Writing

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Will is one of the most creative people I know. Sometimes it seems he lives in a fantasy world. Or many fantasy worlds. I have been trying to encourage him to put his thoughts down in writing.

Sometimes he can find the interest to write. But, mostly he writes in his blog because I force him to. Tonight, he decided to start writing a story. He wrote a page or so, and shared it with us. It is a ways from being a complete story. But it is a start. And since he normally hates writing, it is nice to see him spend a couple if hours focused on it.

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Upgrading the Internet

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Okay, I really didn’t improve the Internet today; we just improved our connection to the Internet. I know, I just was complaining about how the boys spend too much time on their electronics yesterday. And undoubtedly this blog is not what I would call an “improvement” to the Internet.

We unplugged the satellite dish last spring in anticipation of being furloughed last summer. And we have remained unplugged from cable/satellite since then. We are reliant on Netflix for DVDs and streaming. When we got the satellite several years ago, it came bundled with DSL. Yes, DSL is a bit slower than cable. But it works. And it was inexpensive. And I’m trying to spend less time playing on computers and more time living my life (so, what the heck am I doing writing on this blog?).

This month, Comcast was having a good promotional rate on their Internet service, so we decided to upgrade to Comcast over DSL. The boys had a half-day today. Since Tucker and Targa have proven to be poor adult supervision in the past, I was going to have to be home for the afternoon. What a perfect chance to get Comcast to install Internet. Of course, I didn’t plan the timing perfectly, and the Comcast installer was nearly finished by the time I would have had to be here to meet the boys.

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The new speed test after installing Comcast Internet

So, I tested my Internet speed with DSL prior to the install. Latency was pretty high, with a 58ms ping time. The download speeds were 2.5Mb/sec. The upload speeds were 0.42Mb/sec.  As you can see from the right, the new speeds are much better, with 28Mb/sec down and 5.7Mb/sec upload.  The real test will be when streaming Netflix, but so far I can’t really complain. Now time to go download some big files.

Preston 5th Grade Winter Concert

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I have never been much of a singer, or any sort of musician. I think much to Susanna’s disappointment, but if you ever heard me sing you would understand my reluctance. So it is nice to see Will and Ben at least try music. Ben has been playing trumpet all year; Will sang in the 5th grade chorus and put on a concert tonight.

William singing in his 5th grade concert.
William singing in his 5th grade concert.

One of the joys of parenting is the short notice events. I think the school is pretty good about sending notices home, but there is a disconnect between the school and the parents (of course life is much too exciting to pass on notes to parents). And I don’t make a huge effort to check updates on the school’s web page; but it is more fun to blame the kids than take responsibility for scheduling.

Typically Will or Ben will let us know Wednesday or Thursday night about an event planned on Friday night that they want to attend; after we have spent the evenings earlier in the week making our weekend plans. This time we got a little more heads-up. But not really. Two weeks ago Will mentioned that he had a concert coming up, but no details.  At least not until yesterday.

We made the concert. But not without a little struggle. Will told me tonight that he needed black pants for the concert. Luckily we had his dress pants from the wedding. He also needed a white shirt, and we had his dress shirt from the wedding. But he chose to wear a white t-shirt instead. More like an under-shirt.  But what can one do. It wasn’t worth a huge fight. I think he was more interested in getting five minutes in on his computer than he was in getting dressed nicely. I think it is time to cut down on electronics… again…

The concert was nice. It was crowded – lots of family and not quite enough seats.  The 5th grade class sang 4 songs at the start of the concert and were followed by the middle school chorus and then middle school band. Next year we will get there a little earlier to make sure we get good seats. And will make Ben wear a nice shirt. But that shouldn’t be a problem. I thought about recording the concert. But I figured it wasn’t worth the effort to make a poor quality iPhone video mostly of the back of the woman’s head sitting in front of me. Anyway, I really wanted to just sit and enjoy the music.

Blog Books

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Will's and Ben's blog books/journals printed at Lulu.com.  Each are around 100-pages hardbound.
Will’s and Ben’s blog books/journals printed at Lulu.com. Each are around 100-pages hardbound.

Will and Ben have been writing in their blogs for nearly 2 years by now.  Will has written over 8,100 words in 204 posts. Ben has written 6,400 words in 155 posts.

I told the boys that if they wrote in their blogs (or rather, submitted to me forcing them to write), that I would get a book printed each year from what they wrote. Last year I got a soft-back book from Lulu.com. This year I took all of their writings over the past two years and published a hard bound book from Lulu. The books arrived today, and the boys were excited to open them.  The books are a sort of journal of what they did over the year. Neither really keeps a journal or scrapbook, so this is a way for them to go back and look at what they did over the past couple of years.

We will see what the next year in blogging brings! Hopefully another two books. Now to get moving with getting this blog printed into a book.

Frozen

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A cold morning in Preston, CT
A cold morning in Preston, CT

The thermometer read -7 this morning. Well, it started at -4 when I woke up and then dropped to -7. Apparently it is warmer in Anchorage, Alaska then in Connecticut this morning.

It has been too cold to do much in the workshop in the evenings this week. Maybe it will warm up enough this weekend to get time to do work. If not, I’ll be stuck doing house projects (which wouldn’t be that bad).

I still have a couple of house projects that I need to finish. I have one more door to replace hinges in. I could add an outlet and switch to the bedroom, but if it is too cold to work in the shop, it is probably too cold to work in the attic. At least last weekend was warm enough to get some shop time. I even was able to insulate one of the doors – hopefully that will help me be able to heat the space.

The chickens have been surviving the cold. But, I don’t think they like the snow. I think we will add two more chickens to the flock next summer – that should help next winter. I’ll probably also insulate the roof of the coop. I probably won’t add heat to the coop, but I’ll probably add a water heater so I don’t have to water the birds several times a day when the weather is this cold.

Finishing up the quick bathroom upgrade

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Bathroom with the new tiles and repainted radiator.
Bathroom with the new tiles and repainted radiator.

Susanna and I have made a good start on projects this year. We are focusing on smaller projects this winter.  So far, so good. It is nice to have projects that can be completed in a single weekend.

This weekend we finished a couple of smaller projects in the bathroom. I replaced the vinyl tiles with improved vinyl tiles. I had done most of the grouting last night, however a couple of the smaller pieces of tile didn’t want to stick (near the tub).  I had to get construction adhesive this morning to finish the job. I had finished touching up the grout by lunch.

Susanna wanted to repaint the radiator. We picked up spray paint last night, and this morning she sprayed two coats on the radiator. It is a huge improvement.

The closet is under the stairs and was 5-6 feet deep. And pretty useless. It had two shelves way in the back, each were 24″ deep. I built a wall that was 24″ back from the door, and reused the wood from the old shelves to build 4 shelves that are only 12″ deep. We were able to take all the stuff that was in the closet, plus all the towels that we had kept above the toilet and put them in the new closet.

So, that is 3 small projects completed this weekend.  There are several small projects that we can still do in the bathroom, but it is working out well to only pick small projects for now.

Now to take a shower and go out for a beer.

Bathroom Improvements

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Bathroom floor with old tiles removed and primer/sealer applied
Bathroom floor with old tiles removed and primer/sealer applied

We have an old house. That means never ending projects. Over the past couple of years, we have made progress and renovated (or at least repainted) most of the rooms in the house. However, we have a couple that we haven’t touched yet. And those rooms suck.

The worst room is probably the mud room/laundry room. The walls and floor are in bad shape. We have talked about doing that room later this spring or summer, but we will have to see if we have time to get to that project. But, I figure, if people enter the house through the ugliest room, then they will be more impressed with the rest of the house. As long as they stayed out of the bathroom…

The bathroom is the next ugliest room. There is only one bathroom in the house (which does cause some fights).  We also need to replace the walls in the guest room, but it isn’t a frequently used room, so it can wait. I won’t even mention the basement, but that doesn’t really count as part of the house (it would probably be a good place to bury a body – but that is a story for another day).

I would love to gut the bathroom and totally redo the room, but, with only one bathroom in the house, that isn’t really an option. I would really love to pay someone to gut the bathroom and redo it.  But what is the fun in having a project done quickly when one can drag it on for months? Our long-term plans include adding a bathroom on the second floor; gutting the first floor bathroom will occur after the second bathroom is completed.

The floor in the bathroom is vinyl tiles installed on top of a plywood subfloor. The tiles are the cheapest self-stick variety that was available to whomever last redid the bathroom. In addition, the plywood was never sealed prior to the floor being installed. Add humidity and water, and the tiles start coming up and the plywood gets soft.

Susanna and I decided to replace the vinyl tile in the bathroom this weekend. It should be a quick weekend project and hopefully make the room look a lot better. Or at least not so embarrassing.

I removed the old tile in the evenings this week, and used epoxy to repair the plywood where it was rotting. Last night I washed the floor with TSP and filled the low spots with a floor leveling compound.  I let the floor dry overnight and used a latex primer/sealer on the plywood this morning.

I’ll probably do a second coat on the primer shortly. I’ll pull out the toilet just before I install the tiles.  It is warm out, so it wouldn’t be bad to use the woods, but an indoor toilet is just so much more convenient.

trafficMaster Ceramica self-stick tiles.
trafficMaster Ceramica self-stick tiles.

I prefer ceramic tile to vinyl, but the long-term plan is to gut the bathroom, and removing ceramic tile is a pain. So I am replacing the cheap vinyl with a higher quality vinyl tile. I purchased TrafficMaster Ceramica self stick tiles. These are vinyl tiles, but are thick – almost half the thickness of a ceramic tile. They can be grouted to look more like real ceramic or stone.

The tiles weren’t much more expensive than the cheap vinyl tiles, and will hopefully hold up better than the previous ones. You can come visit in a year or two and see how they look. But you would probably just notice how crappy the fake tile walls look and ignore the floor.

My plans today are only to replace the tiles on the side of the bathroom with the shower and toilet. I’ll replace the tiles on the side with the sink another day. It would have been a long weekend project to pull out the sink as well as the toilet.  I also didn’t want to head out-of-town next week and leave Susanna with an unfinished bathroom. I’m just nice that way. Sometimes.

Tomorrow we are talking about adding a wall and shelves to the bathroom closet. I think the project (at least adding the wall) can be done in one morning. Adding storage in the bathroom will go a long way to improving the space.  We can also remove the crappy shelves that were above the toilet.

Now all we have to do is figure out what to put above the toilet. Maybe a nice set of shelves, similar to what I put in the boys rooms. Or maybe a big mirror.

Total cost for tiles and supplies for this project: Under $100.

More Odds and Ends For the Weekend

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Yesterday I finished one of the small projects that I had left as a remnant from a bigger project. I usually have a couple of them. It is just how my brain works. Why completely finish a project when another one is just waiting to start? It just wouldn’t seem fair to the new project.

But, it feels good to finish things. Even if it is not always fun to do the last 5%.

So, this morning I finished changing the hinges and hanging the door that Susanna had re-refinished. Maybe this is an appropriate place to make a joke about something being well hung in the house… but maybe not.

After lunch (and Ben’s soccer game) I decided to not start a new project, and keep trying to finish up the remnants. Before New Year’s Eve, I ran lights up to the boys clubhouse. I left a space to add switched lights to the stairs up (and the side of the loft we use for storage). This afternoon I spent an hour or two and ran a switched light at the top of the stairs. We no longer have to go up the stairs in the dark and plug in one of the overhead lights. Of course, I will probably move lights around later this spring as we redo the storage area, so maybe it isn’t a project completely done. Then again, a 120 year old house with two barns will never be completely done.

I am looking forward to some workshop time next week. Hopefully the weather will support. It was crazy in December and I didn’t get nearly as much time in the shop as I needed. Susanna and I plan on replacing the vinyl floor in the bathroom this week while the boys are away. It should be a quick Saturday project. We have talked about taking a few weekends this winter/spring to do some minor upgrades to the bathroom (repaint, install exhaust fan, add shelves, and improve closet storage).

Finishing up Small Projects

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Susanna and I have a (pretty long) list of small projects to do around the house. As well as a list of unfinished projects. Some of the unfinished projects include things like replacing the door hinges in the kitchen (I ordered new hinges a while ago) and adding lights to the garage that I bought a year ago (I only installed half of them).

One of the bigger unfinished projects was to hook up the new outlets in Will’s bedroom.  I wired up four new outlets in his room when we replaced one plaster wall with drywall a year ago. I ran the wires to the attic, but didn’t run a new wire up from the basement. I wanted two full circuits on the second floor, so I didn’t tie into the outlets in Ben’s room. Will’s room had one functioning outlet so it wasn’t a crisis to finish that project. So I never did. Until today.

One of Susanna’s outstanding projects was to sand down the door the basement. She had stripped and sanded the door last year, but she was unhappy with the results.

Today we decided to tackle both projects. I think we both were tired of sitting around, stuck in the house because of the cold weather and snow (the thermometer read -8F/-22C this morning). So it seems better to be stuck inside doing projects. In the morning I helped Susanna move the basement door down to the basement to be refinished. In the afternoon, I attacked the wiring in Will’s room.

I ran a wire down from the attic to the guest room outlet, and ran a new wire up from the basement to the guest room. I finished the project by dinner time, and have eliminated all but two of the old circuits from the house (I think one of the remaining ones goes to some of the lights on the first floor – I’m not sure what the second circuit is). I didn’t curse as much as I normally do when fishing wires. But I did have to remove some plaster on the basement stairs to get the wiring run. The plaster on those stairs looks like sh*t anyway, so it isn’t a big deal.

The door is nearly done, Susanna will put the final coat of poly on tonight and we can re-install the door tomorrow morning (she put on 4-5 coats of shellac already today). And, since I’m in the mode of doing electrical work, I may add a switched light to the second floor of the barn as well as an outside light to the barn tomorrow. The real win tomorrow will be if I can convince the boys to spend time cleaning the basement tomorrow.

It feels good to knock off one of my unfinished projects.

Sorry, no pictures. I couldn’t think of any possible pictures of the wiring that anyone, including myself, would at all find interesting. And the door. Well, it is just a door. It looks like it did yesterday, just better.

Finished with 2013, looking ahead to 2014

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One year done… another one to look forward to.  Last year was a good year. Maybe an 8 (out of 10). It was also a busy year. There are lots of things we did better in 2013 than in 2012. For example, last summer was much less chaotic than the summer before. We had a much better trip to Lucia. We missed a family vacation last summer, but had a wedding instead.

I made a list a year ago about what I wanted to accomplish this year. I didn’t do them all, but that is okay. A list is a place to start.  Here is the list from last year:

    • Get the sailboat in the water and go sailing (Done. We had a great summer with the sailboat.)
    • Build an island for the kitchen (Done. I could have made the top wider, but it is a great improvement over the table.)
    • Build two larger woodworking projects. (Done. I built the kitchen island and a nightstand for the boys. I also built a chicken coop, shelves for the garage, and a trellis for the garden.)
    • Get garage ready for the wedding this summer (Done. Though with a lot of help.)
    • Ride bike into work more often than last year. (Not done…. I’ll need to work more on that this year.)
    • Finish painting the outside of the house. (Done. But mostly by Susanna…. we have a little to touch up this summer though.)
    • Continue organizing the workshop. (Done)
    • Build a wooden hand plane. (Not done. Maybe this year…)
    • Go camping with the boys. (Not done…. but I went camping with Susanna)
    • (added very recently) – finish repairs to Will’s room. (Done)
    • and of course… get married to Susanna. (Done))

Now to look forward to 2014.  What do I want to accomplish this year. Of course, I have ADHD, so any list will likely change. Daily. But that is the fun of a list, it is a place to start and deviate from.

For the house:

    • Paint the garage
    • Fix 4 windows.
    • Replace the bathroom floor.
    • Focus on cleaning up the yard.

In the workshop:

    • Finish the nightstands for the boys. Build nightstands for our bedroom.  I’ll be pretty sick of nightstands by then.
    • Build a bed.
    • Finish the workshop floor, and repair/replace the doors.
    • Add better heat before next winter.

With the family:

    • Take the sailboat out for an overnight trip.
    • Go camping.
    • Buy a new car.
    • Print books from Will and Ben’s blogs.

Personal Goals:

    • Exercise more
    • Keep writing in the blog

And, overall, have fun!!!