Friday, November 16, 2012

Office Eye Candy

For the last few months (okay, year), I've been spending a lot of time at work.

The last month has been exceptionally busy, with long 12 hour days. My desk has been horrendously messy, just downright chaotic - which has been driving me crazy. I finally cleared through the bulk of the work and organized tonight.

Then I was chastised for a shocking lack of photos of the boy.

I might have to remedy that because I could learn to like this view.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Instructions Are Overrated

I've been a bit fixated with the kitten these last few months which explains the dearth of Lego posts.

But we've still been picking up sets here and there and I finally built my very first UCS set. The B-Wing. Probably one of the oddest looking ships in Lego Star Wars fleet. For some reason, I love it!

The build went fairly quick! Especially if you're not really paying attention to what you're doing. Shortly after I posted this photo on Flickr, I received a few messages explaining that I built the wings incorrectly - all the guns should be pointing in the same direction.

Doh!

Lego UCS B-Wing

I haven't put the stickers on it yet - stickers make me very anxious.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Teddy and Lucy are dressed.

James is handing out candy and exclaiming over everyone's costumes. I'm analyzing earnings reports for work and listening to Peter Frampton.

We're both satisfied with the distribution of labor.

Teddy and Lucy wish you a Happy Halloween!

Now...bring on Christmas!!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bad Mommy

Last year, I bought Lucy a little Santa outfit. She barely tolerated it and just lay there.

The other day, we were in a pet store and saw the most. adorable. outfit. ever. Happily, Teddy is a much better sport!

Teddy, the red nosed reindeer.

Something about this hat just cracks me up. It looks like a reindeer muppet with a big black mouth!

I am a baaad mommy

I wish I could have video'd Lucy's response to seeing Teddy with his antlers. She was not amused. But I do have this!

Sunday, October 07, 2012

The Perfect Chair

October already?!? I need to heed Ferris Bueller's advice about blinking and life.

The last few months have been spent dealing with the realities of growing older. It's a sad truth that our bodies just don't bounce back the way they used to. Now, we even have to put some thought into how we sit. Really? How we sit?!

The folks at the Relax the Back store love us. We've been in and out all month, checking out chairs and recliners, massagers and what not. And that's where we discovered the Perfect Chair.

It's big, it's leather and doesn't fit our decor but all is forgiven and forgotten the minute you sit in it. I think my lower back actually sighed with happiness.

The Perfect Chair

We're going to need to redo our living room - remove that hideous fireplace, buy a bigger TV, switch out that sectional to make room for another chair... because we're already bribing/arguing/cajoling each other about who gets it.

The Perfect Chair


The Perfect Chair

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Must Destroy!

Whatever is lurking under those sheets!! This is Teddy's favorite game, next to jumping in our laps while we eat. It's been a little less than 3 weeks since we brought him home and he's gained over a pound and in my eyes, doubled in size. My little fuzzy baby is growing up too quickly.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Photos Of A Black Cat

The boy is lucky enough to work from home and so I pester him for photos of Teddy throughout the day. I know all too well how brief this stage is and I want to cherish every moment.

But it's pretty freaking hard to photograph a black cat. Especially a little blur of a black cat. Since the last photo of Lucy, James has come a long way in his skills but he still needed a few pointers.

Here are some photos he took this week:

1. Avoid flash. Unless you know how to use a flash properly and have the ability to bounce the light softly off the subject, you just end up with washed out photos like this:



2. Black on black. In fairness, he had spent a few minutes looking for the little monster and finally found Teddy on my black mouse pad on my black desk.



3. Focusing. The AF lock feature on the iPhone is pretty handy and yes, I know it's hard to take in focus photos when everyone is moving.



4. But when they're finally still and looking mighty cute, maybe not having a finger in the frame would help.



I took the same iPhone he used all week (and for all of the above photos) and snapped this last night. My Teddybear Monkeybutt Sauron. I love this little thing to pieces.

Teddybear Monkeybutt

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Just A Number

It started 2 years ago, shortly after I turned 39 ...the sharp realization that 40 and the other numbers were just around the corner.

In the past, I've never really looked forward to or dreaded any particular birthday milestone (well, except for being able to drink legally, of course). But 40 was hard, very, very hard. And this last one, a few weeks ago, wasn't any easier so I didn't mention it.

In fact, the last few birthdays have been very quiet, under the radar affairs, spent with just my boy. Nothing I wanted to really celebrate or acknowledge.

But I realized this week, admist my moaning, that there are so many things to be thankful for - life, love, family, friends... So instead of looking back at all the years and memories behind me, I'm going to look forward to all the things I have yet to experience.

And maybe stop cutting my own bangs. Or am I just too old to learn that lesson?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Teddy Vs. The Hand

Teddy was actually very gentle in his playing. No humans were harmed in the making of this video.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Happy 80th, LEGO!


I'd buy you something but since I'm giving you half of my take home, I figure we're even.

Let Them Build Cake! (Part 2)
Photo and design by the amazing, PowerPig!

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Teddy Bear

Well, that didn't last too long. After talking and talking and changing our minds a million times, we just got in the car and brought this little guy home.

Meet Teddy. The first 24 hours with him was the complete opposite of our experience with Lucy (who was so scared and timid). This little boy is ridiculously affectionate and outgoing and LOUD, crying angrily if left alone more than 1 minute. I think we got 4 hours sleep the first night.


This is how he prefers to sleep - tucked up next to you.



Monday, August 06, 2012

Forever Home

There's a term used in pet adoptions/rescue - a "forever home" or "forever family". It always breaks my heart.

The boy asked me what I wanted to do for my ##th birthday last week. Right at the top of the list was "play with kittens". So, we went to the Humane Society and found some kittens. An armful of them.

Kittens

Had not planned on falling in love but it happened. Is 2 months too young to have a fantastic personality? Because honestly, this guy was amazing.

Are you my new Daddy?

Been debating all weekend. When I think about him, my heart aches. I think that's a sign.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Whitening/Brightening Lego

In my last post, I showed how easily the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser took out pen, sharpie and all sorts of other marks on Lego (and almost everything else in your house).

But it's powerless against the yellow discoloration of Lego from constant sun (UV) exposure.

No worries though, where the Magic Eraser leaves off, hydrogen peroxide picks up.

I've been reading up on how to "un-yellowify" Lego bricks and everything pointed to H2O2. So I picked up a few bottles (3%) at the drug store (about $1 each) and poured it into a large glass casserole dish. I placed a sheet of aluminum foil under the glass and parked the whole thing next to a sunny window.

Then I went through some of my older bricks and found a few volunteers.

This is the underside of a white plate that was so deeply stained in a few places, it looked like it had a bad cigarette habit. I thought for sure this one was beyond salvaging.

White Lego plate before the Hydrogen Peroxide bath

And these bluish grey wedges had a clear delineation of where the brick was exposed to the sun.

Bluish grey Lego wedges before the Hydrogen Peroxide bath

I threw everything into the hydrogen peroxide mixture and let it sit for a day, occasionally stirring things around.

Hydrogen Peroxide bath

Wow.

Completely impressed. Here's the same plate a day later:

White Lego plate AFTER the Hydrogen Peroxide bath

And the blue wedges after only 6 hours:

Bluish grey Lego wedges AFTER the Hydrogen Peroxide bath

Here's a side by side comparison of the before and after for the white plate. 

Hydrogen Peroxide: Before and After

A few things to note:

1. Your container has to be glass - use a jar or a casserole dish, something that lets the sun shine through. The aluminum foil is not necessary but definitely speeds up the process and helps reflect the sunlight to the underside.

2. Mix/stir things around every few hours and try to keep it in direct sun as much as possible. I moved the dish around a few times to different locations in the house to maximize the time in the sun.

3. 24 hours is a minimum for deeply stained white bricks.

4. For colors, I recommend a much shorter period. It will depend on the level of discoloration but I advise taking out the bricks every few hours and letting it dry thoroughly before inspecting the color. I made the mistake of putting those bluish grey wedges back in the glass for another day - although the yellow disappeared, the bricks took on a cloudy, whitish appearance. So it is possible to "bleach" it too much.

5. If you have a small cut on your hands (oooooh, I don't know... like a paper cut!!), use a spoon or something to stir the Lego around because hydrogen peroxide stings like a son of a bitch!

6. Halfway through the experiment, I was already getting great results but I decided to throw in a tablespoon of Oxy powder. I can't really tell if it made an improvement or not.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Magic Eraser Is Magical

I love the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Love it. It's the only thing that gets scuff marks off paint without removing or discoloring the paint. I use it for everything.

And I discovered its ultimate purpose. Lego + Sharpie = garbage. Most of the time. I tried scrubbing off marks with a kitchen sponge but all that did was scratch the plastic. I also tried a few other chemical approaches but they never got the Lego completely clean.

Until I tried the Magic Eraser. It was effortless.

My trusty assistant helped me with this video - as you can see, he's not scrubbing hard (but he did have trouble holding the brick steady - I should have used a bigger one) and it only took a few seconds.

Magic.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Bag End

So, I have a confession of sorts. I'm a huge fantasy and science fiction fan (no, that's not the confession part). Yet, I've never read any of Tolkien's works. Oh, I loved the Lord of the Rings movies and of course, obsessive about the Lego versions but the books... err... not so much.

I can blame it squarely on The Hobbit. If memory serves me correctly, the first few pages began with a description of their huge, dirty, hairy feet and toes...and I stopped reading. And never went back.

Instead, I went merrily on my way, reading Jordan, Eddings, Martin, Howard, Anthony, et al. Always skipping the father of them all, not missing anything to my knowledge. When the movie trilogy was released, I was immersed in a world that was at once strangely familiar and completely foreign. The concepts were well known - a tried and true fantasy formula (yes, yes, I see the irony): a group of travelers, a quest/mission, an untested hero ... all coming together to battle a great Evil against overwhelming odds.

I think I was lucky. It could have been like so many other book to film adaptations but almost everyone who read Tolkien agrees that Peter Jackson did good.

The Hobbit is being released later this year and LEGO gave us a sneak peak of their new LoTR sets, starring Bag End. If the movie is half as amazing as this set, I'm sold.

And thus all roads lead to Lego.


Bag End

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Festival Of Play

Speechless.

There are no words to describe how much I love this. I wish I were in Australia. If you are, check out the Festival of Play.


Sunday, July 08, 2012

Minfigure Display Cases: More Ideas

There are a lot of great ideas for displaying Lego minigures. Brickblogger put together a nice compilation of ideas so no need to repeat those.

Here are a few more suggestions.

Clear Acrylic Cases:

This is from Brickdancer. I forget exactly where he picked up this case, but you can find something similar from Joanns, Michael's and The Container store. Pretty much any hobby store.



I really like this tiered case from LegobrandonCP:



Which is similar to this case from the Container Store - plus it's only 9.99.

Here's another great version from Notenoughbricks:

LEGO Collectible Minifigures Series 3 in Display Case

The cases he used were from AC Moore but unfortunately, it doesn't look like they make them anymore.

Golfball/Shot glass Display Cases:

Very convenient for displaying a select number of minifigures. The best part is that these cases are "minifigure" ready so there's absolutely no work to be done.

Here's something similar from Michaels.

There are lot of creative solutions out there (just head to Flickr and search for Lego Minifigure display or something similar). It's just about finding the one that fits your aesthetic, space and budget.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Show Me Yours!

A while back, I wrote a tutorial on how to build Lego Minifigure display cases. And was shocked at the popularity of the post.

 Lego Minifigure Display Wall: 99% full

I got asked a lot of questions (ie what if I don't live in the States and don't have access to the same stores?) and then got to see the fantastic versions people came up with...

This one is from Brickdancer.

He used the same materials (frame and shelves) but laid his frame out in landscape mode instead of portrait. An added bonus to this method - you can get all 16 of each CMF Series on each row! Love it.



From JayLego.

Unfortunately, JayLego found out the same way I did that not all Michael's Shadowboxes are created equal. Even though they have the same size and manufacturer name on the label, you must always, always measure. After a few false starts, he finished his case.

He also used a slightly different approach to building his side Lego supports:

I used (from the bottom): (6) 3x1 bricks, (1) inverted slope 2x2, (1) inverted slope 1x2, and capped it off with (2) 3x1 black tiles. If I did it again, I would use only (5) 3x1 bricks and (1) 3x1 plate because the top row is slightly smaller than the other rows.

My total cost for the 1x3's was $4.80 from BrickLink. I bought 80 of them so my individual cost was $0.06 for each 1x3 brick. It looks like you might be able to get them for $0.04 or $0.05 from some international stores, so you're looking at $4 or $5 with a few dollars for shipping.



From Woony2.

He used an Ikea Ribba Frame which was a great idea! Not only are Ikea frames inexpensive but the company is international. This is easily doable in the US, Europe - basically wherever there's an Ikea. Here's his tutorial on building the actual shelves:

Cut 2 shelves to the correct length from 25mm x 6mm strip wood. I used pine but you could do it with plywood or mdf to avoid any potential warping issues. Warping shouldn't be an issue in the smaller 25 x 25 frames but could happen in the larger 52 x 52). 

Cut each piece of shelving to fit as the inner frames provided by Ikea are not all the same, so don't assume both shelves will be identical lengths. Pilot drill the holes for the screws. Screw positions are shown in pic2. It is easier to use screws than nails as trying to nail through a stapled together MDF frame will only cause it to fall apart.

Once both shelves are in place and you're happy with them, use matte black paint to spray the shelf assembly and the back board. Let it dry fully (the boring part). Then attach the CMF bases to each of the shelves.




From TyoSolo. 

TyoSolo also used the same Ribba frames although slightly larger.

I used a 50 x 50 Ribba frame from Ikea, with shelves spaced at 8cm intervals (top shelf 8.5cm). The shelves were made from 25mm x 6mm pine stripwood, and sprayed black in satin finish (the stripwood is only £2.88 per 2.4m length). I tried using screws but the pine kept splitting.

In the end, I used my staple gun to drive brad-nails in, and tapped them flush to the inner frame with a hammer. It worked a treat. I followed up by using black felt on the backing board to finish.

Once finished, I was able to house 6 rows of 14 CMF's.




It's a good thing I'm finished or I would seriously be tempted to re-do my cases using some of the ideas above.

I think we all put a few hours into this project but the end results are more than worth it. Good luck with your version!

Monday, July 02, 2012

Permed!

Let me explain.

I grew up in the 80's - the decade of permed, feathered, and teased hair. Not only was it normal, it was everything I wanted my hair to be. I wrote about my love of wavy, curly hair and the yearly perms.

It's been super straight for the past few years and I finally had enough. Sorry, James.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Untag Me

I've been meaning to post a Lucy update. It's hard to believe we've had her for almost a year - time has just flown by. Gone is the tiny, grey fluffball who snuggled in my lap for hours *sniff*. But now we have a sweet, loving if slightly imperious little cat who is the apple of our eyes.

She still loves her blue bag and I'll often find this little head peering out at me. She's such a pretty little thing - it's so hard to take a bad photo of her. Or so I thought.

Lucy and her bag

The other day, while I was talking to the boy on the phone, he mentioned that Lucy was sunning herself in a sunbeam. "Take a photo", I asked. Alas, I forgot about his secret super power - taking the worst photos ever.

I don't know he does it but somehow a camera in his hands is akin to a deadly weapon. Lest you think I exaggerate, I present to you...

Cat sunning herself in a sunbeam.

Damn Paparazzi

Yup.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Table" For Two

As much as I love living in Oregon, there's only a small window for what you would call sunny, summery days. The rest of the time, it's fairly grey, overcast and wet. Which we really don't mind (usually).

But when we're gifted with one of those perfect weekends - a warm, sunny day with nothing but blue skies - you HAVE to take advantage of them.

So, we went on our favorite hike to Eagle Creek. Found a clearing with a smallish stream and sat down to eat the Best. Sandwich. Ever.

Lunch at Eagle Creek

I wish I had brought some Lego minifigures with me.

Eagle Creek

Then again, there are some things even Lego can't improve on.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Brick Separators

The unlimited playability is perhaps one of the best things about Lego. Build something, take it apart, build something different and so on. Sometimes, though, the disassembling process can be a bit of a pain.

Worst case scenario: two plates stuck together. I used to do one of two things as a kid:

1. Teeth. I know, I cringe just thinking about this. This invariably left teeth marks all over the bricks and probably didn't do wonders for tooth enamel.

2. Just left it.

Later on, I discovered brick separators which saved a lot of wear and tear on my fingers but it wasn't until last year that I figured out their full potential. And when I did, a chorus of Angels sang out.

There are two styles of separators. The green one is an older design and the orange ones were introduced last year. You'll find the orange separators included with most of the larger sets. Right off the bat, we were excited about the new design - see that little post? Awesome inclusion! You'll see why.



Probably one of the hardest things to separate are two same sized plates. I have broken many a nail on these and even resorted to using a razor blade to try to pry the plates apart. But with brick separators, it's stupidly easy.

Just put one separator on the bottom and the other on top. And then gently press down on the top separator.



They come apart with absolutely no resistance. Effortless. And no teeth marks!



And remember that post on the orange separator? A lot Lego sets have technic parts. It was always a pain trying to pry the little pins out. Sometimes I'd use a chopstick.



Not anymore - just push the post through...



And out pops the pin.



If there is anyone who plays with Lego in your house, you need at least 2 of these. Best Lego accessory ever.

Monday, June 11, 2012

"Where Does She Get Those Wonderful Toys?" Part 2

In the first part of this series, I discussed some of my tips for buying Lego at a discount. Due to popular demand, I'm expanding this a bit more to cover non-traditional sources and what to avoid.

6. Craigslist. If you're looking for bulk lego or cheaper, used sets, Craigslist can be a potential goldmine. The average price for a bulk lot is $4/lb (that's on the low end for non-Star Wars sets) to $7/lb (with manuals, Star Wars and minifigures). I absolutely advise you to thoroughly wash anything you buy. If you don't have the time to handwash, try the dishwasher with a garment bag. Just remember to set the machine on a low/no heat dry setting and do not put anything with stickers or prints in the dishwasher.

(p.s. I've noticed a trend where people are using Craigslist as an eBay replacement. Meaning they're trying to get top dollar and will pit you against someone else. I won't play this game.)

7. eBay. Ooh, there's a listing for a newly released set for over 30% off the retail price! Too good to be true? Probably. There's been a significant increase in "drop-ship" scams where sellers buy Lego direct from Lego.com with stolen credit cards and then ship to your address. If the set that you ordered looks like it came directly from Lego, contact the seller and then eBay, PayPal and Lego to make sure it's a legitimate sale. Otherwise, if it is fraud, Lego.com will flag and blacklist your address in the future.

8. Black Friday. A given. But you'll have to brave the crowds, risk stores being out of stock etc. The Lego stores also have their own Black Friday sales with scratch cards giving you anywhere from 10-50% off your total purchase. Definitely follow Toys N Bricks prior to Black Friday - the best sales and deals will be announced there.

9. Garage Sales. A lot of fellow Lego collectors swear by garage sales. Just go early. Which is why I haven't been to one - I like to sleep in on the weekends! :)

10. Bricklink. Just missing a few pieces to complete a set? Picture an eBay (with only Buy it Now prices) that just sells Lego. The user interface is a little archaic but there are a lot of hard to find pieces and sets. Things to watch out for: minimum purchase requirements differ per store and always read the feedback (just like eBay).

Okay, now kick back and enjoy BBQ season with some Beertroopers.

BBQ Season

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"Where Does She Get Those Wonderful Toys?"

I think this is the most commonly asked question with the added kicker "...for those great sale prices?!"

I'll be honest. In the beginning, we just bought everthing at regular retail from the Lego store or even (gasp) Toys R Us. But that was back when we were only buying a handful of sets per year. In fact, when the UCS Millennium Falcon was first announced, I pre-ordered it at full price ($500) the same day. Unlike those who picked it up for $300 during the May the 4th event a few years later.

But now that we're focused on collecting, we've had to be more judicious about when/where we buy. Because Lego is EXPENSIVE.

Now, we won't buy anything unless it's at least 30% off. Here are some rules and websites we follow:

1. Toys N Bricks. This is an amazing site with up to the minute Lego sales and deals around the world. They also have a Facebook page - a quick and easy way to find out what's on sale and where. Their forums are interesting and I've found additional deals by reading member comments. There are a lot of other great resource sites like Brickset but in my opinion, the best bang for your buck is Toys N Bricks.

2. Stay away from Toys R Us. They mark up almost all their sets 15-20% above retail. Sometimes more. So even with their BOGO (buy one, get one) sales, you're still paying close to retail. I've only ordered from TRU a few times and that was because of sales stacking with BOGO. But for the most part, I usually avoid this place.

3. Unless you absolutely have to have it, wait a few weeks/months when a new set is released. Amazon typically has reasonable sales (even on new releases) with free shipping.

4. Target and Walmart -  wait for clearance sales which hover between 30-60% off. But go early and always, always check the seals on the box. There's been an increasing rise in in-store thefts where people pick out the bag with all the minfigures (recently, Lego has tried to circumvent this by distributing minifigures in multiple bags). The other theft du jour is when the thieves buy the set, take out the key parts, reseal and return the box to the store. We didn't check the seal on one box we bought this weekend and discovered an entire bag of parts was missing.

5. If you have a Lego store nearby, sign up for their free VIP program. Every $100 you spend, you get $5 in store credit. They also have monthly building events which are free for kids (although I saw the line for one of these things and I couldn't see where it ended).

I could go on and on about drop ship scams, Black Friday etc but this has been a huge block of text already.

So, here's a Tie Fighter Pilot bearing flowers.

Not Vadar

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Lego Room v2.0

One of the downsides to buying more Lego and expanding your collection is that you eventually have to make a decision: form or function? We've been doing our best to store and organize our Lego collection in a manner keeping with our decor and style preferences. Not an easy task.

                                                  Before

A few months ago, the Lego Room looked like this (information on furniture here).

LEGO Room

LEGO Room

LEGO Room - Minifigure display

Although this looked nice, it was a terribly inefficient use of space. So, we moved the Expedit shelf into our office and bought a few Billy bookcases instead. This allowed us to expand the shelving across most of the back wall.

                                                          And ... After

Ta da! There's probably a bit more room in between the bins and containers than most people would like but it makes it very easy to move things around and pull out what you're looking for. And yes, that end cap on the desk is completely filled with minifigure parts.

Lego Room Updated

We also added some floating shelves for display purposes. Over all, it looks busier and less "furniture-y" which is a shame but this is far more useful and accessible.

The closet got an overhaul as well (details here) and this is where we keep all our completed sets - labeled with pictures, set names and numbers and then organized by theme. I miss the look of the doors but to be honest, they were a pain to navigate around.

Lego Room Updated

And I finally got around to building more minifigure display cases (full write up and how to guide here). But I ran out of the 2x4 black plates I use as stands so the two half full cases will have to wait. I'll have a separate post on just the display cases as soon as I'm finished.

Lego Minifigure Display Wall: Updated
A view from the door:

Lego Room Updated

Finally, since we went on a bit of a shopping spree for the last few months, we have a backlog of sets to build. We keep the "to be built" sets in another closet and every time we walk in here, a chorus of angels sigh happily.

Lego Room Updated: To be built