New Year’s Update

The eve of the New Year finds the land covered in a blanket of snow. The boys having gotten sleds from Santa this year finds me with the urge to be a kid again and go sledding. I’m not sure the quality, or quantity, of snow is there yet to go out, but New Year’s Day could prove to be most enjoyable if we find ourselves on a sledding hill. In the meantime I find myself working through a cornucopia of tasks and endeavors, with a fair degree of accomplishment. The ambiguity of my daily life is like waves on the shore; sometimes calm lapping the sand, other times crashing and tumbling. Regardless there’s always another wave which is good.  Here are today’s miscellaneous waves.

Super Food

Okay we got on a kick around Thanksgiving and starting eating kale. I don’t know what prompted this, but we really like it, even the boys. I got ‘Fifty Shades of Kale’ for Christmas, it’s a cookbook with a cute writing style. There are actually only forty-eight varieties, but there are fifty recipes in the book. From the Amazon overview:

Release yourself from the bondage of guilt and start cooking meals with the ingredients you love: meat, cheese, and yes—even butter. Nutrient-rich kale provides essential vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy, happy, and lean—so you can indulge in your most delicious desires. Whether you’re a cooking novice or a real kale submissive, you will undoubtedly succumb to Kale’s charms.

While I haven’t tried any of the recipes yet, it looks like a good cookbook. Yesterday the wife made kale salad for lunch, which is always good. I believe she usually includes kale, balsamic vinegar, pomegranate seeds, lemon….and I think that’s it. Occasionally, like yesterday, she included quinoa, which are little protein thingies that resemble grain but are actually related to spinach. Both kale and quinoa are ‘super foods’ that are super good for you. One plus about kale, we find it doesn’t wilt as fast as lettuce, it’s always firm…albeit sometimes difficult to spear with a fork.  The salad I ate was delicious and infinitely better for me than anything else I could think of to eat for lunch. Kale is going to be one of my ‘vegetables of the year‘ in our garden for 2014. I plan on focusing on growing kale, along with sunflowers in the coming year. Sure we’ll have other veggies (fruits, etc…you know what I mean) that we grow in the estate garden, but we’ll make 2014 the year of kale and sunflowers in our yard. I’m hoping to have enough sunflower seeds to give some away in the fall as gifts.

Kale salad, next to my new kale cook book.

Kale salad, next to my new kale cook book.


The kitties are all getting along relatively well. I took the two new kittens to the vet yesterday and they checked out fine. They are gaining weight nicely. We’ve taken to calling Dixon “Mr. Goo” as you can feel how much weight he’s put on, though he looks fairly lanky still. My little tuxedo buddy is like glue, always on my lap or curled up in bed. Hey, I guess if  you gotta have a friend in life, there are worse things in life than a cat.

Dixon is trying to warm up Ms. Daphne but she’s still pretty cold to him. He goes up to her and lays on his back but when he goes to pet her with his paw she hisses at him. Typical woman.  Sorry Dix.  I feel your pain friend. One word of advise, It may be because when you finish your tuna to storm over and start eating Daphne’s too….women don’t like that.

Daphne, Daisy and Dixon aka "Mr. Goo" getting along eating tuna.

Daphne, Daisy and Dixon aka “Mr. Goo” getting along eating tuna.

Charging Station

When I was Christmas shopping in Macedonia, Ohio last week I noticed a big tarp “tent” in the parking lot with a ‘Tesla’ logo on it. Too small to be a car dealer I looked up online and found out it’s a Tesla charging station. Go figure an electric car charging station in our neck of the woods. Very, very cool. Kudos to Macedonia leadership for having the foresight to approve construction and welcome the station to their town. We need more of this sort of thing if we are to progress and succeed. I wish I had the means to get an electric car. In theory our garage is ready to go, since we put a separate breaker box in the garage when we built it, so installing a home charging station should be easy.  Someday.

Tesla electric car charging station under construction.

Tesla electric car charging station under construction.


One project I’d like to start nibbling away at in 2014 is our basement. I realize that we don’t have to get it all done right away, but getting the basement straightened out would be a boon to the rest of the house.

My family (including me) has crap all over the place. I need to get all this crap pushed away into some space that isn’t my family room. The basement will be a great place for the litter boxes, toys, etc.  The kids can go down there and do whatever they darn well please and I can get my family room, dining room and kitchen back, each devoid of toys, inventions and tricycles.

I don’t know when we’ll be able to afford the basement project but I am starting to get pricing to know what we need to save for. First up is insulation. We had our friends at R-Tek Insulation in Barberton, Ohio give us a quote for insulating the basement. If you recall our Superior Walls – Xi basement walls give us an R value of 12.5. Our plans show R-20 worth of closed cell spray insulation in the bays (for a total, floor to ceiling of R-32.5). We got that insulation quoted during construction and it was around $13K, which we can’t really afford. In talking it over with a few professionals the next thought is to insulate the top 4′ of our 10′ walls which will get us below the frost line.  The two options then are to spray 1.5″ or 3″ of foam, which would give us an additional R-10 or R-20 respectively, for a total of R-22.5 or R-32.5.  Cost is around $2K or $4k for each option, which is do-able from a budget standpoint.

One note, for reference, our architect recommends R-40 for exterior walls. So while not quite there, we’ll be close. Even if we just use 1.5″ of foam at the top 4′ of wall, we should improve the comfort of the basement and home enough to make it worth while. Heat loss below the upper 4′ should be minimal. One area we may spray floor to ceiling will be where the basement window is since final grade is pretty low over there.

The closed cell insulation is sprayed on and hardens to provide an air and water tight seal. This is important because we’re trying to make the house as tight as possible, and our basement floods if the sump pump doesn’t work.  If we were to spray floor to ceiling this would be important because if we used fiberglass or cellulose insulation, were the basement to ever flood the insulation would be ruined and have to be replaced.  Important to keep in mind. Spray insulation is well worth any added cost for that reason alone. In our case obviously though we’re just doing the tops of the walls so it’s a relatively moot point.

Therma-Tru Doors

I’m still working on getting the exterior doors sealed up. I can see daylight on the double doors, its been this way since Day 1, so I called my Therma-Tru dealer and they’re going to see if they can have a technician take a look. I know what the problem is, I just don’t know how to fix it. Fingers crossed they can fix the problem.

That’s it for now. Have a safe and happy New Year’s everyone.


Santa Made A Train Table

On the off-chance that my three-year old reads my blog, I present to you the following somewhat factual overview of a certain Christmas present:

Our youngest son really likes those wooden train sets that kids play with. He plays with them all the time at pre-school and even as a small rag-tag set of track pieces and train cars that he plays with at home. While he didn’t directly ask for a train set for Christmas we figured it was a nice gift to have Santa bring him.  I like that they are made from wood, colorful and can be arranged in various configurations to suit the imagination.

We looked online so we’d have some idea of what to tell Santa we wanted. Target had a great sale on a small set, including a table, on Black Friday, but alas by 4 o’clock that day when we decided to pull the trigger they were sold out. So we found a track set we liked and I volunteered….er, volunteered that Santa could make the table.  Figure $70 for the set then like $80 in material for the table. Santa’s time is free. We sent off our order.

Here’s where my story telling gets creative….Ok so a few day later we received “instructions“, including a sample of each piece in the train set. Since Santa knows I’m a designer, and would not dare to tread on my turf, he allowed me to take the pieces, set them up and figure out the design of the train table. I checked around and landed on 16″ tall, which is a toddler friendly height. The table itself ended up needing to be pretty big. I set up the train track and measured about 48″ wide and 36” deep with some buffer around the track.  We decided this was okay after I consulted a few online table sizes, and measured the area(s) upstairs where the set would be stored / played with.

Santa included special “dust” and a map in his instructions: I was going to work side by side with one of his certified “elves” in an undisclosed “north pole” location. I sprinkled the dust into the gas tank of the Rabbit, loaded my tools and design drawings and cranked the stereo to 11 playing “Magic Carpet Ride“….and we were off at light speed.

Arriving at the “workshop” I knocked and was greeted by a tall surly “elf” who smelled of gin (I’m making this up) and looked a lot like my brother (not making that up).

“Oh crap!” I said to the elf. “I forgot my drawings!”

So we sketched out what was in my head. The elf made some suggestions to make the table even nicer, like instead of butt joints and cleats, we could use the router to recess the wood into the boards and make really nice durable joints (there’s a word for that but I have no idea what it is, and I’m not looking it up….if you want a technical overview go call Norm Abram). 

The material we used for the table is cabinet grade birch plywood. The two sheets we got on sale because they were “water damaged“, presumably not by Santa’s reindeer, but you never know. The cost about $42 apiece.  We cut four leg panels: two at ~36″ wide and two at ~48″ wide, we routered slots into each and joined them together, along with a 36″ x 48″ bottom panel. After pinning them together with a nail gun we countersunk 2-3 screws into each joint, I capped each screw with a wooden plug: glued in place during painting. Note, we sanded and rounded over all of the edges with a router to give a nice clean safe appearance to every panel.

Next we pinned 4.25” tall blocks to the interior perimeter to act as support for the removable top. The “elf” had a great suggestion that we split the top to make it easier to remove. At 36″ x 48″ it’s a big heavy top, so good call in that regards. Another bonus is one could play with just one top installed and store the other under the other top, providing the imagination with two levels of play…..gravel pit, lower level….hell….whatever you want.  More fun.  Each panel had a 1.5″ x 4.5″ cut out hand hold to ease panel removal.  Very desinger-ly indeed.

We then loaded the assembled table and table tops into the Rabbit and with a twist of the key we magically transported ourselves back home to my studio. I proceeded to spend the next several days painting the table. First a few coats of white trim paint on the table and tops, then some varnish on the table. I left one side of the tops white, and on the other I set up the train set, traced some lines and laid out various roads, trees and a harbor.  I painted the play top in a back-ass-ward manner, but you learn don’t you….I should have started by painting everything green then masked of subsequent layers of paint for the water, rocks, roads, etc.  In the end though I thought it looked pretty nice. I covered the top in varnish as a last step.

One note, I ended up spending about $25 in paint, and $80 in material plus countless hours of labor, so I spent a lot more than I would have if I just bought a table. But this table was made with love (and magic), including getting to spend a few hours of quality time working alongside a real craftsman “elf” who was generous enough to donate his time to the project.  Making your own table will not save you money, but I think it’s a more treasured object because of it.

In the end I think our little guy liked his gift from Santa. Both of our boys enjoy playing with the table and we like looking at it.  Here are some pics from the project.

New Year

Well another Christmas season has come and gone. I suffered through it with a cold and inexplicable back and neck pain. Christmas is a paradox for me, as it is all about the ideal and rarely ever manifests itself ideally. With each passing year I try to remain cool and calm as best I can, yet alas I find myself failing yet again. I think next year I may take Christmas off altogether.

This day finds me physically feel better. And my newfound tuxedo cat friend has helped with my emotional state. Last night was the first night we let all the cats out at night; they had the free reign of the darkened home while we slumbered. Early morning, well before waking time, found Dixon upon my bed exploring and ultimately snuggling with me. It was nice to have a bed time companion, and he found being treated like a stuffed animal an amicable arrangement, if only in spurts.  His presence and companionship may just be my salvation. For all intents and purposes he may as well be my white tufted shadow on these cold, short, winter days. The world works in mysterious ways.

As an aside, Dix is the world’s worst jumping cat. Even with claws, he’s just awful; clumsily leaping upon my lap as I work. But he settles in to a cat nap quickly, purring away like a motor boat.

As the new year approaches I find myself asking a lot of tough questions. I have spent time reflecting on the last year and setting my course for the new year. My reality now is significantly different from what it was a year ago. Mentally I am working 24/7 which is quickly burning me out. Creatively now I can do anything I darn well please, and find my self with less drive than I have ever had in the previous forty years. My existence is basically lying awake at night waiting for death to come rescue me. There are about 10 billion things I want to do, about four that I am capable of doing, and none of them pay much.

So in an effort to salvage 2014, I’m thinking through my goals, projects and whatnot for the coming year. I share them with you to make them real, and to hopefully prompt you to plot your course for a fruitful new year. Cheers!

Out of sight, out of mind.

Living and working from home is my new lot in life. I’m an introvert who gets energy from being on the periphery of the world, observing others, doing my thing, co-mingling here and there; ironically I thrive in teams of complimentary people, doing really cool shit. But alas at home I have virtually no contact with the outside world and it has driven me insane in 2013. I talk to the check out lady at the grocery store, and other random strangers, a lot more these days. Beyond that my interaction with the outside world basically involves me  staring at the phone. Being out of sight definitely means being out of mind. I’d be more appealing to the general public if I had leprosy. In 2014 I will focus on work, family, and my rewarding relationships (I focus on my self 24/7 already, so I’m good there).

‘Little Red Hen’ it.

The economy is slow. No one returns phone calls. So I’ll ‘Little Red Hen’ it. The coming year will find me as Vice President of a new consumer products company that I’m starting with a partner of mine. I’ll get to design stuff, get it made and sell it. God willing it will make us infinitely rich in every way. If not, at least it gives me some entrepreneurial street cred.   See, you can’t do this stuff if you’re worried about your “job” and paying bills. Me? What’s the worst that can happen? Bring it on. Plus this will get me out there interacting with people again.

Paint less

Painting was cool when I was working for the “man“: nerf-y prescribed predictability, hours and income. I had weekends and evenings free. Now I work, or don’t work, ALL THE TIME. Which leaves no time or desire to paint quite frankly.  I have some cityscapes I’ll work on this year, but not much more. Or at least not painting to chase a buck. I will apply to just one art show this year.

Comfy bees.

One project I’m knocking around is studying the thermal properties of bee hives.  I have some theories in my mind and think it’d be fun to test them out this year. I’ll even get to use some science gear, as well as leverage design and biomimicry.  No one’s asking me, or paying me, to do this. I’m just interested in it.

Portrait projects.

Being a professional designer and artist means I can pretty much do whatever I please. This year will find me experimenting with photography in my studio as well as painting. Whereas my other painting is presumably for profit, this art endeavor will be purely self-indulgent. I have 2-3 projects in mind revolving around portraiture. Who knows, if you visit the estate in 2014, you may be drafted. Models wanted.

Tick be gone.

This one is primarily my wife’s project, but you know how it goes, I’ll get roped into helping out. We’re going to get guinea fowl chicks this June. These feathered friends should make quick work of the ticks in the garden and yard. Plus their eggs can be scrambled just like chickens. Win, win.

Gentleman farmer.

I will continue my dream of being a farmer. I will continue to work, plan, and experiment with our micro farm. I pray to God the apple trees blossom this year. We’ll get more bee hives set up. And we’ll refine what we grow in our gardens. I would like to include kale this year and grow a lot more sunflowers for their seeds. Also would like to figure out what’s up with our berry bushes.  I’d like to see more of our produce home-grown, and actually start to impact our grocery bill.

There you have it, my goals for 2014. I’m so happy we have winter to get some time off but I also can’t wait for Spring to come. Living in Ohio is perfect in my opinion because of our seasons. I’m so grateful our boys get to grow up in a creative, eclectic environment with a father who has a few screws loose.  I’m glad I have a wife who indulges all of my eccentricities and turns a blind eye to all of my short comings.

Good riddance to 2013 and all of its broken promises (e.g. no apple blossoms) and hello to a new year.

Stay safe. Let me know what you’re up to in the new year.






Before We’re Dead Tour 2014

I’m switching gears tonight, and going to talk about an idea, a plan really, I’ve been knocking around for some time now. I don’t talk about it very much but really enjoy music. I don’t enjoy it to the extent that I can play it or write it. I don’t memorize random facts or debate the merits of one artist or another. And quite frankly, most people would probably turn an indifferent eye to what I listen to on any given day. Most remarkably, for someone who claims to like music, I rarely if ever go to concerts.  I can probably count on two hands the number of concerts I’ve been to….I’ve seen Pink Floyd and attended the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concert back in the mid-90’s (both at Cleveland Municipal Stadium); that’s about as interesting as it gets when it comes to concerts I’ve been to.

But whenever I’m working, painting or driving I, like most of you, will do so listing to music. Writing is about the only thing I won’t do to music; for whatever reason my brain doesn’t multi-task that way. Sometimes when I’m down…for like days in a row…I’ll realize: I haven’t really listened to music in a while. With the press of the arrow button on my music player I am cheered up, inspired or transported by music. Sometimes music makes me even more depressed or reflective. Regardless music is important to a purposeful life realized.

I listen to a variety of music, but what I listen to over and over again usually involves great, meaningful song writing; relevant words accompanied by good music that say something about what it means to be human, with all the joy, love…mistakes, bumps and bruises. I suppose I don’t think about it too much and certainly am not a musical scholar, so I make no claim to know if what I like is or isn’t of value. All I know is what I like.

Here’s my idea, and what I’m doing about it. Like, half the singers I listen to on any given day are dead. Plus all the ones that aren’t touring anymore. And none of us are getting any younger. Couple that with the fact that we can go at any time. So if you’re gonna do something there’s no time like the present I say. In my mind I started to compile a list of singer-songwriters or musicians that I’d like to see before they kick it or I do. These are artists that if we heard on the news they moved on we know the world we be a lot worse place than it was the day before. I call it my “Before We’re Dead Tour“. So far most of the artist’s on my list are solo acts. There just aren’t that many bands that get me excited enough to see them in person. Maybe it’s the solo artists who are more connected to the music and lyrics, or at least resonate with me. I don’t know, that’s a reflection for another day. Your list may vary.

Without further ado, here is what I’ve come up with for 2014.

Artist: John Prine

Why: For years I just had ‘Illegal Smile‘ bouncing around on my MP3 player, then I discovered ‘Paradise‘ which is about as beautiful, and sad, song as you’re likely to hear. Recently I’ve been listening to his folk songs on Pandora and discovering a whole new slew of great songs.

Prognosis: John was sick in 1998 and isn’t feeling too well again according to his site, we shouldn’t tempt fate. Best we try to see him in 2014.

Status: Pretty good. We have tickets to see John in concert May 17th at the Ohio Theater in Cleveland. Will be a nice night, close enough to our anniversary to count that as our night out. May even go to dinner.  The wife has never even heard of him by the way. We’ll see what she thinks.

Arist: Jimmy Buffett 

Why: Um, he’s Jimmy Buffett and we’ve never been one of his concerts before. Often, especially on the way to Florida, you can hear the Jimmy Buffett station on the satellite radio in the RAV4 when we’re driving around. I can rattle off about a dozen Buffett tunes that I think are phenomenal from a lyrical standpoint (and the music is good too). And no they’re not the ones you’re thinking of.

Prognosis: Jimmy still tours every year as far as I can tell. He’s old but not like Rolling Stones old….right? As long as he doesn’t fall off stage he should be on the road for many years to come.

Status: doesn’t have 2014 tour dates listed yet. We’ll shoot for Cleveland if he comes here….maybe he’ll be just down the road at Blossom and we’ll sit on the lawn. No I won’t wear a grass skirt.

Artist: Willie Nelson

Why: Willie is a living legend. When he stops singing the world will be a worse off in my opinion. His songs run the range from rowdy and fun, to tear jerking. They are threads in the fabric of America. He’s written approximately 148,000 songs by my estimation.

Prognosis: I think Willie is about 157 years old. That being said, he will probably outlive me. Just in case, we should go see him in ’14.

Status: Unknown. His website lists tour dates, but nothing close to Ohio until August. And of those August shows, the one in Indiana isn’t listed on the venue site yet. I’ll have to keep checking or plan on taking a road trip.

Artist: Gordon Lightfoot

Why: While all I’ve really ever listened to is his two disc greatest hits album, there isn’t really an average song in the lot. Each one tells a story, like only Gordon can. He’s the folk pride and joy of Canada for good reason.  Like many singer songwriters, I suspect seeing him in person makes for a memorable evening.

Prognosis: Gordon, like Willie, is up there in years. Even if he wasn’t, a visit to one of his shows is long overdue for this writer.

Status: Well, if i get a passport, we can probably catch Gordon on his Spring Canada tour. This is probably our only option. If we wait til Fall he’s still in Canada, but the western half. The real intriguing date is his traditional tour ending four show set at Massey Hall in Toronto.

Well those are the four I’ve got my sights set on for this year. In addition to these I just thought of Neil Young, and Kris Kristofferson. Neither had tour dates listed that are attainable in 2014. Neil only lists dates through January and Kris is in Australia all year.

Ultimately what I’m getting at is you can’t keep saying “next year“. Sometimes you just got to go out there and do what you’ve been thinking about; even if it pops in your head. Or is some random endeavor you’ve been noodling on for a week, year or lifetime. I say “go for it”.  Not everything has to be earth shattering or remarkable to anyone other than you. I’ve been trying to practice what I preach, one random thing at a time….for example I took an impromptu photography lesson last week; this on top of my jewelry making class earlier this year. I learned I’m not that into jewelry making, by the way.

I  don’t need to do it all, but I guess before I go I want to hear, smell, taste, feel, see and do a lot of things. Brass rings and daydreamers. Maybe it’s selfish. Maybe I’m trying to fill some self-perceived void or deficiency. I don’t know. I’m a lot different person than I was even just a year ago. Life has a funny way of shaping us over time. There needs to be purpose to it all I suspect. At least for me there does.

If I’m lucky, when I’m old and grey I’ll still be able to go on stage… my stage wherever that may be…even if it’s just a music filled studio or bee danced apple orchard..I’ll be able to get on stage like these old timers and love what I’m doing.

Who do you want to see in concert? What do you want to do? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

December Snow Day

Not much going on here. It’s been snowing all day, and the land is beautiful with its coat of white fluffy icing. We found the time to tour the nature trail with the sled and go down and get the mail, which is always fun with the sled in the snow on our long driveway. Coming in with wet boots and jackets reminds me, I need to finish the bench in my studio.  Entering through the front door means that area is a mess…better to come in through the studio with its cement floor and sprawl out cold weather gear in there.  Hooks need to be sourced and hung as well as a few other details we never finished.  It’s a never-ending list.

We passed the bee hive, and wondered aloud how they might be doing in there. And also started talking about next year’s order of another hive worth of bees.  Once Christmas is over I won’t be able to wait for spring.  I hate January and February….and March.

Front of house. "Winter" December, 2013.

Front of house. “Winter” December, 2013.

Meadow dusted with today's snow.

Meadow dusted with today’s snow.

Inside the coat rack is done. It looks good.

Coat rack mounted to 1x8 board. I used 2" SPAX deck screws and painted them bronze.

Coat rack mounted to 1×8 board. I used 2″ SPAX deck screws and painted them bronze.

Beyond that I’ve been basically hibernating. It’s difficult to stay motivated this time of year, with it getting so dark so early each day. I’ve lost some of my holiday zest but will hopefully rally in the closing weeks with renewed spirits.

We’ve given up on keeping the cats separated, or at least we have a more lenient policy – our oldest cat stays in the master suite most of the day and the other two cats have the run of the place. Other than the occasional hissing fit all has been well.  Once we get to the six-week mark, and are worm free I’ll take the last barrier down and they can wrestle for supremacy.

Random House Repair

Sunday found me tackling a three items on my “honey do” list. Here is how things went or are going:

Repair The Coat Hook Rack In The Foyer

As you may remember, my sister-in-law ripped the coat rack off the wall in a drunken fit of rage on Thanksgiving (okay not really but that sounds better than “my wife and kids overloaded the coat rack, and my sister-in-law’s coat was the last straw”). Well anyway, the coat rack ripped clean out of the wall. My fix is to install a 1×8 poplar board, between the trim of the studio and front doors. I’m actually a huge fan of horizontal trim boards on walls. I think they add a “farm-y” or “craftsman” look to the interior and they are extremely practical, especially for coat racks, shelves or garment pegs. They also add some visual interest as well as make the wall color pop, if the trim is of a contrasting color such as white. If I was a designer, I would put them all over the place.

As of today, I’ve got the poplar trim board installed and painted. I’m trying to decide how best to install the coat rack. I’m leery to just screw it to the board, as I don’t want the screws to rip out of the poplar board. No worries about the board coming off the wall, it’s fastened with eight (8) SPAX screws so the board is going nowhere; just that the coat rack may still pull off under load if I don’t attach it properly.

Here’s the progress so far:

The coat rack ripped right out of the wall under load.

The coat rack ripped right out of the wall under load.

I cut away the damaged drywall.

I cut away the damaged drywall.

I spackled / mudded over the holes to repair them.

I spackled / mudded over the holes to repair them.

I pinned the 1x8 poplar board in place using my nail gun and small trim nails.

I pinned the 1×8 poplar board in place using my nail gun and small trim nails.

I used awesome 2-1/2" SPAX wood screws to attach the board to the studs, countersinking the heads.

I used awesome 2-1/2″ SPAX wood screws to attach the board to the studs, countersinking the heads.

I used spackle to cover up the nail holes. I then painted the trim generic white.

I used spackle to cover up the nail holes. I then painted the trim generic white.

Therma-Tru Door Corner Pads

For 18 months now I’ve needed to install the little “L” shaped pads in the lower corners of our Therma-Tru doors. We could see daylight in the corners which means we were leaking warm air outside all winter. I simply followed the directions that were included with the pads. It was super easy.

  1. adjust the threshold plate so the seal under the door fits snuggly
  2. caulk the seam where the plate meets the door frame
  3. install the wedge-shaped pads in the lower corners, tucking the “L” part behind the vertical seal on the door frame. I put the “L” part up. I think that was right.
You can see daylight before the pads were installed.

You can see daylight before the pads were installed.

Here are the parts and directions from Therma-Tru for the corner pads. They sent these to me for free after I sobbed that I didn't have any and could see daylight in the corners of my exterior doors.

Here are the parts and directions from Therma-Tru for the corner pads. They sent these to me for free after I sobbed that I didn’t have any and could see daylight in the corners of my exterior doors.

I caulked the plate after adjusting it vertically to fit snugly against the door's lower seal.

I caulked the plate after adjusting it vertically to fit snugly against the door’s lower seal.

The pad installed. Now we can't see daylight. Not sure if the house is any warmer.

The pad installed. Now we can’t see daylight. Not sure if the house is any warmer.

Laundry Room Drywall Repair

When we moved the water hook ups for the washer and dryer the plumber left a huge hole in the wall of our Laundry Room.  With two new cats exploring, the last thing I need is a cat, or kid, winding up behind the drywall meowing (yes my kids meow too, on occasion).

While the Cleveland Browns were blowing yet another football game I was in my studio cutting drywall. I attempted to cut it out of one piece and install it as such, which I was fairly successful at doing. The problem I ran into was for whatever reason the planes of the new drywall and old drywall already on the wall, didn’t really match up. Well let’s just say I didn’t let that dissuade me from making a mockery of the art of drywalling.  I proceeded to slather mud on the wall and squish tape into the joints. I pretty much hate drywalling.

Most “handy” people would look at something a homeowner does and give them pointers….”do this” or “try that“.  They would encourage and empower that person to do it themselves. They’d even make you feel bad if you called an electrician or plumber. ‘Cause after all, we’re all innately born with the ability to do simple house repair.

If a handyman saw how I do drywall they would say “You really should have hired someone to do that for you.

To say the drywall repair behind the washer and dryer is bad, is a gross understatement. It’s so bad, I CAN’T EVEN THINK OF A SNARKY ANALOGY! Just be glad I don’t make airplanes, condoms or lentil soup.

I put the second coat of mud on today. I’m thinking 32 more coats and everything should be evened out. The tape over some of the joints wasn’t sticking so I pulled it off and just slathered mud over those joints. It’ll be fine (no it won’t).  In the end, aren’t we just gonna tile over it all anyway?

The hole in the wall; a result of moving the water connection up in the Laundry Room.

The hole in the wall; a result of moving the water connection up in the Laundry Room.

On the right I screwed a piece of particle board in place so I'd have something to screw the drywall to.

On the right I screwed a piece of particle board in place so I’d have something to screw the drywall to.

This is where is started to go wrong. Once in place none of the drywall was on the same plane. Instead of fixing I figured mud could cover everything up. Frankly I'm not sure how I woulda fixed it anyway. What the hell, just "do it" baby!

This is where is started to go wrong. Once in place none of the drywall was on the same plane. Instead of fixing I figured mud could cover everything up. Frankly I’m not sure how I woulda fixed it anyway. What the hell, just “do it” baby!

After the first coat of mud.  Eeek!

After the first coat of mud. Eeek!

After the second coat of mud.  Looks better, kind of like having beer goggles on, and drinking your second beer.

After the second coat of mud. Looks better, kind of like having beer goggles on, and drinking your second beer.

I leave you with a picture of our new cats. Both of whom are driving me insane. They have to be sequestered in my studio indefinitely and cabin fever is forcing them to go insane to. I may have kitten fur mittens by Christmas.


A Cursory Glance At Solar Electric For Green Living

We enter week two of new cats.  I took them to the vet and they checked out alright. No major diseases. The do have fleas and worms  but all of that can hopefully be cleared up in the coming weeks. Keeping them segregated from our original cat, Daphne is a pain, but this to shall pass and we’ll be one big happy family in no time.  I’ve got all the Christmas lights and various trees up to, and we even got our first holiday card in the mail. Most of our shopping is done, so we’re all ready for the 25th.

Out of curiosity I took a few minutes today to look at Dovetail Solar & Wind’s website. I wanted to see where the prices were at for renewable energy systems. An article on EcoWatch reminded me of my interest in someday having our estate work off of the grid.

Here is a sample overview Dovetail regarding the cost and size of a typical solar electric system:

SOLAR PV Residential Price Sheet 10-7-2013af.xlsx

If we put in a system, I would want a roof based array, that had battery back up. I abhor the thought of a power outage; we’ve had three in the last three weeks and I hate worrying about the sump pump, water pump, septic and refrigerator. In fact I’d go so far as to consider a bit of redundancy and install a natural gas generator as well. We’d have quite the outpost for the zombie apocalypse.

I took a look at the September ‘Home Energy Report’ that Ohio Edison provided us and it said we used 1,266 kWh which is “good” according to them. Apparently my “efficient” neighbors only used 748 kWh in September, and “all” neighbors used an average of 1,376 kWh. Despite our house being an electricity hog, the advantage of having a virtually all-electric house (we use gas for cooking and heat backup on our hybrid furnace) is that we can, in theory, switch to all solar electric and get off the grid, which is our ultimate goal….especially once the zombies start coming and take out the coal-fired electric plants along the Ohio River.

Let’s say we use 1,250 kWh per month. First we’d want to reduce our usage to a bare minimum – switch all the lights to LED’s, teach my family not to leave lights on, etc. That’s the first rule of being sustainable, get as efficient as you can, but efficiency follows the rule of diminishing returns, so just being efficient isn’t enough; especially if we’re looking to get off the grid. Other areas I need to attack include finding the damn Therma-tru door corner pads to block out the daylight I still see on my exterior door corners (I lost the damn yellow envelope they sent me during studio decorating!!!), and working on the fan board in the crawl spaces, as well as finishing off the basement with insulation on the top 4′ of the Superior Walls. I list these things if for no other reason than to keep reminding myself they need to be done.

Okay, math time.  Let’s say our efficiency measures get us down to 1,000 kWh per month. 1kW of solar capacity = 100 kWh per month, so we’d need a 10kW system to live off the grid. Well looking at the above chart, that’s not really realistic, or at least it’s not on the chart so lets also look at the roof space we have. If vanity rules then we’d just cover the south-facing garage roof so as not to mar the beauty of Joe’s masterpiece [my word], then we have 576 sq. ft to work with (32’x18′). Looking at the chart above this equals a 6.1kW system. Okay, not bad. We’re still on the grid but it’s a great start. We can either drive down our usage or drive up capacity down the road. Cost? $20K after tax credit, about the cost of a new small car. Not bad at all. Over 25 years (after that I’m dead or in Florida) we save $40K, reduce our carbon footprint, and are no longer at the mercy of Big Energy and their random Autumn blackouts at 12am on a Sunday. Remember, I hate power outages…probably as much as I hate being at the mercy of “the man”.  I have serious control issues, you have no idea, but I digress.

The battery back up is a nice feature because without it, a grid tied system won’t work when the lights go out.  With this system, or a non-backed up system, you can actually “sell” electricity back to the grid if the power company allows it. That way the surplus you might generate doesn’t go to waste, and you can power your “efficient” neighbors with clean solar power. The natural gas generator would come into play if, after 3-5 days without power it was so cloudy that the batteries were drained.

Another cool system that we can get is a solar thermal system that provides our hot water needs. Here’s the Dovetail example chart for that:

SOLAR THERMAL Residential Price Sheet.xls

They also mention solar thermal air heating, which I know nothing about…between our pellet fireplace and hybrid furnace I think we’re all set on that front for the time being.  I do like the solar thermal for the water, and who knows, maybe that’s the system we should experiment with first; would reduce our electrical load in preparation for out solar electric system.  Looks like about $10K for a thermal system, which typically is a series of black tubes on the roof our water runs through and is heated for use inside the house. I’m over simplifying here but you get the idea.

All of this is just speculative, but it’s good to do the homework now, and keep an eye on the prices, as they are coming down and are reasonable for any budget in my opinion; essentially a car payment. In fact one could argue that since we both work from home and don’t have a commute that maybe we should allocate a car payment to this type of system in the future when funds become available. Also, these systems are do-able on any home. don’t feel like you need a special house. I know I’d greatly love to experiment with one or more of these systems.

You know, control issues and all.