home & stuff

Thanksgiving – Check!

by on Dec.01, 2009, under family, home & stuff

Reciprocating saw – check!  Crow bar – check! Various other tools and hardware – check!  Two gimpy guys prepared for a fair amount of cursing – check!

Thanksgiving is a time for families to be together and to share experiences with each other.  This Thanksgiving I was able to share the experience of a 2-day battle to replace my front door with my Dad.  And with him suffering from a gout flare-up and my hip deciding to give me a hard time, we were quite the pair limping around Lowe’s repeatedly to acquire the various tools and supplies we needed to do the deed.  Given that our old door was crooked, had a single-pane window, and a 1/2″ gap underneath, it was due.  So we got our supplies in order, left our suspension of disbelief at what we would find within the wall at the door, and started hacking away.

Despite our best laid plans and our care in measuring things thoroughly, we had to cut almost everything twice and had to go back to Lowe’s three times for items we forgot or hadn’t anticipated needing.  We attempted to mitigate the loss of heat while the opening was gaping by tacking a tarp over the orifice, but the wind seemed to have other ideas – it only seemed to hang down over the opening when one of us was measuring or cutting something from the outer part of the opening (the wind seems to enjoy irony).

Also, regardless of our expectations knowing the age and history of the house, we were continually surprised by what we uncovered beneath the drywall.  First was the fact that in place of normal studs we found rough-hewn 4×4 beams (painted white).  Next was the apparent framing for an old window above the door where we expected a header … framed with old floor boards.  Also a beam that was above the door that we assumed might be load-bearing turned out not to even be strongly attached to anything.  And if the choice of lumber wasn’t odd enough, the fact that most of the nails we pulled appeared to have been made by a blacksmith was certainly unexpected.

After spending all day cutting, recutting, rasping, filing, and cutting again, we were finally able to fit the new door into the opening (and after taking it back out of the opening so we could remove the screws that fastened the door to the frame, we were able to put it back in and screwed it in place). And as a result I now have a three early Christmas presents from my parents:  a nice new front door, my own reciprocating saw (look out windows – you’re next), and pain and memories to carry me through the holiday season.  And eventually I’ll finish the paint and trim around the new door and put my tools away so my entryway and front porch don’t look like a small construction site.

One successfully executed home-improvement project (that I can claim on my taxes in the name of improving energy efficiency) – check!

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Tiny Belgian Cabbages?

by on Nov.06, 2009, under health, home & stuff

I’m a foodie.  I like to eat, I like to experiment with cooking, and when there is nothing else to watch the Food Network is my natural time filler.  And one thing that I’ve noticed on the Food Network lately is a number of shows highlighting brussel sprouts as a side dish and doing anything but steaming/boiling them.  Due to my parents’ shared dislike of them, I never had either the pleasure or misfortune of eating them as a kid and thus far it hasn’t really come up as an adult.

Until now.

After noting yet another show where oven-broiled sprouts was on the menu, I mentioned to my wife that it might be interesting to try it (she HAS had them, but it had been decades).  Fast forward to the next day and my wife is IM’ing me at work to let me know that dinner will be chicken and brussel sprouts.  Fast forward another hour later and I’m home with a full plate including a nice juicy chicken breast and a generous helping of slightly charred little balls of green.

I have to say that I did in fact like them a lot.  They tasted like little grilled cabbages – not too pungent, not too bland, just enough salt and a slightly nutty flavor.  On the down side, my kids did not seem nearly as thrilled with them (which is a bit odd as they both LOVE broccoli and cauliflower).  So the likelihood of this veggie being in regular rotation is fairly low.  Ah well.  At least I gave it a shot.

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Temporarily Single Dad

by on Sep.29, 2009, under family, home & stuff, Internet, movies, parenthood, video games

For the past 5 days, I’ve been Mr. Mom.  My wife went away to a blogging conference in Asheville, NC and left me in charge of managing our 2 kids.  Being actively involved with my kids on a regular basis, this was not a daunting task, per se.  The hard part was not paying attention to work for that period of time – especially since my shine, new iPhone would chirp every few minutes telling me I have some new email to read.  But eventually I turned off that notification and got to the serious business of responsibly entertaining my posse.

First priority – getting them to school on time.  Grasshopper only just started going to daycare (2 days a week) and already being without his Mommy, he was very reluctant to go (though apparently his tears ended within minutes of Cricket and I leaving him there).  Cricket just started Kindergarten this year and has been loving every minute of it, but with the possibility of being able to stay home and play Lego Star Wars with Daddy she suddenly was on the fence about going as well.  But I got them there, they did there time, and got them safely home (all perfectly according to schedule).  But outside of that, it was play time – we went to the park almost every day, we went to a play place for the better part of one cloudy afternoon, and we spent a fair share of time watching a couple of movies and playing Lego Star Wars.

By the end of the long weekend, I was ready for reinforcements.  I love my kids, but I can only be jumped on so many times before needing to tag out.  I only took advantage of the in-laws once for a break (which I spent cleaning).  And I actually made semi-nutritious meals for them for all but 2 meals (pancakes are good for you, right?).  So all in all I think I did okay.  And today it was back to work … to deal with my other batch of kids.  Maybe I should go to a conference.

P.S. – Mywife (who now has 2 blogs) went to a blogging conference, but didn’t post anything the entire time.  Ironic.

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Pudding Wars

by on Aug.17, 2009, under family, home & stuff, parenthood

You know that you’ve spent too much time fighting to get your kids to eat when you are arguing with them to eat their dessert.  That seems to be the position I found myself last night with my son over a bowl of lemon pudding.  We had made an instant box of it and divvied it up 4 ways evenly.  My daughter, my wife and I ate ours up pretty swiftly (it IS pudding – there isn’t really any chewing and what’s not to like), but my son seemed to eat about half of his and then proceeded to engage in one of his favorite past times – jumping on and dismantling the couch.

I only pushed him on the pudding to get a sense of whether he was even interested in finishing it – not to force it on him (the less sugar the better, really).  But he was too busy bouncing around to pay any attention to the line of questioning.  So I finally put it such that if he doesn’t want the rest, someone else would gladly finish it for him – to which my 5-year-old daughter responds “I’d like to volunteer to be that person.” I swear that not a week goes by that she doesn’t surprise me with some new word or phrase that she has seamlessly integrated into her vocabulary.

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Friday 5: Auto Motivation

by on Jun.19, 2009, under home & stuff, technology

Having been a driver for 18 years and having driven numerous cars in that timeframe, there are some things that I’ve learned over the years.  Here are a few of them:

  1. A part that costs less than $30 will give out when you least suspect it and gladly cause another $1000 in damage when it does.
  2. While individual drivers may be intelligent, a group of cars driving together is only as smart as its weakest link.
  3. Never underestimate any driver’s ability or likelihood to do something unexpected or stupid (including when you are a passenger).
  4. Nobody likes getting pulled over and most people don’t likely shift their habits much or for long due to being stopped.  That aside, if you get stopped, be polite and respectful.  If you want to fight it, fight the system, not the cop – the former often works, the latter almost always doesn’t.
  5. Don’t assume, no matter how competent the mechanic, that small details won’t get overlooked (e.g., forgetting to tighten the drain plug for the transmission, forgetting to tighten the lug nuts after hand tightening).  Check their work – especially if it is your work.

Bonus:  If you are driving down a 25 degree include on a country road at over 60mph and come upon someone going slower than you’d prefer – especially if you are towing a camper with a sofa tied to it – don’t try to tap the guy’s bumper to get him to let you past.  Conversely, if you are the slow guy in front, get the hell out of the way.

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