More Cabinet and Countertop Installation

This weekend was fairly productive around the homestead.  We found time to do fun stuff too but my primary focus was getting the cabinets installed in Christine’s studio. The photos below walk you through the steps I took.  So far it’s been fairly easy.  Our set up involves two levels of countertops that alternate high, low, high.  The taller cabinets on the right are for the sink and fridge section.  The lower center section is more of a desk height and the far left is taller sink height to accommodate a pass through into the crawl space.

Everything turned out to be fairly level so I didn’t shim very much.  It’s a long sixteen foot run of cabinets but because it’s so cut up level wise I just made sure all the face frames were tied together and true.

I ran into just a couple hang up and really only one deal breaker.  There was some rough plumbing pipes protruding from the wall.  I was going to just cut a hole in the end cabinet and worry about re-routing the plumbing later but the pipes hit the cabinet right at the height of the cabinet floor so simply drilling some through holes wasn’t an option.  I’ll need to have a plumber come out and re-route the pipes first then install the cabinet.  I had one outlet in the way but I simply cut a hole in that cabinet for now.  The outlet actually needs to be moved to accommodate a mini fridge so it’s good that it was there in the first place.

I was able to install two of the countertops and finish up the install of most of the cabinets so at least some of them could be moved into.



I’m in my loft. After the day (week, month…..year?) I had at work I need something different to recharge my batteries tonight. Regrettably I didn’t bring a cocktail with me.

What I did bring was a lamp from the basement, which now casts a most agreeable glow as I slink in my black leather chair. I was going to read a couple magazines, and made it as far as browsing a catalog before my plan was briefly thwarted by calls from two very inquisitive little guys, one floor below.

I gingerly navigated the ships ladder and plucked one in my arms and spotted the other up the steps. It was a nice, if brief, visit punctuated by a short commentary on the loft carpet (“this is nice carpet dada”). A handful of leaps and spins of the globe the visit was over and elevator dad was back in action returning his guests to their regularly scheduled level.

The loft is a great place to decompress it turns out. I opened opposite corner windows and generated my own little night breeze. To satisfy one’s audible needs I have chirping frogs and crickets from the south vernal water hole and the hum of the interstate freeway to the north. Outside during the day you don’t notice the highway unless you listen for it. But at night, or at least tonight it sounds wonderful. Calmly deciphering the song: discerning engine brakes, droning tires and wisp-ing cars.

I haven’t been up here much but it’s a decent away room. Even though I should be working on something or at least paying attention to the family, it’s nice to sneak up here.

Ok I should get back. Catch ya later.

What Matters Most

Hmmm, as I shut down the computer in my office at work I noticed a missed call from the wife.  Seeing the text icon glowing a circle “1” I opened it up to find the following message:

we have water in the basement

Shaking my head I gathered my things and called home.  A couple of brief exchanges later I was trying to keep my patience and remain calm.  All I can think of is how I seriously can not get ahead in this god forsaken f*ck of a game that is our house.  I mean what the f*ck, can I just not get a break one freaking time.  Seriously.

But I remained calm.

Yesterday I did not remain calm when the rain barrel inexplicably emptied itself and I cast my shovel aside in a childish snit.  Nor did I remain morning-sea-dead-calm when the wheel barrow tire expelled its atmospheric contents three times in a matter of an hour the same day as the rain barrel performed its exorcism.  But today, yes I remained calm.  For life just wants to f*ck with me and frankly I’m better than that, I have not the need to stoop to such foolishness.  Would be unbecoming of someone with my general demeanor, attitude and grace.

Best I can tell is that water is somehow now coming in through the conduit that pierces the basement walls where the water supply comes into the house.  This never happened before so I can only suspect that something went accidentally amiss when they finished off the porch steps.  Near the area is a three-foot post that was dug so maybe something got cracked.  Only other thing that looked strange outside was water around the downspout connection.  I have calls into the stair builder / excavator as well as my water supply guy to come out and take a look.  I don’t think it’s a huge deal but I think we need to excavate the site and see what’s up.

We got some water inside but it’s not a lot and it forced my hand in cleaning up that corner of the basement anyway.  It’s just frustrating that I had to delay what I was supposed to get accomplished tonight and deal with yet another surprise.  Now in all fairness some things have worked out well.  The shower curtain rod install and my desk install for two examples.  But man, it seems like all these little constant issues wear me out.  I know a lot of it has to do with my OCD, virgo, INTJ like personality.  I really need to get shit off my “to do” list for the world to be really happy.

What I need to do though, instead of worrying about all this crap, is to drill back down to the core of what really means the most in this world.  If we didn’t have water coming in the basement today, then it’d just mean something else would be amiss.  Like the wheelbarrow tire still wouldn’t hold air (incidentally it still doesn’t) which negates my ability to spread the rest of the mulch in preparation for Thursday’s playset delivery.  And if the tire had air some other bullshit thing would be wrong.  Point is it’s never right, and never will be.

Not surprisingly all it takes is a three-year old to show a mixed up, emotionally worn out old man how to prioritize what’s important in life.

Really, water in the basement doesn’t matter.  The cluttered garage and unfinished garden beds don’t matter.  Watching the news, updating Facebook (or this blog), debating politics or sports, does not matter.  And really there’s a lot of “big stuff” that doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things either.  I am neither a brain surgeon or rocket scientist – stressing out about my career and work does not matter. The stock market doesn’t matter, what shade of brown is hot right now doesn’t matter, the fact that I like drinking Bud Light Limes and watching Million Dollar Listing LA doesn’t matter.  Whether I worship in the quiet of god’s nature beneath a tree or in some fancy church….does not matter in the grand scheme of things. Biologically speaking fresh clean water, nutritious food, and clean air DO matter.

Beyond that not much does matter frankly.

Except there are other things that do matter.  Happiness matters.  And memories matter too.  Freedom, nature and creativity?  Yep.  Optimism is really important so add it to the list.

As I sat down to write this post, (on this no plot blog (with like two regular readers…. (killing baby seals would be more socially productive but I digress))), my boy gleefully hopped over to me, and, in his stuttering mind-thinking-faster-than-his-mouth-can-move way blurted out a long dissertation on how he thought his daddy was in the bathroom brushing his teeth and instead he found said daddy to be agreeably seated at the desk working on the computer and he was so surprised.  He then proceeded to talk about how he was going to bed and I asked him for a real big hug and he even gave me an unsolicited smooch on the cheek.  He then proposed that mommy really needed a kiss and at least two hugs.  So he hopped over, only as a three-year old is capable, and proceeded to attack her with hugs and kisses as she tried to close up windows.

I know very little but I freaking guarantee that this scenario has played itself out in one form or another over a hundred billion times and really it’s the only thing that matters.  One little kid, for one little moment possesses all that is right in the world, all that is perfect and optimistic and rewarding.  He holds that in the charm and fire that only a little kid posses.  In that gleam of the eye, it’s like looking at a super nova of what matters condensed onto the head of a pin.  Are freaking kidding me that you could conjure one god damned thing that trumps that?  Look there are no absolutes in life and very little is black and white.  On the scale of what matters most, in the simplest of terms, that essence ranks near the top of the list.  If you’re a good parent, or even a misguided decent one I’m pretty sure you get it.

But you don’t have to be a parent to understand.  My guess is you already know deep down inside what matters.  What is right and wrong.  What is really is important.

Look I’m not saying shirk your responsibilities under the guise of “it’s not important.  Chris told me so, so I’m going to buy a twelve pack of Bud Light Limes and watch cable all day in my underwear with a stuffed animal….”  (oops).

But do me a favor.  Do us all a favor.  Take the time to think about what really matters.  Life is way to god damned finite and short.  We only get one shot this side of the horizon.

For me I’ll spend the next few years of it in futility trying to bottle the antics and smiles of a couple little blonde kids as they turn my house into a home (and my brown hair grey).  And I’ll continue to work on wearing many hats in support of my wife, from being a cheerleader, to a shoulder to cry on, to the conjurer of smiles; but most importantly I will work on not being dismal and overbearing (twelve years into her training program and I’m showing very little progress). Beyond that I’ll pet my cat in the morning when she asks, for someday when she is gone I know I’d gladly pay a king’s ransom to have her underfoot again. There are other things that fundamentally matter, at least to me…….Saturday mornings are up on the list…….as well as a handful of other stuff.  You get the point I suppose.

Regardless you won’t find sharing my ideology (other than the afore-written dissertation above), theology, politics, or work philosophy on my list of what matters.  Sure I’ll freely give them but they don’t matter in the end.  They only provide thought-provoking conversation when we’ve run out of people to talk about.

Think about what matters most for you.  Dream. Live. Remember. Share. Treat others kindly.


The other stuff?  Well its just water in the basement or a flat wheelbarrow tire.  No big deal.

Nickel Tour

For about a week now I’ve been knocked out of commission with what turned out to be a nasty case of poison ivy.  A lot of work on the new house has gotten done but not because of anything I’ve done.

By Tuesday I was unable to goto work, choosing instead to work from home in my shorts and easy access calamine lotion.  I had transplanted two trees from the play area earlier in the week and all the mulch was delivered on Monday but after each long day of work I was too swollen and itchy to continue work on the play area.

We had workers come in this past week and wrap up some loose ends and fix some things around the place.  The guys over at Paul Fike Builders made quick and courteous work of our “to do” list.  They are the same guys who finished the carpentry on our porches.  On the docket this week, all of which are now off my “stressing the holy bejesus out of me” list, included items like moving the fireplace thermostat, installing a plug-in the upstairs hallway, flipping the switches in the front hallway, and lo and behold the garage spotlights now work!  A special shout out to Ken for catching me when I fell off the 6′ ladder trying to get access into the attic.  I caught myself like a cat in the ceiling opening but Ken leapt into action and snagged my legs to provide me with support until he and my wife could get the ladder back underfoot.  He also cleaned up the garage attic window without me asking. Nice guy.  Another note, these guys clean up after themselves, take off their shoes or put shoe covers on…..really quality friendly customer service.  More trades should be like these guys.  I highly recommend them for any of your new home or remodeling needs.

It’s good to have many of our electrical anomalies fixed.  The guys figured out the original electricians never connected the wires for the spot lights out at the garage.  Thank god this was a cheap simple fix.  I had visions of rewiring the lights and drilling holes in the house.  In the front hall they quickly switched a pair of switches that were inexplicably wired opposite to what your intuition would think they’d be wired.  Upstairs we added an outlet outside the bathroom wall so our “Mexico” bureau could have two lamps placed on it.  This outlet is why the electrician had to go into the attic (which was preluded by my deft acrobatics on the 6′ ladder).  He was able to pull power from a junction box in the attic (a pull chain light) and drop it down the wall.  Finally it took some time but they were able to relocate the fireplace thermostat from above the tv to a friendlier spot by some light switches near the kitchen.

Wednesday we had the pleasure of hosting our architect over to the house for dinner and some wine.  This was Joe’s first visit to the house since its (relative) completion.  We had just such a wonderful relaxing evening touring the house and property, talking about home building, sustainability, energy efficiency and life in general.  The house is a great work of art in my opinion and the artist seemed pleased with his work.  One interesting thing we talked about was the location of the orchard.  We’re on the fence as its planned location would potentially degrade one of the more interesting view points of the outside of the structure.  I’m stricken with delight by how different the house looks from various angles.  A walk around the outside of the house from several certain vantage points should be requisite of any tour I give but I think most people don’t care that much.  But I delight in this aspect of the tour every time I find myself wandering our land.  We walked the property at dusk which added to the interest and aesthetic beauty of the home.

We hosted several other tours over the weekend as well.  Mr. James (our little guy) handled the last tour so that was a special treat for all involved.  Our three-year old tour guide took the guests on a joyfully random romp around the house including all the spots that mom and dad usually leave off the tour route – basement filled with a hoarders worth of junk and my garage filled with cardboard waiting to be recycled.  I’ve decided maybe he should lead the tour more often.  Guests probably would enjoy them more with him as guide vs. my predictable, methodic route and routine.

As for the play area, I hired my nephew to relocate the remaining two scrub trees, level out the area and spreading playground mulch.  He did  a great job, and the world is much better served with him breaking his fourteen year old back instead of me breaking my thirty something year old back.  His eight hours of work freed me up to work on my golf game Saturday morning.  I impressed myself with an 89 which for me is pretty good.  Win, win for all involved.

Alas though my “to-do” list is still very long.  I picked up the last cabinet for upstairs so the wife is demanding that I complete her wall of cabinets in her studio.  My goal is to have these installed by the end of this Sunday.  This will free up a ton of space in the garage and organize a ton of junk in the house.  I’m a little timid going into it but if I take my time it should be fine.  I did a nice job in my office so this should be fine.  Outside I may take things into my own hands and start caulking all the porch woodwork that was recently put up.  After that we can maybe paint and ultimately I can get my screens up on the porch just in time for the last month of Summer 2012.  We’ll see.

Okay, I’m done for tonight.  Sorry I’ve been so lax with my blog entries, the poison ivy really knocked me out but now we’re back in business.

Daphne loves her 10″ window sills. All houses should have window sills this deep!

Something dug up our lilac bushes. I have no idea, I suspect a skunk. We replanted and watered and spread that pepper like stuff from the garden center to detour animals.


Here are the cabinet latches they installed on the hall closet doors. They work well and are simple.



Upstairs hall looks a lot different now with the doors installed. The goal here is to have a gallery wall with hidden closet storage behind. I have to pick up some wood knobs for the doors.

Installing A New Laminated Desk Countertop

I have specifically titled this entry “Installing A New Laminated Desk Countertop” on the off-chance it would help someone out there Googling this sort of thing.  For I could not find one worthwhile article out there to tell me how to install a laminate countertop, let alone installing one in the desk configuration I had tasked myself with this morning.  A couple of articles came close but they all basically said after removing old counter top install new one using old screw holes as a guide.  Well #1 – my counter is new, #2 – my counter has only one little cabinet on one end, and #3 my cabinet seemingly had no means by which to secure it to the countertop.  The counter was fabricated by a third-party that Lowes uses.  This particular desk counter was a solid 1-1/2″ of particle board with no apparent means to secure it except screw straight up into it from below.So I went to Lowes after church today and picked up some Stanley “L” brackets as well as, one each of a two foot and four-foot 1×2 poplar boards.  I figured god helps those who help themselves so I’d figure it out on my own.

I made a level line on the wall, even with the top of the cabinet. I also marked out all of the studs.

I leveled out a line where the bottom of the counter would go.  I then took my 1×2’s and mitered the ends where they’d meet.  I also mitered the end of the 18″ one that was to along the wing wall.  The idea is to attach these to the walls and they’d support the counter.  I predrilled everything….both the holes through the boards to attach them to the studs in the walls, and the holes that the screws for the countertop would pass through.

Predrilling and even preinstalling 2″ cabinet screws. through the flat side of the board to attach to wall. Through the skinny side of the board for the screws to attach the counter from below. Bonus points for countersinking.

I then attached the board to the wall.  Next I install some simple “L” brackets into the top rails of the base cabinet.  I’m not sure how else you’d secure the counter without using these “L” brackets.  The rails are thin but the screws that came with the brackets were only about 1/2″ so they didn’t pass through the front rails.  I put two brackets up front and one in the back.  When drilling the pilot holes, I put some tape on the drill bit to indicate how deep I could drill.  This way I drilled far enough to make installing the screws a piece of cake, but not too far that I passed through the cabinet face.

Wood supports in place.







L brackets in place.


Once all the brackets were in place, the wife helped me hoist the 4′ wide countertop in place.  For whatever reason it fit like a charm.  Not sure what I did but the house gods gave me a little love today.  I then secured the cabinet from below using 2-1/2″ screws in the wood support rails and 1″ screws through the cabinet brackets.  The desk is now complete and looks great.  Best of all I have a place for my desktop computer and half of our “office” is complete.  This little nook is the perfect space and saved us money by allowing us to avoid dedicating one single room to being an office.  We can easily drop off mail, send emails, etc. from this one convenient little nook.

Detail of desk countertop secured from below.

completed office nook, I made this all by myself.

In the yard we’ve been busy getting ready for the new swingset.  I’ve spent the last few days clearing out a small area for the playset to go.  Originally the plan was for a 30′ x 30′ play area but this encroached too far into our preservation area so it’ll be more like 30′ wide and 20′ deep.  It will also be angled slightly differently to accommodate the natural terrain.  None the less I’ve had a lot of brush to clear and land to level by hand. In the process of weed whacking I tangled with poison ivy so now my legs are covered in an itchy red rash.  If that wasn’t enough I got it on my arms too.  This sucks.  I’ve put cream and lotions on and they help, but I couldn’t help but scratch it like crazy this morning in the Giant Eagle parking lot and it felt downright orgasmic.  I will not survive a couple more weeks with this rash.  Help me.

Area being cleared for playset.









The playset area had some nice baby trees in it.  The guy from the playset sales office came out and laid out the location with flags so I’d know what to clear and how we could incorporate one of the little trees so I wouldn’t have to cut it down.  Unfortunately four other scrub trees would have to come down.  I decided to take a stab at moving them.  Wow, that’s the hardest I’ve ever worked.  I’ve moved two so far, one of which was a thorny little guy that any normal person would have chopped down.  I’ll get the other two in the coming week.  Random chest pains forced me to quit while I was ahead.

Thorny baby tree I transplanted.

I’m having some playground mulch delivered this week.  I’ll lay down about 5″ of it uniformly throughout the playset area.  The guys will then just build the set right on top of it.  Looking forward to the set.  We didn’t plan on getting it right away but the boys will love sliding and swinging.  Best to get it now while they are still young. And to prove I’m not a complete monster nor completely lazy, I’ll tell you what I woke up to.  Finally I’d gotten fast asleep despite my poison ivy.  The alarm rang too early for a Sunday so I dragged my ass out of bed, put in my contacts and looked out my window as I love to do in the morning.  There was a bird skating along the mesh fence around the raspberry bushes.  Back and forth he’d go.  I was wondering what he was up to….then it dawned on me.

Ugh.  I went and begrudgingly put on my shoes.  Opening the door to the pleasant morning air I walked across the porch, then down and around the corner.  Across the yard I trekked to find myself standing in front of my little feathered friend eyeing me.

“Seriously?” I said aloud.

He looked up at me, batting his glossy black eyes.

Shaking my head I grabbed the top of the appropriately named bird netting and wrestled it from the pronged stakes holding it in place. My friend skated back and forth as he had been for the last twenty minutes.  Eyeing me the whole time, his little feathers tossing this way and that….his disposition bordering half on fear the other half on embarrassment.

“Relax.” I said, slightly put out.

Chrip.  Chrip.  I release a foot more of the net fence.  Chirp.

He skates to the far end not so gracefully, his grey feathers all in a fluff.  All the grace he commands in the air is totally lost; tangled in this net.

“Alright…” I encourage him as the last of the fence is released.

His face is perplexed and he sideways glances at me towering six feet above his small grey body.


Lifting the netting, nearly dumping him on his little bird ass he finally tastes his freedom and hops out.  His wings catch air before his feet ever touch the ground.  In a moment he rockets forward toward the small thorny tree I’d transplanted the day before and finds unlikely relief in its thorny branches before jetting onward; probably too embarrassed to hang out with his friends any time soon.

I saved a bird today.

Okay, okay the last bit is an embellishment, he didn’t fly to my transplant tree, which was twenty feet over my shoulder.   But I did save him and he did fly quite gracefully to a nearby tree. Life’s funny I guess.  If I hadn’t gotten up and looked out my window this morning and watched that bird fly into that fence and observed his futile attempts to get out who knows what would have happened.  I’m too damned busy and too damned itchy to contemplate what this says about our world, but there is something there, I’m sure of it.  And there’s one small grey bird who’s thrilled that I came around at 7:30 on a Sunday morning.

There’s a couple handfuls of things I’ve done that I think are pretty cool….and they are things that most other people wouldn’t even consider noteworthy.  For me though I guess I’m just wired differently.  My bird moment was pretty cool.  Transplanting a thorny “throw away” tree ain’t too bad either.

Here’s to all the truly “cool” stuff you do in your life.

L-Shaped Shower Curtain Rod Installation

Today I installed an L-shaped shower curtain rod in the boys bathroom.  Because we have a cap cod style second floor, the full bath in the boys bathroom has a slanted ceiling.  Thus I can’t install a straight shower curtain rod.

We purchased our Barclay L-Shaped Shower Curtain Rod on

Below is the step by step pics for our install.  It was fairly easy and the shower curtain rod is rock solid.  I wouldn’t do pull ups on it but it will be fine for a bathroom shower curtain.  Tool wise I used a drill, laser level, pencil, masking tape, and I got a cool package of wall anchors from Lowes.  The Cobra brand anchors included a 5/16″ drill bit that was designed to go through ceramic tiles.  I did check YouTube to make sure I knew how to drill though tile.  Some of my holes were close to the edge of the tiles but I can safely report that none of the tiles broke thank god.  Masking tape is the key to starting the drill holes…yay for YouTube.

Before I get to the pics and install notes, I did use stone sealer on the cement counter in the half bath.  Regular hand soap was leaving rings in the counter.  Turns out I couldn’t really wash out the rings, so after using the sealer the rings are a permanent fixture of the counter.  I wish I’d known about this before we started using the counters or our fabricator would have sealed the cement countertop.  I also used the sealer on the marble tops on our Kohlers bath cabinets in the master suite as well.

Ok, onto the shower curtain rod install.  Some other notes, I caulked the drill holes before installing the anchors, then caulked again after the anchors where in.  I also caulked the brackets as best I can.  All this caulking will help eliminate air and water penetration into the wall cavities behind the shower.  Also the shower rod comes with an 18″ support rod that you’d normally mount to the ceiling in the corner of the “L”.  In our case we have our 12/12 ceiling at the far end of the “L”.  I actually cut down that rod, well into the threads and essentially only had one inch of the 18″ rod left that I needed.  It worked out fine but was probably an extreme situation.

Overall the shower rod was rock solid and the install was fairly easy, though it did take me over an hour….I was taking my time.

Gone Fishing and Screen Porch Progress

I’ve been on vacation fishing the last week.  It was a good trip and difficult to return home to my chore list and the day job.  Our Amish carpenters have been slowly making progress on the porch project.  As of today the back screen porch is done and all the steps are done.  All that is left to do is reskin the front columns, making them the proper ten inch profile.

Overall everything looks nice.  It’s not exactly as I had hoped but once it’s painted I’m sure no one, myself included will care too much.  We’ll paint all the trim white and the horizontal surfaces will be a charcoal colored translucent stain.  There are a lot of seams so the painters will have much to caulk as well.  I need to order our screen door and Screentight system next.

Now that I’m back home I can jump back on my cabinet installation project upstairs in the studio.  Also I need to change the water filter again.  The water pressure has dropped again. We’re looking into options for treating the water because this current set up has dismal water pressure, especially when the filter gets “old”.  So far I’m not liking many of my options.

Fishing wise we went to Wollaston Lake Lodge in northern Saskatchewan in Canada.  I was able to land a trophy fish each of my four days there, with my largest being a 44″ pike and a 43.5″ pike on the fly.  Thanks to my brother-in-law for letting me borrow his fly rod.  The weather was generally good up there and I ate and drank too much as usual so there’s that. If you are into world-class fishing, check out the crew up there at the lodge.  They run a great outfit, well worth every cent paid.