half inch discrepancy in one of the cases and had to take it back - it was very noticeable on the wall next to the others.

[Check Michael's website for weekly coupons. They routinely have coupons for 40% off one regular item.]

Shadow Box Case

James originally wanted to build the interior with just LEGO but that approach needed multiple support columns. I wanted a cleaner, open look which required custom shelves. We wandered around Home Depot for a while until we found these. Perfect!

Trim for the shelves

Trim for the shelves

For our first set of cases, we had Home Depot cut the trim to size - the cutting service is free and they will cut almost anything for you as long as you buy it. Stack multiple pieces of trim on top of each other for cleaner cuts because the piece on the bottom will be splintered.

Trim for the shelves

I recommend you measure each piece while you're at the store, just in case things are off. We had to get a few re-cuts the first visit.

Soon to be shelves

After sanding (lots of splinters!), I spray painted the wood with Rustoleum Satin Black - all purpose paint. Two coats and remember to get the sides that face the glass. There are 8 shelves per shadowbox with the bottom of the case serving as a row.  This was actually the longest step - literally waiting for paint to dry. With a few coats of black spray paint, the "shelves" blended right in with the case frame.

I started off using primer which you can see in the photo below but got lazy and skipped that step for the subsequent cases with no noticeable difference.

Shelves

We decided to use LEGO bricks and plate along the side as support columns. Each shelf was 2.35 inches high - for light saber clearance etc, you know, important stuff - except the bottom and top shelf, which needed slightly more room for the bigger minifigures like Hagrid or General Grievous.

Each column contained 5 1x3 bricks, 2 1x3 plates and a 2x3 plate for the shelf to rest on. You need 2 support columns per row - one on each side. We didn't have enough black bricks and plates to build more than one case so we ordered the rest on Bricklink.

In order to secure and stabilize the columns, I used some scrapbooking adhesive called ZOTs to stick the bricks against the side of the case and also the shelves to the 2x3 plate. I love this stuff - it's acid free and while quite strong, it's not permanent. Here's one column ready to be stuck inside the case:

Columns and Zots!

If you're really compulsive, use a level for each row because if the bottom row is askew, you'll keep building on top of it.

After we started this process, I did a Flickr search and saw that someone had used a similar approach - although he used all LEGOs to build his shelves.

Shadow Box

I placed each minifigure on a 2x4 plate (or the stand included with Collectible Minifigures) also secured to the shelf with two ZOTs.

[Update 2/22/2015: I stopped using the ZOTs because they weren't as secure as I would like and they wiggled around. So, I switched to double sided mounting tape (like the 3M Command strips) and cut it down to size. They're much more secure. You can buy rolls of them at your local hardware store - opt for the thinnest ones.]

Use whatever spacing you like to make sure they're not too crowded. For my cases, each shelf holds 11 minifigures and with 9 shelves, that's a total of 99 minifigures per case.

We were at odds at whether or not to display everything. The boy wanted unique models, otherwise, we'd have rows and rows of Stormtroopers, droids and Rebel fighters. Originally, the cases looked like this ... but it looked busy and chaotic.

Lego Minifigure Display: Star Wars

 So, I tried grouping like minifigs together. That boring case we were worried about ended up looking like this:

Troopers!!

Amazing!! This approach requires a bit more work since we're always opening the cases and rearranging things as we get new sets.

And remember my craft studio? I converted it to a LEGO room and sold all my scrapbooking supplies. And then the AT-AT moved in.

Lego Minifigure Display Wall: 99% full


Things of note: 

1. I wish I had bought front-closing shadow boxes (think Aaron Brothers may have some) - this would make accessing and switching the minifigures so much easier. Also, great for kids who want to play (gasp!) with the little guys.

**Update: I made some additional cases with the front closing shadow boxes. They're a little bit smaller but the ease of access is perfect.

Front opening Minifigure Case - Marvel and DC

2. I made these cases vertically but horizontally looks just as good and would use up less materials - less bricks, plates etc because of less rows.

3. Move the minfigures as close to the glass as possible. I moved these guys one stud closer and they were a lot more visible.

4. Be prepared to buy a lot of Lego minifigures.

Play well!

Monday, October 03, 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Craigslist: A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Misspelled Words

I've written past tutorials on Craigslist and the art of selling successfully in my 101 and 101 Part 2 write ups. This last week, I conducted a little experiment to see if my tips really made a difference. I saw yet another ad for bulk LEGO using the Craigslist photo uploading service and it looked something like this.



There were 3 more frustratingly small and unhelpful photos attached. But the price was reasonable at $50. No other description was provided and we couldn't really make out what we were buying but we decided to take a chance. It turned out to be a decent haul at around 20 lbs of LEGO and we went through our usual cleaning process, adding in a dishwasher rinse cycle as well. Then we threw out all the non/fake LEGO which left us with 14 lbs which was a bit disappointing.

But it wasn't Star Wars LEGO. Lots of Classic Space and other great pieces but really, not things that interested us and I didn't have the energy or interest to keep it. So, I decided to re-Craigslist it. Only this time, I included lots of description and bright, full photos like this:

Lego Sorting

And closeups of the Minifigures, wheels, plates, etc.

Minifigures

And I changed the asking price to $85. It sold within several hours of posting to a very happy couple with a 9 year old boy.

On a completely different note, I had one of these for breakfast a few days ago. My arteries are still recovering.

Biscuits, fried chicken, bacon and gravy.

Friday, September 23, 2011

That Feather Is Doomed

My kitten has gained 6 ounces in the last 3 weeks. She's a beast now. And she can jump! I think James and I are used to the much slower reaction time of our senior cats so we were a bit taken aback by Lucy's enthusiastic and spastic responses.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Arrrgh Matey: Craigslist Bounty Continued

Today is International talk like a Pirate day. Not sure why we need a day like this but I'm pretty good at it. I just try to speak Elizabethan and out comes pirate gibberish instead. Of course, this disgusts my Renaissance Faire connoisseur husband.

Anyways, last weekend we stumbled across an amazing Lego find on Craigslist. I shared some photos of the washing, drying and sorting process. In addition to the 20 lbs of loose Lego, we bought 3 used sets. James rebuilt them to make sure there were no missing pieces.

This is the Trade Federation MTT (7662) originally released in August 2007 for $99.99. It has been subsequently retired and new in box, sells for over $500 on Amazon and eBay. The used version sells for about $180. We got ours for $50.

Trade Federation MTT 7662

Unfortunately, it's not 100% complete. There are about 8 special battle droids missing but since we don't intend to resell, it shouldn't be a problem.

Trade Federation MTT 7662

This is the Tantive IV (10198) aka Rebel Blockade Runner. It was the ship that carried Princess Leia, C-3PO and R2-D2 in Star Wars: A New Hope. Originally released in 2009 for $149.99, it has yet to be retired so you can still purchase it for the retail price. We paid around $50 but it is missing all the mini-figs (about 5 of them).

Tantive IV

Kind of an awkward looking ship but it has lots of fun compartments and escape pods and the thrusters are pretty cool.

Tantive IV Thrusters

There's still another ship from the Craigslist bounty but I haven't photographed it yet. Instead for your viewing pleasure, two different Lego AT-AT. The one in front is the Motorized Walking AT-AT (10178) release date 2007 for $129.99 - now currently sells for around $250 NIB. The one in the back is the AT-AT (4483) release date 2003 for $99.99 - now sells NIB for $550 and used for $200.

AT-AT Walker and the motorized version

Aren't they gorgeous? I just need some kind of Ice Planet Hoth background to take some proper photos.

AT-AT