Monday, October 22, 2018

Fanciest Cheese Board Ever!

This project was a long time in getting to this stage but I finally got it done. If you recall HERE, early this year when it was still pretty cold in my shop, I started to fill in all the voids of this burl wood with a two part epoxy. It looked so nice that I put another coat over the entire top of the board. The problem with this is that it never really set and remained a gummy mess. So I let it set and gather dust.

About a month ago, I was cleaning up and found this project and dusted it off. The epoxy had set but there were boils and blisters everywhere so I took it over to a friend's house with a wide belt planer and he sanded all the epoxy off except for that in the voids. It looked nice but revealed some more defects that needed to be filled in. Now that it was warmer, I got out the epoxy and tried again though this time I vowed to not use it as a finish over the entire project just for food safety concerns. I filled in several voids successfully but then had another case where the epoxy just wouldn't cure. I cleaned it out and tried again. Through trial and error, I think that it just needed more hardener added than the directions called for. Why I'm not sure.

Eventually I got all the voids filled with epoxy and sanded down. The epoxy is clear so in the right light, you can see down into the depth of the wood which is pretty neat. I rubbed the entire thing with two coats of Tung oil. The picture attached to the top of this post is after I applied the Tung oil but before I wiped off the excess. The bottom picture is showing a closeup after the extra was wiped off. Now I'm just waiting for a cheese party to whip this board out and impress everyone.

Friday, October 19, 2018

A Change of Heart

Yesterday (as I write this), my family met up at a local running race that occurs every fall during the countywide fall festival. I've been attending this festival nearly my whole life from my early days of selling pumpkins to these days just driving around, seeing the sights and participating in the run. Actually due to my previous knee injuries I don't run but I do walk.

This year, my mom wanted to participate with the family and so while others ran/walked various distances, I entered the 5k run with my mom and oldest daughter. We never planned to run it and didn't, but we walked the entire distance. About half way through, mom started developing a list to her left. At first I thought it was just due to the slope of the road which sloped down to the left but it gradually kept getting worse to the point I thought she might tip over. Towards the end she knew she was leaning but was powerless to straighten up. So with me walking on her side in case she did tip, we walked the last hundred yards or so to the finish line. I was proud of my mom but saddened to see such an obvious sign of the tumors in her head. She has always been athletic and could hike from sunup to sundown and now she can barely walk three miles on pavement. With the tumor location, this will only get worse.

Fortunately as mom rested after the race, the lean gradually disappeared and she was able to walk normally. While resting, I half jokingly, half seriously mentioned that perhaps my mom should get on the list for medical marijuana which will be starting up in our state in a couple months. I was surprised when my mom said she was already applying and had tried it out a couple times, through illegal sources! I was shocked but hopefully managed to conceal it.

I have never seen the need to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes and still don't. I just don't think there is a system in place to regulate it so that people aren't using it on the road or job or around kids where someone else could be harmed by their actions. I've been on the fence about medical marijuana because I just haven't seen a lot of scientific studies showing it makes an impact. But as I talked to my mom about her marijuana use, specifically cannabidiol or CBD oil, I had a change of heart. My mom has been suffering greatly from death anxiety which causes headaches, sleeplessness and other symptoms. She has been seeing a psychologist and taking medication but neither seem to be enough. But when she took the CBD oil, she was able to relax, the headaches went away and she could sleep well at night.

Unfortunately her source dried up. (That is a story in itself but for the sake of putting too much on a public forum, I'll save that for another day.) She is applying for a legal way to obtain it but even that probably won't start up officially for another two months. But this talk has definitely persuaded me that there is a benefit and even if it is psychological only, it is well worth it if it gives my mom some peace from her disease. She voluntarily stopped driving because she doesn't want to harm anyone on the road if her mind messes up her driving, she doesn't work off the farm and us kids have flown the coop so there is no chance of us finding her "stash" and getting high. In other words, she isn't hurting anyone by what she is doing.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Live Edge

If you follow woodworking blogs and such, you will see that "live edge" tables are all the rage these days. By live edge, they mean that the wood edge is left in its natural state (bark removed) which gives it some aesthetic appeal to some people. Other people have put two live edges together and filled the middle with a casting resin to create the illusion of perhaps a stream of water running through the middle of your table.

I've never done such a thing but thought perhaps I might try so on a much smaller scale. I dug through my pile of the cherry burl that I harvested last year and found this piece of wood. It really isn't big enough to do much with but does have some nice figure to it. So I trimmed it down a bit and made a mold for it as you can see above. I put painters tape on the edges just to prevent any leakage from gaps.

I bought some casting resin made for thicker castings, in this case about three-quarters of an inch thick. I mixed in the hardener for 16 oz's of resin, gave it a stir and poured it in. Below is a picture of it as all the bubbles were rising to the surface.  Right now the garage reeks of the resin curing and I can't hardly stand to be out there but it is setting up. Next I hope to unmold it and see what I end up with. The mold is only a little over five inches by twelve inches so I'm not sure what I will do with the piece if it turns out. Perhaps make a cigar sized box.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Rest of the Story

Although I didn't mention it in my last post, there was another reason I decided to rush the bookcase home and get it set up. As I had mentioned before, I forgot about the appointment and only learned of it while texting with my mom in chemotherapy. Mom broke the news to me that another brain tumor has formed in the last two months since her last MRI.

It hurts because I know time is slipping away and there really isn't much we can do. The oncologist is going to switch her back to using Keytruda which was the miracle drug I wrote about earlier that supposedly had a possible 40% cure rate and 70% remission rate for people with her specific and very rare type genetic mutations in the glioblastoma. Since it has been given to so few people, it really is jumping to conclusions at this point. The first time mom took it was after her second brain surgery last winter and in two short months, we found out this year in February that it hadn't worked.

It is such a new drug, that little is known about how much dosing or how long one must take it to be effective. At the time, the best decision seemed to switch to the chemo drug she has been on this summer in hopes of it slowing things down. Until now it has done its job. This would allow the cancer to mutate even more times which will help the Keytruda be even more effective in the future if we were to try it again. Well the future has become now and I feel as if this is the final stand.

I know mom is not ready and neither am I but the cards have been dealt. In an ideal world, I would have given the bookcase to mom for her birthday or as a Christmas gift (those days are only two days apart) but I'm not sure we will have that much time and so with the bad news she received today, I thought this might be something positive to her life right now. So off I went and now I am back waiting for them to get home from the cancer center and to hear word when they get surprised.

Friday, October 12, 2018

It's Home Now

Well there it is in all its glory. I had planned to let it cure another day or so but plans changed. I plum forgot about it being MRI day for my mom and by the time I realized it, she was on her way back home which is slightly over a two hour drive from the cancer center. My dad was there with her so she didn't go alone but I have made it a point to go to all of them thus far for support and failed this time.

But I decided to make lemonade out of lemons and take this opportunity to sneak the bookcase into their farmhouse without them knowing. I hurriedly took it apart into five pieces not counting the shelves, stowed it in our minivan and took off. I was sweating bullets as I carried it inside and put it all back together in about thirty minutes. It looks nice I think and Mom will by surprised.

Now onto the next project, whatever that may be. I'll have to ponder that so more.

Addendum: After sitting in mom's sewing room for two days without hearing back from her, I called and told her to go check out her sewing room. She went and came back surprised a few minutes later. After I hung up, she told my dad to do the same thing. Due to the location of the door, he ended up in the sewing room with his back to the shelf and couldn't see anything different until mom told him to turn around. I let them ponder it a week about how I got it in there all by myself until the next weekend when we came down for the afternoon. The both really love it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Finished But Not Finished

For years, I always agonized over the finishing process of projects. I tried all kinds of stains and application processes but never ended up with exactly what I wanted. I would then over time end up with a cabinet full of partial cans of stains that I would then have to dispose. Then a year or two ago, I was introduced to just applying oils like Danish Oil or Tung Oil and letting the natural beauty/grain of the wood shine through. I've been hooked every since. Not only is it super easy to apply, but I think it looks great. So after spending hours sanding the bookcase with an electric sander and my two big hands, I grabbed a couple of cans of Danish Oil (undyed) and started slathering it on. I went about three times around the entire project keeping the surface wet so that it could absorb as much of the oil as possible and then after letting it set for 15 minutes or so, wiped off the excess. It is as easy as that.

Another advantage is one I took advantage of while writing this post. Above you can see some sort of fail line going across the grain on one part of the bookcase. I'm not sure what caused it but I didn't see it until I uploaded the picture on here. (The lighting in my garage is not the best.) I then went upstairs and sanded it out in about two minutes. I did another few treatments of tongue oil on it and it looks pristine now. Doing that to stains would be impossible without completely sanding down the entire face of that surface and exactly timing the stain set time.

Unlike any bookcase I have made, this one comes in five pieces. The back panel (seen above) comes off and then the main carcass separates into four sub assemblies. To make it easy on myself, I removed the back before oiling it (see above) and then oiled the rest of it as one piece since locating blocks and bolts will pull it together the same way later. Doing it this way also allows me to do both sides of the side assemblies at once without having to touch them in-between. Once I have the hardware installed after it cures overnight, I plan to disassemble the rest of it, haul it down to the farm and assemble it there on site and in place. It will be much easier carrying it up the stairs and through the house that way.

It is said there are two camps in woodworking when it comes to using cherry. Those that can't stand the blotching effect it can have and those that love it. As you can see, I fall in the latter camp and proudly so. I love the mottled hues and the richness of the color texture. I think my mom will too. As soon as it cures and off gasses a few days in my garage in my garage, I will find out. I can't wait to get a final picture of it in place to post on here.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Some Assembly Required

After the fiasco with the erroneous cuts on the side panels resulting in ordering another sheet of plywood, I was able to make them correctly and get the side panel assemblies glued up. After that I gave them a rough sanding and assembled the bookshelf. This will allow me to finish the piece, disassemble it for the ride down to the farm, carry it in easily piece by piece and reassemble it again. But before I do that, I need to do a final sanding which I'm guessing might take me the rest of the week.  Another week for applying finish, most likely tongue oil and an hour or so to attach the shelf standards. So it is definitely looking like mid October before I can surprise my mom.

Also needed are the shelves which are made from plywood with a reinforcement piece glued to the front. The reinforcement piece reinforces the plywood so that it won't sag over the years the way store bought shelving does and also covers up the exposed edge of the plywood which isn't that attractive to begin with. Of course it took up a lot of my long clamps to get them all curing. Have I said how I love my clamps?! For those noticing the extra block of wood on the closest shelf, that is just a scrap piece of wood to prevent my smaller clamps from leaving dents in the wood. All my newer clumps come with rubber feet to prevent this but those two clamps were some of the first ones I ever bought and I didn't know the difference back then. If I ever come across some more with rubber feet at a decent price, I'll trade them in a heartbeat.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Measure Twice, Cut Once... Look at Orientation Three Times!

My new sheet of plywood arrived and after stripping out the van, picking it up, reassembling the van and quickly cutting out the piece, I set about adding the joinery to it and was back to where I had left off the last time when I had discovered my error. I went onto the next step which is routing the grooves seen above that will accept the shelf standard that will let me put in several adjustable shelves. In no time I had done all four side panels.

As I was test fitting things and figuring out what clamps needed to go where, I realized that something was not right. I had shelf standard dadoes on both the inside and outside of the bookcase. This might be handy if it was sitting near another bookcase but since this one is a solo affair, I realized that I had added dadoes to pieces that didn't need dadoes. Fortunately, I had three fourth of a sheet of plywood sitting off to the side for my disposal. So I cut two more pieces, redid all the joinery and finally test fit the assembly successfully. I decided to quit for the day.

The next day I glued up one assembly in the morning and the second one in the evening. As you can see below, there are no dado grooves on the outside panel in clamps. These panels will eventually bolt to the bottom and top assemblies I made earlier allowing the entire thing to be taken apart and more easily moved in the future. I have never made a bookcase quite like this.

My next step is to actually assemble the bookcase, apply the back panel and make the shelves which shouldn't take too long. However this weekend, I am volunteering to help a worthy organization raise money for five local charities and so my project will have to wait until next week.

(P.S. For whomever was asking about my THREE routers, the biggest one I have is laying on the floor at the very right of the picture. It is what I used to cut the grooves that go the length of the panels.)

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

It Only Took Two Months

The signature of a 75 year old man

Two months ago, I wrote a blog post HERE about how the Ingalls of book and television fame ended up spending their lives near my 4th great grandparents. While researching that post, I discovered that the government keeps a file of the land patent information for each person and that one could fill out a form and obtain a copy of it for a fee. Since I have quite a number of people with land patents, I thought I would use this case as a test case to see what information it might contain. Well a little over two months after putting my application in the mail, I received a package in the mail containing 26 pages from my 4th great grandfather Joseph Chicken's land patent claim.

Although nothing earth shattering was in the package, I did learn some details that would have remained unknown to me. Joseph Chicken filed his claim for the land in South Dakota on June 1, 1884 and immediately set up residence on the land. By January 1, 1886, he had a 14 x 20 feet house, a 10 x 12 feet stable and a well to offer up proof of residence on his claim, a requirement for obtaining ownership. He also had 5 acres of the 160 total claim broken and planted into corn and potatoes. An ad in the local newspaper essentially stating that Joseph Chicken was filing as the resident of those 160 acres unless anyone had an opposing claim ran for the required six weeks presumably without any objections.

All was set to go and then the entire process almost ran off the tracks. The required final paperwork wasn't filed before the deadline. There was a letter from some official however saying that the fault didn't lie with Joseph and that it was a government error that was responsible and so it was allowed to filed after the deadline had past.

As part of the application, two witnesses verifying that Joseph Chicken was who he said he was, that he lived on the land he was patenting and had indeed made the necessary improvements were taken by a government official. Unfortunately, the government printer wrote down the name of one of the witnesses as Edmund Richards instead of Edward Richards. Because of that, several statements were then obtained to swear that Edmund was indeed Edward and that the mistake was due to a transcribing error with the printer. Because of that, the application had been unnecessarily delayed.

Eventually all the i's were dotted and the t's crossed and after paying $1.25 per acre for a total of $200, Joseph Chicken was granted the patent on January 18th, 1886 and the land was officially his. He would go on to purchase four other similar sized plots of land in the coming years to increase his landholdings in the area.

As a genealogist, I always hope that there was some biographical data on Joseph Chicken or his family but other than stating he was married, there was none. However, as part of the application, Joseph Chicken had to submit evidence that he was a lawful citizen of the United States so I was able to see a document stating this as part of the application.

Overall, I think it was worth the wait and I have several more candidates who filed land patents that I want to request more information. One is the father of the woman who would marry Joseph Chicken's son Joseph Chicken Jr. whom I often refer to on this blog as Joseph Chicken Baker since he changed his name after the Civil War. Anyway, the father of the woman who married Joseph Chicken Baker was named John Bolton and would go off search for gold in the California gold fields in 1850, produce a son born in California in 1854 and then disappear from the face of the earth. His widowed wife would take her kids back to England for a time before the eldest child returned back to America to marry Joseph Chicken Baker. I know very little about John Bolton and so perhaps I might get lucky and get some clues to help me out.

But for now, that is something best left for a cold winter day when I don't have any business being outside and can justify filing it out.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Cutting Plywood Single Handedly

When building large furniture, I often use plywood panels to reduce weight, increase stability since it doesn't shrink or warp like solid wood can and decrease build times. When talking with others or watching them use plywood, they struggle mightily running it through a tablesaw, often needing another person to help out and trying to get nice edges to work with. I have found a system that works well and I can do it easily myself.

I set up my saw horses and put a couple of eight foot pieces of lumber spanning between them. Across these, I lay three sacrificial four feet long two-by-fours as spacers. I keep the sacrificial pieces tucked away in the corner and the same three have helped me build dozens of projects. Finally I lay a full sheet of plywood on top of the sacrificial pieces, good side down.

Previously I made a jig out of a small strip of 3/4 inch plywood with one factory edge and a wider scrap of 1/4 inch plywood, both a full eight feet long. I glued the 3/4 inch plywood strip onto the 1/4 inch plywood strip with the factory edge of the thicker plywood facing the widest part of the 1/4 inch plywood piece. It doesn't have to be precise. Once that set up, I fired up my skilsaw and cut down the entire length cutting off the extra 1/4 plywood using the factory edge of the 3/4 inch plywood as my "fence". This leaves me with a jig that I can line up to marks on any piece of plywood and make a perfectly straight cut of any size.

A couple things to note. I set the depth of my skilsaw slightly deeper than the plywood I am cutting plus the 1/4 thick plywood of the jig. This is as simple as sliding it to one edge of whatever I may be cutting, setting my skilsaw on top and eyeball how deep it is set. I generally make it a quarter inch deeper. It cuts through the sacrificial boards every time but spares the lumber under that spanning between your saw horses and most importantly, doesn't cut up your sawhorses. The second thing is that a skilsaw cuts on the upstroke pulling the material up against the bottom of the saw. By putting the good face of the plywood down, you prevent splinters from marring the plywood face and any splinters (if any) will be on the back side of the piece. If you need both sides to be defect free, make sure to have a sharp blade on your skilsaw.

So with this setup, I turned a full size sheet of plywood into four perfectly sized pieces that will comprise the inner and outer surfaces of my side assemblies for the bookcase in less than 15 minutes. Then about an hour later, I made a dado cut on the wrong side of one piece ruining it and creating a costly mistake since now I have to order another whole sheet of plywood to make the piece again. My heart was sick at the mistake and I am now dead in the water for the next week until the new plywood arrives since I have to special order it. Until then, I don't want to adjust my tablesaw since I am trying to place the same dado accurately on all four pieces and moving it would open up the possibility that the one side wouldn't match the other three pieces.

I have other things that will keep me busy until then but it still was a pricey mistake. Measure twice and cut once as they say...

Friday, September 28, 2018

(PID) Parking Intelligence Deficiency

This has been bugging me for awhile and it seems to be getting worse here in the Midwest and I blame it on the advent of automatic headlights. People seem to be so used to their headlights coming on automatically when it is dark and the car is running that they don't stop to think about what others in their surroundings might think.

Case in point.

The other evening I dropped my eldest daughter off for an event and though it was an hour long and I had plenty of time to drive back home for awhile, I didn't. It was a pleasant cool evening and there was still 45 minutes of reading light left so I just sat in my car and read while waiting instead of burning fossil fuels. Just as it got too dark to read, a SUV came into the parking lot and pulled into a spot facing me and then sat there with their headlights on for the next 15 minutes, shining right into my face. Not only were they wasting fuel with their car running for 15 minutes when it was a beautiful 70 degrees outside, but I guess they felt the need to burn my retinas.

This is happening in parking lots everywhere these days where a fleet of cars sit idling with their headlights on, sometimes with no occupants. Another place that I find it annoying are those that do so at roadside gas stations where when out in the country, the lights are more often than not left on "bright".

People need to be aware that there is more to the world than just themselves and their actions do affect others.

Last night after five minutes of getting spotlighted by the car across the aisle from me in the parking lot, I flashed my lights once to let them know theirs were still on. It evidently didn't phase them so five minutes later I started my car and turned on my headlights and sat that way for the next five minutes until my daughter got out. Next time, I'm parking in the street but I've had people shine their lights through my back window when parked behind me before. The one advantage there is it is behind me and not in front.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018


One of the drawbacks to making your own bookcase out of "non-normal" materials, is that you have to make all your moldings yourself. I but non-normal in quotation marks because I feel making a bookcase out of cherry is a very normal material one might choose but if you were to go into a big box store that has pre-made moldings, you would be able to choose between oak, pine and chemically formulated trims. I have pretty much stopped buying much from big box stores unless it comes to framing materials and even then, one has to spend more time sorting than loading.

But I digress.

This bookcase is unique in that the walls of it are going to be much wider than the thickness of a single board. In fact, there is going to be an inner and outer face to each side made up of 3/4" plywood separated by an inch and a half of space. This is for aesthetics mostly but will also serve to allow the top and bottom assemblies to be removed and put back on as needed. So I need to build a cap to cover the ends of the plywood and cover the gap between the inside and outside panel. I liked the fluted trim I made for my grandparents corner cabinet so I opted to do something similar here except with more flutes.

I ended up putting five flutes in with my router and then trimmed half of each flute on the edges off to give it a unique look. One more hint about making your own molding, you will need a router and fortunately I have three. Anyway, I got the caps made and since it was blazing hot in the garage, I quit for the day and cleaned up. Next I have to start ripping the side panels down to size but I'm leaving that for when it is cool in the morning.

Monday, September 24, 2018


It is an irrational fear, I know that. I don't run screaming for the woods when I see a spider but I also can't take my eyes off them when I am in the vicinity. Something about having eight legs moving all at once just creeps me out.

When I'm outside, I just treat them as a grizzly bear with cubs. I slowly back away and go a different route and that has served me well over the years. The one instance in which I didn't do that because I couldn't is documented in this post and well worth the read if you haven't read it before. That happened to be the largest spider I have had the pleasure of meeting and still makes me shudder every time I think about it.

So why am I writing about this now?

As I was writing my last post in my office downstairs, I happened to see a spider crawl up on top of a box of used business cards that I use as scratch paper. (For some reason, I always got business cards where ever I worked but only handed out perhaps a dozen my entire career so I ended up with nearly a case of business cards when I stopped working.)

Anyway, the spider without any disregard to its well fare, got down off the box of business cards and proceeded to walk towards my hands on the keyboard. Self preservation at that point took over and my right hand grabbed the checkbook and dispatched the sucker, who was as huge as a quarter!

At least I thought so.

As I scraped his remains, again using my multi-tool of a checkbook, into the trashcan, he suddenly came to life when he landed on a letter in the top of said trash can and scurried into the depths of the trash in it. Great, now I have a pissed off spider who will surely wait until night before escaping, crawling down my throat as I sleep and taking a dump. I just couldn't have that.

So while not taking my eyes off the trash can opening, I carried it upstairs and emptied it into the kitchen trash can. I used the drawstrings and by folding over the top, tied it closed and carried it immediately outside to the outside can. I'm hoping the spider and I now have a truce. If he can escape out of the tied off trash bag and garbage can before the trash guys come next week, he is free to go and I won't pursue him further.

But I still might stay awake tonight just to be safe.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Building a Crown

After I got the top and bottom basic assemblies done, I started in on trimming out the top section with a crown. Now the plans I am using for reference have sort of a rising molding similar to old style grandfather clocks that ends in the center around a large elegant oval shaped hole. It looks grand but really doesn't match the farmstead decor of my parents house so I modified it to a more simple traditional design.

Because it is built in layers, much of what I added was glued and then screwed into place. The screws really aren't structural but simply act as clamp until the glue dries and then remains in place covered up by the next layer. But one middle layer which was a riser to give it come depth couldn't easily be screwed so it was back to the clamps which it took quite a few to coax into the proper place.

After that, the final layer was added with some glue and screws and I am now ready to start on the main part of the bookcase. I think it turned out all right and the shadow lines will look nice when it is finished and in place.The screws on the very top holding the last layer will be well above normal head height so will be invisible. As I was building it, I couldn't help but think the false front would make for a good hiding place in a house. You could probably fit a couple million dollars in the opening that will be hidden with the wall and ceiling. Oh the possibilities!

Below is a close up showing you the various layers and more detail. It has only been rough sanded yet so has quite a bit yet of work before it can be finished. The bottom assembly still has some minor work yet to be done on it but I'm waiting for some leveling legs that I ordered to arrive. The case will be tall and fairly narrow so the leveling legs are more to force the case up against the back wall so that it doesn't lean or fall forward accidentally. I may even strap it to a stud once it is finished and I see how things feel.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

My DNA Story

New DNA Story
 Years ago I took a DNA test mostly to help aide in my quest for furthering my family tree. By comparing known distant cousins across gaps in my family tree, it is sometimes possible to backtrack down their tree to find my missing ancestor. Although I wasn't particularly interested in the DNA story of where I came from since I pretty much knew from my research, they provided one anyway as part of the package. It is the one below.

Many hope when taking such tests that it will identify some particular region of a country where they are from but that means the assumption of one particular line only. These tests give aggregates across all your different lines which going back five generations, comprises 62 people not counting yourself. One more generation and it doubles to 124 and so forth. That is a lot of DNA. So when mine came back with vague circles and percentages, I wasn't shocked by anything.

Just yesterday, the same company announced that they now have a new algorithm which is supposed to produce more accurate results and best of all, it was already completed on my original test. When I logged in, the above map was shown. The circles are definitely smaller and some areas have been eliminated from my profile like Norway, most of France, parts of Slovakia, Hungary and Croatia. Also gone but not seen in either profile due to such small percentages are the Iberian peninsula, Caucasus, Europe South and Africa North regions. None of this is surprising to me since I have yet to trace an ancestor to any of these regions.

So yes, I think the results definitely are more accurate when compared to what I know about my ancestry prior to them crossing the ocean. One of the questions I would liked answered is who is my Swedish or northern French ancestors. To this date, I have yet to uncover any ancestors from those areas. I have three ancestors from born in the Germanic Europe region within the 62 ancestors that comprise my tree out 5 generations. Yet 3% of 62 is only 1.86 people so according to my research, that region should be showing around 5%. So I definitely think there is room for improvement still.

Definitely food for thought though.

Old DNA Story

Monday, September 17, 2018


The call for the plywood came in so after stripping the seats out of my utility vehicle (i.e. minivan), I drove down and picked it up. Of course the use of many forktrucks in its delivery had messed up the bottom side of one sheet but I think if I use that sheet for pieces where I only see one side anyway, I will have enough to make it work out. Fortunately my source gets a premium grade of veneer plywood where the veneer layer is 1/8" thick so I can sand most anything out. The stuff you buy in box stores is thinner than 1/16" thick and it just takes a light sanding to sand through that and destroy what you are working on.

I know I told this story before but every time I use a lot of my clamps in a project like this, I always remember the day I obtained them. On a whim, I stopped in at an estate auction in a neighboring small town advertising lots of wood working tools. They had all the clamps, perhaps well over 200 of them spread out on several tables and rather than selling the whole works for one price or sell them one at a time, auctioneers sell them by "each". Basically you bid the price you wish to pay per item being auctioned and if you bid, you get to choose how many items you want at that price. After your selection, the bidding starts over and often gets cheaper as the good stuff gets picked out. Towards the end, they group the junkier stuff together and sell it as one bid.

I saw these heavy duty orange bar clamps and bid the price up to $5 each and actually won the bid. I'm pretty sure everyone thought at that price I would just pick up a few but I bought an entire table of some thirty clamps for a total of $150. It felt like a princely sum but these felt really heavy duty and were in excellent shape. As I carried a couple armloads of my selected clamps from the table, I could sense the collective groan of the crowd that they had been had. The rest of the clamps sold for $1 each and then the last third of them sold as one group.

When I got home and priced check what these clamps retailed for new on the internet, I was shocked to learn that you normally pay $50 each, which would have run me $1500 to buy brand new! Yes, I definitely got a deal that day. I thought of that as I glued up the bottom and start of the top assembly for my mom's bookcase.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Labor of Love

Earlier this spring, I built a corner bookcase out of cherry for my grandparents to display their pictures and knick knacks in their independent living complex apartment. When I delivered it, it was so loved by them and my mom, that my mom requested that I make her a bookcase for her sewing room. The outside temperatures got hot so that working in the garage for long periods of time was out of the question. I wasn't sure she would live long enough for me to get it built.

Mom is still doing great and though their is a slow progression of irreversible symptoms, she is exceeding her doctors expectations. So now that fall is upon us and the temperatures of cooled, I am beginning to make the bookcase for her. My goal is just for her to see it completed and in place but if she gets to use it even for a day, I would be thrilled. I hope she gets to use it for a lot longer.

Above are the pieces I've cut out and added joinery to them that will eventually form the base and part of the top of the bookcase. Like the previous one, I am making them out of cherry which I love to work with and love the beauty of it. However, it tends to burn easily at slow feed speeds which I do for safety so it requires a bit more sanding to get rid of the scorch marks. Not a big deal but something to consider if you ever decide to work with cherry.

I spent the first day of the project picking up boards from a sawmill south of town, planing them, cutting some of the parts to size and labeling them. Day two I picked up the cherry plywood that will form the large portions of the bookshelf and cut the joinery you see above. Tomorrow I hope to cut out the remaining plywood piece that forms the top and bottom of the cabinet and glue both assemblies together.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Hammer Time

While cleaning out my garage, I was ditching some scraps of wood that weren't really nice for kindling in my fireplace during the winter and I came across some narrow oak boards that were created from ripping wider boards to size. Oak burns nicely so I wouldn't throw them away anyway but it seemed a shame to burn them. I thought a bit and decided I would turn one of those boards into a hammer.

Wooden hammers are great to use with chisels and assembling wooden projects. I have a rubber mallet that I sometimes use for assembling wooden projects but I don't like using it with my chisels. So with this idea in mind, I decided to create a wooden hammer to add to my collection of hammers. I think I have around six of them and every single one has a purpose.

I cut and laminated three layers together to create the head of the hammer. On the inner layer, I cut it into two pieces putting a 2 degree angle on the inside edges so to create a tapered mortise to lock in the handle without having to manually cut it after the fact.

The handle was also a lamination of two layers that I added some curves to and knocked off the edges to create a nice beefy handle that fits my glove hands nicely. I cut the end to size so that it fit into the narrow end of the tapered mortise in the hammer head and then cut some slots in it. I cut some contrasting wood, in this case kamagong wood from my last trip to the Philippines and fashioned a couple of wedges which I pounded into the slots I cut in the handle to expand it to fill out the entire taper. Everything was locked together with lots of glue.

I rounded off one end of the hammer head and put another 2 degree taper on the other end. After knocking off all the corners and hand sanding everything, I put a couple coats of Danish Oil on the project and after a few days, I'll probably put a coat or two of paste wax over that. Not bad for a scrap board of oak. I have two more boards of the same size but I don't need three hammers so I think I'll just leave them in my cutoff scrap bin for now in case I think of something else that might come in handy.

Monday, September 10, 2018

'Tis the Season

Our girls went back to school nearly three weeks ago, a week before just about any school in the area. Of course that means only one thing, I had an one week head start in catching my first cold that the girls brought home and it was a doosy.

It started off with a wicked soar throat followed by nearly five days of chills and body aches which transitioned into another weeks of a runny nose. Although school being in session took some of the heat off to recover, there was still a three day weekend in there that really got lost as I attempted to recover.

However, things are picking up. After years of planning and designing, nearly two years of trying to get beyond the planning stage, it is starting to look like our kitchen remodeling project might be getting some new life. We've spent all summer in negotiations with a contractor getting the scope of the project narrowed down within a cost that fits our budget. There might be a chance that work could being in a matter of months.

So with fall nearly here and not wanting to start any other big projects with this huge project on the horizon, I plan on spending some quality time in the garage getting some smaller wood projects out of the way. My runny nose is now tapering off so it should be pleasant, if only just a touch on the humid side.

After I wrote a previous post last week about the rain we got being a little too late, the spigots have been left open. We've received probably another three inches since then and by the time you read this, have been forecast to receive another five inches due to a hurricane running amuck in the Midwest. While it sucks for the farmers who were in the fields already due to the drought killed crops, it will hopefully go a long way towards starting off next year with not so much of a deficit.

Friday, September 7, 2018


Back in the early parts of summer, my oldest daughter had a birthday and part of her birthday gift was me helping her to remodel her room during the rest of summer. I taught her the fine art of painting walls and trim, made a bookcase for her and promised that I would hang up a suspended chair when it got just a little bit cooler in the attic. Of course I had to spend the next few weeks fixing up the youngest daughter's room just so things would be fair.

Now that both girls are off in school this year, I was biding my time for the first reasonably cool day to finish up this project. That day came, the day after I caught a massive head cold that my youngest daughter brought home from Kindergarten. You can tell I am really excited about that.

I tried just being miserable on the couch taking a nap but just couldn't fall asleep. I had a bunch of movies saved up on the DVR but none of them could hold my attention. Finally I just decided to crawl up in the attic and really be miserable, and perhaps as a side benefit, wear aching body out enough where a nap might come easier.

When I first planned on hanging this chair, I envisioned sistering up some joists to create a good strong structure that I could run a long bolt up through to support everything. However I stumbled across some "kits" online that make things much easier. Basically each kit comes with a small length of iron C-beam with four holes drilled that allow me to bolt it securely to any nearby joist. Then there are a set of holes drilled up though the top and bottom of the "C" to allow a long bolt to go up through with double nuts on each side. This allows me to fairly easily attach and lock the entire thing in place.

Unfortunately, the chose place was along the outside wall where a hipped roof forces me to belly crawl out on some joists to access while trying not to stab my head and shoulders on all the roofing nails poking through the sheathing above. I laid down a couple boards to span some joists so I didn't fall through the ceiling and did my best not to stab myself on the exposed nails. (A year ago I wasn't so careful and ended up with a few stitches in my scalp!)

If I had been healthy, all this was probably less than a hour long job but as it was, it took me all morning. But I succeeded and was able to get my oldest daughter's hanging chair installed. I can't wait to see the look on her face when she gets home from school. I left all my tools up in the attic in a bucket because just to be fair, I now have to turn around and do the same thing in the youngest daughter's bedroom. Hopefully tomorrow, my cold begins to subside so the job becomes a bit easier.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Scenes From An Airshow

We had so much fun when the airshow came to town last year that this year we prepared a little more and stayed a little longer. It was a mild overcast day this year which made it much easier on the eyes to watch as well. I thought I would post a few of the better pictures.

Last year this fellow staggered through the crowd in a similar outfit and had a "discussion" with someone in the announcer stand. We left shortly afterwards. This year when I saw him again, I suspected it was part of an act. Shortly after this year's discussion with the announcer, he took off in a plane and flew it around "drunkenly" for awhile.

Here was a fight between a jet powered truck and two airplanes, one not visible at the time. One thing about living in a small town, there aren't many people between you and the action.

My favorite event was these four planes flying in tight formation.

Here they are doing a formation they called the Ferris Wheel. Heart stopping.

They had an A-10 Warthog and I was impressed with how silent it flew and how maneuverable it was. Only after I got home did I see this picture where I can clearly see the pilot holding up his hand in a "rock on" kind of gesture.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Too Little Too Late

This year was another drought year, our third in a row though not nearly as bad as last year. Last year was so dry that I could drop a yardstick halfway (i.e. 18 inches) into the ground at just about every crack. Pretty much the top soil was completely dried out and the only thing preventing the yardstick from falling completely in was our layer of clay that is tens of feet thick. In the fall of last year, we got a rain reported to be about five inches or so but my rain gauge is only three inches so I couldn't personally verify that. The rain closed up all the cracks going into this year but it was still really dry down in the subsoil layers.

We got a few rains in the spring to get the crops sprouted and started growing. We went through a hot dry period through most of June that put the hurt on the crops but got a timely small rain during pollination time which is perhaps the most critical time needing rain. Then the spigots that were only at a trickle to begin with turned off. The corn has since died and the ears are dropping, i.e. pointing down instead of their normal skywards, which indicates that harvest is not too far off. Last night we got a nearly three inch rain but it was too little too late.

Most of Iowa has got plenty of moisture and in some places flooding has been an issue all year round. However there are a handful of counties in the far SE corner of the state where all those rains have consistently gone around. A study of the drought shows that we've been in extreme drought pretty much continuously since the beginning of 2017. In fact, since 2016, we are now 25+ inches below normal for rainfall. Over two feet!

I grew up on a farm and am not a stranger to drought. But I can't remember a time when we've been this dry for this long. The culprit is global warming which is causing the jet stream to sort of flatline as it crosses the midwest. In a normal year is is constantly moving up and down from central Canada all the way to the gulf coast and every time it passes over us, there is a chance for rain events as warm moist gulf air collides with the cool dry artic air. When it flatlines to the north of us, the north of us is where the rain falls.

I'm glad we got this rain even if it was too late yet again. It did close up the cracks in my lawn overnight though they weren't nearly as deep as last year. The grass which long ago died back in June might perk up for a fall revival, or at least the weeds in the lawn will. Either way, I'll probably have to mow again, something that hasn't been done in nearly 7 or 8 weeks. It was also nice to breath in the moist air during my morning walk.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Miles Until Empty

When our old van was pulverized in a spring hail storm of biblical proportions, we weren't left with many options. It was drive-able but was essentially worthless and would have a salvaged title. Any damage that occurred to any of our other vehicles would have to first come out of our insurance check, then our deductible before our insurance would kick in and pay. Since we wanted a van until our kids were at least out of the coop, we opted to get another van.

It came with your standard gas gauge but in the center of the console is an electronic display that shows among other things, the travel speed and miles until your gas tank is empty. For some reason, when we went to pick up the van from the dealership, I noticed that it said exactly 400 miles until empty and the other analog gauge showed it had a full tank.

Time passed.

Every time I filled up the van with gas, the digital display showing miles until empty gradually kept reducing until the point where after just filling up, it said it could only go 367 miles until it was empty. A couple times I drove it until it got down to zero miles and then started showing multiple warnings that I needed to fill it up and then monitored the gallons I put into the van to fill it up. Subtracting that from the gas tank volume, I knew that I was several gallons to the good of actually being truly empty.

I scoured the internet for ways to calibrate the digital gauge, (the analog one seemed accurate) but to no avail. It seemed as if it was just some algorithm created by the engineers of the vehicle and the best advice was to just ignore it and monitor things with the old fashioned analog gauge beneath the speedometer.

Time passed.

This summer as I've filled up the tank, I've noticed upon entering the car that the reading has gradually started increasing and eventually reached 400 miles to empty again. Was the car learning? Did they do some sort of software update through my phone? After nearly a year of ignoring things, I did log in to their app on my phone which did update the GPS software but perhaps it can also update other things as well?

Whatever the case, yesterday on my was down to the farm for a canning session, I filled up the van and the miles to empty display came up 427 miles which is the highest I've ever seen. A full 60 miles further than ever before which figuring stop and go in town driving and 20 miles to the gallon does count for another three gallons of fuel, closer to two if on the highway.

I'm not sure what it going on but the anal retentive part of me is liking the recent turn of events.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

By Request

Someone on a previous post, asked to see a picture of the bookshelves I built for my daughters with some of their possessions on it. This is one from my youngest daughter's room which doesn't have a lot of personal things on it. My oldest has several pictures of herself and various family members so in the interest of staying somewhat anonymous for her future sake, I'll just show this one.

My youngest daughter can't reach above the bottom most part so you can tell what things she uses or wants to see the most, her books, her stamp set, and some figurines. Her art supplies, which she really loves to use, are kept underneath the shelves where they are even handier.

I find it funny that I feel that my daughters have been raised in almost identical circumstances and yet they are so different. My oldest is really into science and her shelves are full of crystals she has grown, fossils and geodes she has found, etc. Up until she went to school and even then for the first couple years, she only drew stick figure people.

My youngest on the other hand, doesn't really seem to be inquisitive about science. She just accepts and moves on. Yet she is very talented when it comes to art. She started drawing people with bodies instead of stick figures probably at age of three and her pictures that she cranks out now on a daily basis at age five are equivalent to what my oldest could draw at perhaps age ten.

Once while on vacation, my oldest daughter brought but would not let her younger sister use a small box of crayons. My oldest one wasn't using them nor would she probably want to use them but she just couldn't stand letting her sister use her box of crayons. So after some threats, I told her that I would stop the next chance I get and buy her sister the biggest box of crayons I could find and my oldest would not be allowed to use them. As you can see in the upper left corner of the picture, I had to carry through on that threat and my youngest used the heck out of those crayons. She has now progressed to a large set of colored pencils and markers that she carries around in a briefcase sized art box.

As a father, I can't wait to see how both of these skills play out in their futures.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

2 Degrees

On July 29, 1967, a missile accidentally fired aboard the U.S.S. Forrestall setting a huge intense fire that killed 134 sailors. Although I didn't know it at the time, one of those sailors was the son of our neighbor. I would see this picture prominently displayed in their house whenever I went for a visit along with his medals and other pictures.

Another sailor would jump from his airplane and roll through the fire to escape. He only suffered minor injuries on that day. Later, he would be shot down and spend nearly six years in Hanoi Hilton being tortured. He went on to be a prominent congressman and ran for president twice. On Saturday he lost his life to glioblastoma.

I always like McCain, the Maverick. Perhaps because I am a bit of a maverick myself when it comes to my political tendencies. I don't fit neatly into any parties ideology box. Unlike many in my party, I was elated to see the "thumbs down" he gave in the attempt to appeal the ACA. I don't like how the ACA was thrust upon the people. I don't like how it did nothing to solve any of the problems in the medical industry. I don't like simply shifting the burden of healthcare to everyone which inspires no one to take care of their health since they aren't directly paying. BUT, I don't see the purpose of voting down something already in place simply as a political move. I want things FIXED, not retribution. I think McCain did too. He was a maverick like myself.

I leaned of his death during intermission of a children's play that we were attending. I found it very hard to focus on the second half of the play as my mind wandered over McCain's career. My memories especially lingered on one of McCain's final speeches slamming both parties in Congress for their political bickering and maneuvers which isn't getting anything done and attempting to get back to bi-partisan solutions. It was a speech worthy of our history ranking up there with George Washington's final address before stepping down as president.

P.S. Those in Hanoi solitary confinement as prisoners used a tap code to communicate between cells. Each message was ended with GBU, God Bless You.

God Bless You John McCain

Friday, August 24, 2018

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Every now and then I could swear I've told a story on here but after fruitless hours (at least it feels that long), I can't turn up the story. So either I've written it or failed to use names in it other than generic ones and thus can't get the right search terms. This is going to be one of these stories so stop if you've read it before!

I recently celebrated my birthday and since my Uncle and I have birthday's only five days apart, we combined them this year to have sort of a mini family reunion of sorts. We had a wonderful afternoon full of good food and conversation. I couldn't ask for anything more. During that conversation, my grandma dropped a factoid I hadn't heard before that I thought it was worth recording for posterity.

Her father, my great grandfather, died the year before I was born so I never got to meet him. In all the pictures I have of him, not one shows a smile and these two pictures are the closest to having a somewhat happy look upon his face. The above picture is of my great grandparents most likely around their 40th wedding anniversary. The picture below is when my great grandfather was in his early 30's and he his holding his fourth child, my grandmother, in his arms.

My grandmother doesn't talk much about her father. She says he wasn't very talkative and smoked like a chimney. He worked hard in different factory jobs over his life so I'm guessing he didn't spend a lot of time with his kids. He eventually got lung cancer which sidelined his career with the removal of one of his lungs and when the cancer came back some years later, it took his life at age 70.

Now comes the part of the story I could swear I've told before. When my grandmother broke her hip last year and was in the rehab part of a nursing home, she told me that her parents met during the WPA (Work Progress Administration) years. My grandmother said her mother was working with her mother (my 2nd great grandmother for those keeping track) serving food to the workers, one of which was my great grandfather. I thought it was a neat story at the time which is why I swore I wrote it down somewhere on this blog. During my birthday celebration however, she provided a little more detail saying they were working on the Great Alaskan Highway at the time.

I thought I would do a bit of research on the WPA and the Alaskan Highway to write a more in depth post centered around my great grandparents meeting for the first time except that the dates just don't add up. My great grandparents got married in 1928 and the WPA didn't really start up until 1935. The Alaskan Highway didn't begin until 1942, but the WPA still existed during that time though was on the down slide. So now I really don't know what to think.

Like all things my grandmother says, there is probably some truth buried in this story. I do know my great grandparents were pretty poor and my grandma grew up on the "wrong" side of the tracks so to speak so perhaps my great grandparents did work during the WPA years and perhaps even on the Alaskan Highway to be able to survive the post Great Depression years but they certainly didn't meet then as they were married and had five children by the time the Alaskan Highway project started up. Unfortunately even though my grandma is still alive, I will probably never know the truth. She is well on her way to showing signs of dementia and I try not to point out inaccuracies because it just makes her flustered and at the end of the day serves no purpose. About all I can do is have her tell me stories over again, which she doesn't remember doing and loves to tell them anyway, and sometimes she drops in some new-to-me factoid which I can use to help determine the truth. In this case, it is quite possible my great grandfather worked on building a part of the Alaskan Highway. But the story of how he met my great grandmother Amanda remains shrouded in mystery.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Preserving Things

I spent a fair share of my childhood after school, helping my mom preserve the bounty from our garden. As I ventured off onto my own in adulthood, I mostly raided her pantry as needed but back then, I didn't eat a lot of veggies so it wasn't very often. As I started a family and thus started living a healthier life, I began to eat more veggies again and would take any excess veggies from my parents garden and started preserving them myself.

Then came the cancer. That was June 30, 2016.

Mom soon went through brain surgery, radiation and chemo and so I spent that summer, helping her can, freeze and otherwise preserve the bounty from her garden. Twice the labor made the work go faster and having someone to talk to made the work seem easier. Although the cancer was briefly gone and treatments were over with for the 2017 season, I still helped my mom canning. I knew time was more finite but besides preserving vegetables, I was preserving memories.

This year, we've been preserving a lot of memories again. I helped freeze the sweetcorn and we made a batch of salsa. My parents went off on a mini vacation with my daughters so in their absense I have been making sweet pickles seen above and will shortly be canning some tomato sauce seen below. Next up will be green beans later this afternoon.

I'm not sure how much time is left. Not a day goes by when that I don't think such thoughts. But I do know after that era ends and for me, a new one begins, that I will always have memories of my mom in every jar that sits on my canning shelves downstairs.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Accidentally Huge

When on road trips, I like to seek out more obscure places to visit away from the throngs of people. So when I found a reference to a sculpture garden of religious figures, I thought it might be a nice place to walk off the ice cream and to make my deeply religious mother-in-law a happy camper. I was a bit shocked when we pulled into the parking lot and saw this sculpture of the Virgin Mary dominating the skyline. I was expecting life size, not giant sized.

After the Virgin Mary, we went to the visitor's center and watched a video which helpfully let us know that there was much more we were missing on the other side of the parking lot. Namely another huge statue of Jesus. All the statues were the dream of a priest of the congregation there.

Although not huge, a life size bronze of my patron saint, Francis of Assisi caught my attention.

Finally, there was a life size replica woodcarving of the Last Supper that took seven years to carve to look at. All the characters were based off real live friends of the woodcarver. While I don't know if this is the largest woodcarving of the Last Supper, it was by far the biggest version I have seen in any format. The theme of this stop seemed to be if you were going to do something right, it needed to be done big.

The following morning we visited the bluff along the river where Sargent Floyd of the Corps of Discovery was buried. If you recall, the Corps of Discovery was headed by Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and was supposed to explore the newly purchased Louisiana territory and see if there was a practical way to the Pacific ocean. Sargeant Floyd, the only casualty in the two plus years of extreme hardship, is thought to have died of pancreatitis a few months after the voyage got underway. It was while viewing this monument that I realized that the theme of our trip seemed to be visiting huge objects.

Here in western Iowa and indeed back home for a day or two upon our return, the skies were hazy thanks to the wildfires blazing out west. Being fare skinned and thin haired, it didn't hurt my feelings. Above is the view from the Sargent Floyd obelisk to downtown Sioux City, Iowa.

Well on our way home, I was cruising down the highway when a road side caught my eye. It was home of the world's largest but then I was passed it before learning what. Since we had already joked about our accidental theme to this trip, I couldn't help but make the turn into a small town and drive around. I didn't see any more signs identifying what I was looking for so thanks to having my cellphone handy, I did a quick google search and found out that I was only a block and a half away from the world's largest coffee pot. It used to be the town's water tower but for reasons unexplained to me, had been truncated and set on the ground right next door to a Swedish Heritage museum which is where I learned from pictures of the town, that it used to be functioning. We were the only visitors to the museum that day but the sole attendant was happy to show us around and answer our many Swedish questions.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Slipping Off

For many months, my wife has been hounding me to drive to Le Mars, Iowa, home of Wells Blue Bunny Ice Cream and self proclaimed Ice Cream Capital of the World. For many months I have resisted since it was a five hour drive one way there and ten hours seemed like a bit much to eat a bit of ice cream, no matter how fine it tasted. But she informed me she had a three day weekend coming up and I was fresh out of anymore excuses, so we slipped off for a brief vacation.

I just had a strawberry cone, which was extremely good, and my wife and her mom shared the above pictured banana split. The ice cream was good, not as good as homemade by any stretch but as good as any that you can purchase in a grocery store. The museum was much more than a few cases of milk related products that they have made over the years so I wouldn't recommend going for that but if in the area, certainly stop for some ice cream.

I stared at this display for awhile and could guess that 7:13 but be significant but just couldn't quite put the puzzle together. So I asked the young lady in the gift shop but she didn't know either and suggested I ask the ice cream parlor workers. So I did. 7:13 in military time is 19:13 or if written 1913, is the year that Wells Blue Bunny was founded.

After eating ice cream and fulfilling my wife's wish, we took the long way home over the next day and a half. More on that in my next post. We did have a chance to eat at another farm to table restaurant that has been on our list for awhile and while not as spectacular as some of the most recent we have eaten at, it was still pretty good. Above you see my burger with pickled onions on top served with some seasoned popcorn in a composting bowl. Everything in the restaurant was composting, including the paper straws which was neat to see. The burger was excellent and because my kids didn't eat the popcorn that came with their entree, I had enough seasoned popcorn to snack on the rest of the way home.