Friday, July 31, 2009

Chefs vs. City is Coming

Remember the Food Network taping we were part of back in April with our Fiesta? Well, the show is finally premiering August 7th. We'll let you know when the Chicago episode is on, looks like it's slated for September. Should be a good show!

Click here to find out more: Chefs vs. City

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ikea Hack Part 2 - Cables and Paint

So now that we had our basic pieces, the details were starting to come together. The magazine file boxes have holes in them, which was perfect for running cables through to the devices inside. One magazine file has an external hard drive in it, and the other can be used as a charging station:

Call me the cable wranglerThat was a pretty good start, but we really don't like having untidy cables running to and fro. We left the back off of our Vika Furusund drawer unit and side-mounted a power strip behind the drawers. Excess cable slack was wrapped around the support bracket we built into the unit. A power brick sits nicely behind the bottom drawer.

To accommodate the wires running from the top of the desk, Joel found an old crash bar from a commercial door in our garage. After he took out the push part, a nice 29" aluminum U channel remained. It even had a few places for screws that worked out great for securing it to the underside of the desk. (Just make sure any screws you use aren't too long so they don't poke through the table top!)

The channel had plenty of room to run all of the cables from the back of the computer, plus he was able to hide the slack inside as well. He cut a few notches to accommodate the cables coming from different angles. It worked perfectly:

Through the repurposed crash bar

You can use a number of different things as a U channel: U-shaped brackets, plastic tubing, etc. Just take a look around your hardware store and see what you can find.

Next, we decided to paint our desk. If you're going to paint, make sure you allow plenty of time for each coat to dry. This is very important if you want your desk to look and feel good. For example, this project took about a week to complete with adequate dry time.

If your desk is already the color/finish you want, skip to Part 3, otherwise, read on!

Start by painting with a good primer. For this project we used Kilz 2. Painting with a primer ensures that all of your pieces will look the same color when you're done. Don't worry if the primer is a little uneven. Just make sure there are no drips at the edges or runs. Let dry overnight.


Next, sand the primer with a fine grit sandpaper. Use a damp cloth to remove any dust, and apply a thin first coat of paint. Let dry overnight.


You'll probably want at least one more coat, and possibly a third depending on how things are looking. Make sure to lightly sand in between coats and use a damp cloth to remove dust. (Ikea furniture tends to need several sandings.)

There's no race here, so remember to apply thin coats of paint since it's easier to control drips and runs. To let the pieces dry, set up a drying station in a dust free, cat free, and friends-who-can't-resist-touching-and-asking-is-it-dry-yet free zone.

Drying zone

Once you are satisfied with the paint job, allow at least 48 hours for the final coat to fully dry and harden before assembling the desk or setting anything on it. Don't let any of the painted pieces touch each other (drawers, doors, etc) since they might be slightly tacky and the paint will bond them together. Our desk took about 3 days before it was no longer tacky!

If you really want to go that extra step, You can apply a clear coat to protect against water marks and spills. I like Minwax Polycrylic Protective Finish. It's water based and fast drying.

So now that our wires are taken care of, and the pieces are all painted and dried, it's time to put the desk together. Check back for Part 3 on how to make your desk ergonomic.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Attack of the Ikea Hack! (MST3K Style)

Our latest video: a time-lapse-esque escapade of Ikea Hackery, with a little Mystery Science Theater 3000 flair. Laugh, cry, poke fun... whatever flips your switch!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ikea Hack Part 1 - Designing the Desk

For our style and design mission, we decided to fashicate a new desk that would meet our needs. Mandy does a lot of work at the computer, and the lack of ergonomics is starting to take a toll. Here's the first part of our guide to hack several pieces of Ikea furniture.

1. Evaluate what your current desk is lacking. Is it ergonomic? Do you have accessible storage? Is it sturdy? We found our existing desk inadequate in several areas:

- after one year, it was rickety and unstable
- it was not even close to ergonomic
- there was very little workspace
- and while the doors were great at covering up the mess, there wasn't any accessible storage while seated at the desk

Here's a photo of our old desk (complete with cat accessory).
Old desk - open     Old desk - closed

We looked at many desks at Ikea, but couldn't find one that met all of our requirements. We decided to come up with our own design.

2. The basic pieces in this hack are still used for their intended purposes (desktop, legs, drawer unit), but we added several details to make the desk our own.

First, I noticed that the keyboard trays that Ikea sells were kind of flimsy. You can make a much better one yourself. All you need is a piece of wood and a sturdy pair of keyboard slides (both available at your local hardware store). Mandy wrapped the wood with leather like vinyl, using a staple gun to tack the material to the underside of the keyboard tray. This turned out great! The texture is so smooth and soft that we don't even need a mouse pad anymore.
Keyboard tray

The next detail we added was a second tier on the desktop. I really wanted quick access to several items like my firewire drive, and at the same time liked how the raised level looked. Mandy found solid wood magazine file boxes at Ikea (Knuff) that worked out perfectly. The curved edges match the curves of the desk legs.

Check back for Part 2 tomorrow and learn about exciting cable management and how to paint your desk. In Part 3, we'll explore the proper setup for an ergonomic desk. A fun filled time for all ages!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Carl Edwards - Full Length Interview

Those of you who saw our first NASCAR video might like to see our full interview with Carl Edwards. He talks about his first car, why he thinks the Fiesta is a great everyday vehicle, and what kind of race he'd love to do with Matt Kenseth and David Ragan.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

NASCAR Video #1

Well, folks, it's finally here, the first NASCAR video in our series. We took our Mac to the Mac store for diagnosis (one great thing about buying a Mac -- tech support is FREE!) and found that the problem was not with our external hard drive. It was a corrupted iPhoto library. Anyone using a Mac knows that the default for importing clips from a digital video camera like a Webbie or Flip is to dump them into iPhoto. You can bypass this, but we didn't since we were using iMovie. Unfortunately, this was where all the hang-ups occurred. We simply pointed iMovie to a new (and empty) iPhoto library and we were off a running. A free solution!

The Film Fund will be an ongoing thing for us personally, since we realize we'll reach the glass ceiling of iMovie eventually. But for now, the crisis has been averted. Thanks to everyone who helped us out: friends, family, social media acquaintances, and Fiesta Movement agents. You all are awesome!

So without further ado, sit back and enjoy our feature presentation:

More videos to come -- full length driver interviews and a tribute to the NASCAR experience.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

On Our Way

Thanks to the few of you who have generously donated your time, advice, and a few bucks to our Film Fund so far. We can't thank you enough. We've never asked for help before, and we felt uncomfortable doing so, but it's nice to know there are those out there who will lend a hand when we're struggling.

We're on our way to finding a solution, but no luck yet. Joel no longer thinks our external drive is the problem since it meets all the requirements of Final Cut Express and iMovie. He thinks the problem is our iMac itself, so we'll be taking it to the Mac store tomorrow for diagnosis.

Meanwhile, Mandy's job requires a lot of photo-editing, and she's reduced to working on our 5-year-old laptop. The small screen doesn't yield very professional results. And video editing? Forget about it. We can't even watch YouTube videos on this slug. We're short on money and time, but we've got an abundance of stress. Anyone want some free stress?

Hope to have some good news for you next week. Perhaps even a video or two, and some new photos.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Film Fund

As you can see, we still haven't posted any videos from our NASCAR event last month. We're really bummed about it, but there is good reason. Or bad reason. However you want to look at it.

First, we had to finish our June mission, which was our trip to Ford Safety Labs. Once that was hammered out, Mandy got to work on the first NASCAR video. After 5 hours of sound and film editing, she decided to take a break. When she came back to iMovie, all editing had been lost. Why? No particular reason. iMovie's "automatic save" feature must have decided to take a break too, resulting in a colossal automatic fail. Mandy took to the couch and drowned her sorrows with repeat showings of The Next Food Network Star, Ruffles, ranch dip, and Mountain Dew.

Fast forward two days later when Mandy gives it another go. Remembering all the fancy editing she did earlier that week, she gives her computer an old fashioned restart, just for good measure, and she's off. The video is looking better than ever. 4 hours into the project, she closes and reopens iMovie to make sure the automatic save is working properly. Glory, glory, it is! So another 4 hours go by and editing is coming to an end. The video is almost finished. She closes and reopens iMovie again because the program is starting to bog down. This is where the hair-pulling begins.

When iMovie restarts, the project has unbelievably and undeniably reverted back to the day before. Even though Mandy made sure the program was saving mid-edit, iMovie went the extra mile and did something miraculous: un-saving what it had previously saved. How is that even possible?

With two full days of work wasted, Mandy tries not to give in to madness. 4th of July weekend was a nice diversion, even though there was much more Food Network Star, Ruffles, ranch dip, and Mountain Dew, but now we're back to the work week. Film editing must be accomplished this month. Mission #3 is fast approaching, besides all the wonderful NASCAR footage waiting to be shown to the world.

We know that Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere are the answers, but where do we find an extra grand lying around the house? We've checked the sofa cushions and under the seats in the Fiesta. No luck. Joel's grandparents used to sew cash into their drapes, but they haven't blessed our curtains.

We did, however, install Final Cut Express. More failure there. Seems both FCE and iMovie have problems using our external hard drive. This week we'll be trying to find time to move photos and music onto the external so our film editing software can use the internal drive. Lots of folks seem to think this should clear up a lot of bugs. Here's hoping.

In the meantime, we've decided to create a Film Fund. We'll be pestering friends and family to donate a few bucks to the cause as we try to scrimp and save for a new Mac and possibly even some professional editing software. Whether or not this Film Fund will succeed, we have no idea. But we do know that our current set up is hindering our creative aspirations. If you'd like to donate, or give any sage advice, please email us: joelandmandy at

Thanks in advance!