Wednesday, February 27, 2019

How To Store Stick Butter Or Margarine - Is Tub Better?

    I haven't used butter in a while, been content with using tubs of margarine (some brands are WAY better than others in terms of flavor!). When traveling in an RV, it's easier to store opened butter or margarine that is in a tub with a snap on lid. That's pretty obvious. What if you like stick style? Sure, it's fine until you unwrap the stick, even partially. Then you have to find a place to store it in the fridge that won't fall and "dent" your stick. That being said, there are some distinct advantages for stick style butter or margarine. As long as you can figure out how to keep it in good shape without air getting to it and discoloring the surface after use. Take a look at what I found.

The Solution!
I like the way sticks look on the table at a meal. Whether it's breakfast, lunch or dinner,  there is something about a stick of butter on a dish that makes it feel, well, fancier somehow. Easy to do. Unwrap the stick, place it on a butter dish and place on the table. What could be easier than that? So, why not? Well, what do you do with the unused portion after the meal? No, even I don't use a whole stick at one sitting! You could attempt to put it back in the wrapper...but that usually doesn't work well and isn't really air-tight anyway. If you leave it on the butter dish and put it back in the fridge it will begin to turn a particularly ugly shade of yellow. That's because the surface is reacting with the oxygen in the air and changing the properties (Oxidation). What about a butter dish that seals tight to prevent this AND keeping the butter from getting all dented up in the fridge while you are underway? There are LOTS of these containers around, but I like to get a bit more for my buck so I chose this one. It's got an additional benefit as well.

A Simple Solution
While tub style is great, it's a pain to measure out tablespoons (or larger measures.) You have to find a measuring spoon (not hard) and then once it's measured, figure out how to get it OUT of the spoon and into your recipe. Of course, it also adds to "things that must be washed." Getting butter or margarine off of kitchen utensils without using an excess of water AND keeping the oily residue out of the grey tank is tough! Everyone KNOWS I hate cleaning. Stick butter, on the other hand, has a handy tablespoon scale printed on the wrapper and a simple cut will give you exactly what you need for your recipe. That's all well and good, but what if you have already used it on the table and the wrapper is gone?  Well, this one has measurements printed on the base and you can just pull it open cut what you need and put it back. Simple and with very little fuss.

On a vacation, I prefer to keep the fussing to a minimum (cleaning too!). If I have the extra room in the fridge, I'll likely take this along with me. Looks good on pancakes! A little pat will do ya!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Oh Summer, Where Art Thou! - Planning For The Warm Weather.

No Snow...Not Yet...But Soon!
    I just heard the weather forecast. They are calling for MORE snow tomorrow, followed by freezing rain for the next day. And to add insult to injury, after the weekend 10 DAYS of snow. I like snow, it's pretty when it begins and the first white covering makes everything look beautiful. But, that's about it. From then on, I watch the accumulation and wonder when I will be pushing the snow off the fabric building and all the cars. I wonder when they will plow my driveway so I can get to work. I wonder how many accident scenes I will be visiting in the middle of the night. And then when it's all over and it's a gray, brown and black slushy mess, I wonder just how long until it's all gone. In between bouts of "wondering" I am also thinking about "wandering." Since I KNOW that it will end at some point (Well at least I hope it will!) I am planning out my first trips of the RV season. I can't help it, I'm still an optimist (mostly.)

At An Aviation Museum
Where to go and what to see this year? I'd REALLY like to go to the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio as I have heard they'd done an amazing renovation. It's only 10 hours away, so doable with only a few days off. Since I am a member of Harvest Hosts, I like to plan trips that go past their locations. Often I stay for a night there (and have a meal and buy some goodies!) on the way to someplace I wanted to see or experience. It sure beats Walmart parking lots and you get to see some cool secondary roads and towns. Of course, if I'm fighting time, interstates and Walmarts, Cracker Barrels and the like are fine for a quick overnight rest. So what else? Well, I have the annual Rotorway Fly-in/Gathering in Lake City, FL, but that's in October. There's a lot of time between the beginning of the season and October! There's always my first shakedown trip to Cabela's in Hamburg, PA. Close enough and way interesting!

A Special Place!
I'm always looking for short trips. Between 2 and 4 days with travel miles at or below 400 miles or so. This way I have 1/2 a day's travel at either end and plenty of time to relax upon arrival. If you all have any ideas, I'm always looking for destinations. Perhaps, one day, when I retire...I'll just be able to wander at will. Not yet. Not soon...but eventually! So for the time being, I like to keep the radius relatively local. I found a cool Skiing mountain that is closed in the summer (Obviously!) that allows RV's at the summit parking lot for overnights. It's got amazing views and is very comfortable. You can hike 100's of miles of trails from there. or mountain bike. or not! It's trips like this I seek out. I really ought to compile a more formal list on notecards or something and randomly pull one out when i get a few days strung together that I can use to travel.

I guess the only thing beneficial, from an RV standpoint, to snowstorms is the ability to dream about RV trips when it's NOT snowing! I have a really great imagination for trips.....

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Fabric Building - Mid Winter Report. How's It Holding Up?

RV Inside!
    Well, it's snowing here in the Northeast. Again. Not as much as in the past, but enough. A few months ago I completed assembling my fabric building to house my RV and helicopter. I was (and still am!) concerned about snow and ice loading on the roof. Since the company does not publish any snow load numbers, we are left to our own devices to figure out what is safe. So far, I haven't had any issues. However, since it was put together in the cold weather, it really never became taut enough. I believe that is why it's accumulating more snow and ice than it should. Hopefully, I can adjust it when the weather gets warmer. Will it hold up?

It's Snowing Outside Now!
When it snows, I have been going out when accumulation is around 3 inches and pushing the snow off from the inside. The distance between the roof supports is about 8 feet and you can see a a distinct bowing of the fabric between them when there is any snow or ice on the roof. It is pretty easy to take a pole broom and gently push up, first at the bottom by the walls then further toward the top, to get the snow sliding off the peaked roof. When it's icy like freezing rain or sleet, it does not slide off as easily. While doing this it became VERY obvious that the first two sections (front and back) were not tight enough compared with the center sections. I believe that is caused by putting it together in the cold. It didn't shrink any more after it was put together like it would have if assembled in hot weather and then exposed to the cold. Hopefully, I can tighten it up this spring or summer.

Beats This Method, Hands Down!
Regular rain has NOT been an issue at all. Even torrential, frog strangling rain has had little effect on the fabric or frame. However, I did find a pinhole where the cover was folded tightly in the box. I'll fix that with either a patch or some tool handle liquid rubber. Even though it will be an easy fix, there should NOT have been any holes in the cover at all. It is brand new from the factory after all. Other than that, it has been faring quite well. The zippers are easy to open, even in the coldest weather and close back down without undue strain. The frame has not shifted at all, so the tie-downs I "engineered" are working well. So far. We have experienced some pretty high wind loads recently and I did not reach OZ.

For the price, I am quite pleased, with the notable exceptions during assembly phases 1 and 2, and maybe 3 as well!,  a few parts issues and a terrible, out of date manual. If I purchased one now, I would do many things differently. It would have been MUCH easier if we hadn't attempted to follow the steps in the manual. Even IKEA is better and that's knowing that my Swedish is non-existent!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

3D Printers Are COOL! - Make Parts And Accessories For Your RV And More!

Cannot Wait Until Spring!
    I finally broke down and bought a 3D printer. They have come down in price so much over the last few years it was really hard to resist. For only a few hundred dollars I now have a device that can print in various materials (more on that later) in 3 Dimensions! Yes, it makes Stuff rather than text on a page. Truly amazing. There is a bit of a learning curve. Heck, figuring out which one to buy in the first place took over a month of research! Worth it! I have already printed new cabinet and drawer latches to replace broken ones. Some knobs for electronics, a keychain and a Phaser. Yes, the last one was just for me. Yes, they are a bit fiddly, but with a bit of trial and error (much less than usual for me) and a little bit of patience you can be printing whatever you like in short order.

Anycubic I3 Mega 3D Printer
I remember the Star Trek: The Next Generation "Replicator". You walk up to it, say something like, "Tea, Earl Grey, Hot" and VOILA! You have a coaster and a mug filled with hot tea in a flash. Way cool! 3D printers are NOT like that, but it's a start. How do they work? Well most of them heat up filaments of plastic and squeeze them out through a nozzle. This nozzle is able to move and be controlled in three dimensions by a small computer running a few stepper motors. As the nozzle moves, more plastic is fed in to create an object layer by layer. These layers are THIN! -- 0.1 mm (give or take). The smaller the layer the more detailed the object. Each layer adheres to the one below and on and on until the object is finished. It takes a LONG time. My 4" long Phaser took about 5 HOURS to print. But it was amazing to come back and check on it once in a while to see the progress.

A Couple Of 1KG Spools Of Filament
The plastic itself comes in many colors (or just buy white and paint whatever color you like.) The standard is PLA (Polylactic Acid) which is mostly made from renewable materials like corn starch. It's the default material for most printers and does not require a heated bed -- that's the part material is deposited on. It's pretty strong and light and is fine for most projects.It does not like to be over stressed and will break. Especially if used on small parts.

Next up is ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene). This is a VERY common plastic and has been in use for decades. It's strong, lightweight and can handle a decent amount of stress. My Attex 6 Wheeler's body is made from it. It is UV resistant and works well outside. You can make gears and machine parts from it. I've seen screws and nuts used in various applications. It is a bit harder to work with and your 3D printer settings are critical to get a good output.

Nylon is next up. Incredibly tough and resilient, it is difficult to get good results, but if you can get past the trial and error phase, the parts and/or objects are REALLY tough wearing.

The Star Trek Phaser One
There are MANY "exotic" materials as well. TPE is flexible like soft rubber. You can make lots of stuff with this. It's a bit hard to feed properly, but works OK in my printer. Add to that, Ceramic, Metal, Wood, Carbon Fiber, Magnetic, Glow in the Dark, and even Conductive! There are so many materials you can use, the limit to what you can make is up to your imagination. I started with replacement parts and "trinkets." I am graduating to full on design and prototyping of products!

So what's the process to make something? Well, you first install some free 3D design software on your computer (Mac or PC) and create an object file. If you do not or can not draw, there are quite a few places online that you can choose and download from THOUSANDS of free files to print. I was/am amazed at what is available. This file is opened in the free Slicer software. I know, weird name, but it's what it does. It takes the object and cuts it in very thin "slices" of data that are then fed to the printer. Either directly via USB or indirectly by saving it to an SD card that you then insert into the printer. Most of what I have printed was downloaded. The Slicer software allows you to rotate, scale and perform various tweaks to the printing parameters.

These 3D printers are not for impatient people. I am not the greatest at waiting, but it is so cool that I wait patiently while it prints out my next...thing! Who knows, I may figure out a way to bring it along (it's attached to my laptop) and print out stuff on the road as a new source of income...hmmm. Maybe!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"