Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas In the South

Merry Christmas
Three years ago, our family started a little tradition of sorts of going south for Christmas. Normally we would spend Christmas on the farm or down at the family cabin in the mountains of northwest Arkansas but my grandparents are getting up there in age and only have a small finite number of Christmas' left to celebrate. So in the interest of maximizing their remaining years, we travel down south to Florida where they live (now year round for the first time this year) and rent a place along the Gulf for some rest and relaxation with them.

Last year I spent a couple days with my grandfather mining shells in the beach, which I blogged about here. I also spent several afternoons playing cards with my grandmother who taught me all I know about card gambling.  My brother and his wife and two kids show up along with my parents and we all have a good time. We all savor them thinking that this year might be the last time.

Fortunately for me and my grandparents, last year wasn't the last time and in a few days, I'm heading south to the Gulf. From experience, I know that I won't even pick up a computer the entire time I am down there so I will see you all when I get back after the first of the year. I can catch up on your blogs then. Because my wife is on maternity leave and as a Child Behavioral Modification Therapist (aka stay at home dad), my vacation time off is pretty good so we may dwaddle a bit on the way down and back. Stop and smell the roses so to speak.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Day Our House Shook

Two dead black cherries on the east side of the house, one already reduced to pieces
Back when the dust settled after we moved in this summer, I noticed something. In our wooded two acre lot, there were LOTS of dead trees among the living ones. Since we had perhaps one of the driest summers which resulted in the worst crops raised by farmers since 1983, nearly 30 years ago, it wasn't too surprising that we lost quite a few trees.

I roped my brother into helping me cut down 16 of the dead trees in early fall but there were three that we didn't touch. They were all much larger than we had cut down and were all within ten feet of the house. I thought the last thing I wanted to do was to send a large tree through our new house so I called someone who was insured and did this sort of thing for a living. Since all the trees were recently dead, I wasn't worried about them falling down on their own yet but we get freezing rain up here quite regularly during winter and that is really hard on dead trees. Not only do the large branches shower down on your yard, but I've seen many a fellow patching up a hole in his roof after a freezing rain shower sent a dead wood spear through it. So four and a half months ago, I called someone recommended to me by several people and got on their waiting list.

This past Friday morning they showed up. One man drove a cherry picker truck, another a enclosed truck and industrial shredder and a third drove a truck with a skid steer on tracks on a trailer. They worked most of the day cutting down those three dead trees plus two small hackberry trees that were live but were poor specimens and leaning way over our house.

When they got to the largest tree of them all, the dead oak, they quickly limbed all the smaller limbs off and were working on limbs 18 inches in diameter still forty feet up in the air! They would lop of five foot sections which then fell forty feet down smacking the ground with a thud that would shake the floors and windows of our house. The last twenty foot section was cut down in one piece and it shook our house so hard that I heard a couple windows creak with stress. Fortunately nothing broke.

The men hauled off the large stuff, shredded the small stuff and left for the day. Today as you read this, they are supposed to be back to finish up by grinding out all the stumps and raking the lawn. Since they left a cooler and a pile of rakes, I'm quite certain that they will come back and finish it up in good order. They were well recommended as the company of choice because they do excellent work which must be true since their waiting list was nearly four and a half months long.

What remained of the second black cherry

Starting on the once mighty oak
The once mighty oak now on the ground.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sneak Peak

What you see above is a closeup of the doors above the microwave before I started my kitchen painting project. They are still there and they still look the same. However, the doors above the wall oven below which looked just like the ones above, now look much different. I like the stainless hardware compared to the antique brass on the old doors. It gives it a much brighter more modern appearance.

Because I only have so much workbench space, I can only paint a handful of doors at a time. The first batch are painted and hung and I am pleased with the results. I am now on day three of a four day process to paint the second batch. I probably have three more batches left to go.

After I get all the old hardware off, my next project will be to try and sell it. I suspect all those antique brass handles might be worth some money. If not, I'll probably just drop them off at some home recycling store to hopefully make some lucky person very happy. Perhaps even make them as happy as my wife is now with her new looking kitchen.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Silly Season

'Tis the silly season and it seems like the social obligations keep piling up. We had a funeral two days ago, yesterday we had to make a shopping trip for things we need before our upcoming trip, today is the odd day free from obligations but Little Abbey only has a half day of school so it really doesn't count to me. Tomorrow and Friday I HAVE to volunteer on some fundraisers for Little Abbey's school not to mention that tomorrow night she has a school concert and Friday I have an eye doctor appointment since it has been a few years since the last one. Saturday something is going on I'm sure but not sure what and Sunday we have been invited out to meet the Filipino community in the town we now live in. That is just this week and there is still another one yet to go. I can't wait to the too cold to do social things months immediately after the festivities associated with the new year.

Fortunately for me I am lucky enough to get to spend my days working on painting kitchen cabinet doors which isn't too challenging mentally and gives me a chance to recuperate. Because I only have limited space to paint cabinet doors, I find myself putting on a coat of paint, spending some time with Baby Abbey or eating a leisurely lunch with Mrs. Abbey and going back down to put another coat of paint on. I get two coats done per day and then flip the door over and repeat. Then I put two coats of finish paint on both sides so all told, it takes me four days to get one set of doors done. It is a nice relaxing pace for sure but doesn't get the kitchen done all that quickly. At this pace, I'm guessing it will probably taken me another four or five weeks. Fortunately, I am blessed with the time.

Besides nursing a hungry baby every two to three hours, my wife is spending her recouperating time painting that big canvas I made her and blogged about a couple months ago along with another slightly smaller one that I made to her in between painting cabinet doors. It takes a few days for the paint to dry so while she waits, she works on the other one. They are coming along nice and when she is done and I get them hung, I will get a picture to post. All my painting and her painting though has started to reawaken a desire in me to take up painting again. I used to paint acrylics on small five by seven cards and have made a chalk drawing or two. I'm thinking of perhaps trying it on a larger canvas though much smaller than those my wife is working on. Fortunately I got a small stack of canvas at an auction I went to this past weekend but that is for another blog post.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Though our kitchen is smaller than the one at our old house and has a lot fewer cabinets to store things, this house has what realtors refer to as a breakfast nook. I'm not sure what the purpose of the breakfast nook is but I suspect that those that do use them probably drink coffee there while reading the morning paper. In this house, the breakfast nook faces the street while just five feet away is the dining room table facing two acres of grass and trees, a much more relaxing view if you ask me. I guess I'm telling you this to explain that if I want to drink coffee while reading the morning paper, I'm more likely to do that in the dining room or the living room. So for me, the breakfast nook is wasted space and a place to expand our kitchen in the future since it is right next to it.

When we closed out our apartment in the urban jungle, we brought home a small Ikea table that had been given to us by a neighbor who moved out just as we were moving in. Unlike most people, I am not a fan of Ikea because most of their stuff is disposable in nature and this table hasn't held up well over the three years we've owned it. Despite that, we put it in the breakfast nook with the two chairs that came with it since we had nothing else to put there and it seemed easier than carrying it downstairs.

That is the way things stayed until last week. A small table that never got used except as a catch all place for setting stuff when you came inside from the garage. Now we got a china hutch in the breakfast nook (and a nifty red cedar Christmas tree) and the Ikea table is down in the basement. We ended up getting a good deal on a solid oak hutch hand built on a farm about twenty miles south of here. We put our order in soon after moving into this place and it finally was delivered after months of anticipation. I must say it looks good.

So the very next day, I carried up several boxes of china, pottery, glassware, etc. that we had been storing in boxes down in the basement because we had no other place to put them. My wife carefully unpacked most of them and put the things in the hutch. I did the last box which as it turned out, was not the best box. Everything we have unpacked to this day has survived the move and numerous shufflings no worse for the wear. The last box however suffered numerous casualties. Unfortunately those casualties were mostly our pottery stuff given to us as wedding gifts and some really old teacups that came with two tea sets that my wife picked up at an auction years ago.

Fortunately none of the broken stuff were family heirlooms but still, it is a pretty sick feeling to unwrapped your favorite pottery that you have carefully cared for the last eight and a half years and find it in a million pieces. Fortunately I am blessed to have a pretty good relationship with a potter not to far from here, one down in northern Arkansas and even one down in Alabama whose blog is linked in my sidebar. I'm guessing at one of those places I can get those pieces replaced someday.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Kitchen Cabinets

I finally bit the bullet and started in on the kitchen cabinet project. The cabinets are hand built cabinets that are original to the house. They are solid but very dated without a lot of those features I have grown to love from our last kitchen. The corner cabinets don't have lazy suzans built into them meaning there is a lot of dead space in the corners. The drawers are small. The shelves are built of an old type of particle board that I've never seen before.

But the kitchen has some things going for it that I like. First of all, it is there and they are solidly built. It is well arranged for a small kitchen and I like the fact that I can do things quickly without walking long distances back and forth. Our last modern kitchen wasn't laid out nearly as well and I felt as if I was constantly running back and forth in it. The picture above shows the kitchen before we made an offer on the house and gives you a pretty good idea of what we have.

Long term we had planned on expanding the kitchen a bit but short term, we decided that maybe a fresh coat of paint might be the ticket. The cabinets are all dark stained wood which gives the kitchen a dingy appearance. Lightening up the colors and putting on some new hardware might give it a more modern appearance and perhaps persuade us to move our long term remodel off even further.

At the beginning of the week, we went out and purchased some good quality primer and paint to hold up to constant touching with dirty hands. I removed about a third of the doors, degrimed them and puttied up the holes left by the old hardware. I have then spent the rest of the week priming and painting doors, cabinet face frames and a few odd side panels that were visible. I still probably have another week left of painting but I'm already very happy we are doing this. Already the kitchen feels much lighter and more cheery not to mention new again. Once I get the project finished, I will post some pictures for everyone.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Last week after explaining for the umpteenth time how we hadn't counted on still having so many boxes in our basement yet unpacked to someone seeing our house for their first time, we finally got motivated to do something about it. So in a day of marathon dedication, we shuffled our boxes around.

Yes we still have boxes, lots of boxes, but at least they make sense now for at least us. My mother-in-law and an aunt and uncle of my wife packed a lot of boxes and though they labeled them, they didn't label everything on the box. So we found a lot of random things we have been looking for tossed in boxes you wouldn't suspect. We got everything found and labeled a bit better so that when we come looking for it we hopefully can find it this time around.

My biggest regret is that before we moved, we didn't rent a dumpster and get rid of a lot of things. (Or at least sort it out and dispose of it in an environmental manner ahead of time) It is not that I have a lot of possessions that I feel the need to just throw/give away but as I have aged, a lot of things in my life have reduced in their value to me. That pool cue I had as a single guy was used a lot and meant a lot to me but I have not used it in over eight years. So we have a large pile in the center of our basement slated for a future garage sale or to be given away when appropriate, probably this spring.

A lot of the boxes of stuff remaining are things we want to keep but just don't yet have a place for. For example, I have around ten boxes of books that just need bookshelves, some extra dishes that just need another cupboard we don't have, a few bottles of wine and scotch that just need a hutch to be placed in. All these things are future projects that just haven't happened yet.

But by far the largest share of our remaining boxes belonged to Little Abbey as toys, supplies and clothes. They now belong to Baby Abbey when she reaches the appropriate age. (Have I said how glad I am to have a second girl instead of a boy who would require a completely different set of cloths and toys?) Once Baby Abbey outgrows those things, they are headed out the door never to return. Perhaps six years from now, I will have everything out of boxes and our remaining but necessary things neatly arranged on the three long shelves that I built earlier.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Hodge Podge Post

Having children six and a half years apart in age isn't as bad as I thought it would be. I was afraid that I would have forgotten all that I learned with the first one. Although I did forget a lot, it all comes back quickly once I experience it for the second time. What I didn't forget, or rather the wisdom I still retain allows me to not get so easily worked up when Baby Abbey cries. At this age, it is one of about three things, dirty diaper, hungry or gas.

Spending a holiday season for the first time in decades without a job has definitely been a change for me. Before, even though I had a nine to five job, I was still out and about town on my way to and from work and that was enough to make me want to go home, lock the doors and say bah humbug. This year, I am at home on the very edge of town (the city limits passes through my neighbor's living room) and pretty much insulated from all the hubbub. I still have no desire to go out and frolic among all the holiday insanity but I am certainly a lot more relaxed about it when I do need to go out there.

For the most part, I have finished the main parts of the main floor of our new house. I just finished installing closet doors on our two remodeled closets that I posted about some time ago. I ended up going with bi-fold doors to give more space and because I just couldn't justify the cost of putting French doors on them. I used my longest level that I hadn't used since moving, to reinstall the jams and trim before putting on the doors and have discovered that the move must have unleveled my level. Everything fits and works but the anal side of me may yank the doors and redo the jam with a proper level just so it looks right.

I still haven't touched either bathroom but neither are two bad. One has a medicine cabinet with doors that sag and both could use some paint but I'm probably not going to do much else to them. I'm thinking that my next project might be painting the kitchen cabinets. They were handbuilt with the rest of the house 40 years ago and are in okay shape though are dated are their dark wood finish really makes the kitchen feel small.... which it is.  But by lightening the color, I think the kitchen will seem a bit bigger. Long term, I want to gut the place and start over expanding it a bit. Both of us being cooks, we just can't fit inside the kitchen at the same time.

Despite my earlier post that might have suggested something to the contrary, I am not wealthy beyond imagination if you only consider green paper money. I did go out and buy a lottery ticket during the latest hubbub for probably only the fifth or sixth time in my life. Unlike my previous attempts, this time I did have two matching numbers though neither were the powerball so I didn't get my money back. That's okay, I'm not sure I would know what to do with half a billion dollars besides give the large majority to the government in the form of taxes so they can frivolously spend it on yet even more social programs.