Train Update

I have finished the trains that I was building for Ryan and Corrie’s boys.  Originally I was making them for just the twins but I suspect it will be a gift for all three.

A circus train and a logging train.  I suspect this is larger than Ryan thought when he gave me the suggestion.

Good sturdy toys built of Maple, Oak, Yellow Poplar and Walnut.

Trains for Twins

You may have read that I am making some toy trains for Noah and Charlie. Ryan contacted me a month ago suggesting I could make a train set for the twins. I think he was considering one of those dinky toy sized trains.  Well I choose to use my skills for a proper train.  And just because they are twins, they should not have to share a gift, so a train each.  

Granted when Blaine and I were little kids our parents gave us a single train set.  But as the older brother, I was always in charge and Blaine had to put the train back on when I upset it.  

In the previous blog I told you I started with the rolling pin for the boiler.  This established the scale.  I quickly determined that the 2-6 layout would be way too big.  The locomotives would be a foot long.  So I ended up with 2 – 4 layout, and had four excess drive wheels that I had spend mucho time on.  

After that I spent days making the rods that connected the wheel sets together and the shafts that went into the drive cylinders.  It was glorious.  The wheels went round, the cross rods went up and down and the plunger went back and forth into the cylinder block.  But then it occurred to me, that I was making toys not a model of a train.  All these little mechanisms would not be appreciated by Noah and Charlie and would eventually break off.  

So I  removed them  and simplified the locomotives.  Granted they are still larger than Ryan probably thought they would be.  But good strong toys.  

I do have a history of going a little overboard in my plans for kids.  Just look at the doll houses I made.  In this case the locomotives are kind of large and the trains when finished will be 4 feet long, but they will be solid.  Wheels and drive frames are made of maple. Boilers are maple and the cabin is good solid oak.  The cowcatcher and top is walnut.  

I will start on the coal cars and caboose and cars tomorrow.  

Making Dinner rolls

I was reading this book in bed where the characters sat for dinner in a rich guy’s home in Virginia.  On the table were fresh dinner rolls made by the cook. Apparently appreciated.

Now I have had dinner rolls at many meals in restaurants and occasionally we will buy a dozen at Super Store.  Always up for a challenge I told Patty I would make dinner rolls to accompany her fancy Apple and Butternut Squash Pork Stew tonight.

Well the first thing you have to understand is that we do not have one of those fancy power mixing machines with a paddle for preparing bread dough.  Instead I had to this the old fashioned way.

Mix all the ingredients and stir until the arm gets tired and then switch arms.  Then roll it out on the granite and knead it for 10 minutes.  This sounds easy in the recipe but for old hands like I have, a chore.  I was kneading away looking at the digital clock and absolutely believed it had stalled.

Proofed for several hours and then reproofed.   Baked in the oven in time to serve with the stew (which was fabulous) .  You may notice in the picture that I have to work on getting all the balls the same size before baking,  but the result was wonderful.  Much better than the Super Store variety. The butter and cream in the recipe would be part of the secret.

Having said that, it will be a rare treat.  I have a better way to spend my life than an hour preparing buns.   Patty spent many more hours preparing her stew, and as I said, it was fabulous… but then this is my blog.

A New Project

I have set aside the Sphinx model for awhile as I move into a new project.  Ryan contacted me with a suggestion to make some wooden trains for the twins.  He was thinking the expensive yet trivial wooden trains that run around on a track like hot wheels.  The boys apparently like trains.

Well, that trivial train set is not going to happen, but it has given me a challenge.  I am going to make a couple of toy train sets for Noah and Charlie that they can really enjoy.  One is going to be a circus train and the other a logging train.

I found some basic plans but am adjusting them to use the wood that I have in my inventory.  Starting with the locomotives.

The locomotives will be a classic 2 – 6 layout.  Two bogie wheels in front and 6 drive wheels.  I was thinking of making a Hogwarts locomotive but that is a 4 – 6, and the boilers I have made are too short.

The wheels are made from maple, from a wooden plaque that I saved from being thrown out when Petro-Canada took over Gulf Canada in 1985.  I saved a dozen plaques at the time, walnut and maple. They were going to be discarded.  This is the last one.  A beautiful wood.

As you see, it is a work in progress from the first picture.  Total of twelve drive wheels each with 11 holes drilled precisely and then cut to make the spokes.  Lots of trimming to be done.

The other picture is of the two boilers for the engines.  Now that has a story.

In 1969 Aunt Mona gave Pat a rolling pin as a shower gift.  The background for this gift is that I had made my famous breaded pork chops for Aunt Mona and Uncle Jim when they had dinner at our place.  In those days, you did not buy bread crumbs in a box, you toasted bread and rolled it into crumbs.  Aunt Mona was very impressed and gave Pat the rolling pin so that I could make that meal for her.

We used that rolling pin for the next 40 years.  But it was one of those pins with the handles on the side that rolled on bearings.  Eventually the roller shaft could not be cleaned, and we decided that it had to be retired.  We did not throw it out, it went into my scrap pile.  Look at the picture.  A perfect locomotive boiler.  They will look better on the model.

I am enjoying this.  Lots more details to follow.

A Friday Meal

Patty and I were driving up to Campbell River a couple of weeks ago.  Maybe to take Reese for her teeth cleaning.

We passed a pub that was featuring on an outside sign, their special, Crab Mac and Cheese.  That is all that is needed for us to try something new. So put the idea aside.

It is Friday night, or as our family knows it, Mackerel Snapper night.

While we have seafood other evenings, Friday is always seafood (although I am allowed to have meat on my sandwich for lunch).

Pat modified a recipe and prepared this in the oven as a casserole.  Just cool enough outside that this worked.

Great meal.  Granted if you put enough cheese on it, anything is good.  Typically, enough for 6 people, so we will be enjoy this meal a couple more times.


Too Many Tomatoes

We grow tomatoes in a small fenced in area on the side of the house.  Fenced in because otherwise deer would eat them.

Over the years we put in 3 tomatoes plants.  Small grape sized varieties.  Normally we get wonderful tomatoes starting in June and they keep producing until October.  Go out and pick a handful for our salads or on sandwiches.

But the last week has been unusually hot and sunny (granted 32 C is not that hot) but with the sunshine the tomatoes are ripening faster than we can consume.  Patty picked this bunch today.

What do you do?  Well I will prepare bruschetta on a ciabatta bun and a pasta sauce tonight.  No canned pasta sauce for us. Plus a big chunk of chopped basil apparently growing like a weed in the back yard.

It is simmering as I write this.  I tasted the sauce and it is so sweet and so different from canned sauces.

I have matched it with my famous meat balls.  Pat is preparing a salad from a head of lettuce I picked up at a local market the size of a medicine ball.

Life does not get much better than this.


Retiring in Calgary

Pat and I are often asked why we chose to retire here in Paradise instead of Calgary.

Lots of arguments why we should have chosen Calgary.  Our kids are there and our grandchildren.  We had 5 great years living in Calgary in the late 80s.  Stampede parties and lots of friends.

But when it came time to retire, we needed an easier life.

Here is an example.  It is Labour Day 2020.  Now normally we would be watching the Banjo Bowl with the Riders and the Blue Bombers, but not going to happen this year.

Instead we were dining on BBQ chicken sitting on our patio just watching the sun pass by.  Lovely comfortable 23 C.

If we had retired in Calgary this is what we would have had this evening.

I think we made a good decision.

Fresh Blackberries

It is that time of year where the Himalayan Blackberry plants are ripe.  Now these plants are not native to BC but were introduced and have since become an invasive weed just like Scottish Broom. But its saving grace is that they produce millions of delicious berries.

They grow in recently forested areas or along trails where eventually they are going to be wiped out as housing goes in.  A short 5 minute walk from where we live there are hundreds of these plants.

Taking Reese for a stroll tonight we came down the path that is inundated with Blackberries.  The picture is a result of maybe 10 minutes of picking while trying to avoid the thorns.

We have these berries on cereal in the morning and on ice cream in the evening.  The kids may remember us taking them on this walk to pick berries a couple of years ago.  Since then the plants have doubled in size.  But only a couple more years for this luxury as housing is planned for that area.

Still nice treat within a short walk.

Finished Paddle Wheels

Well it took awhile but I completed the paddle wheels and mounted them on the model.  Looks good even if I do say so myself.

Of course you will not be able to see much of the wheels once I build the covers over them, but I will know they are there.

Farm Fresh

A beautiful day here.

I arranged a small Miata run with a new member of our club through the country roads north of here to introduce him and his wife to the joy of their new MX5.   Stopped off first at the Merville Garlic festival.  Basically a farmers market featuring the best of the garlic growers in the valley plus lots of tents with fresh produce and a whole bunch of sauces and hippy products.

Then I led off further to a long winding country road that goes nowhere but is paved with lots of overhanging trees and small farms. Just a nice drive.

We passed a sign on one farm that advertised FARM FRESH BUTT NUGGETS!

We did not stop but pondered all the way home what this could be.  Had to look it up.  I guess we are naive, but it is a term for chicken eggs.  Go figure

Even at my age I learn something every… well let just us say… every week.