5 Green Holiday Tips

Today we went out and got our Christmas tree. It was a beautiful day and the tree farm just opened up yesterday. I hooked up the trailer and we piled into the RAV4 and headed on down to the farm. They were busy at Shawnee Trail Tree Farm. I asked the helpful gentleman working there if the had any live trees and he said they had live trees all over the place…I clarified asking “do you have any live trees, like, you’d plant in the ground?

Oh, yeah over here. You’re the first person to ask.” He walked over with us revealing three long rows of trees with their roots in “ball” form, wrapped in burlap. I was a bit disappointed we were the first ones to ask. With so many people I had hoped more would be interested in this earth-friendly alternative to cut live trees. The family and I spent about 15 minutes examining our options, there were plenty to choose from and after a few moments of deliberation we picked out a nice pine tree, not sure what kind, but it looks to be a spruce of some sort.  It looks just like the one we got last year, though a little taller and larger.

Our real live Christmas tree waiting in the "holding area" by the swing set, just outside the back window where we can see it. I'll put lights on it soon and we can enjoy it outside until the week before Christmas when we'll bring it into the Family Room.

Our real live Christmas tree waiting in the “holding area” by the swing set, just outside the back window where we can see it. I’ll put lights on it soon and we can enjoy it outside until the week before Christmas when we’ll bring it into the Family Room.

As you may recall, I pre-dug a hole not far from where last year’s tree is, just off the driveway. Since the new tree is alive, it’s important to have somewhere to plant it after the egg-nog wears off the week after Christmas. The ground could be frozen so digging the hole ahead of time is paramount. Also I dug a temp hole, or rather a shallow depression with a mound of dirt around it, to stage the tree in before Christmas so we can enjoy it, lights and all, until we bring it inside. The live tree comes inside about a week before the big day. We place it in a bucket and that’s about it. We don’t even water it because it’s only inside for about 1-2 weeks. Then the tree is transferred to the pre-dug hole where it will live and grow.

So this got me thinking, what are some ideas for living a “greener” holiday, that anyone can try?  Here are five tips I’d like to share with you. They aren’t that difficult and don’t cost anymore than their not-so-green alternatives.

1) Buy a living tree that you can plant after the holiday

You have three options when it comes to holiday trees: 1) artificial, 2) cut, previously alive and 3) live. This is our second year getting a live tree with bur lapped root ball for our “main” tree and we’re hooked. Our 6’+ tree cost $45 this year which is a bargain compared to live trees you’d buy in the Spring or Fall at a garden center. Our local tree farm offers three varieties including Norway and blue spruce, so we don’t have to get the same type of tree every year if we don’t want to. Then when the holiday is over, we have a new tree to add to our landscape that we can treasure for decades to come. We even celebrate previous year’s trees by decorating them with lights…so if you spot an evergreen tree in the yard with lights, you’ll know it’s one of our past Christmas trees.

If you’re still stuck on the other two types of holiday trees, we have a few artificial trees we put up elsewhere in the house in fact, there are ways to be more sustainable with those too. For artificial trees, look for ones that are well made and made in America if possible. Look for trees that are not pre-lit. While it’s more work, you won’t feel compelled to throw out the tree if the lights don’t operate anymore. As for cut trees, don’t feel like they aren’t sustainable either, they are typically grown on local family farms and visiting with the whole family to cut a tree down, builds strong family memories. Look for farms that grow their trees organically. This will keep chemicals out of your Living Room and the environment. Don’t be afraid to ask the farmer, and shop elsewhere if they use pesticides. When the holidays are over chip the tree up and compost it, or cut it up to create ground cover for small animals on the perimeter of your property. One other option is to tie it to a cinder block and submerge the tree to create a small reef for pan fish in your lake or pond. Do not burn your tree in the fireplace as this is bad for your chimney (you’ll burn your house down kid!).

2) Buy LED holiday lights

LED lights are easy to find the store these days, and you’re no longer limited to cool white (bluish) colored lights. Pick what you like: warm white, cool white, or color lights and go wild inside and outside. You can even purchase solar-powered lights that don’t require a cord. For us, these are perfect for our previous year Christmas trees planted in the woods, far from an outlet. The cost is coming down on LED’s. Some of that added cost is offset with lower electricity bills because they use a lot less power than traditional incandescent bulbs. For me though, the biggest selling point is that LED’s don’t burn out as quickly which means I’m not chasing burnt out bulbs. If you have multiple strands of lights, regardless of type, try to buy all the same kind so you can interchange the bulbs when they do burn out, ultimately putting all the burnt bulbs on one strand and salvaging the others. Home Depot recycles holiday lights and even has a coupon program good towards the purchase of new lights at their stores.  Don’t throw old light strings in the trash, recycle them.

3) Give “consumable” gifts

Most of us have enough “stuff” as it is, and if we don’t, we typically just go out and buy it for ourselves anyway.  We just bought a new coffee maker on Black Friday, for ourselves, for example. Also, as we get older, the physical things that would make our wish list typically cost more than anyone would be willing to spend on us, (yes a new Lexus hybrid would look incredible in my driveway by the way). So, why not focus on what I call “consumable” gifts. Items that don’t end up sitting in a cupboard with dust on them after 6 months, such as food, wine, or gift cards. Also tickets to events or even the movies are great because they get people out of the house, and typically result in experiences that they’ll remember throughout the year. Many of these items help support the local economy, or can support enterprises that are environmentally sustainable – e.g. wine from a local green winery, tickets to the theater downtown or join your recipient for a day at the spa. Typically these are things that people wouldn’t buy for themselves anyway. The possibilities are endless and most likely are more thoughtful or personal than a random item off of a list….(of course if you want to buy me a lease on that hybrid, I’m fine with that too). Another option is to donate money to a charity in the recipient’s name, but we’d include something special for the recipient too. Don’t just give to charity and call it a gift. For example donate to the zoo, but the also treat them to a fun day at the zoo. Or maybe treat them to a round of golf, and make a donation to the Arbor Day Foundation in honor of all the time they spend looking for their golf balls in the woods.

4) Give personal gifts

If you must give a physical thing, why not make it personal. Make something. Even if you’re not “artsy“, we all have a pile of photos sitting in our phones and digital cameras. Put together a photo album (or DVD, flash drive or something in the “cloud”) with pictures the person would love, and appreciate finally being accessible outside some camera in a drawer. Find an eco-friendly frame and print out a quirky photo from your last vacation together or a picture of a treasured loved one. If you really want to go nuts, learn a new hobby or skill and share the fruits of your labor with others this holiday season….make them a four course meal, give them some home-made brew or sew them organic fabric hand warmers. We’re all creative in our own way, and I guarantee they’ll love your gift. Another option is to give the gift of your time. Catch up with an old friend, or go fishing with a relative, or take your parents out to dinner. Put the phone down and play with your kids or take your spouse out on a date. All of these cost virtually nothing and are more valuable than anything you’ll find in a store.

5) Take a deep breath

This is more of a social and mental gift, but this time of year is crazy. It’s a natural time of resetting; an end and new beginning. Help yourself, and the world around you, by taking a deep breath. Find time to be alone and think of all you have to be thankful for. Think of everything that you would miss if it weren’t in your life, or in the world….kids, family, friends, pets, big cats, starfish, people who look different from you…fresh air, clean water, and food….a diverse and colorful world out there…the list is essentially infinite. Resolve to see what you can do in the coming year to make sure future generations have just as much bounty, and freedom, as you and I have been blessed with. Then go out there and share your love with others. Tell them, show them, how much you appreciate them; friends and strangers, alike. Take the high road when you can….let that guy have that parking spot, or find a mental diversion while that lady in line ahead of you tries to make using coupons look like quantum physics. And be aware, life with you isn’t always roses and rainbows. Take a deep breath. Admit that life isn’t perfect. Know that you are not perfect. Make life easier and more enjoyable for others. We only get one shot at this, and we’re only here temporarily. We don’t truly own anything, eventually it all turns back into dust. Don’t spend precious time tricking yourself to think otherwise. You can basically count on one hand that which is eternal and truly matters. Be kind and gentle. Be giving. Be open. Love. Live.

Stop waiting.

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Kittens and Coat Rack

The day after Thanksgiving finds us relaxing at home. On Monday our family got a little bigger with the addition of these cute little girls.

Sleeping cats.

Sleeping cats.

Daisy.

Daisy.

Dixie.

Dixie.

Awe, how could you resist.

Awe, how could you resist.

We picked up two kittens from my niece. Being a holiday week we can’t get them into the vet until this coming Monday. So we’re doing the best we can to sequester everyone, or more specifically keeping the kittens away from Daphne. We need to find out if the new cats have any diseases so that means keeping the cats separated until they go to the doctor. Keeping them out of the rest of the house isn’t easy of course. Four days into life here on the ranch and they’ve already broken down our defenses, a gate put up in the kitchen.

It’s a lot easier to relax with a cat on your lap. Friday was pretty much a waste for me, but it was a good opportunity to relax and not work. The day found me doing my Christmas shopping online, while the wife went out to stores.

One thing that has been added to my “to do” list is fixing the front hall coat rack. The in-laws promptly ripped it off the wall upon their arrival for Thanksgiving dinner yesterday. The metal screw anchors ripped giant holes in the drywall….way too many coats on the rack…it was no surprise to me, and no fault of anyone. I thought the design was suspect and the way people around here load shit up it’s no wonder it fell off. My plan is to mount a 1×6 or 1×8 on the wall, screwing that into the wall, and then screw the coat rack onto that. That should make it super secure.

Where the coat hooks used to hang on the wall.

Where the coat hooks used to hang on the wall.

Everyone is enjoying the holiday weekend and the kittens are enjoying their new home. Hopefully all will check out fine with them on Monday.

This is my 300th post on the blog. It’s been a remarkable two and a half years. Not surprisingly a lot has change in a relatively short amount of time. Life here has become less about building and decorating and more about enjoying the house, land and life. I have nothing monumental to say.  Maybe monumental thoughts are for people with more time or energy than I have. Maybe you just get tired of thinking. Right now I’m just living and surviving; more inclined to pet a cat than try to figure life out or derive some sort of meaning from it.

Studio Decorating and Ottoman Storage Boxes

Today was kind of a waste. Frigid cold outside kept us inside. Being the indecisive twit that I am, I spent most of my Sunday arranging pictures on the wall of my studio. First off I hung up my mounted deer head, much to the chagrin of my wife, but I wanted it up in my studio. It had been sitting in the basement with all the other junk for some time now; in fact even at the old house it had been in storage when my office got turned into the nursery. It looks nice in the reading nook of my studio, and generally speaking only I can see it on any given day; which is to say it is not in plain sight of the general public, ‘less one looks though the porch window.

My deer head finally has a home, three years in storage.

My deer head finally has a home, three years in storage.

I then spent the better part of the day turning the simple task of hanging a collage of pictures on the wall into an act of great labor and internal mental strife.  Just after lunch I had this, which was good except a lot of pictures didn’t make it on the wall:

The studio wall hallway through today.

The studio wall hallway through today.

So I decided “what the hell” and put more pictures up until I arrived at this, which is how it looks now:

The studio wall in its current state with my memorabilia on the wall. There is still more to come or rather not all of it is on the wall.

The studio wall in its current state with my memorabilia on the wall. There is still more to come or rather not all of it is on the wall.

I don’t know if it’s good or bad. I still have more pictures to put up, but not too many.  I also have a mounted fish to hang above the door. I don’t know if guests will be taken aback by it all or not. I probably don’t really care. It’s my studio. I can do what I want, even if it meant to be for public consumption on an invited case by case basis.

This afternoon and evening I made three storage ottomans per the wife’s request. The lids come off so you can store crap inside, and put your feet up when not accessing your crap. I had the sheet of 3/4″ cabinet grade plywood sitting in the garage since July. I was able to cut all three 14″ x 14″ x 16″ units from one sheet, using the guidelines here on the sawdustgirl.com website. A glued, nailed and screwed everything together. I like that “Saw Dust Girl” recommends Spax screws, which I would have used anyway as they are the best wood screws known to mankind. The assembled ottomans look like this, waiting for the spousal unit to put fabric around them:

I made these nifty ottomans today out of a sheet of 3/4" cabinet grade plywood.

I made these nifty ottomans today out of a sheet of 3/4″ cabinet grade plywood.

I also took the time to put the last few pieces of trim and the two missing floor boards down in my office area. Some caulk and paint and the studio will be done, save for the track lighting, rug and my TBD conference table / chair solution.

Well tomorrow starts a new work week. Maybe I’ll start taking my redecorated studio for a test drive…painting, drawing or whatnot.  Hope your week starts off in grand fashion.

 

-Chris

 

Studio Decor And Half Bath Wallpaper

I’ve been steadily moving back into my studio. I’ve filled most of the shelves with my books, magazines and knick knacks.  With the help of the wife, I think we unloaded about a dozen boxes from the basement. While this isn’t much it does start to make a dent. I had been keeping all of my old car magazines, and now I have a fairly complete set of ‘Automobile’ and ‘Car & Driver’ issues form the last two and a half decades. I put a special set of ‘Road & Track’ issues in my reading nook, to look at next time I have some free time.  It was really nice to finally get these out of the box after so many years. I love looking at all of the cars from the 80’s and 90’s as well as the ads. Kind of like a time machine to escape from the realities of contemporary times. Even if it’s just for the turn of a page or two.

The over all look of the studio is cluttered again, not really like the clean orderly rendering, but it’s functional and that’s all one can ask for really.  As time passes I can work on streamlining the organization here and there as I live with the space. The key is boxes are getting unpacked and treasures are seeing the light of day again.  I need to get a rug for my reading space, some track lighting above and hang memorabilia on the wall. As for a meeting space, I think it will be interesting to say the least. The room will probably have more self-indulgent mementos that I would have thought necessary – I abhor going into offices that are temples to their owners – but in fact that’s what my studio will be most likely, if only because I have all this stuff that 1) I hate to throw out, and 2) the artifacts reflect my journey and share the story of who I am after 40 years. While I am not defined by the things around me, I am a visual person; maybe through the viewing of the artifacts we keep around us, one can glean more meaning of who the person is.

Yesterday we had the half bath wallpapered. It looks fantastic. The floral pattern makes us feel like grown-ups, or at least I do. We’ve never had wallpaper before, nor have we ever had a finished half bath in all of our years. The paper adds a touch of visual texture, and whimsy; which is a nice surprise in an otherwise subdued contemporary interior.  The only down side is that now my striped painting doesn’t fit in anymore in the front hall. We definitely need a large painting or pair of paintings there, just not stripes that clash with the floral pattern. If anyone wants to buy the stripe painting I’d love to sell it. Otherwise I think it will go in the basement when we finish that off.

Let us know what you think about the wallpaper.

Power Outage

It’s been kind of crazy 48 hours or so. Not like end of the world crazy but the twisty part of the roller coaster crazy.  Sunday I spent the morning getting shelf supports for the adjustable shelves in my studio, and installing them. I was very excited to get the shelves all set so I could start loading them up with books and other items that have been in boxes for some time. I went with 1/4″ spoon-shaped supports. All the variations of 5mm I had bought were too loose in the adjustable holes.

The two types of shelf supports I bought at Home Depot. I ended up using the 1/4" spoon shaped supports

The two types of shelf supports I bought at Home Depot. I ended up using the 1/4″ spoon shaped supports

Once that was complete I went back to painting shelves and cabinets for / in the kitchen. The coffee cabinet doesn’t look good in black so I had a good alternative idea. Build two doors for to cover the entire set of cabinets, and finish them in the same walnut laminate. Then it will look like we just pushed that cabinet back, punctuating the existing orange cabinet “core” imagery.  It’ll be nice, I’ll show you when it’s done.

The afternoon found the wife, boys and I back on the road attempting to make a final call on the new plates. We packed up all our new Pottery Barn plates and drove up to the east side. We ended up stopping at Pier 1, William Sonoma and back to Pottery Barn. We compared our Gabriella pattern that we had already bought to the only other PB pattern we liked, Cambria. Well despite our uncertainty at home, the original set we bought felt the most “right”, despite the really deep dishes. The Cambria was even wider, and though it was shallower, we didn’t like it as much.

Our new dish on the left, the, shallower and wider, runner up on right at Pottery Barn.

Our new dish on the left, the, shallower and wider, runner-up on right at Pottery Barn.

Wife: “See, here in the store the [Gabriella] plate doesn’t seem too deep. I like it better than the other one and I think we’ll get used to it. We should just stick with that. What do you think?”

Me: “I agree. And it’s different from what we’ve had in the past. We’ll just have to adjust our lifestyle. Start waxing [body parts] and eating mussels over vermicelli more often.”

So with that the plate decision is over. We picked up a salt & pepper set as well as a creamer and sugar vessel to match. All ready for holiday dinner parties, and Sunday night Mr. Chicken take out.

Back home I made decent progress moving into my “new” studio.  I unpacked a few books and found spots for magazines, painting supplies and “stuff to be sorted later”. As a line of storms passed outside I curled up on the couch to watch TV. Since getting hooked last week, I’m two episodes into “The Good Wife” on CBS; discovered when the television was left on for five minutes too long after “The Amazing Race”. This along with my wild desire to trade my car in for a minivan have me worried about my ability to make sound decisions. Mid-life crises are not to be taken lightly and manifest themselves in all sorts of ways. Mine is going on year four I think, with no end in sight.

I retired dead tired at eleven. Only to be awoken by various things beeping and flashing on and off. I lay in bed, sleepy-eyed, not sure I understood what was happening. Then I figured it out.

The power was out.

And there was a weird alarm or buzz going sounding from somewhere.

“What the hell is that sound?”

Well turns out it was coming from the sump pump. More specifically the battery back up for the sump pump. The little “low battery power” light was on. Luckily the instructions were still under the unit, where they sat since installation almost two years ago. So by LED flashlight I read and re-read the instructions. As best I can tell the batteries were shot and with no AC power the buzzer went off.

The wife and I weighed our options. If the sump pump wasn’t able to work then it was only a matter of time until the basement started flooding. And with that ruining a few decades of crap that we have stored in our basement. “Hmmmm.”  After some time I finally woke up a little more and figured, well my only choice is to get the pump running again and doing its job. Moving all that crap was not an option. And there was no way to tell when the power would come back on. By the way I have given some serious thought to getting a whole house backup generator so I don’t have to deal with this crap. Invariably these emergencies always happen on Sunday night. Oh, and another thing, it’s my fault I didn’t check the battery, but 1) why doesn’t the thing chirp or something to tell me the batteries are low before the power goes out, and 2) why does the alarm have to sound the entire time the power is out?  Once again, decent product poorly designed because human factors are not taken into consideration. Frankly someday I’d like to have a master “dashboard” for the house so I can check ALL the systems at a glance and not have to remember if I checked this or that. Systems need to be designed, built and distributed for lazy guys like me. Fortunately for me (yes, patting the wife and I on the back) we were willing to take a stab at fixing the problem; after all it was Sunday night and there isn’t anyone to call when your sump pump goes down as far as I know.

Ok, I’m going to Walmart” I announced. The instructions and the current batteries gave me enough info to figure I could basically buy two marine batteries and replace the old ones with them.  The wife held down the fort as I departed the driveway at 12:07am, destination our 24-hr Walmart. Note, the lights were on everywhere but our handful of houses on Riverview.  Fate, god and all their friends hate me, I’m certain of it.

I’m always leery of what I’ll see at Walmart after midnight on a Sunday night [actually Monday morning]. It was dead save but a few people doing their weekly shopping at this time…so weird. I tried not to make eye contact. I didn’t have much luck until I saw the last section of batteries: “Ahhh…marine batteries“. I grabbed two 12V batteries whose markings seemed to approximate what I had left behind at home. Most importantly they had smaller threaded terminals which were critical for jumping the batteries together and connecting them to the power supply. I loaded my cart, paid for them and headed back home.

Buying marine batteries at 12:30am at Walmart. I passed on buying the santa sweater.

Buying marine batteries at 12:30am at Walmart. I passed on buying the santa sweater.

The Rabbit at Walmart at 12:30am on a Monday morning. There aren't many people shopping at WM this late on a "Sunday night" but I'm fairly suspicious of all of them.

The Rabbit at Walmart at 12:30am on a Monday morning. There aren’t many people shopping at WM this late on a “Sunday night” but I’m fairly suspicious of all of them.

Back home I grabbed a handful of wrenches and headed downstairs with the wife in tow. The instructions said to have a helper in case the batteries blow up and spray hydrochloric acid all over my face, hands and body. She was my assigned helper. Plus I guess the battery charging process produces toxic gas which can cause you to pass out and die. Once again, good to have a helper. I’m glad this set up is in my basement within cat licking distance.

I gingerly unhooked wires by flashlight, trying not to touch anything but the fasteners with my wrench. I even put on a small rubber glove, not really knowing if that would keep me from getting electrocuted to death. Thank god, disconnecting the wires made the high-pitched buzzing alarm stop. I removed the fuse and unplugged everything as well, not necessarily in that order by the way; refer to your instructions if you’re trying this at home. I then removed the old batteries, and delicately wiped up some “goo” in the bottom of the battery container.

Reversing the order of operation I put the two new batteries in the container, jumped them together then hooked up the positive and negative leads to the power supply.

“Crap!”

The freaking alarm started sounding again. Low battery light is on again. It’s 1:30am on a school night.

“What the f*ck?! These are new batteries.”

We looked at each other. I didn’t understand, does this mean the old batteries were fine? The new batteries weren’t fully charged? The low battery alarm goes off when battery power is below ~23V total.  I wanted to cry, scream and burn the house down all in the course of 30 seconds of thought. I went through everything in my mind. Then I had a thought but very little confidence in it.

I reinserted the fuse into the power supply.  Voila! The alarm stopped.

The old batteries. Positive and negative terminals, and one white jumper wire going from + to - in the foreground.

The old batteries. Positive and negative terminals, and one white jumper wire going from + to – in the foreground.

Here's the power supply for the sump pump, ready to be reconnected.

Here’s the power supply for the sump pump, ready to be reconnected.

By time I got back to bed I think it was 2am.  The power came back on at 2:30am.  Of course.  Oh well now we have new sump pump batteries. I should start checking them in the future. Oh the joys of home ownership when you’re a lazy homeowner like me.

Alright I’m going to bed. Business picked up a little this week so I’ll be busy again.

But for now I’m tired.  Stay tuned for more fun later this week.

Hovel

driveway-hovel

It’s four o’clock and I’m taking a break. Today has been mildly productive. It’s an unseasonably warm day so we took the opportunity to work on our bees a little bit. We opened up the hive and placed a couple of hive beetle traps inside for the winter. A while back we noticed a lone hive beetle scurrying about. Hopefully the traps, filled with cooking oil, will manage the beetles in the off-season. It was strange when we approached the hive because there were a ton of bees outside the hive flying in and out. I guess they figured it was a warm day so they should cram in as much work as possible, too. I even saw a few with the last remnants of pollen, taken from our otherwise drab, brown, lifeless fields.

To help protect the bees from harsh winter temperatures I cut up a 4×8 sheet of 2″ thick rigid insulation, forming a “box” that I will eventually place over the outside of the hive. I’m covering all six sides of the hive, and will leave a 3″ slit up front for the bees to get in and out. I used 2-1/2″ drywall screws to join the pieces of insulation.  I’m guessing that will be fine. Also I pounded in stakes every four feet, about ten feet away from the southwest corner of the hive to act as a wind break. The prevailing winds come from the southeast in that part of the north meadow, so I think this will help. Christine will span burlap from post to post before we get too much cold weather and snow. Once again, we’ll see how this worlds and adjust as necessary in the future. My theory is they are bees so they should be able to survive the winter without help. I also think that bee hives can probably be made differently or insulated better for year round protection. Why not employ passive solar techniques like the ones we use for our home. We bring the house up to temperature and the passive solar tactics keep the temperature there. I think it’s worth looking into for bee hives, at least from a design and experimentation perspective.  The example in nature I would think of would be an old rotted tree that bees naturally live in, with air spaces and plenty of insulating qualities; certainly better insulated than a wooden box.

While outside our son wasn’t having much luck “building a house” out of the lumber scraps in the driveway. So I begrudgingly grabbed my screw gun and the last of my outdoor screws (I’m an awful parent, my neurotic behavior makes me want to get my to do list done first so I can fully enjoy my family time – but my list will never be done so….cats n the cradle, blah, blah, blah). Putting my busy list aside, he and I worked together to construct a sad-looking hovel next to the driveway in about a half hour. We ran out of decent wood, and screws, but the end product looked good enough for a small boy with a big imagination. We even put a board on its side on a “window sill” to act as a place to rest a drink. It got me thinking, making a fort by just fasting random boards together assures that whatever you make has a home-made, eclectic quality that probably does wonders for the imagination, as opposed to planning everything out. I didn’t cut a single board or use any tool other than our hands, our eyes and the screw gun. We built it on the fly and I’m sure the results are all the better for it. I’m kind of thinking that when we go to do the “real” fort in the woods, next year hopefully, I may do something very similar. Maybe spend some more time on a solid framework but then after that just do whatever.  It gets the kids involved more with the design decisions, and makes quick work of the project, and the final product always will look like something you couldn’t have imagined.

Back inside, this afternoon, I finished clear coating the studio adjustable shelves. My advisor says I can probably start putting things away and not have to wait a full week for the poly to cure; just be careful to place items, not drag them. So maybe I’ll do that after I’m done writing.

I also started painting the last kitchen cabinet, the one above the coffee center. We’re painting it black. We shall see if we like it.

The wife has made huge progress whipping the house back into shape inside. And we also discussed the plates. I’m waffling so we’re going to go back out soon and see if we want to get something different. The new plates are too deep we feel. If we cooked like Martha Stewart every night making magazine quality food the plates would be perfect, but in reality serving tuna casserole on them would seem odd, even to us.  Something just as eclectic, just maybe a bit shallower.

So we are accomplishing things. And we are even finding it easy (and necessary) to say “time for a break” to ourselves, grabbing some random leftover supplies and making a fort (a shack is more like it) for a little boy to enjoy. As I always say, this is the “life” part of life. It’s tough to appreciate it at the time, at least for me, when there are things to do and bills to pay. Trust me, the irony that I might be making a shack not too dissimilar to the one I erected today for us to live in soon, was not lost on me as I passed each screw through wood. But we manage and keep plugging away. I’m fairly confident the boys are living a blessed, memorable childhood that very few in this, horrific at times, world get to have. Hopefully they will look back as adults with fondness for these times. Really that is all we can do as parents.

I’m lucky as well, because my time is my own. I read a great article in the Cleveland PD, via the NY Times (here) that alluded to the richness in owning your time. It’s worth a read. While my responsibility is greater than some musician living week to week (we actually live week to week, but I can’t play the guitar), I’m not stuck in some rat race with dreams of retiring someday to do what I love. I’m basically doing what I love now, and doing what I have to out of necessity to survive. I know I will never retire. It’s nothing I aspire to, and I know it will never happen. I will work until the very last day I take a breath. Not because I love work, it’s just that the traditional model that society created years ago isn’t really relevant to how we live now. I was fine playing the game, but then the game decided it didn’t need me so we adjust. We evolve. We design a new game. On any given day I can build a hovel, or goto the zoo, or work for 22 hours straight. I can write, read, paint, raise bees, run for dog catcher, or start any number of random companies if the mood strikes. Seriously, who do you know has that degree of freedom? Is it happiness and rainbows every day? Hell no. But that’s how it goes. And don’t get me wrong, we’re not destitute. It’s just less linear and predictable. Point is every day is a new adventure. So when I get to the end, and they’re figuring out which tree in the yard to cast my ashes around, the universe can rest assured I lived a rich, storied and colorful life. Which about all that can really be asked of any one of us.

Alright it’s 5 o’clock. Time for a beer – plus I’m going to jump the gun and start organizing and decorating my art studio. Exciting times indeed. At least for me.  🙂

Oh My God If I Have To Paint Another Thing…

If I have to paint a coat of anything on my studio shelves ever again I’m going to scream.  I’ve now “painted” the shelves and bookcases six times, or more accurately, six coats of liquid that dries to form a finish on the built ins. One coat of primer, two coats of paint and now three coats of polyurethane. I’m so tired of painting corners, I could use a good cry. I still have to finish the last two coats of poly on the adjustable shelves, and bench. But at least I’m done with all the built-ins. Now I just have to wait the prescribed “week” for the clear coat to set before I can move into my new shelves and get onto phase II of my studio decor project. Left on my “to-do” list include finishing the office trim and floor boards, and run through the entire studio with my touch up paint to clean up a few spots here and there.

Note, before I put the third coat of poly on the shelves today I attempted to “wet sand” then with an extra fine sandpaper block. Well I decided that was not the right course of action. The poly says it doesn’t require sanding, and all sanding did was cut through the paint wherever there was a high spot or bump in the surface, so now three shelves have white “specks” all over them where I sanded right through to the primer.  Also I hate using a foam brush for the poly. I was leaving black specs everywhere as the rough wood shelves tore up the brush. Next time, or I would recommend, a 2″ nylon artist’s brush.  Of course being an artist maybe that’s just because of what I’m used to using. I have to imagine it would be easier using the nylon brush though. Plus a brush can be washed out. The foam “brush” ends up in the trash and replaced with every subsequent coat.

The white specs are actually where I sanded right through to the primer when I attempted to wet sand before the final poly coat. For rough shelves like mine, skip the sanding part during the clear coat phase.

The white specs are actually where I sanded right through to the primer when I attempted to wet sand before the final poly coat. For rough shelves like mine, skip the sanding part during the clear coat phase.

Since I had the painting tools out today I also painted the insides of the kitchen cabinets. As you may recall we got new plates, which we may or may not keep, which meant that we had to do something with the open cabinets in the kitchen. The wife wasn’t digging the white interiors, the color of which would be fine if we ever had the aluminum framed, frosted panel doors that we were supposed to have on the cabinets. Once it became apparent we were are going to leave the cabinets open (until we can outright replace all the wall cabinets with new ones), we decided to paint the insides to knock off some of the contrast.  I went down to the basement and there was just enough Resort Tan color left over from painting the Family Room walls. I cracked open the can, whose contents smelled rather foul, and started painting the cabinet interiors. After the first one I figured I’d better sand them to make the paint stick better. Three coats later they are looking good. I’ll put polyurethane on the horizontal surfaces as well to keep plates and glasses from sticking. The one cabinet over the coffee bar will get a black interior; today I just painted the ones by the range.

The doorless kitchen cabinets before with their white interiors.

The doorless kitchen cabinets before with their white interiors.

 

The kitchen cabinets after, with Resort Tan interiors.

The kitchen cabinets after, with Resort Tan interiors.

Once clear coated, the shelves will have to sit for a week too, to cure and be able to resist sticking to items placed upon them. Whoever thought that was a good idea has never been to an OCD designer’s house where everything is strewn about by one’s family – waiting to be put away when the time is right. My nerves are already shot as it is. I’m fairly certain looking at glasses and dishes randomly scattered across the kitchen counters for a week will drive me unbelievably insane.

And the new plates are just sitting there as well, waiting for an executive decision from the boss. I’m sure they will sit unused well past the point where we can return them anyway. Making a decision on life’s simple little choices is not to be taken lightly in our household. I will trip over half-opened boxes in the hallway and gingerly work around unused plates for the next eight months. There is a special circle in heaven (or hell?) for my wife and I because we saved a couple unsuspecting, otherwise high potential, members of society from accidentally being subjected to either of us for eternity, or at least what seems like an eternity. We took one for the team by marrying each other. Some mornings I think to myself “Maybe today I won’t push the pillow away” when I wake up with her trying to smother me to death. Fingers crossed for tomorrow. Then I won’t have to drive the plates back to the mall. Or put two more coats on the shelves.

Here are the new plates. We're not allowed to use them until we decide we like them.  That will be in 2056. Until then they will sit here. And their boxes will sit in the foyer.

Here are the new plates. We’re not allowed to use them until we decide we like them. That will be in 2056. Until then they will sit here. And their boxes will sit in the foyer.

 

Our kitty makes a rare daytime appearance outside my office today.

Our kitty makes a rare daytime appearance outside my office today.