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Non-Wood Hobbies

I definitely suffer from having too many different interests.  The downside of having too many hobbies is that there is a danger that you can be good at doing lots of different things, but you're never going to get great at one thing.  While I'd love to be an expert on a particular hobby or subject, I've come to understand that sometimes that's just not in the cards.  But, that doesn't mean I can't shoot for that goal in all of my hobbies.  Plus the point is to enjoy the learning process.  I especially like the thrill I get being able to use skills from one hobby to help advance in another hobby.   


I've been taking some welding classes at Los Angeles Trade Technical College.  Welding, unlike woodworking, was something I didn't feel I could just pick up from reading books.  I figured I really needed some hands on instruction to weld properly and not burn myself or things around me. 

I just finished my first semester at LATTC and it's been really fun.  I've met some great classmates/friends and got the chance to work with top-notch instructors. 

Just to give a little hint of what you can do with welding, a bunch of us students worked on a display case using various welding techniques, sheet metal fabrication, and some good old creativity.  In helping to make the display, I had to resort just a little bit to woodworking (the oxygen (green domed cylinder) & acetylene (black domed cylinders) tanks in the photos were made using some dowel stock and shaped with roundover router bits.  It goes without saying, I'm a proud student of the LATTC Welding program!   

Here's a photo of our shopmade BBQ pit.  In addition to taking my regular load of classes for welding (to pass a certification test), I'm also enrolled in a saturday fabrication class.  One of the first things on the menu was to fabricate a BBQ pit so that we could eat well while we worked.  A few of us at school found an old propane tank lid that looked like it was just dying to be reincarnated into a food making machine!  After we got the basics finished (the grate, some handles) we then turned to figuring out how to create a mobile base for this bad boy.  We had an extra steel table we used for freehand oxy-acetylene torch cutting.  I had a set of four casters I donated to this endeavor which I welded onto the base.  Of course, we couldn't permanently weld anything (except for the casters) on this stand as we may still need to use it for cutting at a later time.  So to solve this problem we had the bowl shaped pit sit on some removable slats and allowed gravity to do the rest. 

In my small shop, I have to put my machines on wheels.  I wasn't too happy with the commercial mobile bases I've purchased for my other machines.  Since I'm currently learning how to weld, I figured why not try and make my own mobile base.  Thanks to the help of my welding professor I was able to learn how to make this aerodynamic looking beauty.  The sleek design was really my professor's brain child.  Other than looking like hospital casters, this set of double locking casters works surprisingly well.    Thanks Che (seuh fu)--I'm still amazed how well this base worked out.  "If I could weld like Che!"  The 5" diameter wheels swivel and roll easily over any uneven cracks, edges, levels in my shop and in my driveway. 

Can I just say that my Saturday metal fabrication class that is really awesome.  My instructor lets us pretty much make whatever we want.  With that much free reign, I ran to the woodshop to figure out what I needed to improve.

The first thing I thought was how my tablesaw blade guard wasn't too sturdy.  My previous method of joining aluminum square tubing at 90 degree angles required bolting down the tubes with triangular shaped angle iron.  While that worked sufficiently, there was way too much side play and wobble.  I figured why not weld the joints together.  So after a little bit of digging through the metal scrap pile and a day's worth of preparing the joints and welding, I had this little beauty.  To keep the guard from tipping over, I'm going to secure the unit to my tablesaw with some steel brackets (hopefully photos of that will be posted later).  The steel was rusted, but on the upside I was able to score a small piece of diamond plate for the bottom flange.  This shot was taken before I sprayed on a coat of Rustoleum metallic paint.  This stuff is supposed to not require any priming and it should encapsulate all the rust.  Much thanks to my instructor Che for his help.  I love how welding can make my woodworking shop even better!

Space is a premium in my shop and now I have to add welding equipment to my arsenal of tools.  Welding and woodworking can be a dangerous mix of hobbies--think fire hazard.  I needed a place to store all my welding gear, so I figured a mobile all-in-one cart would be the answer.  This way, I can wheel the welding outfit far away from any lumber or woodworking tools when a welding job needs to be completed.  And when the gear needs to be safely stored when not in use I just wheel it in small corner of the woodshop. 

Here's my little gem.  The front view shows my Miller MIG/Flux Cored welder on the bottom rack and my Milwaukee chopsaw sitting on top at waist level. 





When I said all-in-one, I meant all in one.  This cart also houses my two grinders.  I wanted all my metalworking tools on or in this cart.  I made sure to weld on a few accessory racks and hooks to hang different tools, cables, and other miscellaneous items. 


I added a magnetic tool bar on the right side of the cart to hold various wrenches, tin snips and other items.  I prefer using flux cored wire instead of MIG because it saves me the trouble of having to get a cylinder.  But this cart has a lip at the back end for a cylinder just in case I want to use MIG in the future.  For now, maybe I'll put a fire extinguisher there instead.




Like most situations I've experienced I've found that woodworking still pays off!  I used my woodshop to crank out this drawer.  It's a pretty deep drawer to hose a bunch of different items.  To maximize space, I also made a shallow tray that hangs on a lip to carry smaller items.  To protect the baltic birch plywood from sparks, I screwed on some sheet metal all around the outside of the drawer. 


What makes this cart neat is this feature...a slide out tray.  The way that this welder is setup, I need to flip open the welder to load welding wire.  Instead of having to lug the welder out each time, I installed ball bearing slides.  Just slide the welder out, flip open the side cover, change welding wire, slide it back in and I'm in business!






No, the photo to the right isn't to show off my shopmade brackets for my hanging planters or my rickety rocking chair or even my redwood gliding bench.  As inconspicuous as it may seem, the umbrella stand I fabricated (located just left of the foot of the bbq grill) is a real gem!  It all started when I bought a rectangular umbrella on clearance at the orange borg.  The plan was simple:  I wanted some shade for future bbq grillin' sessions. 




The salesperson got me to pick up a "Universal" umbrella stand.  While it looks serviceable, this "Universal" umbrella stand proved to be UNIVERSALLY CRAPPY.  The pole housing was too large for my umbrella and despite tightening down on the knob (with the screw), the umbrella kept rotating around.  What was even worse was the fact that the stand simply wasn't hefty enough to do the job.  During one instance of a strong breeze, my umbrella fell over into the pool!  Hence, I had to throw on a couple of old free weights to keep the umbrella from tipping over during light winds.  I was pretty frustrated and then I thought to myself, "Duh, you're a welder and The New Chinky Workshop Dude in you is just begging you to fire up a new creation!"

It all starts with raw material.  The thing about welding/steel fabrication is that you can do a lot with stuff people consider junk.  I actually found these pieces of scrap from the recycle heap at work.  The pieces are tubing of different thicknesses, but their outside dimensions are roughly the same.  Ideally, it would have been great to have material of the same size, thickness, etc., but heck, this stuff was free!!!

When it comes to designing something, I try to think of all the problems I've seen in other similar items and then incorporate my proposed solutions to my creations.  So the first thing was I wanted to have my umbrella slide into a relatively snug pipe (not too much slop as was the case with the storebought version).  I found a pipe that was about 1/8" larger in diameter than the umbrella pole.  I also wanted to ensure that there would be adequate drainage for the stand.  I couldn't just weld this piece of pipe right onto to square tubing because it would allow water to pool up inside the pipe--definitely a no-no for preventing rust and preventing standing water for mosquitoes.  So the first step for me was to weld this piece of threaded rod into what was to be the bottom section of the pipe.  This way, the umbrella pole can rest upon the threaded rod and the space adjacent to the threaded rod allows water to drain away freely. 

Step two was to ensure the base of the umbrella stand had a drainage hole.  I drilled out a hole into my square tubing.  My plan was to stuff the base with sand to give it added weight.  By drilling a hole into the tubing, I've now created an opening for the sand to spill out.  To fix this problem, I welded a small diameter section of pipe into the square tubing.  This way, the sand can be completely enclosed in the tubing while providing an opening for water drainage.  Now, the pipe just needs to be welded onto the piece of tubing show to the right.  This thing works like a dream.  I just love figuring out fixes like this!!!! 

I was really excited with this project because this was the first time I was able to use my ALL-IN-ONE WELDING CART!  I cut my parts to size with my cut off saw; welded the joints together with my Mig Welder; cleaned up the finished stand using my grinder.  And all the while, I wheeled my cart around skipping like a schoolgirl who just won the spelling bee!  Another design improvement my version had over the storebought one was my use of two tightening knobs.  This really helps secure the umbrella in place.  You can clearly see how the knobs are situated on the pipe.  Additionally, the use of a longer pipe gave the umbrella even more added stability.  I made sure to post up this photo to show that I actually did weld up this sucker!  It's pretty ugly with all the rust and grinding marks.  But just wait until you see it with a new paint job.



Voila!  Here is the finished product.  I used one coat of primer and then finished it off with a couple of coats of a brown colored spray paint with a rough finish.  It seemed to go well with the umbrella.  With the larger footprint, sand-stuffed tubing, longer and tighter fitting pipe, two tightening knobs, and some good old fashioned New Chinky Workshop ingenuity, this base does it job and does it well.  The base is pretty darned heavy and my umbrella held up just fine.  Now, all that's left is to marinate some stuff and get ready to grill!





So this all started because I found a Topsy Turvy planter for sale at Harbor Freight Tools (and don't give me grief about shopping there occasionally--I only go there for "disposable tools").  My niece was leaving for college and she wanted to get into gardening.  I thought this upside down growing planter would be a good space saver since she said she'd only have a small balcony.  After I bought the thing, I realized that you're supposed to screw an eyebolt into some existing wall or ceiling in order to give the planter somewhere to hang.  Figuring that she probably couldn't get away with permanently disfiguring her living quarters, I decided why not weld up a stand.  So I picked up some scrap tubing and got to work.  The base was a bit small, but I needed to make it that way so it would fit into the car for her drive up to school.  To secure it while in use, all my niece has to do is to throw on some sandbags or some other type of weight to keep the stand from tipping over.  We'll see how it works once there's a tomato vine growing in it.  I figure I'll ask her how it's working out after her first midterms.  

 My lumber stash was quickly getting out of hand.  Luckily, I can weld so I decided to weld up a lumber rack.  This isn't the final finished product, as I had t weld up a couple of vertical uprights on the ends to reinforce the rack.  Trial and error is the only way to learn sometimes.  I wanted to keep the bottom part of the rack open for slabs.  I bought some cheap casters from Harbor Freight and they seem to do the trick.  I didn't need locking casters because this baby weighs a ton once it's loaded up with lumber.  I had some black paint for metal, so that was the choice.

Here's my new lumber rack all loaded up!  It's really nice how much this cart can hold. Plus, I don't have to dig up the entire load just to look at a piece of lumber at the bottom of the stack.  The top racks store all my longer, standard size material.  You can see how I can store my walnut slabs at the bottom.  Overall I'm pretty happy with this rack.

While I'm still on the subject of welding, I might as well post a photo of this Mickey Mouse looking thing to the right.  I made this garden hose reel out of some scrap steel tubing and diamond plate.  The curved part of the reel is supposed to cradle loops of garden hose without causing the hose to bend sharply (thus cutting the flow of water).

My idea was to dig a big hole and bury the bottom plate of the hose reel with lots of dirt.  I could of just used prongs instead of flat plate of steel, but I decided that while that would be easier to install into the ground, it ultimately wouldn't be as stable. 

The neatest part about this project was how I was able to learn how to bend a flat piece of steel into a circular shape.  I used the flame from an oxy-acetylene torch to heat up the steel until it was malleable.  Then using a small section of pipe as a bending form, I hammered away at the steel until it started bending into the desired curved shape.  Much thanks to my friend Jason for showing me this technique.  

 It never ceases to amaze me how a little bit of spray paint can rejuvenate some rusty old steel.

This was the old multi-tool stand I made out of 2x4's to house my belt sander and planer.  I rigged up wheels on it and it worked well enough, but for one major shortcoming.  Whenever I wanted to use the planer, I had to bend down to feed lumber into the planer.    I don't have back problems, but it's still not a convenient nor effiicient way of processing lumber.  This is where my new found welding skills came into play.  We have a lot of scrap steel at school and I had this idea to make a flip-top tool stand. 


So here it is!  I used square steel tubing (I should have mitered the corners, but I didn't realize my goof-up until after I had cut up all the steel).  I welded a simple frame and then found some round tubing that almost perfectly fit into one another.  Because of the lucky fit, I was able to make a pivoting tabletop that can be flipped 180 degrees!  Here you can see the belt sander sitting on the top just like it did on my wooden tool stand.  But a quick flip of the top....



Now the planer sits on top.  I'm still recovering from my childhood inability to play with "real" Transformer toys (I had to resort to generic "Lego's" from Pic 'n' Save and my imagination in order to have my own Transformers).  So anyway, I guess Freud would say my "inner child" is fascinated by the transforming nature of this flip-top stand.  I bolted both machines onto 3/4" melamine and then onto each other (much like making a sandwich).  To keep the top from flipping over endlessly, I drilled a hole into both the frame of the stand and the round tubing.  Then a quick rummaging through my school's machine shop scrap bin (which happens to be just next door to the welding department) and I was able to make a stop out of a nicely machined pin.  After that, it was just a matter of spraying on a few coats of metallic spray paint and I had a much improved tool stand. 

And what ever happened to my old wooden tool stand?  Of course I didn't throw it away (I'm still fighing my packrat tendencies).  I inadvertently had a perfect de facto sharpening stand.  Once I took off the casters (which I later used on my new flip-top tool stand), the wooden stand stood right up to my palms (which is the perfect height for sharpening with waterstones).  I then plopped up my sharpening stone board (with all the stones) right on top of the stand.  I then placed my honing guide, cheater board, and a rag nearby and now am ready to sharpen at a moment's notice.

Hopefully with a permanent place for my sharpening stones, I'll actually sharpen my plane blades and chisels more often and frequently.  Plus the area where the planer used to sit was perfect for storing my homemade downdraft sanding box and some burl nodules I had laying around in the shop.






As is the case with my woodshop, I'm quickly running out of real estate for my gardening fix.  To make use of every available spot for planting strawberries, I bought quite a few self-watering windox box containers.  Instead of placing them outside of a window, I decided I'd make use of the cinder block walls all surrounding the back yard.  Buying the containers was the easy part.  The tough part was finding brackets that would fit my wall and not tip the planter at an angle.  The solution......? 

You should have guessed by now that I wasn't about to let an opportunity to problem solve pass my by!  Of course I fabricated my own brackets!  Luckily I had access to some 1" wide x 1/8" thick mild steel flat bar stock that was just laying around.  At first, I thought about welding up some brackets.  But once I realized how much easier it would be to just bend the flat bar, the brackets almost seemed to fabricate themselves.  Of course I had to clean up the loose rust and dirt off the steel bars with my wire wheel/grinder.  But after that, all that was left was to give the brackets a coat of paint and gravity would do the rest.  Boy, do I love making customized stuff to address a specific need.  And it feels even better being able to combine my metal working and gardening hobbies into one project.



So here's the ancient vertical milling machine I've been using to mill out various parts out of metal.  Of course, my machining masterpiece has to be either the bronze infill smoothing plane or the horizontal router table--to see them, click here and scroll down.









Here's a closeup of some aluminum chips.  It was a bit weird not calling this stuff sawdust or (wood)shavings, but I think I'm pretty immersed in beginner's machine shop lingo.  I'll post up photos of my aluminum gem, when it's done--it's top secret!  I can't wait to unveil it when it's done!!!


I was indebted to one of my sisters for quite a few favors so I decided to surprise her with an espresso machine.  Dang!  These things are expensive!  But luckily for me, a friend of mine was able to get me one for a really, really good price--and no, it wasn't stolen!  It's a nice little unit, but as with most things nowadays, accesories will cost you extra.






This is where the story begins.  FYI--I know nothing about coffee, nor do I even drink coffee--but it's amazing how much stuff you can learn just off the internet!  This filter/handle thing stores the coffee grounds.  Well, good ole sis told me that to get a good shot of espresso on this machine, one must really pack a whole lot of coffee grounds into this small cup-a-ma-deal.  She had been using a spoon to slowly pack in the coffee--a process I later discovered was called "tamping."  Again--forgive the ignorance--I'm a tea drinker myself--makes sense, I'm the New Chinky Workshop dude.  How can a Chinese dude not prefer tea!!!  But go figure, my sister--my own flesh and blood, prefers coffee.  So much for genetics or race being the determining factor. 

As you've probably guessed by now, the whole point to this story is the fact that I had to make a tool to do the job.  As it turns out, there are commerically available tamping tools called, oddly enough, TAMPERS!  But geez, like many things today they are expensive!  So for my first attempt at working with a metalworking lathe (any lathe for that matter), I made the solid aluminum tamper to the right.  Watching the metal shavings roll off was pretty amazing.  Unfortunately, I didn't have a camera to take pictures of the whole process.  I know what you're thinking--my version does look a lot like the stanley cup.  If I had some type of professional etching tool, I'd engrave the 1994 L.A. Kings on it--call it a delusional coping mechanism--I'm still bitter about the whole Marty McSorely "stickgate" fiasco. 


Before I started, I used a set of calipers to measure the inside diameter of the espresso filter--very much overkill since I wanted the tamper to roughly be smaller than the filter--but not to machinist's standards.  But oh well, I figured it couldn't hurt.When I got close to the final diameter on the lathe, I'd stop frequently and check with calipers for every 5-10 thousandths of a inch.  All those measurements would be tested now--the moment of truth.  Is it going to fit.....?  Take a look to the left, anyone want to place their bets?


Ta-da!!!  It fit like a glove--well, with just a wee bit of wiggle room--exactly the way I wanted it!  Since this tamper was turned out of solid aluminum, it's foodsafe, but sis would never use it without washing it herself first.  I can hear her now making some crack that she doesn't know where my hands have been.   But honestly, it's probably a good idea for her to be distrustful of me.  FYI:  I did toy with the idea of making the tamper out of stainless steel, but on my first try at the lathe, I didn't want to work with much harder stainless steel.  Overall, this project was a success and a whole lot of fun!!!


Oh yeah, we've got lots of dinosaurs in this machine shop.  Most of these machines were donated to LATTC from the War Department...that's right, the War Department.  I didn't get it at first (because this was way before my time), but a machine shop buddy explained how the current Defense Department used to be called the War Department during and before WWII.  So yeah, these machines are old.  Amazingly, despite some worn bearings, these machines still do a pretty good job of milling. 

To be fair, LATTC's machine shop does have CNC machines and other high tech stuff.  I just chose not to learn that because for what I want to make and the small scale of my projects, manual machines are really all I care to learn. 


It all boils down to food baby!!!  I love to eat, therefore it makes sense that a lot of my other hobbies somehow revolve around eating.  You've already seen my gardening-for-food obsession.  Simply put, I really enjoy cooking.  There's nothing like dreaming up a new recipe or tweaking someone's else's recipe to get your dish to taste just the way you like it. 

Good food and good friends!!!  Here's a pic of the three amigos.  I had my two best friends (since Kindergarten) over for a bbq lunch.  Carne Asada soft tacos were on the menu, so we had to put on the sombreros.  Que bueno!!! 



My mom's friend (for some odd reason) decided to drop off two uncooked racks of baby back ribs?  Strange gift, but heck, who am I to turn away MEAT!!!  I took this thoughtful and meaty gesture as an invitation for me to try my hand at smoking those babies up.  Here's my Weber Smoky Mountain smoker.  For great tips on smoking with this unit check out this site.  Smoking food is definitely an art.  I know I need more practice.  As for the ribs...well, they came out a little burnt and a bit too spicy, but I still enjoyed that smoky flavor smothered in a mix of K.C. Masterpiece and Honey.  MMmmmm.....  And if you're looking for a good BBQ book, try Stephen Raichlen's BBQ Bible.  I've tried several recipes from his book and have yet to be disappointed.


It was only a matter of time before my discussion of cooking would lead me to tools of some sort.  And here they are.  After learning how to appreciate the beauty of sharpening my own chisels and plane blades, I tried my hand at hand sharpening my kitchen knives.  Wow, what a difference a sharp knife can make in your cooking!  I decided I needed some top quality knives and these babies are just that.  (Top)  Shigefusa Santoku (All Purpose) kitchen knife.  This knife is supposed to be the Rolls Royce of knives.  It has good weight and feel.  The handle is asymmetrical and fits really well for right-handed wannabe chefs like me.    The wooden handle is held in place with a ferrule made of buffalo horn.  The knife really feel nice in my hand.  The only issue I have with it is it's a very high maintenance tool.  Traditional knives like this one are hand forged using high carbon steel, thus they can rust if you don't care for them.  I have to immediately dry this knife and oil it up with camelia oil after each use.  I'm a bit lazy, but I think I'll whip this guy out for special occasions.  But I was told that I'm pretty lucky to get my hands on one of these as they is currently a waiting list for one--apparently a couple of chefs on Iron Chef (the original show, not the cheesy American Iron Chef version) won using this knife and swear by it.


(2nd from the top)  Chrome Stainless Steel Nakugata Nakiri (Vegetable knife).  My sister went with me to Japan Woodworker as I was eyeing a Chinese cleaver.  The cleavers didn't excite me all that much, but this vegetable knife did catch my fancy.  The low maintenace factor of the stainless steel components of this knife was the selling point for me.  Besides, this knife looks pretty darn cool.


(3rd from the top)  Damascus Pattern Santoku (All Purpose Knife).  I've always wanted to own and use a damascus pattern knife.  According to the Japan Woodworker, bundles of special alloy stainless steel wire are repeatedly folded together and forge welded by hand to create a swirling grain pattern (known as damascus pattern).  I guess this pattern reminds me of the beautiful grain structure found in wood.  In any case, it has good weight and I'm sure I'll be sure to use it quite often during my next cooking adventure!

(Bottom)  This is a small paring knife that I like to keep around on trips to the beach or a picnic.  The wooden scabbard is really handy for protecting the blade from damage and accidentally cutting me!


Update:  So it's been awhile since I lasted posted photos of my knife collection.  You should have assumed my TAD (Tool Acquisition Disease) spread full force from just woodworking tools to cooking utensils. 

So this is how crazy it's gotten!  Well, it's really not that bad.  I have a good collection of knives for just about every cooking job.  From left to right (top):  The first two were described above; what I call my sandwich knife--it cuts bread, can be used to spread mayo, mustard, and just looks pretty darn cool; the Shigefusa (mentioned above); a cheapie heavy duty Chinese cleaver that can be used to hack bones and just plain old be abused; a really well balanced Damascus pattern Chinese cleaver that I really like using; a hardcore breadknife that well, cuts like a hot knife through butter; (bottom):  Kitchen scissors; Bird's beak knife that I like use to core out fruit halves; 6" utility knife; 3 1/2" paring knife; and 4" paring knife.  Of course, this probably was overkill, but it's like collecting baseball really is just paper that you don't need. 

With all these knives, it just simply wouldn't do to have them sliding around inside a drawer.  These are my babies!  I know I got to get a life.  Well, consider it my way of justifying starting a new woodworking project.  Now that the knife block is done, it really does keep my knives organized and protected from unwanted nicks and dings to the cutting edge.  Plus, you've got to let me gloat just a little when I say this knife block is definitely super easy on the eyes.

While we're talking about cooking tools, why not show off my newest brainchild.  I happened to be watching an episode of Alton Brown's Good Eats on Shish Kebabs--one of my favorite things to BBQ.  He was espousing the virtues of flat skewers to keep food from moving around during the cooking process.  So I thought back on the different skewers I that I had purchased in the past and remembered always feeling that something was missing.  I had wood handled skewers with a thin strip of metal that never did the trick because I could never put the entire skewer, including the wooden handle,  in the BBQ.  The bamboo skewers I had worked well, but tended to burn up, despite a good soaking in water before use.  Additionally, they tended to be a bit flimsy when holding thicker and heavier cuts of food.  Solution?  Custom made skewers!!!  You should have expected that by now.

I started with a 1/8" thick flat plate of stainless steel.  After cutting up thin strips (about 3/8" to 1/2" wide), I began to grind a double bevel on the tip of each skewer using my slow speed grinding wheel.  I think I did too good of a job b/c the tips are almost too sharp!  After that, (again with the help of my welding buddy Anthony), we were able to use a pipe bender to bend the fancy shaped handle on the end opposite to the sharpened tip.  SWEET!!!

How do the work?  Look for yourself!!!

Look at these beauties in action.  These beefy skewers can handle beefy cuts of...what else....beef!  Because the entire skewer is made of stainless steel, I was able to put the entire skewer on the BBQ grill.  "Isn't the handle too hot to handle during BBQ'ing," you might ask?  Well, you're right.  I already had some heavy duty PVC coated gloves to handle the shish-kebabs.  But I found that a good set of tongs did the trick.  The flat and hefty nature of the skewers made for easy manuevering with a set of tongs!!!   I love making my own tools!!!

I was pleasantly surprised when Chef Matthew Zboray from Le Cordon Bleu California School of Culinary Arts contacted me about my skewers.  Apparently, my tinkering around with these skewers caught his eye and he wanted to use the skewers for a sturgeon dish he prepares.  He was gracious enough to barter a fancy meal and a tour of the school in exchange for some of my little old skewers.  I'm a big Top Chef fan and recently I've been half-heartedly aspiring to become a true foodie.  So this was such a trip!


Here's one of my skewers plated by a professional.  It's sturgeon prepared two ways--grilled on a skewer and in a delicious consomme.  What was especially nice was how Chef Zboray was came out and explained what was in every dish and was super friendly.  Plus, I even got to experience tasting a nice sorbet in between dishes as a "palette cleanser!"  I swear that was such a Top Chef moment.   And being able to pick the Chef's brain about random cooking stuff gave me several Kitchen Confidential moments.  This whole experience was so serendipitous and just plain old cool! 


Just when I thought I reached my hobby limit, I think I found something else.  So I was enjoying a triple scoop of gelato at a gelateria (pomelo, blood orange, and hazelnut in case you were wondering) when it hit me that with a little trial and error, effort, and ingredients, I could make whatever flavor I wanted whenever I wanted.  Not long after this epiphany, I did some online research and placed an order for a self-cooling gelato making machine.  That's right, no need for ice and salt or even having to freeze up a bowl overnight.  About a week of checking my UPS tracking number daily, my newest toy came and that's how my newest hobby was born.  

So here's my newest toy!  It sort of figures that I my obsession with getting new "tools" has migrated into the kitchen as well as the woodshop.  Here's a photo of my taste-bud pleasing little gem hard at work freezing and churning a mango passionfruit sorbet.  And just fyi, this recipe was pretty darned tasty.  How could it not be!?  I mean, fresh mangos and my own homegrown passionfruit!  Mmmmmmmm!

So what type of ingredients do I put into this machine?  Only the freshest and best of course!  I made a strawberry gelato that was probably one of the best I've ever had (storebought or otherwise).  And trust me, I'm not boasting for no good reason.  The photo to the left shows you exactly what I put into this recipe:  Fresh strawberries; simple syrup; half and half.  Isn't it amazing how sometimes the best things are so simple.


Here's the strawberry ice cream just waiting for the Gelato Pro's magic to happen! 




Tricyle Riding (aka Triking)]


That's right, three wheels baby!!!  This photo was taking during my trike's inaugural ride which (of course) was on a Southern California beach bike path.  Oh yeah, behind my favorite three wheeler is my favorite four-wheeled vehicle.  I'm so glad I got a truck to replace my old sedan.  A sedan is great, but it just didn't suit me and the things I like to do for fun.  Let's just say, I messed up the nice leather interior of my old sedan trying to squeeze in some rough lumber from the lumberyard.  Now, loading up lumber in the truckbed is a cinch and it turns out I've got plenty of room to load up two trikes!




This is a good shot of my trike after I made a few modifications and add-ons.  Among the things I did to "soup-up" my trike:  Headlight and tailights, rear view mirrors, water bottle holder, more versatile seat adjustment, rear cargo rack.  If you've never tried one of these out, you really are missing out.  I guarantee your face will light up with a big fat grin.


Store-bought headlights don't fit the unusual diameter of my trike's steel pipe frame.  So I had to improvise using my woodworking skills.  A small block of red oak, a hacksawn piece of electrical conduit, and some screws were all it took to get the headlight up and working.  Then I gave a little black spray paint job (below) and now you can hardly tell this was a home-made upgrade made out of wood!!!








The same trick worked for the rear light, but this time with a piece of pvc sprinkler pipe (I wound up using whatever I had lying around).  It's amazing how good a little spray paint can make something look.  The photo to the right also showw how good the rear rack looks once installed.  I love it when I can modify things "The New Chinky Workshop" style!



I devised this addition to secure a flag.  Since the trike is pretty low to the ground, I thought maybe a flag would be a good idea.  But after using the flag for a while now, I don't really like how it just sticks up from the trike.  Fortunately for me, this holder wound up being very helpful in securing the rear cargo rack.  Again, the miracle of spray paint! 





In order to get myself to exercise regularly, I decided I needed a partner in crime (or in this case, calorie burning).  So enlisted the help of my sister.  Our hope is this new hobby will not only result in some nice scenic photographs, but also some serious fat burning off our lazy asses!!!


With that I will leave you with this photo and a little piece of advice that I've always taken to heart...

Take the road less travelled...(especially if it's on a Trike!)