More little steps… patching Will’s ceiling and floor

Will's floor and ceiling patched where the chimney had been. Now to clean the room and move him back in - but that will wait until I return.

Will’s floor and ceiling patched where the chimney had been. Now to clean the room and move him back in – but that will wait until I return.

This weekend, Susanna and I made the decision that we didn’t want to have Will’s ceiling replaced. The renovations on the first floor are enough without having to worry about the second floor.

Today I took a piece of plywood to patch the ceiling. I routed a nice edge on the wood, and covered the opening. Once painted it should match the ceiling and not stand out so much. It is not fancy, but should be good enough. Heck, we lived with a chimney in that room for years – a patched (and painted) ceiling will be an improvement. And anyway, neither Susanna nor I have to hang out in that room and Will was fine moving back into his room sooner.

I took some oak flooring that I had inherited from my dad when he moved from St. Louis to Columbia. It had been sitting in his basement for I’m sure many years and it moved to our garage to collect dust. While the flooring isn’t a perfect match, it is pretty close. Again, it is good enough. If it bothers Will, he can cover it with an area rug. And it is a drastic improvement.

It was a huge relief to decide to simplify the second floor project. Now I can focus on working on the laundry room and mud room. That should keep me occupied for a while. But not too long. We are planning on hosting a party on New Year’s Eve, so I’ll have to have the rooms done by then.

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Getting things done – a little at a time

Mud room with chimney gone...

Mud room with chimney gone…

It seems that I finally start getting productive at house projects the week before I have to head out of town for work. Then, when I come back, I have to readjust and it seems to take a while to get back into the same routine.

I’ve had a busy week and made lots of progress in little steps.  I’ve been able to get work done right after the boys get to bed, and still be done in time to hang out for a bit before Susanna and I go to bed. Hopefully, when I get back I’ll remember to jump right back into the routine.

This week we had the chimney taken out. The chimney went through the mud room/laundry room on the first floor and Will’s bedroom on the second. That means, until we get this project finished, we will be short two rooms. The project is a couple of big steps (demolition of the chimney, installing drywall, installing the floor) which we will contract out. But, there are lots of the little details that we will do ourselves. While the walls are down (and Will’s ceiling), I’ll take time to insulate better and update electrical and plumbing.

New switches by the back door. One for the mudroom light and one for the back porch light.

New switches by the back door. One for the mudroom light and one for the back porch light.

I’ve been working on the electrical this week. I ran a new wire to the  light over the weekend, and tonight ran a new wire to the back porch light, and added a switch next to the back door. Previously the back porch switch was outside on the back porch – what a pain in the ass. I still have to run a new wire to the kitchen light (while I have access to the space from the ), add outlets and more lights in the /laundry room, and switches to Will’s light.

I’ve also taken time to keep moving on other projects. I spent a couple of evenings cleaning the workshop, and one evening fixing the dog pen.  I’m sure I’ll be exhausted by the time I get on an airplane Monday.

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Next Project

Dumpster delivered for the next project...

Dumpster delivered for the next project…

Here we go again. More home improvements. Hopefully this one will go quickly – we are paying contractors to do most of the work. But it still requires moving furniture, managing contractors, and some work on our side.

Our fall plans are to have the chimney removed (it is no longer used, and is in the middle of Will’s bedroom). We will have the ceiling replaced in Will’s room, and I will patch the floor. However the big improvement will be to the mud room/laundry room.

We will gut and rebuild the mud room/laundry room. We need to insulate the walls, move laundry services, add a laundry sink, have the walls/ceilings covered with drywall, paint and have the floor done.  No problem.  The plan is to be finished by Christmas. Hopefully sooner.

Now back to Craigslist to look for an interesting antique sink for the laundry room.  No point in making things too easy.

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A quick workshop project (hip photo clipboards)

I was looking for a quick project to build with the boys in the workshop. I needed a project that they could do most of the work on – they were planned to be gifts.  I saw an idea earlier in on Matt’s Basement Workshop – and it seemed like a pretty simple quick project. Our lives this fall have been pretty crazy, and I didn’t think that I could get them to put enough work into a much more complicated project to finish in time.

The clipboards only took a couple of nights to finish in the workshop.  We built a total of 4 clipboards, they took one each and left two here.

The project required picking out some scrap – we found a piece of yellowheart in the wood pile. The lumber was milled and glued up into panels.  We then cut out 4 boards from the panel – in hindsight I think we should have made the boards a little smaller (though it is never too late to remove wood)- a 5×7 picture seems a little small on the clipboard.  The keyhole hanger was inserted in the back (we removed the waste using a drill and chisel). The boards were finished with a coat of varnish and the hardware was installed.

A completed clipboard with a picture added.

A completed clipboard with a picture added.

A simple keyhole hanger flush mounted on the back.

A simple keyhole hanger flush mounted on the back.

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On not writing (or taking a blog break)

It has been nearly a month since I have last written in this blog.  I’m still here; I haven’t fallen off the edge of the earth. And no, neither of my regular readers mentioned anything about my break from writing.

Taking a short break from blogging.

Taking a short break from blogging.

Life has been pretty busy.  Actually crazy busy.  There has hardly been time to have a beer take a moment to reflect on life. I really should be better about keeping up on my writing – I hardly know where I left off in my writing.

I did finish one of the toy boxes. I think I even wrote about it. I have started and nearly finished the second box. And by nearly finished, I mean I have the carcass glued up. I only have to build the face frame, add the trim, shelf, top and all the hardware, and finally the varnish.

It seems like the past couple of weeks were filled with soccer, weddings, non-existent or short work trips, and more soccer. We did find time to take the dogs for walks, entertain the boys’ friends, pull the boat from the water, clean the boat, remove stringers from Ben’s boat (but not yet install new ones).

We had a weekend babysitting Michael while his parents spent time in the hospital bringing his little brother into the world. Susanna was in heaven. Both boys spent lots of time hanging out and reading to him. Susanna spent the whole weekend very happy to have a toddler in the house.

We tried a week without video games (or social media for the parents). It went as well as could be expected. It didn’t kill the boys, though at times I’m guessing Will didn’t know if he would survive. I’m not sure if it was harder for the kids or for the adults.

Ben spending time with the sander on the bottom of his boat.

Ben spending quality time with the sander on the bottom of his boat.

Another weekend, Ben and I dragged Will down to Norwalk for the annual boat show there. Of course both of them spent the entire time touring boats that were more expensive than our house. We bribed Will by agreeing to go see “The Maze Runner” in IMAX on the way home. Susanna decided it was more fun to stay home sick than go to a boat show and watch a science-fiction movie.

It finally felt like life settled down a little this weekend. After a bumpy start this morning, the boys were able to have friends over all afternoon. I even spent time making toy guns for six of the seven kids that were here.  Hopefully tomorrow I can get back in the workshop and work on toy boxes (and can be a little more ‘almost done’ by tomorrow night).

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Project Delivery

Toy box delivered to the customer.

Toy box delivered to the customer.

At the beginning of the summer, Susanna asked me to make three outdoor toy boxes for the her preschool (her classroom shares the three playgrounds). The school paid for 9-sheets of plywood and some wood varnish. I donated my time, some additional lumber, hinges, and screws as needed to finish the project. This is my first commission project – even though I’m not getting paid, there is a customer involved.

The plan was to finish all three and deliver them at one time.  However, the summer was busy, and I don’t have that much space in the workshop, so I am working on one at a time. I finished the first one last week and delivered it today.

I learned some lessons on the delivery:

  • Next time make sure to bring some tools to tighten up any fasteners that loosen up on the drive.
  • I should have removed the doors for the drive, the doors are heavy and it is a pretty bouncy drive down to New London.
  • The magnets are too weak.  I’ve ordered new magnets to hold the door shut.
  • I should bring some equipment (rakes, etc.) to level the area where the boxes are to be placed.

I’ll have to head back next week and tighten fasteners and change out the magnet holding the door shut with a stronger magnet. Despite all that, it feels good to get a project out the door.

The boxes are 5-feet wide, 3-feet deep and almost 3-feet tall and are constructed from hardwood plywood (from the box store) with a mix of red and white oak for edging. The hinges allow the doors to swing all the way open and are held open by magnets on the sides of the boxes – hopefully having the doors out-of-the-way will keep the kids from hanging on them. I think these boxes would hold up longer if they were constructed from MDO – but the materials could cost twice as much, and I think I would have to paint the MDO.

Now onto the next box.  Maybe I’ll change it up a bit and use maple for the edging. Or sapele. No wait that I’m saving that for the boat.  I’ll be pretty tired of building boxes when I’m finished… but heck, Susanna wants one for up on the patio.  Anyone else interested in outdoor boxes? Considering a sheet of good (i.e. non-box store) plywood costs over $100, it would certainly be much cheaper to get plastic boxes from the box store, but the wood boxes look much nicer.

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Yet another sailing post!

Maybe a month ago I complained that we had hardly used the sailboat this season. It wasn’t any one person’s fault in particular. We just had a busy summer. However we have been out each of the past three weekends, with two overnight trips. Not a bad way to finish off the season. Hopefully next weekend I’ll get one more final sail in – the trip from Niantic River to the Thames where I will pull the boat out of the water.  Maybe I’ll even raise a sail (or two) if the winds are favorable.

Ben enjoying his backpacking dinner (freeze dried chicken and mashed potatoes).

Ben enjoying his backpacking dinner (freeze-dried chicken and mashed potatoes).

This weekend we did a quick overnight on Friday (after work and school). We had originally planned to go to Giants Neck again, but we got a late start, so we camped maybe a 1/4-mile south of the mooring on the Niantic River.

We had the boys and the dogs this time around. It was a little crowded. Okay, very crowded. We did get all six of us below for a period in the middle of the night, but Targa gave up and he slept in the cockpit most of the night. I got up about every hour because either one of the boys was up and about (going to the bathroom, or just hot) or the dogs were restless (because they are dogs and at times annoying).

I think next year if we all go camping again we will have to make some modifications to the boat. We need a little better storage, and it would be very nice to leave more supplies on the boat (such as plates and silverware).

Susanna taking the dinghy ashore in the late evening.

Susanna taking the dinghy ashore in the late evening.

Will and Targa sharing a bed. It wound up being too tight for Targa to spend the night on the settee berth.

Will and Targa sharing a bed. It wound up being too tight for Targa to spend the night on the settee berth.

Will walking Tucker on Saturday morning after sleeping on the sailboat.

Will walking Tucker on Saturday morning after sleeping on the sailboat.

Tomorrow is a ‘hang around the house and take it easy’ day!  I can’t wait.

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Checking in on my 2014 goals

Way back in January I sat down and put some thought into what I wanted to accomplish this year. Granted, it was cold, and I probably didn’t put as much thought into the goals as I should have. However, sometimes it is good to have something to focus on. It is way too easy to get distracted in life.

So what were my goals? And, how am I doing on these goals?

For the house I wanted to paint the garage, fix 4 windows, replace the bathroom floor and focus on cleaning up the yard.  How did I do? The garage isn’t painted yet, though we have the paint and the front has been scraped and cleaned for painting, so I am confident that we will make progress on the garage. I haven’t yet gotten to the windows, but that could be a good fall job – we are now talking about purchasing some quality storm windows to replace the crappy storm windows (I know, I flop on what to do with the windows at least twice a year). I have replaced the part of the bathroom floor that needed to be repaired. Susanna still wants me to finish the other half of the floor; that could be a good job to do when the weather cools off.  The yard, well that is another story.  This summer was crazy and I didn’t get to spend as much time on it as I had hoped.  There is always next year! Or maybe a weekend in the fall renting a brush clearing mower.

In the workshop I wanted to finish the nightstands for the boys and build us a pair of nightstands. I also wanted to build a bed, fix the workshop floor and repair the doors. I had also hoped to add better heat for next winter.  How am I doing? I finished the nightstands for the boys. The rest still haven’t been done.  But I think the floors are on the short list after I finish my current project. Not too sure about building two more nightstands for our bedroom.  Maybe if I have better heat I can get more done in the winter.  However, I haven’t been a total slacker in the workshop; I am working on building three outside toy boxes for Susanna’s preschool. The first box should go out the door next week.

With the family I had hoped to take the sailboat out for an overnight trip, go camping, buy a new car and print books from the boys’ blogs.  How did I do. So far I have done pretty much all of this list. I took the boat out to Block Island for an overnight trip and Susanna and I camped in the boat this weekend. The only thing that I had hoped to do was take the boys camping as well.  There is always next weekend (and the fall).  We got a new car and I printed both books from the boys’ blogs.

My personal goals included more exercise and continue to write. I did better exercising this summer over last summer, but still not as much as I want.  I did keep writing in the blog, even if the last two months haven’t had much writing in them. The summer got very busy at home and at work, and it was hard to find peace long enough to focus on writing.  I definitely think writing helps me reflect on what I have done as well as focus on what I want to keep doing. Both are good for someone with ADHD.

This summer hasn’t been perfect. I started at least one big project that I gave up on (the wooden dinghy). I felt that I had too much going on, so next summer I think it would be better to take things a little easier so I can enjoy more (maybe no garden next summer). It certainly helped to eventually find a way to bring the dogs with us on the boat – that reduces the stress of leaving the dogs home on the weekend after they have been stuck in the pen all week while we work.  Adding air-conditioning to the workshop was a big help during the (very short) hot portion of the summer – which makes me believe that better heat (and insulation) would be really nice for the (probably very long) cold part of the winter.

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Camping off of Giants Neck Beach

The sunrise over Giants Neck beach and our anchorage. You can see our boat on the horizon.

The early morning light over Giants Neck beach and our anchorage. You can see our boat on the horizon.

After work on Friday, Susanna, the dogs, and I headed down to the sailboat for a short overnight trip.  We again loaded up gear and headed south down the Niantic River. We passed under the Amtrak bridge and raised the mainsail. We motor-sailed across the Niantic Bay and rounded Black Point and headed into the anchorage around Giants Neck Beach. We dropped anchor around dinner time in about 3-feet of water.

Susanna enjoying the evening light at anchor.

Susanna enjoying the evening light at anchor.

I rowed the dogs over to one of the many rock islands that inhabit the region and let them wander a bit and go to the bathroom. Susanna pulled out sushi and some red wine for dinner. We sat at anchor and watched the sun set over East Lyme. The swell picked up around 2 am, waking both of us and making it difficult to get back to sleep. Anyway, I think the v-berth bounces around a bit more than the rest of the boat. However a while later the sea calmed down and we both drifted back to sleep. I was up with the sun, again taking the dogs ashore and then making coffee for the drive back to Niantic. We were back on our mooring by 9 am and home 30 minutes later.

The goal for the night was to get some time away from the house together as well as see if we enjoyed camping on the sailboat. I think the trip was a success in both areas.  Hopefully next time we won’t have commitments early the next day and I will be able to sleep in a bit.

Targa and Tucker enjoying the early morning sun as we motor towards home while Susanna sleeps below.

Targa and Tucker enjoying the early morning sun as we motor towards home while Susanna sleeps below.

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Another Day Sailing on Long Island Sound (Pictures)

Today we took the final sail of the summer break. Susanna, the boys, and I loaded the dogs up and headed down the Niantic River and out to the sound. It was the first time that we have taken the dogs sailing, and they did better than I expected. Targa spent most of the time in the cockpit either sleeping or just watching. Tucker preferred to be below.

We headed out into Niantic Bay and took a right around Black Point and back up to Long Ledge and Griswold Island. We dropped anchor in about 15 feet of water and used the dinghy to row everyone (including the dogs) to Long Ledge. We all spent time exploring the rocks and swimming (the dogs needed a little “extra” encouragement to get in the water.

After a short swim (it wasn’t the warmest day) we rowed back to the boat and headed home. We were off the water just in time to catch a not-so-healthy dinner at McDonald’s on the way home.

Susanna, the boys, and the dogs enjoying Long Ledge. All are trying to avoid sitting in the bird poop (except the dogs - they didn't seem to care).

Susanna, the boys, and the dogs enjoying Long Ledge. All are trying to avoid sitting in the bird poop (except the dogs – they didn’t seem to care).

Exploring Long Ledge. Griswold Island is in the background

Ben and the dogs exploring Long Ledge. Griswold Island is in the background

Ben and Tucker in the cabin of the O'Day 22.

Ben and Tucker in the cabin of the O’Day 22.

Will and Targa enjoying our motor-sailing around Black Point.

Will and Targa enjoying our motor-sailing around Black Point.

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