13 April 2015

The Black Flamingo

Randomly saw this in the news this morning (as I am staying home with a sick girl).  An all-black flamingo photo'ed around Cyprus.

31 March 2015

The Dark Penguin

I haven't shared any fun news or pictures lately but homebase helped me out and sent this news article my way.  A photographer documented an all-black (or melanistic) penguin in South Georgia.  Pretty awesome limited edition!

25 March 2015

Spring Break Project: Flag Spotlight

 I like to do a small project around the house over spring break (last year I replaced a motion-activating outdoor light with the help of a friend) and this year, the idea for it came to me during a wonderful concert I was enjoying.
minovia had gotten us three tickets to a fantastic free concert by the Jazz Ambassodors, a branch of the US Army Field Band.  We were in the sixth row at the Civic Center and it was a fantastic show.  They played jazz standards from different periods and, while I am no jazz expert, I totally loved it.  "In the Mood" by Glenn Miller Band and "Feelin' Good" were a couple faves.  They finished with some patriotic numbers, including a medley of the music for each of the branches of the Armed Forces and asking anyone in the audience who was in that branch or had family members in that branch to stand up.  It was a very moving and cool tribute.  A superb show for sure and during it I thought that, since I do not bring my flag inside at night, I would put in a outdoor spotlight that would come on at dusk and spotlight it.  I didn't really do any research online but just headed to Home Depot on morning during break and they had a helpful brochure in the outdoor lighting area and I picked up what I needed with no problem.  It was a bit more than I was expecting due to having to purchase and 'power pack' which is what you plug into the outdoor outlet and it transforms the high voltage into a low-voltage for the lights and it also has the timer and light sensor. I went with LED, which was a little more expensive also.  I could've got with a solar light but I wanted something that was strong and bright. 
The install couldn't have been easier. I was done in under an hour and then waited for the sun to go down.
I was very happy with the results.  I can't wait for the first time I come home at night and see the flag lit up.  Here's to the red, white and blue!

[sidenote: I also installed an endcap on the tile at the top of the stairs to the basement, replaced a floor register in the kitchen and made a flagpole and attached my Ireland flag to display it for St. Patrick's Day.]

02 March 2015

Led Zeppelin cover by coolest percussionists ever

Minovia came across this video last weekend and I saw it on NPR also.  And it turns out Jimmy Page also liked it so much he put it on his Facebook page.  I LOVE bells, xylophones, marimbas, etc.  And these performances by the Louisville Leopards are fantastic.  The drummer is great too.  Check out "Crazy Train" also!

01 March 2015

Kitchen Floor Replacement

This picture is too flattering to our old kitchen floor.  It was a stick-down wood parquet tiles which looked fine when we bought the house but as we got into our first summer the heat and humidity had the floor buckling up and away from the subfloor.  The adhesive obviously no longer was working and as the square enlarged with the heat, there wasn't any space for them to expand so they would float up.  We endured it with mats and carpets but after our second summer the floor was chipped up and a sorry sight. So we looked at some tile samples, got a couple bids ($1000 difference between the two!) and I decided to tear out the floor one weekend just to see what our subfloor looked like.  It came up very easily to no surprise.  What was a surprise (and I had to be told by a contractor) was that the surface under the wood was not the subfloor but a layer of linoleum which I would also need to remove. That one was a bit more work, but still nothing too intense. And that got us down to subfloor. [This is the layer I failed to capture in a photo.]  
And we
lived with exposed subfloor for a couple months as we got contractors lined up and scheduled.
We purchased our tile from Lowe's.  A pretty medium gray with just a little texture to them and theyare a 12"x 24" size that we wanted in a brick pattern.  The kitchen (and small garage step-in area) would require ~100 sq ft of tile.  
The day before our contractor was scheduled to start, I had caboose over to help take my appliances out of the kitchen.  First, I'd tried the washer and got it about half out before realizing it was installed on a plywood board and wouldn't need to be removed.  They could
tile right up to it without blocking it in.  So that was wasted effort.  On to the frig.  I remembered when we purchased it that they had to remove the doors to get it
in so I was ready with my tools to do that.  Doors came off easily and I got the water line turned off and detached before we moved the frig out to the dining area and put the doors back on and plugged it back in.  Lastly we tackled the stove.  Slid it away from the wall and began the hunt to figure out how to turn the gas line off.  No valve behind the stove...or anywhere in the basement really.  I thought I found a main gas shutoff so (after consulting another friend) I zipped out to Home Depot 15 minutes before it closed and got what I would need to shut the main line and then cap off
the stove line.  Back at home, I shut the main valve and ran the stove burners to run out the gas...for ten minutes and no sign of slowing down so obviously the gas was still on.  Completely out of ideas at this point (and completely tired of messing with it) I contacted my tile guy and asked for guidance.  He lined up a heating contractor to come by at 8:30 the next morning (we were texting at 10pm) and install a gas valve.  I was thrilled.  So the next morning the gas guy came by, shut off the gas at the meter,
installed a pipe extenstion and a valve in about 40 minutes.  And then the tile guy was ready to get started and I was off to work.  Day 1 also included laying down the Dura-rock (a thin concrete-like base for setting the tile).  Day 2 all of the tile was installed.  Day 3 we picked out our grout color and Day 4 all the grout went in.  And so, after nearly a week with no kitchen, I put everything back together and cleaned everything up.  It felt so great to cook a simple dinner last night in the comforts of my own kitchen. And we LOVE how it looks. We still need to paint a floor register and get it put back and also figure out how to replace the quarter-crown molding and get a couple transitions but we are going to enjoy it for sure.

12 February 2015

Picture Perfect Tostada

I was sitting in a meeting tonight and received this text from my wife. She had made chicken tostadas and they smelled fantastic but I had to leave before they were ready so she sent me a picture of the finished product. 

Pretty fantastic, huh? 
Unfortunate, that text was closely followed by this one. 

I'm sure it still tasted good. 

04 February 2015

Kitchen Sink job

When you get 10 inches of snow in one day there's not much point trying to leave the house. Luckily I had thought ahead the previous day and picked up a tube of silicone caulk. That allowed me to spend some time on Sunday removing the old grout around our kitchen sink (a messy job) and then applying new. I got a couple good tips off the Internet, namely to use painters tape to keep a nice clean edge. I was quite happy with the finished work. A simple small and inexpensive project but one that has brightened the kitchen and it was easy to fit in to snowy, home bound day.

15 January 2015

Money Well Spent

"To everything, there is a season"
So sayeth the Byrds, and they are correct.
[sidenote: I did not know that a majority of that song is taken directly from Ecclesiastes.]
This post is a tribute to two long-serving and (one) recently departed small housewares.

First off, the clippers.
I bought an Oster clipper set from the Wal-Mart in Shenandoah when I was either a junior or senior in high school.  (This post is in no way a testimonial to the quality of Wal-Mart's merchandise.)  When you hold clippers in your hand, you are holding power.  The power to change. We had quite a fun time giving each other some pretty horrid bowl cuts and buzz jobs. As I got older my hair swung back and forth from long and untrimmed to clipper buzzes.  After that, keeping a buzzed head through the spring, summer and fall has saved me an pretty penny for sure.  And most recently, Sylvia has shown an interest in and aptitude for giving me a nice fade so I can keep my sides and back short while growing the top out a bit. 
After nearly 20 years though, my clippers gave out.  I can't believe they lasted that long.  Most of the attachments had been lost,  broken or thrown away.  I only use one anyways, so that was ok.  But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little sad when that old familiar clattering didn't fire up when I switched them on.  Sylvia is a kind soul, though, and she presented me with a new Wahl clipper set for my last birthday (yes, it's taken me three months to blog about it.)
They are fantastic.  Better than my last set for sure, but I guess that kind of improvement is to be expected when your last purchase was when Bush the Elder was President.

Next, the alarm clock.
This one actually goes back further than the clippers.  I'm not really certain when it showed up.  I'm guessing it was purchased for me by homebase.  I know I got it in high school sometime.  It traveled with me to college, in each different dorm and apartment, to Des Moines, Chicago, and back.  This is the ONLY alarm clock I have had for the past two decades.  The formerly glossy, clean white plastic is now more of a matte finish and heavily yellowed on the top half. One morning, out of the blue (I'm not sure that phrase can fairly be used), the alarm was much less alarming.  The snooze light was lit up like the alarm was going off, but there was no sound.  If you put your ear up to it, you could hear a very faint ticking, but that was it.  I couldn't just put it out to pasture, so, for the past year or so it was been serving as just 'clock' instead of 'alarm clock.'  As long as the clock keeps on  working, I won't pitch it.  'Til the end, then, til the end. 

Bowl Pick Challenge

It came down to the final game, caboose had Ohio State and I had Oregon.  Oregon definitely had its chances (they got four turnovers from Ohio State) but simply couldn't seize them (only three points off those turnovers.)  A nice post-season for the much disparaged Big Ten.  I guess maybe we aren't such a poor conference after all.  (Iowa's embarrassment excluded). 
Congrats to caboose!  This is his first win in the bowl challenge.  Well done buddy!
Final standings:
caboose - 25.5
middleson & homebase - 23
minovia & stoppable - 21.5
NTW - 21
isa - 18

14 January 2015

2014 Book List

The past year's book list has to one of my most genre-spanning. 
I'll let my reviews stand for themselves instead of picking any favorites.
It was a good year of reading.  I was able to get through several on our honeymoon.  Hours in the sun, on the beach or poolside, is a nice way to read.  We had some great times reading aloud as a family.  I read three David Eggers books, as well as a few military memoirs and a couple books with Iowa connections.

Past years: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004