Friday, January 27, 2012

Goodbye Cowkitty

Even when you know and you try to prepare, it's still surprising how sad and awful it is. TJ was with James for over 18 years - his little, white shadow. And he's been my favorite furry friend for more than a decade.

The best of cats. Friendly, smart, curious and patient. He came when you called him, was always gentle and kind and so very loving and affectionate. I love this photo - taken years ago when he was healthy and in his prime.

He looks lost in thought.


Or curled up in a pile of blankets.

TJ Sleeping

And even when we saddled him with a needy, crazy little kitten, he was calmly accepting.

TJ and Lucy

But he was happiest when he was with his favorite human. Just relaxing and enjoying the moment. It doesn't get any better than that.

TJ and his favorite human

You were a good kitty. We miss you so much.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Displaying LEGO

With all this LEGO, you'd think we'd have it on every available surface. Well, during the sorting/organizing process, we do. Mostly on our dining room table which is still covered but for the rest of the house, we generally only display sets that have some artistic or sculptural merit. Or ones that we just plain love.

I very much doubt that we will ever have Atlantis or Alien Conquest sets on our coffee table but that's okay - it's why we have a Lego room!

This is view of our main family room. It's open to the kitchen and breakfast nook and we spend most of our waking hours here. And that white ship on the console table is the UCS Imperial Shuttle. I had to roll the wings all the way up (they spread out as well) so it would fit the space but I think it blends in nicely.

UCS Imperial Shuttle

This is one of my personal favorites - the Slave 1 #6209 released in 2006. There's a newer version that came out with different colors but I prefer the original. I had problems displaying this one properly since it doesn't stand up the way the ship actually flies. Luckily, I found some stand designs from Flickr and built my own.

Slave 1 on display

And of course, minifigure display cases. We bought another 6 cases to fill out the wall display - each case holds about 100 minifigures. I'll be working on that soon.

LEGO Minifigure display

So, overall, not that bad, right?! You wouldn't know that crazy Lego obssessed people live here. *cough cough*

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cat's Outta The Bag

Errr. Or not. This is Lucy's favorite toy - a blue cloth grocery bag. The first few times I saw it move slowly across the kitchen floor, it freaked me out. Now, I'm kind of used to it. Well, not really.

But... look at that face!

Lucy and her bag

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Feminine Myst--- Holy Crap! Look At That Blender!

I don't care what Friedan and Steinem would say. This is without a doubt my absolute favorite thing I have EVER EVER built from Lego.

Now to buy a few more sets and build a proper kitchen, with an island and more counterspace. And a real 10 person table and chairs...

I'm in love.

Forgive the horrible photo - taken at night on my iPhone. But look at that blender!!!

Olivia's Kitchen

The Importance of Manuals

One of the greatest selling points of LEGO is that it's only limited by one's imagination. So, why then would you keep the manuals that come with the sets after you've built it a few times? Especially if they're available in PDF form on-line? A few reasons:

1. The PDFs blow. It's virtually impossible to differentiate the black bricks, even in the best scanned PDF docs. They're hard enough to make out in the actual books; the PDFs just make it worse. LEGO finally got the message and started to put white outlines around their black bricks in recent manuals but that doesn't help their vast catalog of past sets.

2. They're beautiful. I love, love the instructions books. They're well made, beautifully printed and also show different build possibilities in the back. Too bad they're just shoved into the boxes where they get all bent but that's my own personal pet peeve. Although, in a recent set, the instruction book was shrink wrapped against a cardboard backing - winning!!

3. It increases the set's value. If you ever intend to resell your LEGO, having the original manual in good condition can significantly raise the asking price. Actually, so will boxes (try near double the price if you have both the manual and box) but those are harder to store and in the past, I've always thrown the boxes out. But I digress...

I originally stored the books in magazine holders:

Lego Storage: Instruction Booklets

But they were difficult to sort through, plus the weight of the manuals curved them downward. A big no-no for a perfectionist Lego freak. So, while I was surfing the net, I found someone who had punched holes in the books (BLASPHEMY!!!) and put them in a binder. Other than the mutilation, I thought it was a great idea.

This is Vol.1 of my Star Wars binder.The plastic sleeve in front is perfect for putting in artwork - this is the new 2012 Star Wars poster that I printed out.

LEGO Binder Cover

Inside, I put the books in plastic page protectors - no need to punch holes in them! Almost every manual size (except for the UCS books) will fit. And yup, that Yoda model is just as ugly built.

LEGO: Star Wars Binder

Books are placed in numerical order according to theme and page protectors make it very easy to move things around when we get more manuals. I even keep the books from the small sets because believe it or not, they really do increase in value. Like this one: Jabba's Palace had an MSRP of $30 when it was first released in 2003. A recently sold used set on eBay went for over $90. Yup. For 231 pieces.

LEGO: Star Wars Binder

For other themes, we don't have enough to fill a whole binder so I double/triple them up. And divide them with re-useable tabs. (This is the Cafe Corner set #10182 - go look this up on eBay. And then take a deep breath).

LEGO: Building Binder

LEGO: Building Binder

And here they are, all stored away. I did notice that I have the wrong little image on the Market Square binder but these are easily changed.

LEGO Binders

Monday, January 16, 2012

Function Over Form

I gave in. As much as I wanted to keep the LEGO room looking like an actual room with furniture and hidden storage, it just didn't work.

Until recently, we were able to hide away our loose LEGO in the closet. We bought a free standing metal shelf and packed everything away out of sight. But it was a pain, sliding those doors back and forth, and it was highly inefficient. Anything in the middle of the closet was impossible to retrieve and there was a ton of wasted space.

Lego Storage

We needed a new shelving solution. Although I have always leaned towards the stackable Sterilite drawers (Nannan's storage is a thing of beauty), the boy does not. His main objection is how to further divide up each drawer to hold multiple bricks, plates etc. That makes sense, I guess. Also, by now, we've sunk way too much money into these containers, it doesn't make sense to switch systems now.

The first thing we did was remove the closet doors. We bought wall mounted shelving - Closetmaid - from Home Depot. Despite being told that 4 rails would be overkill, we wanted to make the shelves as secure as possible. So that meant buying a top bar, 4 rails, 4 shelves and 16 brackets. I don't think people realize how heavy LEGO is in large quantities.

Each rail is screwed into a stud as an added measure.

Wall Mounted Shelving

It might be hard to see the brackets in this picture - they have a fairly small footprint. Which is great, since it means you can stack more bins. The brackets were the most expensive part of this system since we erred on the side of caution and bought 4 for each shelf.

Wall Mounted Shelving

And here it is...out in the open. We won't be able to hide anything now but it's sooo much more accessible and bright! Let's hope it stays this neat and tidy because otherwise, it'll look like crap. The best part is all the extra space we gained.

Wall Mounted Shelving

This probably took us about an hour to do total. No cutting (we had Home Depot cut the shelves down to size at the store), some minor drilling (for the top rail and pilot holes in the studs) and that was it.

The rest of the room is slowly getting back on track and at least we can walk inside without knocking things over. The other project I've been working on is storing the LEGO instructions books. That's almost done as well. And then maybe finally, I can get back to building!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Yes, I'm Reviewing Bins

In the world of LEGO collectors, the storage of your LEGO is a hotly debated topic. Well, not really. But there are a lot of different approaches and methodologies and it depends mostly on how you interact with your LEGO - as collector, a MOC builder etc.

For the most part, we just build the official sets or from instructions on line. So, for the sets we know we're going to rebuild, we package them individually in plastic bags, label them and then store them in Sterilite 6 quart containers. We bought most of these from either the Dollar Store or Walmart, all for $1 or less. Although they do tend to add up after you've bought 70+ ...

Sterilite 6 Quart Container

The plastic bags might seem like an unnecessary step but it allows us to store multiple sets in a container. Plus the lids pop off quite easily so this prevents spillage disasters. For the larger sets, we store those in different containers. Photos to be posted at a later date.

Love these labels. Oooh, right! That's what a Droid Tri Fighter looks like. Got it.

Sterilite 6 Quart Container

Our loose LEGO is stored in 4 different types of containers. One is the above mentioned Sterilite container - we use those primarily for large bricks and any element we have in large quantities.

Plano Clear - Large. Bought at Lowes in the tool section (a DIY store in the US) for around $8-9 each. They're good for most medium sized bricks in small to moderate quantities. The dividers go in easily and securely and it's fairly deep - this container is holding all of our 4x6 plates.

Plano Clear - Large

Again, everything is labeled.

Plano Clear - Large

Plano Clear - Small. Bought at Home Depot (a DIY store in the US) for around $7 each. They're good for most small elements. Our 1x1 and 1x2 plates, tiles etc go in theses. Really happy with these containers although the lids can crack if you ummm... step on them.

Plano Clear - Small

Plano Clear - Small

This container is Rimax and it's the same size as the Plano Clear Small containers but more shallow so it only holds limited quantities. The best thing about this brand is that the dividers snap off easily (you don't need scissors) and they lock into place - best and most secure divider fit. If we could find larger sizes of this container, it's the only one we'd use.

Rimax Clear - Small

Next up is also a Plano container. This is the first container we bought once we started sorting our LEGO individually. Can't remember which home improvement store but they were around $8 a piece.

I hate them. They're shit. Oh my!! So much hatred for a plastic container?! Seriously though, the dividers slide out very easily and if you're storing small elements, they can move in between compartments. Plus, the red makes it hard to see what you're looking for unless you're in a bright lit room. I had to jack up the exposure on this shot so you could see the different slopes.

I would highly recommend staying clear of any containers with colors, especially red and black. Clear is the best way to go.

Plano Red - Medium

Lastly, these containers are from Joanns, a US fabric/hobby store. These are jewelry/bead containers that I re-purposed to hold minifigures and other LEGO that I have in small quantities. The dividers are molded into the container so you can't move them.

Joann's Bead Container - Small

I guess you could say that I'm fairly obsessive about how I store my LEGO. Which might explain why we were at Home Depot last night buying wall mounting shelving to customize the closet. Today's project! Can't wait for the finished results.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Lucy In A Bag

I haven't done a "Lucy in a..." post in a while. Which isn't to say that I stopped putting her in things. I haven't. But this one is a little different. She put herself in the bag. These cloth grocery bags provide endless hours of fun. And when she gets tired, she just hangs out.

I'm a cat, in a bag. Move along.

Lucy in a bag

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Full Disclosure

[ed: I'll return with more updates about Nicole's store and the rebuilding process.]

I get a lot of questions about my LEGO room - "what furniture did we buy, how do I keep it so neat and organized". Umm. Maybe it was that way for a minute back in the summer but in the spirit of full disclosure, my "neat and organized" LEGO room that started out like this...


Now looks like this - after we went out and bought over 200lbs of LEGO on Craigslist and a million different sets. Yup. Took this from the door because I was leery about stepping inside.

LEGO Room after Christmas chaos

James took a few steps in and knocked over an open container. Shortly after we expanded our collection, I started a new job and the boy got slammed at work. Then the holidays arrived and it was easier to shove everything into the room and close the door.

LEGO room

Ugh. So, we made a decision - we can't open any more boxes and build any more sets until this room is in order. Organize first - build later.

As a result, this taunts us.

Christmas LEGO Haul