Thursday, 5 December 2013

A Tale of Two Dressers

In preparation for our move in... less than three weeks *YIKES* we've had a couple of garage sales. They have been pretty successful, but our neighborhood is a little bit out of town so when our friends asked if we would like to set up some tables by their warehouse where we would be on a major road we jumped at the chance. We sold most of what we had but Steph grabbed up these two dressers from our friends with grand ideas of a DIY project. The larger of the two was in pretty good shape, it needed some wood glue and a coat of poly to seal it but that tiger oak was just fantastic. The smaller dresser though... she had been rode hard and put away wet. Repainted so many times it was hard to even tell what was underneath...

This poor girl has got some layer cake makeup on
So first we slathered on some paint stripper designed to be used indoors, we still did it in the garage because the citrus smell is a little overwhelming, we have the cats that would get into things, and we knew this was likely to get messy! We were right. The first application of paint removed one layer of paint, sort of. As you can see below it was going to be a long fight.

After one coat of stripper we removed... part of one coat of paint.
We found out a couple of things during this venture. Plastic scrapers aren't worth a flip. If a wire brush is .99 at Lowe's it will fall apart really quick. And always buy an extra container of stripper. As best as we can tell the paint layers went as follows: beige, white, green, white, dark drown, blue, white, and a coat of lacquer on the bottom. It was like a Never Ending Gobstopper of paint.

Getting the last bits of paint from the trim
Once the majority of the paint was off, we went in with wire brushes, toothpicks, and screwdrivers to get all the little nooks and crannies clear of gunk. Then we wiped it all down with lacquer thinner and mineral spirits to clean the wood. Here and there a bit of paint was still deep in the wood grain but once stain went on these spots darkened and we think it adds a bit more vintage feel to the piece. We sanded the dresser with 120 and then 220 grit paper. Wiped it down with mineral spirits one last time and gave it two coats of Minwax Golden Oak stain. We thought it matched the other dresser pretty well, plus we already had it so no extra expense. Always a plus.

Stain being applied

Comparison of the stain color between the two dressers

I think our biggest surprise was that the knobs we actually porcelain underneath several coats of paint themselves. We just removed them and let them soak in lacquer thinner for a bit then wiped the paint off with a shop towel. The last steps were to apply some polyurethane to seal the wood, we used a Minwax spray poly, but honestly if I had to do it over again I would just brush it on. The spray has a lot of over spray and I felt sticky after each coat. Even using two cans on the dresser in about five coats, the finish is not as smooth as I would like it to be. I also feel like you get much more for the cost with paint on.

Look at that tiger oak, isn't it awesome! When we were working on re-gluing the drawers in the larger dresser, we tipped it over and found a neat surprise. At some point someone replaced the base of the dresser with an enameled metal sign for a suit shop in Shamrock, Texas.

Don Play Suits in Shamrock, Texas
The bigger dresser was used to strange a coffee bar for our open house and I think its pretty dang cool. We picked up a mirror on clearance at Kirkland's and everything else was swiped from other parts of the house.

Make mine a non-fat cafe latte with whip!

And just one last detail, the inside of some of the drawers was a little yuck, we debated on painting them all white inside or something neutral, but decided on a vintage shelf paper pattern. Its a pain to cut it to the curved drawers, but I think it looks great.

Project Complete!

Monday, 2 December 2013

New House Love

So we have a new house! <excited> we visited Covington, Louisiana the week before Thanksgiving and over several days we looked at about 20 houses and ruled out at least as many online. (Note to realtors and For Sale by Owners - Don't post crappy pictures on the internet) the weather was typical early winter in South Louisiana with rain and wind and sun in between fueling the humidity. But overall it was pretty pleasant.

Here you can see our fantastic and super roomy rental car /sarcasm, a Fiat 500. We dubbed it the blueberry after Gus's car on the TV show Psych. 

The food was just as good as we remembered and we will have to watch ourselves if we want to continue our diet. Stephanie even got her favorite Asian dish pho (Vietnamese beef noodle soup). 

As far as houses go I wanted an old Acadian style house that was in sound shape but needed a little fix up but Steph wanted something a little newer and contemporary in style. I'll give you a second to guess who won. Hint: Not me :) In the end we chose a 2000 sq ft house in Lake Ramsey. We love the neighborhood it has a private 500 acre lake and backs up to a wilderness area but is still an easy commute for me. I think some kayaks and a boat are in my future. 

Outdoor TV, whaaaaaa!

I found one geocache "Horse Branch Trail" on our trip in the previously mentioned wilderness area. It was a very good hide but I "took" three ticks from the cache area so maybe some DEET should be in my future as well!

Horse Branch Trail

Friday, 15 November 2013

Tyler State Park Camping, Hiking, Geocaching

Our time in Texas is beginning to grow short. This week we are headed to Covington to look for a new house, but last weekend we decided to attend a geocaching event at Tyler State Park and do some camping. 

Of course Pandora decided to hog the air mattress, but luckily she also added a little heat because it was quite cold during the nights, especially Friday, as it was misty and drizzling rain when we arrived. By mid evening it had cleared enough to go find a night cache! A night cache is usually along a trail and utilizes some form of fire tack. A reflective push pin that you can stick in a tree branch. When you shine a strong flashlight at it it will glow brightly. 

Saturday we woke up and had breakfast with friends then headed over to the main event which promised a lot of fun outdoor activities. We chose to go on a ranger led nature walk and had a great time. We saw a ton of deer near the end of the hike as well as ample evidence of the wild pig problem they have here. 

Overall it was a great weekend. After a rainy and chilly start the skies cleared and we had great 70 degree weather. Tyler State Park is a great place to camp. They have newly redone bath houses and the animal life in the park is diverse and plentiful. Well worth a visit and right off the I20 corridor. 

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

2013 Where Have You Gone?

So.... I am still alive, and I am still interested in continuing with this blog. But I hit a roadblock this year that made it hard to motivate myself to sit down and write anything. Work has been really rewarding but also much busier than normal. That's a good thing, in the past I have become incredibly bored with my career. Back in school I had the same issue, if I didn't feel challenged I could not bring myself to do the tasks I needed to complete. Even to this day trying to get me to do something more than a few days before it is due is like pulling teeth. I do not consider myself a procrastinator, I just like to be challenged.

Caution: Do not wake ZSandmann
Geocaching is still very fun and important to me as my number one hobby, but I have found fewer caches this year than any since I started. I have attended many great events and hung out with my caching friends though. And a good event is more rewarding than a hundred park and grab caches. I'll certainly up my numbers some when we go home for Christmas and with our impending move... More on that in a minute.

I made my 6,000th Geocache "Find" at the Texas Challenge
My biggest regret in terms of geocaching this year is that I didn't get to explore more places in Texas. It's a massive state and our three years here just have not been nearly enough to see all that there is to see. We are going to try and make a trip to El Paso over Thanksgiving, and if we get our passports in time we might even jump over to Mexico just to say we did. The passports are for a cruise we have planned in February for our ten year wedding anniversary. Ten years!  That's just awesome to me.

Pandora: No context to this post, but... this picture, ha!
Ok, so the move huh? I've been transferred to Covington, Louisiana effective January 1. We are excited and also a bit overwhelmed by the process. But in the end it will be great to be back closer to home. Hopefully there will be new adventures to blog about once we are there. Which leads me to my last point, I think I will try and open up this blog to more than geocaching. That gives me more ground to cover and I'll likely get more stories to tell. One such story is the antique dresser set we recently got from geocaching friends of ours. We've been stripping it and sanding and all the fun things to try and get them in shape for a place in our guest bedroom. When that project is completed I'll post it here.

GC62: Tombstone - The oldest active geocache in Texas. I found it earlier this year.

Until then, Cache On!

A Fairy hole or a geocache? You decide.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Caching Down to San

I've been working on two Geocaching challenges lately, one is the Texas County Challenge which is a long term goal and would be amazing to accomplish. To complete it you need to find a cache in all 254 counties which equates to several thousand miles of total driving I suspect. After this past weekend's trip I sit at 114 counties completed. The counties we visited this time were Val Verde, Edwards, Kinney, Real, Uvalde, Bandera, and Medina.

This is also the second year for the Texas State Parks Challenge which hides caches at most of the Texas State Parks and administrated areas. We visited Seminole Canyon and Garner State Parks, and Hill Country Preservation Area on this trip.

In Seminole we hiked the Rim Trail and the Windmill Trail which give great views of the canyon. Unfortunately our timetable did not allow us to stay for the ranger led tour of the pictographs but I would like to visit again for that experience. Seminole is not a large park in terms of the paved "tourist" area but with miles and miles of back country trails to the Rio Grande, it is worth the visit even in the remote location. It appeared to have very nice RV and tent pads.

I am told Garner State Park is best known for its access to the Frio River, and that in summer months it can be so busy that they actually close the gate to hold attendance to a certain number. Even on a cool winter day the river was very active with families fishing in the dam pools. We hiked up one of the cave trails and the terrain surprised me as it quickly becomes a matter of finding foot holds and climbing up steep limestone ledges. Which are also the reason for the great caves found in this area. They have a mountain (hill) named Baldy which looked like it would have one heck of a vista, we even saw tiny dots of hikers up there, but once again that is a hike for another day.

The last area was Hill Country Preservation Area. I was amazed at how large this area was and it is so tucked away that you really have to be looking for it to know it is there. But once you arrive, you find an area very much designed for both hikers and equestrians. The horse trails and ranch were very popular when we were there. Also even though we seemed fairly isolated when driving down the parks roads we arrived to a hiker parking lot with twenty cars in it! People were dressed in trail running outfits that looked as if they were in a city park for a short jog, but where could they be from? There are no large towns nearby so this secret seems to be out that Hill Country is a fantastic place for a day trip hike. There are also many back country camp sites and primitive sites for camping. One funny thing we noted in the area is that the locals seem to be trying to put a run on the local coyote population. We saw many fences decorated like the one below. A strange habit.

Sunday we took it a little more easy and visited the San Antonio Zoo. This was my first time and I was impressed by the presentation and condition of the facility, especially considering it will celebrated its 100th anniversary in March of 2014.

There is already construction under way for a large new area to celebrate the centennial but the rest of the park shows that they are constantly working to maintain and improve the living conditions of the animals and the way visitors interact with them. The animals seemed very happy in their enclosures and the staff was very helpful in interpreting the exhibits. I can't wait to visit again.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Fort Morgan "Gangnam" Style!

N 30° 14.150 W 087° 53.250

On October 6th my little brother got married in Alabama. So we packed our bags and flew home for the weekend. The weather was great for an early fall outdoor wedding. After the ceremony and celebrations my wife and I and a couple of our friends headed for Fort Morgan Beach in south Alabama. The weather was pretty good for the season all weekend, with just a cool northern breeze persisting most of the time. Our condo had a heated indoor pool luckily where we spent a good bit of time but we did indeed brave the Gulf waters. They were surprisingly warm compared to the air temperatures. One of the big memes of the summer has been the K-Pop song "Gangnam Style" by PSY. Since I spend way too much of my time on the Internets, I felt the need to recreate this video around our condo. Enjoy the photo collage.

Yes beer and Lunchables... Don't judge me!

Getting "down" on the trail

Don't drink the blue water

Tiny head is tiny

Gurgle Gurgle Style!

That. Is how I roll!

Couldn't get any other dancers. What's up with that?

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Blue Bell Creameries - Brenham, Texas

N 30° 09.753 W 096° 22.708

We decided to attend a geocaching event in Brenham, Texas last weekend. It was planned as a fall gathering of the Texas Geocaching Association and sounded like a good excuse for a short road trip and a visit to Blue Bell. My wife and I both grew up with Blue Bell ice cream, but we had never visited its source.


The factory is located just outside of town and has fantastic saint augustine grass lawns (which we haven't seen since leaving Louisiana) and a nice little ice cream parlour attached to the museum and factory. A tour costs $5 a person but we get free ice cream at the end. No cameras (even cellphones) are allowed on the tour - trade secrets and such.

From wikipedia:
The Brenham Creamery Company opened for business in 1907 to purchase excess cream from local dairy farmers and sell butter to people in the Brenham, Texas, area. Beginning in 1911, the creamery began to also produce small quantities of ice cream. By 1919, the creamery was in financial trouble and considered closing its doors. The board of directors hired E.F. Kruse, a 23-year-old former schoolteacher, to take over the company on April 1, 1919. Kruse refused to accept a salary for his first few months in the position so that the company would not be placed in further debt. Under his leadership, the company expanded its production of ice cream to the local area and soon became profitable. At his suggestion, the company was renamed Blue Bell Creameries in 1930 after the Texas Bluebell, a wildflower that is native to Texas, which, like ice cream, thrives in summer. Until 1936, the creamery made ice cream by the batch. It could create a 10 gallon batch of ice cream every 20 minutes. In 1936 the company purchased its first continuous ice cream freezer, which could make 80 gallons of ice cream per hour.

We found it to be well worth the visit. The employees are happy and excited to talk about ice cream with you and are very knowledgeable. The parlour has about fifty flavors of ice cream and I am sure these rotate seasonally but there are many that are regional to certain areas like Rocky Mountain Road and limited release like Peach Cobbler.   

Pictured: Strawberry cheesecake and Krazy kookie dough. Eaten: Rocky Mountain road and Peach cobbler.
If you don't take the tour, or just want seconds, a large scoop is $1. Can't beat that. I discovered a flavor I've never tried before, Krazy Kookie Dough, which was awesome. It's a bit scary at first with brightly colored pieces, lots of food coloring I am sure. But the ice cream is cake batter and the cookie dough is sugar cookie, how can that not be amazing? I wish they just made the cake batter ice cream, I would eat way too much of it!

Blue Bell butterfly
One last thing to note. As we were heading down to Austin we took a wrong turn and ended up in Mason, Texas. I know there are some exposures of igneous rock in this region, but I had no idea that Mason is the type locality for Texas Topaz, the state gemstone. We also learned that for around $15 a day you can go to one of several ranches around town in non-deer season months and search for the stones in the local stream beds. This sounds like a LOT of fun and we are already planning a trip, maybe in March of next year!

"Milking" the cow