Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cuppa Joe

So my latest hobby is roasting my own coffee. Not quite up there with wreck diving, but those days are gone forever.

Don't know what inspired me to pick this one up. We have been buying coffee at Porto Rico Importing Company, a specialty coffee and tea place in the Village. They sell all kinds of roasted coffee in huge burlap sacks. The atmosphere is very McSorleyeque, if you substitute tweaked out caffeine junkies for drunken frat boys. I have been buying coffee there for quite a few years but ever since I started working in Westchester, it's been difficult to make the trip.

Anyway, about a month ago I started doing some research on the web about roasting your own beans. I ran across a great website run by a green bean supplier, Sweet Maria's. They have a huge selection of beans and all the associated paraphernalia, but even more importantly, some well written and easy to follow instructions for newbies like myself.

Now you CAN go whole hog and spring for the $920 Programmable Hot Top (which also needs a dedicated ventilation system installed), or maybe the $200 Hearthware i-Roast 2. Or you can just use a popcorn popper.

The Coffee Camorra has a decided preference for air poppers (though you can go with an old school stovetop popper too). Not just any air popper, it should be one with the air jets in the correct place so they blow the beans in a circle, not just up through the top of the machine. (The first one I bought blew all the beans straight out the funnel and into the sink). Thanks to EBay I was able to order a "vintage" West Bend Poppery II.

This thing will blow out more hot air than the average City Council member, quite an accomplishment. The first couple of batches were a little underdone, but then I got the hang of it, 3.5 ounces of beans for seven minutes. A City/Full City roast, which gives me a nice cuppa joe.

One of the other things I enjoy about this is that Sweet Marias posts information and photographs of the farmers whose coffee they carry. The folks who run this place clearly care about the farmers; I’m sure that they’re getting a much better deal than Juan Valdez got.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Thrones

"The greatest monarch on the proudest throne is obliged to sit upon his own arse."

-Benjamin Franklin

but I bet they never sat on anything like these. I saw them in a display window on Queens Boulevard and had to take a picture. If the store was open I would have went inside and tried one on for size.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Few Shots

Here are a few quick snaps of the new place. Believe it or not, all the dishes you see are actually clean, we just don't have a drying rack yet.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

On The Move

Well, we’re in. Mostly, anyway. Our kitchen is still in Forest Hills along with a lot of clothes and other small stuff, but we’ve been sleeping here since Thursday.

The painting project turned out to be a hell of a lot bigger than we originally thought. When we first talked about the project Debbie and I thought we would just paint the girl’s room and the living room. After we did our second walk-through it became obvious that we couldn’t paint the living room without doing the dining room and the hall, they all flowed together. Then we decided to add the art room. To make matters worse, I had to sand and prime and all the walls; there was a little too much graffiti from the previous residents to just paint over.

Luckily, the ceilings were in good shape. We ended up only having to do the living room and the art room; we never would have gotten it done in time if we had had to paint all the ceilings. We also decided to defer the trim and the interior doors. There was just no way to get all that done in time and there are phone lines and coaxial cable over about 90% of the trim- I’m not sure I can do anything like a decent job with the cables in place. I still have to do the radiators and some of the window frames, but that can all wait until we’re settled.

A few observations: Spending the extra money for Aura, was worth it. Now, the true test of paint is how well it stands up over the years, but it was easy to apply, went on thick and dried very evenly. I had to do some small touch ups and it covered up everything seamlessly. I did a lot of research using painttalk.com a message board for painting contractors. The videos I found on youtube were even more useful. I was able to cut in a lot of the walls without taping. This saved a lot of time, plus tape can sometimes pull off the paint.

I bought a bunch of supplies from thepaintstore.com, and I highly recommend the Corona Shelby Champagne Nylon brushes I bought- 2 ½ inches and tapered, very easy to work with, I could cut a very fine paint line with no effort at all.

Most important of all was the help I got from two great friends, Gary and Helen, I never could have gotten it done without you!!

Will post some pictures as soon as I can find the camera connection.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Home Improvement

Well, we did it. Yesterday we closed. We are now property owners (well holders of co-op shares) which is almost, but not quite, the same thing. One nice bonus- since a co-op mortgage isn’t actually a “mortgage”, we don’t have to pay the NY City mortgage recording tax. Score. We don’t get the keys until tomorrow after 5:00, but still it’s all ours.

Now comes the fun part, we have to paint, pack and move, all in short order. Debbie and the girls have narrowed down the color choices and we went to J&B Paint and Wallpaper on Metropolitan for some samples. You can actually get small containers of paint rather than just those cards with the colors. Now all we have to do is figure out a way to get it onto the walls during daylight so Debbie can make the final call. I'm glad to find a place like this. Home Depot and Lowe's have their strengths (they're cheap), but I wouldn't take advice from them on anything important. And I'm going to need all the help I can get.

My first order of business is to take measurements- I borrowed a cool laser measuring device. That way I can calculate how much primer and paint to buy. After that I need to prep everything. The walls and ceilings are in pretty good shape, but there will be some spackling in my immediate future, probably some caulking too. Don’t know if any of the cracks will need taping before I spackle. My maternal grandfather was a plasterer, so maybe some of his skill was passed down through my genes (doubt it though). The prior owners have young kids and the walls have been decorated in what looks like crayon, so I’ll need a primer coat for the walls. I need to get all this done by Friday, so my plate is full.

Will post another update tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Rocket Girls Shooting For The Stars

So after a brief (maybe not so brief) delay, we got the rocket airborne!! I had the day off- it's Election Day, gotta love those Civil Service Holidays.

The day didn't start out too well (for Megan anyway), she needed to go to the pediatrician for a follow-up flu shot. After that, I bundled the kids back in the car and headed for Cunningham Park. They have a nice open field near Union Turnpike, perfect for our plans.

The first shot went off without a hitch. We put two orange silicone earplugs into the cargo compartment, but they were jettisoned into the stratosphere, well maybe not the stratosphere, when the nose cone came off. No word on where the payload landed.

All told we made four launches the last two with less powerful engines so we only went up about 100 feet.

Goddard, hah!! VonBraun? PLEASE. Make way for Megan and Devon, the next two Rocket Girls

Monday, October 26, 2009


Sorry for the long gap in posting. I'm sure all my loyal readers have missed me terribly.

As most of you probably know, we're in the process of buying our first apartment. It's in pretty good shape, at least from what we could tell during the walk through and the appraisal. The one big project we are planning is painting.

Debbie promised the girls that they could pick the color of their room (pink, of course), and it's such a hassle to paint when the place is occupied, we're going to try to take advantage of the gap between closing and moving.

I have been doing all kinds of web surfing, YouTube has some great videos with some useful tips and techniques. This is one of my favorites:

I also found some useful articles on the DIY Network and on Ask This Old House. I am also recording Ask This Old House; it's actually become one of the girls' favorite shows.

Will try to post some photos and keep everyone posted as the project progresses.