Saturday, June 28, 2008

Mostly for Grandparents

I realize that most of you will watch about 12 seconds of each video, because she's not your baby, etc. But, she is my baby, and I think she's pretty much the cutest little girlie I've ever seen. So, I'm going to let you watch her. Feel free to watch them over and over and over again, like her cousin Reuben does. Feel free to pretend you did also.

1. Alena loves to race. Lately she's even taken to giving me a certain mischievous look and then taking off full speed hoping I'll chase her. I usually do, because she's having so much fun that I do to. Perhaps I have stumbled upon motivation for running...

2. However, when I'm not running, I do my workout to Step-Mania, and Alena participates as well. It's loads of fun. And I mean loads. When I do my pilates she often comes and lays her head on my stomach and smiles at me (kind of like she does at the end of this video on Kevin's lap.) I told you she was cute.

Disclaimer: I didn't scatter that junk all over the floor, or all over the desk. Alena scattered it all over the floor and I put the things I didn't want her to eat on the desk as I went.

3. A few weeks ago Alena decided she needed an obstacle course, and since I was there...

4. She also enjoys making noise. Especially with wet hands on the bathtub. Often she does this over and over and over again, kind of like the obstacle course.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Brick Barbecue

When we moved into our house, we found an old crumbling structure in the backyard, which might have been either a barbecue or a firepit. Or neither. It didn't really matter, because it didn't serve either purpose really well and it was falling apart.

I decided that I would learn a little about bricklaying and build a brand new barbecue, using the same bricks. Demolishing a structure with the intent of reusing the building materials is a much more time-consuming process than I had expected. Add to that the discovery of numerous hornet nests (they might have been yellow-jackets) in the holes of the bricks, and you have yourself a whole weekend's work. I managed to salvage 120 full-sized bricks, in addition to many broken ones.

Armed with a couple library books and a few brick bbq plans I found on the internet, I designed the layout and made sure I had the supplies I needed:
  • foundation:
    • 9 - 80lb bags of ready-mix cement
    • 2x4s to build a frame
    • wire mesh (to prevent the concrete from cracking)
  • structure:
    • 120 - 12x8x4" bricks
    • 8 - 16x6x8" cinder blocks
    • 5 - 80lb bags of ready-mix mortar
    • bricklaying trowel
    • rubber mallet (for tapping the bricks)
    • level
    • brick chisel
    • hammer
    • mason's string
    • fine wire mesh (for the hearth floor)
  • other:
    • 11" x 22" stainless steel grate (for the charcoal)
    • 26 5/8" x 14 3/4" cast iron grid (for the grilling)
    • retaining wall caps (for the top, around the grill)
    • 2 - 20x20" porcelain tiles
If you're interested, here are the plans I designed:

At first, I was just going to use a bunch of paving stones as a foundation, but, being unable to find any bigger than 16x16", it seemed more and more apparent that laying a concrete foundation would be both simpler and sturdier. (it also helped that my neighbor Chad had poured concrete before and was willing to help) We poured the 3'x6'x4" slab late one Friday evening and carved in our names.

It took a total of 20 hours over the course of a week and a half, but I finally got it all done. Here are some key steps to the construction, with a few comments:

The mason's string was most helpful for the first course, which helped to keep the bricks lined up straight. For the remaining courses, I just used a level.

(it took over 3 hours to lay the first two courses - after that, I got faster)

The middle was filled in with cinder blocks (which I happened to have laying around) and some miscellaneous pieces of brick, which was covered with fine wire mesh and a thin layer of mortar.

The hearth floor, with a section that will facilitate cleaning of ash & pieces of dropped food.

The first 7 courses, with 5 bricks on their sides for holding up the charcoal grate.

The final course, with displaced bricks for holding the cast iron grill and the porcelain tabletop.

The masterpiece!

The right side of the grill not only provides a tabletop for placing dishes & food, but also a storage area for charcoal, bbq tools, and more.

For those who just can't get enough of this thing, here's your chance at looking at it up close (besides actually coming and seeing it yourself). Be forewarned, the video's almost 5 min long:

So, it took a lot of time, but it was a worth it. I just wish there were a lid for this thing...