Archive for the 'house and home' Category

“…’cause I’m the Tall Cool One and I’m built to please.”

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016
"...'cause I'm the Tall Cool One and I'm built to please."

Tuesday – 28 June 2016
Over the past few years, Sara and I have talked – mostly idly – about replacing some of the appliances in our home. One that we knew was on the long-range forecast was the refrigerator. It has, in the last three weeks, vaulted to the lead – something about having to defrost the bloody thing three times in less than two months kind of gets your attention. We hadn’t really discussed the type of replacement fridge we wanted; we just knew that we needed something “not as old” as our current fridge. Last night, we packed up Team DiVa and headed to the local Home-Away-from-Home Depot to check out the options.

Not surprisingly, they had many options.

One of the first ones we saw was a petite – no, really, we’re talking 9 cubic feet – fridge. I commented that we had found our fridge and that we could call it a night. I even suggested that we could get two for less than the price of one full-sized refrigerator – at almost the same storage capacity. I don’t think that Sara actually vocalized her thoughts, but the eye roll spoke volumes.

We looked up and down the aisles at the various models and prices: top-freezer, bottom-freezer, french door, four-door, ranging from $300 – $4500 (I’ll come back to this one in a minute). Team DiVa took advantage of this opportunity to open the doors that they could… and were shocked that some of them were “brr-coldy inside!” Shocked, I tell you!

I’d mentioned before that we weren’t sure what model we wanted. While walking around, we decided that a side-by-side model would be best, as it would allow the little ladies better access to both fridge and freezer – a prospect that excited both of them.

Fridge

And, although they didn’t say anything, I’m pretty sure that the built-in ice and water dispenser will be a hit as well, given how fond they are of the one on their grandparents’ refrigerator.

About that $4500 refrigerator that I mentioned earlier: It’s a four-door, 27.9 cubic foot appliance. With a touchscreen. And cameras. Just let that sink in. Ladies and gentlemen, say “Hello” to a fridge that costs many times more than a mortgage payment: The Samsung Family Hub 4-Door Flex French Door Refrigerator

samsung_fridge

 

The lower-right door? It can be either a fridge or a freezer. It has three (3) cooling zones – top, bottom-left, and bottom-right. The touchscreen? It’s wifi-enabled AND you can stream music to it or mirror your TV output to it (as long as it’s a qualifying model). Don’t want to open the door to look in? It has cameras to look at what’s inside. Yeah. Someone needs to drop a mic and walk off-stage…

…but for that kind of money, we could get a new air conditioner and keep the whole house cool. Granted, probably not “ice cream and frozen meat” cool, but you get the idea.

The new addition to the kitchen family will be delivered next week.

Friday!

Friday, March 11th, 2016
Friday!

Friday – 11 March 2016
It’s the end of the week! Of course, I thought that last week and wound up back in the office at 11:30 PM…

Tomorrow is opening night for Aida. If you:

  • are in the Salt Lake City metropolitan opera,
  • are looking for something different to do on a Saturday evening, and
  • like opera,

you should come check it out – ticket information can be found here. It’s pretty amazing. (Personally, it’s even more amazing, having seen what’s been going on behind-the-scenes.) Added bonus, you get to see about 100 more people1 (other than just Roy and me) dressed up as – and walking like – Egyptians:

AIDA: Captain (me) and Guard (Roy)

AIDA: Captain (me) and Guard (Roy)

sdfklj

Stray Toasters

  • Conversations like this are among the many reasons I love Sara:
    • 1:25pm
      Sara
      I apologize, in advance, if I come home with a windmill tonight.1:34pm

      Robert
      I’m sorry…. WHAT!?
      Like garden-sized windmill?1:36pm

      Sara
      Well, I’m going to a vintage market… there’s no telling what I might come home with this time.1:37pm
      Robert
      You bring home a windmill, I’m making a miniature golf course hole in the backyard.
      Just putting that out there.

      1:38pm
      Sara Kelly Neal
      Okay, I accept that gauntlet.

    • Minister Golf
  • Does anyone have a recommendation for a good OBD-II diagnostic scanner?
  • What is the order of the Gorillaz videos in terms of plot line?
  • It seems as though Shohreh Aghdashloo has joined the cast of Star Trek Beyond. That’s just a bonus, right there.

Namaste.

1 – DISCLAIMER: Not all 100 will be Egyptian; some will be dressed as Ethiopians.

Monday… something… something…

Monday, June 15th, 2015

Monday – 15 June 2015
The new work week is under way. Where did the weekend go?! Oh, yeah… it was devoured by doing things. But, there was a fair measure of productivity involved.

Friday night we went to Noodles & Company, at Team DiVa’s behest. (Remember that point, it comes up later.) We haven’t been to N&C for a while, mostly because Diana decided a while back that she no longer likes macaroni and cheese. This was unfortunate, as we had long been able to get a regular-size bowl of mac and cheese and split it between them. They’d eat and life was good. So, we were a little surprised when they both said that they wanted to go. As much as I enjoy the food at Cafe Zupa’s, I was glad for the change of pace. So, we were off…

Vanessa boldly asserted that she wanted mac and cheese and Diana agreed to spaghetti with alfredo sauce and broccoli. Done and Done. There was a bit of… consternation on the girls’ part, when we got them water, rather than root beer.

*sigh*

We averted total drama meltdown by sacrificing my root beer to the girls. Shortly thereafter, the food arrived: Mac and cheese and spaghetti. Vanessa looked at hers and decided that she “…[didn’t] like that macaroni and cheese!” At the same time, Diana complained that she didn’t like her spaghetti, either. (It’s spaghetti. What’s not to like?!) Turned out that she didn’t like the alfredo sauce because it didn’t look the same as the sauce we used at home. Both girls resolved not to eat dinner.

::: braincramp :::

We got past macaroni disaster after Sara! stirred the shredded cheese in with the hot noodles. All of a sudden, it was the “right” macaroni and cheese! Hallelujah! One kid down, one to go. Diana still wouldn’t eat the noodles, but she was picking some of the broccoli out and eating it… as long as it didn’t have any of the alfredo on it. In an effort to both save our sanity and avoid sitting in the restaurant for hours, watching a child not-eat, I went and ordered a small bowl of spaghetti and broccoli. A couple minutes later it appeared, Diana was appeased and dinner was eaten. And I had a lovely serving of spaghetti and broccoli (with alfredo) to go.

The rest of the evening was relatively uneventful. Mercifully. A little after 8 PM, I received a message from my friend, Andrew:

Do you want to be in a movie, playing a well-dressed asshole at the bank?

With a line like that, how could I say “no?” So, I didn’t say “no.” And that’s how I wound up going to bed at 10:00 on a Friday night, so that I could get up at 3 AM to make a 4 AM call. About an hour later, I got another message, noting a change in venue. Still a 4 AM call, though.

Going to bed so early on a Friday seemed “wrong,” on many levels. But, I did it. Or, I tried to. I had the worst time getting to sleep. By the time the alarm went off, it felt more like a resignation to just get out of bed than having gotten a decent night’s sleep. Up. Shave. Dress. Go.

I got to the location with time to spare… and kill. The next five hours were spent learning lines, prepping, and shooting the movie – a short film for the 48 Hour Film Project. The cast and crew were great to work with and made it a very pleasant experience. “Pleasant” is an understatement, actually. It was a lot fun. I’ll post more about it when I can.

At 9 AM, I was done and headed home for Adventure #2: Going with Sara! to take Team DiVa to their first swimming lesson.

Poolside!

Poolside!

Things started off well enough. Then things went a little skewampus:

  • The girls were listed as being in the wrong class – not the beginner class. (Quickly resolved)
  • After a few minutes of dangling their feet in the water, Diana decided that “swimming” wasn’t for her. The reason: “I don’t know how to do that…!” The “that” in question was blowing bubbles in the water, which their instructor was showing the kids how to do.
  • A minute or two later, Vanessa was out of the water, too. Same reason. No amount of reasoning could persuade them to go back in the water. Sara finally told them that we couldn’t go to Redfish Lake this summer if they didn’t at least try. Voila! Success! Children in water!

Not too surprisingly, by the time it was over, they said had a great time and wanted to do it again.

The rest of Saturday was a little blurry – mostly because I was horribly tired and undercaffeinated. But, nothing of great import happened. Sara! and I did cap off the evening with cocktails and a movie: The Sorcerer and the White Snake, a Korean film, starring Jet Li. It was a little disjointed – a good bad movie, possibly a bad good movie. The jury is still out. It wasn’t great, but I’m still not sure if it deserves LEGO bricks or lawn darts.

Sunday was “cleaning up” and “room rearranging” day, after breakfast and a trip to Wheeler Farm.

Playing at Wheeler Farm

Playing at Wheeler Farm

Back home for lunch, a movie for the girls/nap for me, and then cleaning! We also rearranged the girls’ room for the first time since their beds went in. They seem to like the new layout, which is good, since they can’t really move the furniture by themselves and I don’t plan on moving it again for a few months, at least.

Workout
I made it to the gym this morning for a slightly abbreviated workout (skipped elliptical):

  • Bench Press: 3 x 8 x 125 lbs
  • Standing Shoulder Dumbbell Press: 3 x 8 x 30 lbs
  • Dumbbell Fly: 3 x 8 x 25 lbs
  • Dumbbell Curls: 3 x 8 x 25 lbs
  • Barbell Curls: 3 x 8 x 40 lbs
  • Wrist Curls (fwd): 3 x 15 x 40 lbs
  • Wrist Curls (rev): 3 x 15 x 40 lbs

Stray Toasters

And, we’ll call that good for now.

Namaste.

Tautology

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015
Tautology

Wednesday – 18 February 2015
Today is Ash Wednesday. It is also NBN Thursday Eve.

I was going to post something last night, but I got too distracted by The Flash and Firestorm(!)1.

And a RubySnap cookie and a glass of milk.

And Titanfall.

So, I’m posting today.

This past weekend, Sara!, Team DiVa and I took a trip to Promontory, UT to visit the Golden Spike National Historic Site (read: “TRAINS!!!”) and Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty. (For pictures, click here.) It was only a couple of hours to Golden Spike, which wasn’t as bad as I had thought. The site is way out in the middle of God’s own country, though. I commented to Sara! that for all the time – not really that much – that it took to get there at 65 MPH+, I could only imagine what it must have been like to try to cover that distance via horse, or wagon. Or, slower still, while trying to lay miles of railroad track. The site was nice, but I was a little disappointed that the locomotives weren’t on display. (That just means that I’ll have to head back up there to see the reenactment of the driving of the golden spike in May.)

From there, we headed out to the Spiral Jetty. While the two sites are only 15 miles apart, it took about 45 minutes to get from Golden Spike to the jetty. The water level on the Great Salt Lake was low. Very low. So low that we were able to walk out to the end of the jetty – 1500 feet – and we were still at least 300 feet from water!

Sunday, we decided to tackle a painting project: Our bedroom. Furniture out. Ladders in. Paint on. We moved our bed to the living room Sunday night, which threw Team DiVa for a bit of a loop Monday morning:

Diana: Why is your new bed in the living room?

Me: It’s not a “new” bed, we just moved it out here.

Diana: Oh.

We went on to explain that we did it since we were painting the bedroom; that answer appeased them.

Sara spent Monday morning/afternoon re-doing the baseboard and crown molding paint, while I vacuumed and shampooed the carpet, replaced four electrical outlets… and then tried to suss out why the overhead lights wouldn’t turn off.

*braincramp*

After a quick consultation with my father-in-law, he suggested that I check the old outlets and verify that they had broken metal connectors on the hot side. They did.  I broke the connectors on two of the new outlets and the lights worked in the manner to which we were accustomed once more!

We moved the furniture back in and slept in our newly-painted room on Monday night. Selah. It was a lot of ass-busting and elbow grease over two days, but it was worth it.

Stray Toasters

  • I stumbled across a picture of VP Biden holding/rubbing/whatever the shoulders of the newly-appointed Secretary of Defense’s wife last night and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to add a caption:

    Creepy Vice-President is creepy...

    Creepy Vice-President is creepy.

  • Windows Updates. *sigh*
  • Despite the fact that Krispy Kreme UK unwittingly deemed today “KKK Wednesday,” I kind of still want a doughnut.
  • Today is apparently “National Drink Wine Day,” as well. I might have to imbibe a glass or two tonight.

And with that, I think I’m going to get “right on to the friction of the [rest of the] day.”

Namaste.

1Firestorm: The Nuclear Man debuted in 1978. I didn’t really become aware of the character until the second series, which started in 1982… but from then on, I was a fan. I haven’t been as invested in the New 52 version of the character, but I still like the character and the concept. So, when the news broke that he/they would be appearing on CW’s The Flash, my curiosity was piqued. The origin had been tweaked to fit the show, but it was close enough to the original for me. And, it featured all three of the main Firestorm characters – Ronnie Raymond, Martin Stein, and (in a nod to the updated, pre-New52 character) Jason Rusch.

Eighteen

Monday, January 19th, 2015
Eighteen

Sunday – 18 January 2015
Yes, it’s officially Monday, but I started on Sunday and I haven’t been to sleep yet, so there we go.

Day 18: Identify one project you’d like to complete with your hands. There’s something special about a man doing work with his bare hands, and most men today have lost that. Maybe you want to start a garden, or build a workbench in your garage. Maybe you’ve been meaning to upgrade your bathroom on your own volition. Once you identify that one project, write about what you have to do in order to complete it. Detail the steps, the resources, the help you’ll need, etc. Then, set about doing it. Come back to this entry as motivation when you see yourself wavering.

 

My first big thing was getting my Train Room completed. That was a great feeling. But there are still a few projects that I want to take care of, but top of the list would be:

  • Installing a new bathroom in the basement.

We’ve talked about this for a while and I think that this year is when we should hopefully be able to start tackling it.

To do so, we need to clear out the space (it’s become secondary storage), frame up the room and the utility room that will share the space, cut some concrete, put in a floor and the walls, and install a tub, sink, toilet and cabinets. You know… like you do. Of course, this means that I’ll be making more trips to Home-Away-From-Home Depot.

Help? I’m calling in my go-to construction guru: My father-in-law. As well as anyone else foolish enough to throw in with us.

It’s just a matter of time.

Namaste.

Day Thirteen

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
Day Thirteen

Tuesday (with a little Wednesday thrown in…) – 13 January 2014
Day 13: Perform a mind dump of everything you’re worried about. From the leaky dishwasher to your family member’s poor health — get it all out. Dwight D. Eisenhower did it, and it significantly helped him manage his stress. Just as your body needs to…cleanse itself of waste, so does your mind every once in a while. Getting all your stressors on paper may alleviate some of that pressure. Use David Allen’s GTD trigger list to help you out.

With apologies to Monty Python, “I’m so worried about…”

  • Being a good husband and dad.
  • Keeping in touch with my family – here and “back home.”
  • Making time for friends.
  • Making time for me.
  • Staying on top of my health.
  • Whether or not I’ll be able to fit some travel in this year.
  • Projects around the house, now that I don’t have the Train Room as an excuse.
  • Becoming more aware of and informed about issues in the community.
  • What the Hell is still “not as right as it could be” with my car?!
  • Keeping all of the balls that I’m juggling for work in the air.
    • This one isn’t horrible, but there’s just been a lot going on over the past two weeks.
  • A proposed project (that’s actually kind of up my alley) – I just want it to go well.
  • Cleaning up my queue of work requests.
  • Managing to get – and do well in – upcoming training.
  • “…the baggage retrieval system they’ve got at Heathrow.”

Namaste.

And, like that, December was halfway gone…

Monday, December 15th, 2014
And, like that, December was halfway gone...

Monday – 15 December 2014
It’s been longer than I’d planned since my last post. So, let’s get down to business.

The last few weeks have been good. Thanksgiving went well. We managed to host and feed ten people to no ill effect. The girls have been sick. Gotten over it. I’ve been sick. Gotten over it. Sara’s worked a lot – apparently, the end of the year is a busy time for the ballet. The Nutcracker and whatnot. Go figure.

This past weekend, I also got around to installing the trim in the train room. I’ve got three walls done; now it’s just a matter of timing to do the rest. Well, timing and moving a few things. It’s not perfect, but I am proud of  the job. If nothing else, I’ll have a much better idea of what to do – and not do – the next time I have a reason to install baseboards.

Ahead, Christmas. I’m looking forward to it. Not just because “It’s Christmas,” but also because the girls are so excited about it. We started putting up our trees and other decorations a couple of weekends ago. The girls have been going on about “Santa’s going to love our pretty decorations!”

Stray Toasters

  • As of this weekend, we have seen Frozen… or, at least, Sara! and I have seen it. We’re not sure if the girls had seen it before. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but it did surprise me in a couple of places.That said, I do understand Sara!’s irritation with Disney’s current marketing of the movie/DVD: All of the marketing seems to be geared towards Olaf (the snowman) and the Sven (the reindeer), rather than making note that the movie has not one, but TWO, strong female leads. Instead, the current wave points to “Hey, look at these funny characters!”
  • Speaking of which: When is the last time that Disney – not Pixar or Marvel – made a movie for kids that didn’t have a wacky animal or magically animated object as a sidekick/comic relief?
  • Titanfall is still fun… even when you haven’t played it in three months.
  • Pinstripes and Polos – because… self-promotion!
  • I can’t play “The Little Drummer Boy Game,” considering that one of my favorite Christmas songs is Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth, by Bing Crosby and David Bowie.
  • Two of my least favorite Christmas songs are: Jingle Bell Rock and Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree
  • [REDACTED]
  • I’m about 2/3 of the way through Ace Atkin’s Lullaby, the first post-Robert B. Parker Spenser novel.

    It reads very similarly to Parker’s style; there are a few things that seem slightly off – more “slightly out of focus” than “this isn’t even remotely right” – but pretty much reads like I expect a Spenser novel to read.

And that’s it for now; time to finish getting ready for Guys’ Night Out!

Namaste.

Thoughts for a Monday Morning…

Monday, November 3rd, 2014
Thoughts for a Monday Morning...

Monday – 03 November 2014
A new week (and a new month, give or take a couple of days) is upon us.

Friday was Hallowe’en. After picking up Team DiVa from “school,” we got ready to take them trick-or-treating and prepared for visitors of our own.

Superhero Ballerinas!

Superhero Ballerinas: Batgirl (Vanessa) and Wonder Woman (Diana)

To check out more pictures of our resident superheroes, click here.

We took the girls out about 6:40 (after dinner and getting costumes in order); we didn’t run into other trick-or-treaters. Our neighborhood doesn’t have tons of kids, but there are a few around.  I had expected to see at least one or two costumed kids out there. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Nada. Not only that, but we didn’t receive any trick-or-treaters, either — we left candy and comics in a bowl on the front steps while we were gone. No takers. Oh, well. Their loss and more candy for us… like we needed it.

Saturday morning, Sara! headed off to quilting and Team DiVa and I hung out for a while. After Sara returned, I headed out to play in the “War of Light” HeroClix tournament at Dr. Volt’s. I went 1-2, but still had fun. Back home, Diana was starting to feel not-so-good, so we had a low-key afternoon around the house. I decided to see if there were any “new” cartoons that might be alright for the girls to watch. I was hoping to find something with Wonder Woman, but didn’t feel like giving Amazon money to watch old Super Friends episodes. I did, however, find episodes of Justice League of America and Teen Titans from 1967. The girls were able to readily identify Superman, Green Lantern, and The Flash from the JLA toons; they also mistook Wonder Girl for Wonder Woman in Teen Titans, but that was an easy mistake to clear up. On the plus side, they were rapt by the cartoons. Parenting win!

Sunday morning started early: 3 AM, when Diana started feeling sick (fever). She crawled into bed with Sara and me. For the next couple of hours, sleep became… not as easy as we would have liked. She went back to her room around 5 AM and we stole back to The Dreaming for a few more hours. After everyone was up, we went to breakfast at Millcreek Cafe and then took a Team DiVa-requested stroll around Wheeler Historic Farm. The girls took long naps, which afforded me the chance to put a major dent in cleaning up the Train Room. After nap time, the girls asked to watch more Teen Titans; so we did. Then it was time for Sara’s pre-birthday dinner at her parents’ house. Lamb curry. Pakora. Samosas. All good. Diana was still a little feverish and tired, so we put the girls to bed a little early.

Today, I’m playing Mr. Mom to one sick kid and one semi-sick kid, while trying to keep an occasional eye on work-related items… and watching more My Little Pony in one afternoon than I have in a month, apparently. That’s fine, though, because the cuddle factor makes it all worthwhile.

Namaste.

 

Team DiVa Tuesday: Pumpkin Edition

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014
Team DiVa Tuesday: Pumpkin Edition

Tuesday – 21 October 2014
A couple weekends ago, we went to the Pumpkin Point Farms pumpkin patch to get… pumpkins. Because that’s what you do at a pumpkin patch. That and wander through the corn maze, if they have one. (For the record: They had two; we went through both.)

IMG_3110

Last night, we decided to carve the largest pumpkin.  Since the little ladies are a wee bit young for sharp knives, Sara! had the great idea of letting them draw the jack o’ lantern’s face and then carving it later. (You may have seen Sara’s picture of the final product; she posted it last night.) The drawing process went a little something like this…

As you can see, they had fun drawing on the pumpkin.

What you don’t see are their reactions after Sara hollowed out the pumpkin and carved the face.
Short answer: They loved it.

Namaste.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Sunday, September 14th, 2014
How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Sunday – 14 September 2014
For the past week, I’ve been on vacation. It’s been pretty amazing.

Last weekend, Salt Lake Comic Con was in town. I went (of course), as did Sara and Team DiVa. I think that the girls’ highlight moment can be summed up here:

IMG_0147

They were pretty ecstatic to see Wonder Woman. I thought that Diana was going to try and knock people over to get to her. Unfortunately, by the time I finally got this picture, they were starting to run out of people juice. Click here to see more pictures of the outing.

Sunday afternoon, we packed up and headed to Redfish Lake for a long-anticipated family vacation. As Sunday and Monday were the girls’ birthdays, we had a small to-do for that:

IMG_0161

We spent three-and-a-half days at the lake; it was a nice change of pace and it was a lot of fun to see the girls interacting with a new environment. There was a bit of a love/hate relationship with the lake: Temps were mostly in the 60s and 70s, so the lake was… brisk, to say the least. But, the girls had fun wading in the water and trying to catch minnows:

IMG_0227IMG_0228

Sara! also introduced them to fishing. With hooks and bait and the whole nine yards. The fish weren’t biting, but they still liked it. I even managed to sneak in a bike ride while we were there. Click here for more pictures of our time in Central Idaho.

We came back to Salt Lake City to prepare for the last hurrah of the weekend: Team DiVa’s third birthday party (yes, that’s a picture link):

DSC_0122

Yes, the girls are in their Comic Con costumes – it was a superhero-themed party. We invited some of the girls’ friends from daycare and a few other kids they know. The birthday party was a big hit. My mother, sister, niece and uncle flew in for the weekend to help celebrate. After the party – and a couple of much-needed naps for the girls – we had a family dinner in the back yard. (I think we’ve used the yard more in the past two months than we have in the past two years. Go figure.)

DSC_0263

This morning, we saw Mom, Kris and Kennadi off at the airport.

IMG_3532

My uncle had a early flight, so we said our goodbyes to him last night. It was nice having them here for a few days, as we haven’t seen them since last summer.

After that, we headed to breakfast at Millcreek Cafe. From there, we stopped to pick up a copy of Cinderella for a family movie morning. The movie went over with a mixed reaction, but the girls watched the whole thing. And from there, it was lunch and nap time.

Tomorrow, the working world awaits. But that’s tomorrow. For today, I still have a few hours to spend with Sara! and the girls. And there are Slurpees in our future.

And that’s just fine with me.

Namaste.

Phase III: Complete!

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014
Phase III: Complete!

Wednesday – 13 August 2014
Last night, in the rain, we finished Phase III of #CrashingOurYard!

I went to Home-Away-From-Home Depot for sod…

Neal before sod!!! (And anyone who didn't expect that just doesn't know me...)

NEAL BEFORE SOD!!! (And anyone who didn’t expect that just doesn’t know me…)

…and, by the end of the evening, we had a new total of 260 square feet of grassy yard!

Instant Grass! (Complete with 2' border for planting)

Instant Grass! (Complete with 2′ border for planting)

And that’s One More Thing: DONE!

Next up: Phase IV – Flagstone patio, which should be the last thing we need to do back there. But, I think we’re going to take (at least) a few nights off before heading up that project. (Arguments could be made that Team DiVa’s play area could be considered “Phase V,” but really it’s just figuring out what toys go there, so I’m good with saying that their area was done when Phase II was done.)

Namaste.

Welcome to Level Seven… I mean “Phase Three.”

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
Welcome to Level Seven... I mean "Phase Three."

Tuesday – 12 August 2014
We’ve done it.

We’ve already started on the next two phases of the #CrashingOurYard project. You’d think that after busting our butts for a week and a half, we’d want to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labors from the first two phases of yardwork.

Yes and no.

Sara! and I were talking about how much we’d done and how nice it was to be done… and what we wanted to do with Phase Three and Phase Four. Eventually. Last week was relaxing, given that we didn’t have to rush to get things done after work – and after dinner… after the girls were fed… and in bed. In fact, we had talked about leaving any other work until next spring.

Then, we took a trip to our local Home Depot and looked at some of the things we’d need to make the next parts of the project happen. We realized that what we wanted to do wasn’t terribly difficult, it would just take a bit of time and some work. We started looking at timetables for getting things done.

Over the weekend, we talked with Sara!’s dad about the flagstone from his patio, that he was getting rid of; he said that we were welcome to it. Sunday morning, I picked up the first load and picked up the second load after dinner. It’s currently in an impromptu staging area.

Last night, after work, I headed to Home-Away-From-Home Depot – twice – to pick up twenty pieces of sod. My sister-in-law commented on my second check-in at the ‘Depot:

Melissa: Wait, you finished the back yard. Why do you keep returning to the hardware store?

Me: No, we didn’t finish the back yard. If you go back and read carefully, you’ll see that we just finished the first two phases of the back yard.

I bought twenty pieces, but it turned out that I could only get ten or so pieces in the truck. Thus, two trips. I brought the first ten pieces home; Sara and I started arranging them. I took a quick break to watch a couple Schoolhouse Rock cartoons with Team DiVa, before they went to bed. Then, I went back to Home Depot for the second set of ten pieces; we laid those out in the dark.

I went out this morning to get a few pictures of our progress:

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Wait… is that… grass?!

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By Jove! That is, indeed, grass!

As a frame of reference, here’s what that section looked like before Sunday evening:

It's the section between the fence post and the tree.

It’s the section between the fence post on the left and the tree.

Depending on the weather (and little girls’ temperaments), I’ll be picking up the last eight (give or take) pieces of sod, to finish off Phase Three.

To quote Cyborg: Booyah!

Namaste.

“Crashing My Yard” or “How I Spent the Past Week-and-a-Half After Work”

Monday, August 4th, 2014
"Crashing My Yard" or "How I Spent the Past Week-and-a-Half After Work"

Monday – 04 August 2014
Over the past week and a half, Sara! and I undertook steps to transform our yard from “Wow, you actually call that a yard” to something that would be functional as the setting for the wedding of a couple of our friends.We had to make at least half of our yard – nearly 800 square feet of space – which we had effectively let go into something that was both not an eyesore, but was also usable.

How would we make this happen?

  • By getting truckloads of dirt from the construction site around the corner from our house to fill in the depression that was left under the spot where the gazebo we tore down in 2012 formerly stood.
  • By getting a LOT – nearly four (4) cubic yards – of mulch.
  • By putting in a lot of hard work.

In a move that may have been inspired by my affinity for DIY Network, I started referring to this as #CrashingMyYard. I even tagged my favorite Yard Crasher, Ahmed Hassan, in a couple of Tweets. (He even responded to a couple of them!) Unlike the Yard Crashers show, we had neither a TV host/professional landscaping contractor nor a motley crew of people helping on this; it was just Sara! and me – with occasional help from Team DiVa – doing the work.

We borrowed a friend’s pick-up truck, so that we could haul dirt and mulch. We felt that would be much easier – and potentially less back-breaking – than trying to do it all in wheelbarrows and/or Sara’s car. And, far less messy, too. Friday (25 July 2014) after work, I headed to the construction site around the corner from our house to get fill dirt; Sara had secured permission from the site foreman earlier in the week. After spending what felt like an eternity filling the bed of the truck, I drove it around the corner and backed into the yard to unload it and start filling the pit left from The Great Gazebo Demolition of 2012.

Saturday morning, I woke up, had a bite to eat and headed to the site for more dirt. I unloaded about half of it before I needed to leave for a prior engagement; Sara unloaded the rest. Saturday night, more of the same. By the time it was all said and done, we’d filled, compacted and leveled the hole.

Sunday saw the first of far too many trips to Home Depot for mulch. I brought home twenty-one (21) bags that night. By the way, one bag of mulch, not so heavy. Twenty-one? Heavy. And, to make things even better: After I’d loaded the last bag into the truck, about ten bags on the display decided that they didn’t want to be part of the display anymore. *sigh* So, I had to pick them up and put them back in some semblance of order.

By Monday night, following another Home Depot run, the first third of the yard was mulched. Tuesday, about two-fifths. Wednesday, we changed things up a bit, installing a new fence post, with the kind assistance of my father-in-law. (We had a double-door gate that never seemed “just right,” so we took it down to one door and a gate-turned-fence section.) Thursday, after another trip to the ‘Depot, we enlisted the “help” of the girls to put down more landscaping fabric and mulch. Friday, I made the last trip for mulch and by nightfall, there was just one small section left to mulch on Saturday.

Saturday brought lawn mowing, some general clean-up, spreading the last bits of mulch and securing the fence section to the new post.

Sunday, we were ready for a wedding. And it was good.

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The Yard.

Click here to see pictures of the overall process, from start to finish.

Last night, after the festivities were done and the girls were down for the night, Sara! and I sat outside in our newly landscaped yard and enjoyed the evening air. With cocktails, of course.

This was a lot of work, but was very much worth it. And gave us a massive boost in the direction that we want to take the yard, which includes, but isn’t necessarily limited to:

  • Grinding down three stumps (there was just no time for it with this go-round),
  • Creating a flagstone patio in one third,
  • Sodding the middle third of the mulched area, and
  • Creating a playspace for the girls in the last (not-quite) third.

Some of that might have to wait until next Spring, but, we are very happy with where the yard is at this point.

Namaste.

Team DiVa NBN Thursday

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013
Team DiVa NBN Thursday

Thursday – 22 August 2013
Another No Bad News Thursday is upon us. Amen.

Life’s been good. The family is doing well. Team DiVa continue to surprise us with things that they have picked up. And they are coming up – quickly – on their second birthday. Time does fly.

The family at Silver Lake

The family at Silver Lake

Vanessa (l) and Diana playing with Rokenbok Monorail

Vanessa (l) and Diana playing with Rokenbok Monorail

More monorail time!

More monorail time!

And, speaking of Rokenbok, the girls were featured on the Rokenbok Facebook page, in a picture that Sara! took over the weekend:

Stuff

Intense concentration…

Reeling by on Celluloid
Since Sara’s back has gotten better over the past few weeks, we’ve gotten back in the habit of Movie Date Night. Last week, Sara picked Gallowwalkers:

gallowwalker-dvd

Wow. This was NOT a good movie. (Although, I still think I “win” the “Choose the Most Awful Movie” award with The Spirit.) Let me just say that there is no need for you to check out this movie — we took that hit for you. You’re welcome.

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That’s right… I resurrected the lawn darts to show just how bad this movie was. (And for those who are keeping score at home, I just effectively gave this movie a -8 rating. Yep, “negative eight.”)

Tonight was my pick. I rolled the dice and came up with Trance, a film by Danny Boyle, starring James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, and Vincent Cassel:

trance_movie_poster

This… this was a good movie. It had suspense. It had some (not a lot, but “some”) action. There was an interesting twist – one that I thought I’d figured out about 1/3 of the way through the movie, but didn’t.

Seriously, though, if you are looking for an interesting movie that will keep you guessing, I give this a definite thumbs-up with an okay.

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Stray Toasters

  • For months now, Sara and I have been humming John Williams’ Imperial March (from Star Wars) to the girls whenever we change their diapers. It often winds up getting vocalized as “Bum Bum Bum… Check your bum… Check your bum…” Hey, don’t knock it – it’s kept them entertained.A week or so ago, I played this version of the song, from YouTube, while changing one of the girls. This may have been a mistake. Why? Because whenever it’s diaper-changing time now, they ask for “Bum bum check a bum…”
  • talesfromthecon_2013-08-22
  • Bee and Puppycat
  • I quite like this artwork , by Simon Stålenhag, and the way they mix science fiction pieces so casually in the environments.
  • jl8_140
  • Behind the Scenes on a Home Renovation Reality Show
  • There’s still time to get in on this Humble Bundle.

Now that I’ve done this entry, I should do the same for Pinstripes and Polos and Four-Color Coverage

Namaste.

“Don’t call it a comeback…” and Team DiVa Tuesday

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013
"Don't call it a comeback..." and Team DiVa Tuesday

Tuesday – 11 August 2013
It’s been a while.
Sure, that’s an understatement, but it’s my blog and there you go.

Over the past couple of weeks, there’s been a lot going on. The highlights include:

The Train Room is (mostly) finished; the only thing remaining is to choose and install some baseboard. The carpet went in at the end of July. It was a bit more of an adventure than expected. And by “adventure,” I mean that the carpet was installed; the same day, we started noticing a couple of problems:

  • It started separating from the step in the room, 
  • There were patches were it appeared to have not been stretched and was coming up from the tack strips, and
  • There were spots where the tacks on said tack strips weren’t bent over… so you could feel them when you walked on those parts of the carpet.

Needless to say, there was a callback to have the job redone. When they asked if I wanted the same installers, I asked to have someone else come out, “to have another pair of eyes look at the job,” as I told the CSR. A few days later, the second installer came out and looked at the job. His comments included:

  • “I can’t believe they left it like this,”
  • “I’m taking pictures of this to send to my boss,” and
  • “This is the second time that I’ve had to go behind them and finish a job.”

When I came home after the fix, things were done properly… including adding a tack strip to the step to hold down the carpet. You know, the way it should have been done the first time.

But, the room is otherwise ready to go… as seen here:

Next up, was the Rush Clockworks Angels concert; my sixth Rush concert and fifth one I’ve attended in Utah. I went with Jeff (Galadriel’s stepdad) for his birthday. We were out on the lawn, just off-center to stage right, which afforded a great view of the venue and the crowd. The band played a show just shy of two-and-a-half hours, excluding a twenty minute intermission. The setlist included songs that I haven’t heard live in many years and some that I hadn’t heard live at all. It was a blast. I even ran into my friend, Jason and his son. Win-Win.

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Usana Amphitheatre, waiting for the concert to begin

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Ladies and gentlemen… Rush

Clockwork Angels tourbook and ticket

Clockwork Angels tourbook and ticket

And, while not quite as grand in scale as a home improvement project or a concert – but easily as grand on the “cool factor” scale, I got to hang out with Melissa (Sib-4) last week. It was nice; it had been far too long since we’d done so.

Also, last week, I set up my monorail for the girls to play with. I’d expected them to “like” it; I didn’t expect this:

[KGVID]http://blog.echopulse.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/monorail3.mov[/KGVID]

Totally worth it. In fact, it’s become their go-to spot between and after their nightly episodes of Team Umizoomi.

Saturday, we got up early and took the Team DiVa down to Stone Mountain Park for the Sandy City Hot Air Balloon Fest. The girls have been somewhat fascinated with hot air balloons and Sara! learned that the event was coming up, so it seemed like a perfect match.

Up, up and away...

Up, up and away…

We weren’t disappointed: The girls had a great time watching the balloons. They even got to see one landig, as we were driving away. On the way home, they kept asking for “More hot air balloons… More hot air balloons!”

Saturday night, Chris came over to play ‘Clix. We played a couple of games and he whupped my teams rather handily — I don’t think that I even managed to damage any of his characters in the first game. Yeah, it was that bad. But it was fun to play and well worth the drubbing I took.

Sunday was a good day. We started out with a trip to the Wasatch Front Farmer’s Market at Wheeler Historic Farm.

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Quiet repose on a bench – Vanessa (l) and Diana

photo 1

Here there be cows…

photo 2

Hey! There are rocks here, too!

 We ran into our friend, Diane, whom I don’t think we have seen in… a year or two. We also took the girls to see some of the animals.

Stray Toasters – Team DiVa Music Edition

  • Among the ladies’ top music requests these days are such diverse elements as:
    • Marvin Gaye’s Got to Give It Up – which they call “The Star Song,” because of the cover art that shows up with it on Spotify
    • Gorillaz’ 19-2000 (Soulchild Remix)which they call “Baby Crying,” again because of the cover art. (Not sure exactly how they arrived at this one, but that’s what they call it.
    • The Monkey Song, from Animaniacs – their current favorite pre-bedtime song/video.
      • Sara! surprised me with the information that this wasn’t an original song, but was adapted from a song called Monkey, by Harry Belafonte.
    • Elmo’s Song, from Sesame Street (Hey, they’re kids. Go figure.)
  • Sunday evening, as we were leaving the house to go to Sara’s parents’ house, Diana started singing “I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike…” Neither Sara nor I taught her Bicycle Race, so we were stymied by her belting it out. It turns out that Sara’s mother taught it to the girls, singing it to/with them whenever they see a bicycle go by. Diana, seeing my bicycle in the garage on our way out, just did what her grandmother had taught her. “Clever girl.”
  • On the way home from dinner, the girls started singing “The Tra La La Song (Theme from The Banana Splits Show).” That one I take full credit/blame for.

And with that, I’m calling this entry “done.”

Namaste.