Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Although I can technically hang with the best when need be, internally I am not a social butterfly. So when I have six guests spending a week in my house, I have a hard time retaining my sanity. I pick my moments by going to bed early so that I can get up even earlier than normal which sometimes nets me a couple quiet hours in the morning. During the day, I sneak out to the garage where even the oven like conditions seem refreshing in the quietness. In the evenings, I sneak down to my office and get an hour or so sitting on the computer catching up with the day's events. With all that, I am managing my sanity and counting down the days until we loose half of those guests.

But despite the disadvantages, having guests does have its advantages. Because they too are aware of the cramped conditions, they go out of their way to help with the normal household chores. I haven't cooked a meal or washed a dish in several days now. They look after my daughter while I spent some time in the garage working on a project and perhaps the best advantage is that they happen to live next to an ocean and were kind enough to bring six dozen fresh crab with them.

I put every big pot we had full of water and crab boiling spices on the stove and cooked up a load of veggies and four dozen of the crab. If those weren't the tastiest crab I have ever eaten, I would be surprised. Now as of this posting, we are on day two of eating crabs and we still have a few more left to eat. Today, the guests stewed some of the leftover crabs in coconut milk and we ate that over rice. It was delicious too. They also brought us two pounds of freshly shucked crab meat that I am planning on making into crab cakes tomorrow. We may be crowded and it may be noisy at times but fresh crab certainly eases the pain!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Projects Wrap-up

I'm calling these two projects done for the time being. The paint is still drying and when I took this picture, the first of our guests were slated to arrive in less than 12 hours. The above pictures shows the exhaust fan that we went with. The old one worked but sounded like the bearings were on the way out. Since the bathroom is relatively large (compared to the other two bathrooms in this house), the lighting just wasn't enough to brighten up the room especially when you were in the shower. So I got an exhaust fan that had a light. If you recall, the original glass in the box was broke so I called up the manufacturer and they sent one in the mail. It arrived within four or five days and was undamaged. I hooked it up and everything worked... except the feature labeled as a nightlight. I assumed when I got the thing that it was permanently wired into power. It wasn't and required a separate switch so that in all the unit needed three different switches. I think eventually I will just wire the nightlight to the main light switch so that all lights come on together and go off together but that will be a later day because in order to do that, I have to remove the light unit, remove the fan unit, remove the wire cover and then put everything back together. I just don't have the inclination to do that right now for no real gain other than to burn a couple more watts of energy per hour.

This picture shows the completed vanity with the new hinges on the doors just like what we used in the kitchen. Having white cabinets instead of dark stained wood certainly lightens up a room. Also in the mirror you can see the doors which I was able to get sanded and repainted. I can now sleep better.

I'm not sure I've shown a completed picture of the guest bedroom but here it is. I really didn't do much besides repaint the room and of course the entire popcorn ceiling removal that I blogged about earlier. My wife did all the decorating so you can blame or congratulate her on that. The laminate flooring is the cheapest of cheap and is delaminating on all the edges and corners of every board. I suspect there is a moisture problem coming through the concrete. For now though, it will stay as it is until I fry some bigger fish.

Finally for some perspective, I have attached a few pictures at the end of what it all looked like the day the realtor was showing us the house.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Crunch Time

With the paint barely dry on the guest bedroom and bathroom, we hopped into the car and picked up my mother-in-law and her two sisters from the airport. The two sisters are only here for 10 WHOLE WEEKS but the mother-in-law came on a ONE WAY TICKET! I'm not sure which is worse.

Actually I may not be able to tell you which of those two situations is worse but I can tell you what is worse than having three more women in your house for an extended stay... another four more people coming for a visit.

Shortly before we left for the airport, a cousin of my wife from the east coast called to say he would be there in a couple days for a four or five day visit with his wife and child. Shortly after we arrived home an uncle of my wife, the youngest brother of the three sisters from Texas said he would be dropping by for a weekend visit. So unless I messed up counting heads, we will have seven extra people staying with us for at least a couple days before the herd starts thinning down again. When it rains is pours.

Fortunately I have a plan for my sanity. Once Baby Abbey acclimatizes to the three sisters, I plan to spend a significant part of my day out in the garage, down in my temporary basement workbench or outside doing a whole list of projects that I want to get done while the getting is good. I just need to come in for sustenance now and then and to sleep. Fortunately for me, my bed is reserved and I have a private bathroom so I can get by in the evenings. Also with Filipinos, there is no shortage of cooks and their culture is one of step in and cook when you're hungry so I don't have to worry about meals during that time either.

Guests four through six arrive maybe late tonight and then we have a couple days before guest seven arrives. I'm pretty sure that my computer time will be fairly limited during this time so don't worry if I'm not around. I'll be able to get some space back and recover as much as humanly possible about this time next week.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Booms In the Night

I woke up for no apparent reason so I turned over and was drifting back to sleep when my wife asked me if I heard 'that'. That? She told me there was a loud explosion out by the highway and our electricity had gone off.

I got up and called into the electric utility hotline to report the outage which means you have to deal with the robot. You can't leave a message or talk with a human which at 4:30 in the morning is probably out of the question with most companies but still, I wish I could talk with a human. A half hour later I saw the truck pull into our driveway and park outside our garage out of sight. I put on some shoes and walked out to the truck but there wasn't anyone there. I walked around the house to the electrical meter box and found the tech there testing the meter for juice. I could have saved him the time had I been able to talk to a person and tell them that I heard the fuse down the road blowing but due to the phone robot, his time was wasted. I informed him of what my wife had heard and he drove down the road to replace the fuse.

Being thoroughly awake by now, I opted to light a candle and read the morning paper already on my doorstep. I was halfway through the front page when I heard another loud boom down by the highway. My first thought was to wonder if the tech had fused himself and was now charred in the road. I decided I should go check it out so I put on my shoes and then we heard a third boom. I decided to check things out anyway but once outside, I saw him driving back up the road to our house. He said that there was now a short in the line somewhere and that the fuses just keep blowing. I'm not sure how that happens spontaneously at 4:30 in the morning but I believed him. He told me that the box  on the corner of our property (opposite corner from the pole with the fuse) had an extra node available and that he could route electricity from the other side of the ridge up to our place and the other houses along our street. I said that was fine by me and left him to do his business.

By about 6:00 in the morning, the street in front of our house was a pretty busy place. There were three utility companies and a cable company all jockeying for position to mark their lines buries underneath our lawn in the vicinity of the junction box. There was also a truck with a trencher, a flatbed truck, a city engineer and another outfit that looked like a giant vacuum cleaner. That last one I have never seen before but since they ended up using it, I got to see exactly what it was. It had a high pressured water wand like a high pressure washer one might find in the car wash that they used to dig holes/trenches without the worry of cutting through buried pipes or waters. The large vacuum part was literally that. While one guy power washed a trench, the other guy vacuumed up the water and soil. Pretty soon they had their hole dug without the mess that a trencher would have made. Five and a half hours later after the initial boom, we have power from the other side of the ridge. That means there won't be any more fried squirrels out by the highway anymore.

This whole experience has taught me one thing, the next garage door I get will be lighter than the one I currently have. It is a 17 feet long door made entirely of solid wood and ways a ton. Because my wife needed to go to work, I had to go out to the garage and nearly get a hernia trying to lift it open so my wife could get out. Unfortunately once I got it open, I found out that it was too heavy to stay open and I had nothing within reach to prop it open. So I had to lower it down, grab a properly sized stick of wood to prop it open and nearly get a hernia for the third time in less than a minute. Fortunately I could wait to lower the door when the electric was back in service so I could use the door opener motor to assist.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Bathroom Update

Two weekends later, one of those spent tiling, I just about have the bathroom project done. One of the things that I fixed was the ceiling which you can see in the above picture. The sink in the upstairs bathroom had been leaking for some time before we moved in and that water had soaked and stained the drywall ceiling. Leaks happen, especially when you have plumbing in the ceiling and the bathroom ceiling has all kinds of plumbing so the chances of it happening in the future are probably pretty high. It is a lot of work to hang, mud and paint drywall ever time that happens so I was looking for a better solution. What you see it what I hope is that solution. I found a system of ceiling tiles that installs directly to the bottom of the first floor joists but yet the tiles can easily be popped out and replaced as needed. So if a leak should happen and damage one of those tiles made from PVC, if I can't just clean the tile up, I can pop out the damaged ones and replace them. The system involved putting a perimeter track all around the room and then screwing a series of track every 24" across the ceiling. I then snap in some connecting links that span the tracks and rock back and forth allowing my to install the tiles. Once I have two rows installed, there is another plastic piece that snaps into the tracks and holds all the tiles firmly in place. It went up pretty easily and although I'm not crazy about the look compared to drywall, it looks decent and doesn't eat up anymore ceiling space than the drywall did.

Back when I stripped down the bathroom, I removed the toilet only to discover that the sealing flange embedded in concrete was broken in several places where the tank bolts are inserted. I contemplated several ways to correct this problem. One involved breaking out the concrete, replacing the flange and repouring. Another involved buying a flange that installs over the top and requires me to drill and screw it into the concrete requiring me to find a hammer drill somewhere. The third idea I found online involved a flange found in big box stores that fits down inside the old pipe and then with some set screws, tightens up a rubber seal which keeps it held in place. Unfortunately, they only make that for 4" pipe and I have 3" pipe. In the end after I discovered the discrepancy in pipe sizing, I settled on a fourth option which involved carefully placing the bolts in the flange where there was good plastic remaining and carefully tightening the tank bolts so not to break it out anymore of the flange. It worked and will probably get me buy until the next time I have reason to remove the toilet. Fortunately, the flange mostly sees compressive forces from the people sitting on it and it is backed by concrete. It there was any tension forces involved in its use, I doubt it would hold much.

When I first started this project, we were going to get a new vanity top to put on the vanity. The old vanity base was in good shape and had natural wood finish so I figured a coat of paint would spruce it up and make it more modern in design. Most of the bases found in home improvement stores were not made from solid wood and were poorly constructed. In the end, my wife and I couldn't decide on a vanity top for a bathroom that neither of us would use very often so we punted it and I cleaned up the old one so that it looks almost brand new. I bought a new modern fixture for it and reinstalled it. I must say on hindsight, I think I will now being all plumbing projects by removing the counter top first. It allowed me to easily repair the valves and do all the resoldering from above where I had plenty of light and room. It also allowed me to install all the sink hardware while the countertop was standing on end which meant I didn't have to try to get too big of wrenches in too small of places. By the time I set the vanity top in place, I only had to tighten too fittings onto threads already wrapped in Teflon tape. I never once had to try and wedge the upper half of my body underneath the sink. After that experience, I won't procrastinate so much when it comes to plumbing projects.

Another project you can see in the photo above is that there are now two switches and an outlet instead of the one switch and outlet I had before. Since I was replacing the worn out ceiling fan with a working one that also has a light, I added another switch while the ceiling was open allowing me to fish the wire down to the outlet. I ended up running two wires so that the light will come on with the pendant lights already there and the fan will come on with the separate switch. That project went smoothly up until the point that I was ready to install the light assembly onto the fan body. There was a large ding in the metal and the glass portion had been shattered. Fortunately I was able to call the manufacturer of the fan and they are shipping me a replacement part free of charge right away.

This last picture just shows the linen closet portion of the bathroom that I don't think I've previously shown. I pulled out all the shelving and repainted it along with replacing the ceiling of it which had been damaged by a leaking vent stack that I blogged about last fall. I put the ceiling tiles in there too so if it should happen again, I can replace them easily.

So other than installing the light assembly on the exhaust fan when it arrives, I still have to sand and paint the closet and bathroom doors along with the vanity doors. The latter doors have the same hardware that was on my old kitchen cabinets before I redid them over the winter so I was able to get more of the hinges to replace them. The large doors on the closet and bathroom entrance are full of runs from previous horrid paint jobs so I want to sand them down first. I can't believe people can live with stuff that looks that badly. I also admit that perhaps I am just too anal about stuff like that too and the problem may reside on my end. Which ever the case, I sleep better knowing it is done right. Finally, I still have to do some caulking around the sink and shower.

Next, I will tackled the hallway outside the bathroom connecting it to the bedroom that I did previous to this project. It also needs the same ceiling system installed and a fresh paint job but other than that, it should go pretty quickly. After that, I will probably turn my attention to the family room at the opposite end of the hallway as the bathroom and bedroom. It needs quite a bit of work but fortunately, I have the time and hopefully the aptitude to do it.

Friday, July 19, 2013


Kind of on the spur of the moment, we decided we were in the mood for some good BBQ ribs. As you know, with ribs the key is to cook them long and slow in a smoky environment before charring them on a grill which meant that I needed to drag out my smoker. It isn't so bad to drag out but it is a pain to clean up afterwards so I want to get my efforts worth so I told my wife that she needed to make a trip to the store to get some more meat to fill it up. She came back with a second rack of pork ribs, two chickens and a slab of salmon. About five hours later, I pulled the chickens and ribs off, finished off the ribs on the grill with some Cookie's BBQ sauce and fire and put everything out for a photo session.

We ate some of the ribs about ten minutes later and they were lip smacking, meat falling off the bone delicious. Life just doesn't get any better when you have a smoker, a grill, time and a rack of pork ribs.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Patriotic Food

I actually took this photo on the 4th of July but it is just now making it off my camera and up through the prewritten posts stored in the nether regions of my blog. I was making a common Saturday morning breakfast we have in our household consisting of things found in the part of the Philippines my wife comes from. As you might expect, we have rice, a sweet pork meat called tocino and eggs. When I was partway through with making breakfast, my daughter said that we should have blue eggs since it was the fourth. I wasn't quite sure what she meant until she told me that the rice was white, the tocino red and blue eggs would be quite patriotic. I looked in the cupboard and saw that we had a pack of food coloring that included blue so I obliged her and made blue eggs. Although I consider myself patriotic, I kept my eggs white.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Doe and Very Late Fawn

It is that time of year when the little animals of the neighborhood show their faces around my backyard. I few weeks ago, I saw the kit fox that I had been pontificating about for awhile now on this blog. But by the time I got my camera, it was long gone and I haven't seen it since. I also saw a fawn with the doe that lives nearby after the first of July. I'm not sure what the normal time frame for deer giving birth but this has got to be towards the very end of it. I normally see fawns running around in early May to early June. Here we are a month after that and this one could barely walk so I'm assuming he was only about a day old when I captured this photo.

After I took this photo through the living room window which is why it is a bit fuzzy, the fawn hobbled over to a tree and nested down at its base why mama was eating and then moved further down into the ravine that bisects our lawn where there was some taller grass. Mama left him/her there and crossed the road because I suppose the grass was greener over there. I thought about walking down and getting a better picture of the fawn but decided to let it hide in peace.

Right after this picture, I saw my daughter playing on our deck out back and then standing up and staring at something. I looked and saw a very large cat off at the edge of our lawn and raced inside to grab the camera and telephoto lens. It was still too far off to positively identify it but because it was so large, I was fairly certain it was a bobcat. They are very rare around here but my neighbor swears he has some photos of one from his backyard. I snapped a bunch of pictures of the beast and downloaded them onto the computer where I could zoom in even closer. I thought at first that I had taken the picture of a juvenile bobcat since the coloring and facial characteristics were different than a full sized bobcat but two things eventually convinced me that it was only the largest house cat I have ever seen and not a bobcat. Those were my wildlife biologist brother and the man who knows most things outdoors related, my father. After their advice, I could see that the paws weren't big enough, even for a juvenile bobcat and the tail way too long. Bobcats have a bobbed tail compared to house cats. So in the end, I had a series of pictures of the largest wild house cat I have ever seen outdoors. The sucker probably stood 18 inches high at the shoulder. Perhaps it will be fox food later.

Friday, July 12, 2013


I recently completed tiling the downstairs guest bathroom/future mancave bathroom when not being used and thought I would do a wrap-up of that part of the project. It turned out fairly well I thought but don't look too closely. What you see in the photo above were most of the tools of the trade. I had the dremel tool and bought a few diamond wheels for it but for cutting full 12" tiles, it just wouldn't cut it, pun not intended. I looked at renting a tile cutting machine but the machine rented out for almost $20 per day with tax and with my time constraints, I didn't think I could do it all in a day or even two. So I shopped online and ended up settling on a cheapo 7" tile saw by Skilsaw. (I also looked for used ones of better caliber but they went quickly and for high prices I thought.)

While it wasn't handy to use, it worked flawlessly for my tiling project and I'm sure I could do several more with no problems and even then, I suspect if I took care of the thing, it would last for a long time. All told, it cost only $80 shipped to my door which was only four days rental. It cut well, cut fast, had ample power to cut through the ceramic tiles we were using. It made accurate cuts and was easy to use. The drawbacks were that the reservoir for the water to keep the blade cool splashes out at a fast rate and at most, I could cut two tiles before having to refill the thing. I used that plastic mug seen in the picture and with a full reservoir and a full mug, I could generally gut about six tiles before needing to refill things. The reservoir is under the right side of the table top near the blade and was inset so it required intent of action to fill it. You couldn't just dribble water in in other words, you had to pour or it would end up all over the concrete. If I were doing a lot of tile back to back, I think I would simple wire a garden hose into the reservoir and just crack the water valve so there was a continuous flow to keep it full, letting the excess flow out. But since I was only making one cut every ten minutes or so and only needed to refill the mug maybe every twenty minutes in the very room I was working, I didn't use a continual water supply.

The fence on the thing was pretty chintzy but got the job done. You had to fiddle with the nobs at each end to loosen and tighten for each different cut which was time consuming but with the stamped measurement scale in the table on each end, it was easy to ensure that you were making a square cut. Since I was using 12" tiles, there were times when I thought it was just as easy to freehand the tile through the saw and probably cut most of the tiles that were singletons that way. It was easy to guide through without any guides. Those edges are going to be covered under baseboard trim anyway so no one will ever see them if they were a little uneven. All in all, I liked that saw and for $80, I feel I got my money's worth out of it. It certainly beats the old scratch and break tile cutter that I bought at a garage sale many years ago and used it to tile my hearth at the old house. I ended up breaking half the tiles in the wrong spots with it.

Above is the finished project, the tiling portion of it that is. We decided on kind of a slate gray tile with those glass and stone accent tiles. I was actually planning on wider grout lines between tiles but ended up kind of matching the lines in the accent tiles and I think it turned out great. It ended up taking me a full day and a half to lay the tile down and then another few hours to grout everything later, so call it a two day project. (Note: the rental would have saved me $40 bucks this time around but I'll get my savings in future tiling projects which I am planning on doing since this one went so good.)  It certainly went faster than I expected but I had spent a lot of time measuring and drawing the pattern to scale on a piece of paper first so I just had to lay down a couple guide lines and start in when the time came.

One last thing I thought I would mention is that I bought the tile at one of those large box stores. After sifting through a stack of tile there, I bought five cases, two of which had at least one broken tile on top of the package. The cases I rejected felt like there were more than one tile broken in them. Of the four cases I ended up opening, that supposedly held 44 whole tiles, I probably only had around 30 that were indeed whole. The rest were broken. Fortunately, I needed quite a few less-than-half tiles around the perimeter and in the closet and the tiles mostly had the corners broke from the some I was able to use most of them in the project. The fifth package that had at least the top one broken in a perfect diagonal and felt like probably more of them inside so I returned it for a full refund and they didn't give me any trouble. That is the one nice thing about big box stores, they usually don't give you a hard time if you have a recent receipt.

I didn't keep exact records but if memory serves me correct, I ended up with about $90 in tile, cement and grout for this project plus another $80 in equipment which I can depreciate out over the rest of my tiling career. I consider that a fairly cheap do-it-yourself project. I'll have several times that into the overall project before all is said and done but compared to the way it looked, it is worth it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Baby Abbey Update

Where does time go? They always say that things are different with your second child and they certainly are right. With the first one, I had regular updates posted here on my blog of her life and how she was developing. With the second one, I look back and see that over a third of a year has passed since the last time I updated my blog about her. Now normally that wouldn't be too bad by most standards except that it constitutes half of her life so far.

The second time around, I am not so focused on trying to get everything right and am a lot more relaxed. As a result, I find that having a second child is a lot more fun. I don't sweat the small things anymore. It also helps that I get to spend a huge chunk of time watching her grow up and mature. None of this looking up and wondering where the last five years went for me on this one!

Baby Abbey is almost eight months old now and is on the verge of getting mobile. although she can't crawl, she can go from belly to back and back to belly at will. She has learned how to throw her body in the direction she wants to get further along and once on her belly, she can spin this way and that to achieve any fine tuning necessary. She also gets to hopping while in the sitting position and that results in a little forward momentum but not enough that I can't keep up with her. Although I like this stage where they start getting mobile, it also means that you can't just leave her anywhere anymore. Big sister found out the hard way by putting her sister on our bed a little too close to the edge. Baby Abbey nosed dived off the bed and found out her first lesson about gravity. Big sister was devastated but fortunately her ego was the only thing bruised in this episode.

Back when we had Little Abbey, we bought a few jars of baby food to have around for trips or emergencies but she never liked them, we didn't either when we tried them. So this time around with Baby Abbey, we didn't even bother. We just make up baby food out of whatever we have on hand. Years ago, an uncle of my wife gave us a Magic Bullet blender that he evidently bought off an infomercial and didn't like. We used it for a couple times and the switch burnt up. So I got a industrial type switch I had laying around, drilled a hole in the side of the mini blender, hot glued it in and wired it up. It has worked like a champ ever since. We simply throw whatever we are having in it and blend it up and serve to Baby Abbey. She loves the textures and tastes and always throws a fit if she can't have something we are having. In those cases, we give her some oatmeal mixed with the most available fruit or veggie and call it good. This ease in feeding combined with her primary food source in my wife's boobs makes it pretty easy to travel!

Because this isn't our first rodeo, Baby Abbey already has a room full of toys that were given to us by countless people and she is already bored with them all. Fortunately she is easily entertained and I mostly just have to look around for the nearest household object that is safe to be around a baby and throw it her way. I'm usually guaranteed twenty minutes of happiness from her. She really likes bubble wrap, any kind of electronic gadget, paper and kitchen paraphernalia. A wooden spoon or a pot lid is happiness to a baby.

Initially when we made the decision that it was now or never is we were going to have another kid, I was worried that big sister would be jealous and then soon bored of her little sister. Fortunately she absolutely adores her little sister and is a big help in taking care of her. She loves nothing better than to take her little sister with her to read a book to her while she plays or watch a cartoon on television. Her little sister just adores big sister. I can try everything I can think of to make Baby Abbey laugh because laughing babies are just addicting and not be successful. Little Abbey can just look at her funny from across the dining table and her baby sister will bust out in giggles. I hope that continues long after I'm no longer around.

Back when Little Abbey was in school and it was just me and Baby Abbey during the daytime, I still got  some work on the house done during nap times. However now that school is out, nap times are now spent dealing with Little Abbey. I've learned to adjust and now my work times are mostly in the evenings after the wife is home and can take over and weekends. I look at it now like I have a two day a week gig and five weekdays off. Can't beat that. But all that will hopefully changed when my mother-in-law and her two sisters arrive for an extended stay with us. After they recover from jet lag and are up and about, I'm going to have to spend more time elsewhere so I'm hoping they will take over some of the child care during the day allowing me to get some bigger projects done faster. More of that in another post.

Monday, July 8, 2013

... And So It Goes

Readers to this blog will know that last year was full of life changing events. We added another daughter to our family, bought and sold a house with load and insurance difficulties on both ends and we both changed jobs. I was let go and my wife accepted a job in another city. But finally we got through all that stuff, settled in and prepared for a long and hopefully uneventful winter to recuperate. That didn't happen.

Back in January, my wife called me from work to tearfully tell me she had been laid off and then hung up. I can tell you all kinds of things went through my mind with a new home, a new kid and two parents without a job. Sure we have a good sized cash balance saved up to allow us to go a year or two if we stretch it before we were in trouble, much more if we were to dip into retirement savings but who wants to go through that. Fortunately I only had to worry for a few hours until she came home and fully explained what had happened.

Her employer had decided that they were selling the business and gave my wife and her colleagues six months to find a buyer for the business. Fortunately there were a lot of people interested in the business but six months is a short period of time to finalize everything. After probably four months, a buyer finally signed a letter of intent on buying their business but there were all kinds of hoops to go through.

Slowly hoops were cleared but a large one remained. In order for the deal to go through, so many of my wife's colleagues and her had to sign a contract with the new company or the deal would fall through. This wasn't such a bad deal but five and a half months went by and no contract had yet to be seen by anyone. Finally with two weeks to go, they received rough drafts of the contract but it was missing lots of stuff that had to be added. Back and forth it went. With two days left before the old employer closed the doors, there still was not a contract. Finally on the final day, my wife received the revised version of her contract and the deal was at last inked.

My wife is now gainfully employed again and with a better employer than the last one she had. I'm still self employed as a CBMT (Child Behavioral Modification Therapist) and home builder/contractor. I would like to think that perhaps now we can have a period of years to just relax and let time pass us by but next week my mother-in-law arrives on a one-way ticket for a stay of who knows how long. Perhaps in my next life....

Friday, July 5, 2013

Adding Another Trade to This Jack

People who know me call me a Jack of all Trades since it appears to them that I know a lot about just about everything. Of course I know different. I don't know everything but I am willing to learn new things provided I have some idea what to do and with the wealth of videos on the internet, I can get that idea of what to do fairly easily.

One of the things that I've never done in my life was solder copper piping. Our old farmhouse that I grew up in has copper piping but my father never modified any plumbing that I can remember until I was years out of the house and then, I wasn't around to see him do it. For decades I lived in a series of apartments where I never had to do any plumbing on copper piping or a house that only had pvc piping. Then I bought this house which is full of copper piping.

When I first moved into the place, every upstairs sink was leaking and since I had other fish to fry, I hired out a plumbing company to come in and replace all the valves which solved most of the leaking. The rest I was able to take care of with numerous trips to the hardware store, a story I blogged about a time or two.

Since then, I've had a little bit more time and decided that I should give it a try myself. My first opportunity came with an outdoor spigot that a previous owner had let freeze up and burst. I had to remove some siding to see what I was dealing with and then went to the hardware store to stock up on supplies. I bought some copper tubing, elbow and coupling fittings, a heat shield, flux, solder and a torch to get me set. All told, I paid less for all that stuff than I did for the labor charge of the plumbers that came last summer. I only had two joints to solder and it went smoothly.

I shelved my tools satisfied that it wasn't too hard and forgot about them until I dug into the bathroom project downstairs. After I shut off the valves under the sink and removed it, I noticed the next day a small puddle of water underneath the pipes. Those valves weren't replaced last summer when I had the plumber do the rest because they weren't leaking. However, I should have just had them done anyway because they were the same as all the rest and once I used them after 40 years of rust buildup, they just don't seem to be able to shut completely off.

I dug out all my gear and soldered up a valve assembly to some tubing and fittings to go into the place of the old valves. I decided to make the assembly ahead of time so that I only have one joint on each pipe (hot and cold) to solder next to the wood case of the vanity. I have a heat shield cloth to help prevent the wood from bursting into flames but I still thought it prudent to lessen any chances of fire. Another reason was that the original plumber didn't leave much of a stub of copper pipe coming from the wall so after cutting off the old valve, I lost another 1/2" of an already short pipe and thus making it even closer to the wood. But I was able to pull the pipe out a bit, clamp it off with some vicegrips until I got it soldered to the new valve without any mishap.

This time I did something different. I left the pipe on the downstream side of the valve plain for now. Because my wife hasn't picked out a new faucet yet, I don't know what combination of fittings I will need to connect to the 1/2" copper tubing. I could have soldered on some fittings to a pipe thread but it would inevitably be the wrong thread and require a couple trips to the store to get all the right fittings. So I am going to punt until I know what I need and then make the last solder joint at that point. But now I am almost comfortable with doing so, at least to those who consider me a Jack of All Trades. (In my mind, I always add... and Master of None.)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Smoking Area

Found this scene in Galesburg, Illinois as we were walking around the college campus looking at the architecture of all the old buildings. I passed it by but my wife convinced me that it was blog worthy and I needed to take a picture of it.

Smokers these days are getting pushed out of most buildings these days and as a non-smokers who hates the smell, I don't mind. But I can appreciate how tough it is to smoke these days. I can imagine a few people huddled on this bench on a cold winter's day hurriedly smoking a cigarette so they can get back inside.

At my former job, they jacked the insurance rates up on everyone who smoked and everyone was subject to random nicotine tests if they suspected you were lying about smoking habits. I thought that was pretty tough but my wife's situation took it one step further. Although I can't go into the details right now, my wife's medical group is being sold to another company and that company flat out stated that they will not hire smokers and there are several of them among my wife's office. I'm not sure how that will play out. If that trend catches on however, it may be as rare to see a smoker as a morel in July.

Monday, July 1, 2013


While driving back home from Indiana, we stopped for a breather at Galesburg, Illinois and drove around town. What we were looking for is the Old Main building shown below which is the only building standing that once housed an audience listening to Abraham Lincoln debate Stephen Douglas. What we found was not only the Old Main building but a campus full of old buildings that are the counterpoint to the suburbs I complained about in my last blog post. They are stunning and still standing after nearly 200 years, something the houses in the suburbs won't be doing.

I'm guessing this one was undergoing renovations since the stairs were eight feet off the ground. It would be a nasty surprised to anyone trying to beat a hasty retreat out those doors.

This one struck my fancy not only because of the brick and stone work but of the round turret. I have always been fond of round rooms in architecture because they seem to open up things a bit. Geometry says that you can get more square feet in a circle than a square of the same boundaries so I guess that is why. It also explains why I am drawn to dome homes which follows the same principles.

We walked around for a bit, checked out Old Main which appears to be a working office building for the college and left on our way again. I suspect if I were still alive 100 years from now, these buildings will still be standing and looking just like they were on that day.