Wednesday, November 19, 2008

carport: part 4

Lots of work on the carport! I was planning on waiting until I got the roof on before posting this, but it's been a long haul. I've got the posts in, the trusses up, the roof beams across, and about half of the roofing panels on. Once those are up (hopefully finished this weekend), I'll break for the winter. And then it will be walls, window, trim, and paint in the Spring.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

new pictures!! (and some old ones :) )

So, for those of you who are not on Facebook, or don't get over there very often...I wanted to share all of our recent pictures!

Divided up by album:
Pictures of the boys dressed up, getting free burgers at Wee Willie's and trick or treating at the mall on Halloween

We had a blast pumpkin carving

We had a visit from Grandma and Grandpa early in October

The boys went on a Field Trip to the Apple Works Farm with their Homeschool group and Nana and Grandpa

Many of the pictures of the kitchen remodel are already on here, but this album includes the full tranformation

We also painted and put down laminate flooring in the dining room

And...during the kitchen remodeling project...I got stuck behind my washing machine and couldn't stop laughing, and this was too funny not to share!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

carport: part 3

Real progress on the carport project this weekend! I got my little "work area" set up under a dining canopy borrowed from our camping gear and set off with Mark and Dean early Saturday morning to do some shopping. They didn't sell ten-foot 4x6s at Lowe's so I ended up with more 12-footers then I wanted to deal with, but that's the way it goes. The van was really weighed down with all the lumber and bags of concrete, but we made it back home okay, dragging our bumper all the way. Okay, not really, but you know what I mean.

The posts were heavy, but once the holes were measured and marked (tougher then it sounds since I'm building into a slope) holes were dug. I rented an earth auger from the True Value to get the digging done ($41 for a half day including insurance) and drilled holes for my gate posts, too. Totally worth it - I never would have been able to do the job with a regular post hole digger. 18 holes in all, eight inches in diameter.

Then, some gravel borrowed from the driveway, some scrap wood for supports, and all 18 posts got set in, down to the bedrock, and surrounded by concrete. I went for the expensive no-mix concrete (dump in the 50 pound bag and then put a gallon of water on top) which was another time-saving extra expense, but also one that truly made the job easier considering the price difference was only about $2.40 a bag.

The next step is to figure out the height and angle of the roof, lop off the posts at the right height, and get the roof beams installed. Hopefully some of that can happen during the week this week so I can get a roof on this thing before it gets much colder!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

halloween decorations

Not a lot of decorations, but three pumpkins, a spooky litte fence with little mini pumpkins, a goofy light up plastic pumpkin (thanks Tris' mom!), and a couple big inflatable pumpkins (one from a super after Halloween sale last year and one from craigslist a couple weeks ago). Oh, and a little 4 foot skeleton on the hickory tree (what, not another pumpkin?)

But the real point of this post is that it's lots of fun being on a busy road. Back at the townhouse we were tucked in our little corner and only the few folks on our little dead-end row of townhouses ever got to see our super-sweet Halloween set ups (like the castle photo below!).

But now, we get literally thousands of cars every day! Mark and I were actually getting the occassional honk or yell of approval as we were setting things up. It's great to know my "work" is appreciated! Haha!

Of course, moving in and taking care of some home improvements left us with a fairly minimalistic set up, I'm already scheming for next year. I'm hoping to have a couple of flying Axworthy ghosts, more pumpkins, a large graveyard set-up with a crank ghost in a mausoleum, and maybe even a gigantic spider attacking the house!

Of course, Halloween decorating is fun, but what really has me excited is Christmas! I've maybe doubled my count of lights since we moved (thanks to the healthy Indiana yard sale industry), so it should be a massive display worthy of those who travel down Union Valley Road.

Monday, October 20, 2008

indiana limestone

We've had some visitors lately - my mom and dad and Vicki and Ron (on back-to-back weekends, no less!) Plus Tris' Aunt Mellon and Cousin Colleen. So we've been doing some touring and doing our best to share what we know of our new Indiana home (ooh, look - there's the stadium! And we have two Bed Bath and Beyonds!). One of the things I attempted to describe was the significance of Indiana Limestone - specifically how it relates to Ellettsville, whos Welcome sign proclaims that they are the "Builders of American History."

The only things I could say were what I've kind of gleaned from talking with folks at work and what I've read in the paper - there's lots of quarries around, lots of IU's buildings are built out of limestone, and I think they repaired the Pentagon with limestone from Ellettsville after 9/11. Turns out I was mostly (vaguely) right. Read what I read at Wikipedia to find out more - there's actually some interesting stuff in there.

Friday, October 17, 2008

carport: part 2

I never get permits for any of my home improvement projects but after discovering that I could get some engineering consulting along with my little orange window sign, I decided to do it. Of course, the fact that I was planning on constructing a 32 x 20' building less then 40' from a main roadway made this seem like the kind of project I should let the County know about.

So not being a professional or having blueprints or real plans of any kind, I simply handed in a couple of my Google Sketch-Up printouts, a rough materials list, and a scrap of paper with a little drawing on it. That apparently was enough for them and they approved my application. When I picked up the permit down at the Courthouse (and handed over $80 of my hard-earned money), I made an appointment for a consultation. And that brings us up to today.

I had a great conversation with an older guy, Bill, who looked at a couple of my drawings. He was really cool and took the time to understand my ideas as if he was actually enjoying looking at them. As a matter of fact, everyone at the Courthouse has been this way on my couple of visits. So we went through, step by step, and talked about the depth of my footers, the size and spacing of roof beams, how I should create windbreaks to prevent updrafts, and lots of other things.

Bill could have blown me off and stuck to a hard line of "we can't help you design it for liability reasons" but he didn't. We spent about 40 minutes together - me the novice do-it-yourselfer and he the experienced public servant and engineer. I've never had such a pleasant experience interacting with government.

But anyway, now I am fully armed with confidence that I can accomplish this project. I think I might be able to get started next weekend - should be fun!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

dining room / extra room project: part 4

The project is long-done, but here's a late photo update!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

network confusion

So here's one way in which I have been absolutely unable to adjust to living here. It's really not a big deal, but it's amazing how much of a challenge this has been for me.

I can't figure out the TV stations.

My whole life, NBC was channel 4, WRC-TV. FOX 5. ABC 7 on your side. Channel 9 CBS, UPN "my" 20, 50: the WB. The adjustment to PBS hasn't been as difficult as we always had a lot of PBS channels to choose from. I can't get this though. I look at the TV menu and I don't recognize the numbers- they aren't even switched around, they're just totally different numbers. The call letters are familiar now, but I can't seem to actually associate them with a particular network or even channel number. I find myself staring at the guide sort of blankly and then finally scanning for the shows that I watch- which doesn't help much because I only have shows that I watch three days a week- until Lost comes back on and then I might have 4.

I know this is a stupid thing, but it's amazing to me that my mind hasn't managed to wrap itself around this. I've got the roads down pretty good, even the radio stations to some degree. Maybe I'm not trying hard enough, as I do only turn the TV on a couple of times a week, maybe I just need to watch more TV. Interesting.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

fall yard work

Now that the "must-do" inside projects are basically wrapped up, I've been getting around to some outside stuff. It's nice weather outside, too, so it's fun.

I did a nice refurb of the fire pit using stones I found in the yard along with a nice truckload I got for free off craigslist (back when we had the pick-up, of course!). It looks great, and we're finally able to get rid of the rest our construction waste (the old countertops, the cardboard boxes from the new cabinets, etc).

I'm finalizing my carport plans and writing up materials lists - looks like it's going to be a huge project, costing well over $1000 in materials alone. Yikes!

I've been continuing work on my "yard master plan," too, which incorporates all the garden areas, the planned sandbox and castle playground, and the "park" side of the yard. I need to get started with moving some of our hostas and splitting some lilies before they disappear for good, too. Tris' Aunt Melon has promised us some big grasses from her place in Chicago and Trissie bought a whole slew of bulbs that all need to get into the ground... good thing the tiller mysteriously stopped working!

I've also started the fence project - what was to be our first priority when we moved in is finally getting done ;) Basically I'm getting a short wire fence up across the front property line to help keep the kids from running out into the road. Dean's gotten much more mobile over the last couple of months, so it's better late than never that this is getting up!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

dining room / extra room project: part 3

The extra room floors are down! There was a funny rise near the foyer, and despite my efforts to fill in the dip with cardboard, there's still a squishy spot right where you walk in. Ah, well. Maybe we'll put a thick rug right there and no one will notice :P

Tris figured out a good way of arranging the furniture, which was no easy task - the room is an "L" shape with a wall of closet and doors on either end. But it looks good! We need to find a little sewing table for Trissie and some sort of low table for my records, but other then that, it's done! We decided not to bother painting in there until later, since there's so many other rooms that we'd like to take care of first (Dean and Mark's room will be next, I think).

Sorry no pictures in this update, I'll get some posted soon!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

traffic patterns

Traffic is hugely different, as we've posted about before. But I noticed two things in particular last week.

First was due to the remnants of Hurricane Ike. Power went out here and there, and we were driving around and there were many stoplights not working. Back in Burke this would happen and it was like no one knew what to do. The people on the main road would just go through the intersection, a steady flow of traffic, effectively trapping people on the side streets who could never get out. Every intersection was just anarchy - cars slowly nosing in, cars slowing wayyy down as they rolled through, some blasting across full speed, some stopping and starting randomly.

Now when dealing with a non-working stoplight, the law is to treat such an intersection as a four-way stop - all cars stop at the intersection and take turns. And you know what? Here in Indiana they do! At every intersection we approached I was shocked as I rolled to a stop and saw the other cars stop too. I attribute this partly to Northern Virginians suffering from a mob-mentality of opportunism and partly to the amount of non-native drivers. I think here most everyone grew up knowing the law and how to drive in such situations. Plus everyone here is much more polite and chill on the roads in general.

And now my second and quite wacky observation: the most common thing I see that would go into the scoff-law or aggressive driving category is one that a driver in Northern Virginia would never get away with. The set up is as follows: At an intersection where there is no green arrow, you are stopped with a red light. You and the opposite car both get a green light. And he makes a left turn in front of you! I've seen this happen a lot. I think it is because generally drivers here don't rocket off the line when they get a green - so that gives enough time for the other driver to make the quick left in front of them.

Maybe this a regional thing. Or maybe, since technically doing so really doesn't slow anyone down, it goes back to that classic mid-west laid-back attitude of "eh, no big deal."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

midwest 9/11

9/11 came and went today with barely a mention here. There was only a short bit on the news about the Pentagon Memorial and only a little quarter-page blurb on the front of the Herald-Times newspaper. At work, there was no moment of silence or All-Staff email from the University Presidents anything like that. There was a ceremony at the Bloomington City Hall that included remarks, a prayer, and "Amazing Grace" on bagpipes, but the focus was "Honoring our Police and Firefighters," not remembering victims. To be fair, there was a big article on the front page of the student newspaper and there were candle light vigils planned on campus this evening, but considering 25% of IU students are from the East Coast that's not too surprising. Overall, not much. No one at work even mentioned the day's significance.

Back in Virginia, especially working for Arlington County, 9/11 was always a big deal. I remember every community having their own little 9/11 memorial, and on this day, their own ceremony of sorts. It seemed everyone in Northern Virginia had some sort of three-step connection to someone who died that day, and I knew folks that actually watched the plane fly over their heads on the way to the Pentagon. Now, I'm not all weepy sentimental, so I was surprised today that I missed some of that ceremony and the retelling of some of those stories.

I guess the point is that our move to Indiana has resulted in this being the first year since 2001 that 9/11 didn't really make much of an impact - back at MHz it was always retelling of stories or noticing that some coworker was taking the day off. At Arlington, it was a big part of our job to cover the big bell-ringing on Courthouse Plaza that would be attended by hundreds. There was a moment of silence, flags hung on office buildings, and it seemed to be all over the TV. I guess somehow here, 500 miles away from New York and Arlington, 9/11 is more a conceptual attack on values or something like that and less a plume of smoke visible from your window. And I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

dining room / extra room project: part 2

The dining room is all but complete! Just need to do those pesky transitions and paint that ugly orange door, but otherwise we're done! The pain of leveling out the uneven floor (thanks to the fact that these rooms were once a two-car garage) was rivaled only by dealing with the 2-inch change in elevation between the dining room and the living room - we essentially had to bust up another little bizarro ramp and pour a sort of concrete "step" between the rooms. The actual installation of the floors took no time at all through, only a few hours.

The boys really were thrilled with the whole process, and Mark has really taken to commenting on the home improvements - "Wow, this is so bee-yoooo-tiful!" Of course their "help" tends to de-evelove into hinderance quite quickly, but we've been getting good at gauging when to involve them and when they are really done and are ready to do something else.

And now that this is done and the furniture is in, we'll start moving stuff out of the extra room and do the same thing in there!

Friday, September 5, 2008

dining room / extra room project: part 1

We're doing laminate flooring throughout the dining room and extra room. Tris researched it and we bought it a couple weeks ago when it went on sale at Menard's. But, before we put that down, it made sense to us to paint first. So, the old carpet came up, the moulding off, and Mark and I set to work with trying to cover up the horrible, awful orangey brown color in the dining room. As Mark was working, I kept thinking his paint job was reminiscent of that creepy house at the end of the Blair Witch Project.

train of thought

Since we moved here, I've been waiting to be stopped at the train tracks. Always a huge novelty growing up in Northern Virginia, I've always liked going out to West Virginia or other places and actually crossing train tracks and even having to wait in line as one goes by. We would even take Mark out to the VRE station in Burke to see the commuter train roll in and I would always take him down to the Metro when I brought him to my office in Arlington.

So living here, where railroads were (and somewhat still are) a major part of industry, I was excited by the prospect or having trains be more a part of my driving experience. We can hear the train from our house and the railroad tracks cross many major roadways, sometimes on bridges, sometimes with gated crossings, but in town, many crossings are merely marked with a sign and blinking lights - no gates at all.

Well, finally, when I was going to the junkyard to inquire about a starter for the truck, I was headed south on Adams Street, and there was the train! I pulled up behind two cars, ready to stop and enjoy its passing, when the last train car emerged from the trees! I didn't even get to a complete stop before the cars ahead started across the track!

Not to miss my opportunity to achieve my goal of actually (literally) stopping for a train, I made a quick right turn and zipped up Vernal Pike toward the junkyard.

Basically, this was another crossing with no gates - just signs - so I was able to get ahead of the end of the train, roll all the way up to the tracks, and sit with my front bumper only a few feet from it as the last several cars slowly rolled along. Fun!

I know this post is kind of weird, but I like trains, I think having trains in my town is really cool, and there's something fun about having to stop and look both ways at train tracks while driving around in town.

the truck is gone

Amazingly, we sold the truck- in just a couple of days even! A small family whose son professed "me and my dad, we fix trucks" bought it $300 and an arc welder. It's a nice, but older arc welder that's in need of a minimal repair, so we're going to see what the pawn shops will give us for it. If we weren't so busy remodeling, moving in, building a carport, fence and a playground, we just might keep it and learn about welding, but I do think it might be possible that our plate is full right now.

So I'm already on the lookout for a new truck. This one wasn't really what I wanted anyway- I didn't like the step-side or the bed. Think Uncle Jesse on Dukes of Hazzard and that's a lot closer to what I want. I'm sure one will come our way when we have the cash and the need for it though. Am I still a genuine Hoosier without a rusted pickup, though?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

the kitchen: part 6

It's been a while since the last update, and there's lots that's been done! Whew!

All of the old kitchen (all the bags of insulation, the panel walls, flooring, sink, piping, some cabinets) went to the dump in the back of the pickup truck. The new drywall is up (cutting drywall is a pain, FYI) and the dust from all of the patch and seam work is just about cleared from our lungs. All the cabinets are installed (including two gigantic corner cabinets with double-stacked lazy-susans). Flooring is down, walls are primed and ceiling is painted. The countertop people are measuring on Friday, and it will take about a week for it to be ready for installation. After much research on Trissie's part, we went with Silestone, which is great since it's the toughest of all of them and I really want to cut on it and put my red hot egg pan right on the countertop (though Trissie still insists that it doesn't matter what the brochure says and I absolutely may not get into the habit of regular cutting and putting on of hot pans).

The window guy should be installing our new window this weekend or next, too. We're getting a big garden window that will be a full five feet across and stick out about 26 inches including the sill. Awesome!

The plumber came and moved the sink over for us (about three feet to the right) and he swapped out our horrible little 1/2 inch copper tubing lines for 3/4 PVC. Things were quite a mess down there, with a giant cast iron drain pipe that had to get cut out, weird shut off connections that didn't make any sense and more than one "mystery pipe to nowhere." But with the changes we were able to install the bottom cabinets, we're fully ready for countertop installation, the dishwasher is exactly as it should be, we have a hose properly (and safely) run to the ice-maker, and the new PVC will give us our maximum possible water pressure at the sink.

New light fixtures are up, too - a big flourescent 4' on the ceiling and a nifty little bar light over the sink. That one was a bit of a challenge because we took out the soffit that went around the whole kitchen and that was concealing the wiring and recessed light that used to be there. So some cramming of old wiring back into the wall was required. So far the house hasn't sparked up in flames from my do-it-yourself electrical work - and I only electrocuted myself one time installing the new outlets! Woohoo!

These photos were taken before it was done, but we got the kick-plates on the lower cabinets and the little moulding all around the bottom of the upper cabinets. They really look awesome. The under-cabinet lighting still needs to be installed, but we bought it and that should be a quick job. We also got a nifty under-cabinet TV from Meijer. Tris installed the handles and had a bit of a tough time - the templates didn't line up or the holes went funny, or whatever, but they all eventually made it in nice and straight. And after swapping a couple cabinets from left-swinging to right, we're very satisfied with the overall look of the room!

Other then the countertop and window, all that is really left now is the transitions from tile to the other rooms, moulding at the bottoms of the walls, wall paint, and the backsplash! Yay new kitchen!

To see some 50 plus photos of the whole job in process, click over to Tris' Facebook album!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

eric's new job: month 3

Yup, it's been just over 3 months. Almost long enough that I can't really effectively use being new as an excuse anymore ;)

Work is great. I've been all over the state shooting stuff, meeting interesting people and going to cool places. Things are ramping up with the Fall. Students are back, so the parking lots, streets, and hallways are crowded between classes, which is kind of fun to have around and gives the place a bit more life. I'm just about fully comfortable with the ins and outs of all things logistical and technological with the job, and I've reached that point where things have reached a state of normal-ness - I'm not feeling like a new guy figuring it out anymore.

Also, I've been at my regular desk for a while now, so I'm all unpacked, which makes me feel much more "at home." Everyone back in Arlington can laugh because, yes, it's nothing like the excessively luxurious accommodations you guys have. In fact, about half the stuff I had back at Arlington couldn't fit into my new space. But it's a nice set up, with a window and everything, and after a few more people shift around I'll gain some more real estate in the same room.

One of the really fun "other duties as assigned" jobs that I've taken on are the football and basketball games. I'll be doing some shifts running the jumbo-tron graphics (like the "De-Fense!" or "Make some noise!" animations). I worked the first home game last weekend and it was pretty cool. Most of the crew was in a TV production truck outside, but I was up next to the announce booth with the official instant replay guys. Not having watched or been exposed to much (any?) college sports before, it was lots of fun! Maybe I'll become a real fan!

So, this post is really all about the end of my "new to the job" status. On Thursday we're having an all-staff "round-up" kind of thing where we all pow-wow for the coming year: strategic changes are discussed, updates are announced, and recent additions to staff are formally introduced (me!). And then the regular shows start their weekly schedules the next week!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

death truck truck death

Since we got it, I've been calling our 1984 Ford F-150 "The Death Truck" because it was a big hunk of rust, had a busted strut, no blinkers, and was all around a little scarey to drive around in. Plus, it looks like something a crazy hillbilly murderer would roll up to your campsite in while you were sleeping.

We had grand plans to paint it like a bumble bee, or with flowers, or with a montage of old-school NES characters. Well, that's all going to have to wait for the next truck now. We went out to pick up some free concrete blocks from craigslist (for a sandbox project), and after we had stopped to load up the truck wouldn't start. Just a click-click-clicking noise.

A new battery, a solenoid diagnostic, and a replaced starter... no luck. Whatever the problem is, the truck is still sitting there on the side of the road in the middle of downtown Bloomington and I don't want to pay to have it towed or sink big money into repairing what is ultimately a really really crappy (awesome) truck.

So we'll either sell it back out on craigslist or look into the "we buy junk cars" people - their ads say they will pay as much as $350 for a full-size truck. We shall see.

In the end, we have no regrets for buying our truck - it took care of lots of hauling jobs: our storage locker, the apartment, free sand, the John Deere, landscaping stones, firewood, trash to dump, and drywall for the kitchen. And of course there was all the the fun we had owning it and driving it and tinkering with it.

So, we'll get another truck sometime soon. We'll have firewood to go get, right?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

the student population

The students are back! They've been coming back for a week or so now, with today being the biggest day for move-ins. We've heard about what this does to the area, but we're just beginning to experience it. For instance, we've heard to be careful and watch out for oblivious pedestrians and confused drivers that don't yet understand the roads and the one-ways and just generally drive like 18 year-olds do.

I've seen a car accident every day since Friday, and before Friday I may have seen one or two in the whole time we've lived here. Yesterday, I think we saw three in the span of 2 miles on the way home from Sam's Club. This is only on the outskirts of town, too- west of 37!! We're not venturing downtown proper for a while (we meaning the family, Eric has to go to campus) as we've heard it becomes fairly gridlocked. It'll be fun to see how this all changes the area as we moved in during Bloomington's sleepy summer. Eric is actually taping the big move-in today; I'm excited to hear all about it when he gets home.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

google calendar

So a new perk of Eric's job is he gets to be the second person to be trained to run the jumbo tron that displays cheers and jeers at football and basketball games! He's going to get to go to all the home games and get fed and paid to do it!! woo-hoo!! I think he may even become a college sports fan with all this game attendance.

The weird schedule this will result in- he'll take time off during the day on other M-F days- is really not an issue for us since I'm home with the boys. The problem is that this new job this is really exploding into the most erratic schedule ever. I can't figure out what day of the week it is! I rely heavily on my wall calendars as a visual reference of what day it is and what our plans are as is; this is becoming too much to keep straight in my head. So we came up with a fun new technological solution! Google calendar, for the family that needs to coordinate their schedules but doesn't use Microsoft Outlook. He can see the days he needs to be sure to off and available, and I can check it to see what the week has in store for us and plan accordingly. It's all in one place and I can even have little weather bugs showing what to expect for the next three days. Hooray!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

sausage pizza

We've been slowly making our way through all the local pizza joints to see which we like best. We've tried four so far (slow going, yes, but we're also trying to find our favorite fried chicken and burger places, too). So, here's my real beef (pun intended): so far, three of the four pizza places (Monroe County Pizza Department, Pizza Express, Pizza Pantry) have minced sausage. Mother Bear's (my current #1) has "normal" whole sausage (plus a super thick pan, spicy sauce, and great specials).

The point is that sausage is typically my favorite topping - along with tomato and bacon. But this crumbled up sausage stuff isn't the sausage I know and love! It's just not the same at all. There's something like five or six more local places to check out, so I hope this is just bad luck and we're not actually uncovering a mid-west culinery standard.

the shopping adjustment

The biggest adjustment for me in moving here I think has been the shopping. Not the available shopping, we really have all the same stores for the most part. We have one Target instead of five, but we have all the stores nonetheless.

No, the big adjustment has been in the hours during which shopping is available. The big box stores are mostly open "regular" hours, but the other places are not. A lot of places close about 5 or 6 during the week, are open for half of Saturday- if at all- and are most certainly closed on Sunday. Many restaurants close at eight or nine, especially in Ellettsville.

This hasn't been a problem, so much as an irritation. We're very used to getting stuff done at home in the morning and afternoon, and then going out to price things out or shop after the boys get up from their naps. We tried this when we were shopping for a bed and were only able to go to one store! This past weekend, we tried to go to the counter top store- which just added Saturday hours of 9-1 and extended their weekly hours from 4:30 PM to 5 PM- but we got hung up and there was an accident on the two lane road to get out there and we missed it. We'll be trying again to get out there this Saturday, or maybe we'll make it Friday if Eric is able to accumulate enough hours to get out early.

I'm not sure how long it will take for me to get used to this- I don't know if I ever seems to me my whole life I could shop basically whenever it was convenient for me. I fully understand and support these folks in wanting to limit their hours, especially on the weekends, but it's definitely taking some getting used to!!

radio regionality

Is regionality even a word? Anyway, I've been meaning to post on this for a while: radio is fairly different out here. I suppose it's because I've followed along the same stations my entire life back in Virginia, and therefore knew basically everything I liked / didn't like, where stations were, where they moved to, where to get my "traffic on the 8s" and where to get my rock. Of course, here everything is different (duh).

But even more importantly, and more interesting, is that the content is different. Not just the fact that we have Radio Disney here or that there's more country stations - the actual songs played within the genre stations are different. For example, I was listening to the "all 80s weekend" on 107.9 The Track and I expected to know just about 90% of the songs - back in VA when I would catch an all 80s block I knew all the songs, right? It was the 80s there the same as here, right? Wrong! About half the songs were unfamiliar.

And it's the same with the classic rock, soft rock, modern rock, and oldies stations (remember when you used to have more then one of those, DC?). So I guess just like kids here listen to slightly different music now, they did back in the 70s and 80s, too. And therefore as classic rock and oldies stations evolved, they kept that regional nature... Which means I get less "Sledgehammer" and more Mellencamp.

So while we do have a pretty good college radio station with WIUX, I do miss my familiar DC radio...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

dude, you're like, thirty years old

The college kids are rolling into town. First it's the off-campus kids, then the freshmen, then everyone else (fun fact: the incoming freshman class was born in 1990). This influx is already changing the landscape of things, and in two weeks time the population will increase by nearly 30,000. But for now it's mostly just a little more people on campus and a boost in younger folks (and their parents) at the grocery store.

I guess I'm young at heart or something - I feel young and happy and turning thirty was not and is not a big deal to me at all (and Tris agrees with me on all of this, BTW), but I feel like I relate to these young folks (sheesh, did I just say folks?). Somehow, my mind thinks I'm still 20 or something, and I somehow actually think these are my peers. Like I'm saying Hi to them and all that. And at work, I'm trying to be pals with the student hourlies that hang around. I'm like, "Hey, guys, what's up?"

And now I'm starting to think that maybe when they say hey back, they are really thinking "Why is this old dude talking to us again?"

I realized this because I know that's what I used to do when I was 20 and I was an hourly employee at a public television station. "Why is this old dude trying to hang out with us??"

This is a rambling post, I know, but I thought it would be interesting to point out that the uniqueness of this town (and my job) is really changing my perspective on age. I don't know if that perspective is more or less realistic, though... heh.

Monday, August 18, 2008

wal-mart really is evil!

Like everyone, I know the stories about Wal-Mart killing the small town and running local businesses out of, well, business. Back in NoVA, I don't think it really had too much of an effect though, simply because there's been big-box stores all over the metro region for forty years. So it was never a "real" thing to me - not anymore.

After talking to an old man in one of the towns I visited with work, I made the connection between my observation that every town has a Wal-Mart and the fact that some of these neglected little town squares in Indiana are full of vacant storefronts and are virtually abandoned. The relationship is obvious now: these century-old downtowns, complete with clothing stores, hardware stores, pharmacies, shoe stores, and appliance shops simply couldn't compete when the Wal-Marts moved into Southern Indiana.

So, while I've always heard the stories about evil Wal-Mart, I've never known what they really meant. It's truly heartbreaking to see first hand that one store has turned these communities into ghosttowns. And even worse to listen to an old man, eyes filling with tears, as he relates the story of his own town's ruin.

But boy, don't they just have good prices? I mean, I just bought a rake for $3! Really!

the kitchen: part 5

We're insulated!! We had to buy new insulation to replace the old paper insulation that came tumbling out of the walls, and I think it looks very pretty :) Cleaning up the old insulation was a task- I made a shovel out of an old 12 pack box and shoveled it all into big black trash bags. We have about 7 bags full of the stuff.
Eric relocated the electric to the places I wanted it- a perk of taking down the walls, hooray!! I'll actually have an outlet on either side of the stove now, much easier for cooking. We have 9 sheets of drywall awaiting installation out on the deck, now it's just a question of whether we can get it up during the week in the evenings or if we have to wait until the weekend. We have to be out of the apartment before Friday, so that might have to take precedence. It's all moving right along, though!!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

the kitchen: part 4

Total de(con)struction! What a mess! The cabinets are out, the walls are coming down! Paper-y insulation is falling out all over the floor! I'm covered in little pop-corny things (painted the textured ceiling)! How exciting!

Friday, August 15, 2008

moving in

Well, the POD is empty and gone. I am completely astounded that we emptied it ourselves. Given the assistance it took to fill it and the u-haul (thank you Sebastian and Alan!!!!), I was sure we'd need a few men to help us out here. It turns out that the stairs, inside and leading up to the front door, were the big thing with the townhouse. Moving in to a house with no stairs at all was actually fairly simple. We used the hand truck a lot, for heavy things we could move a few feet and stop, and there was also Eric's genius "roll it over method". This did strain some feet, but mostly it worked out great. We only have a few things left at the apartment to get, then we have to clean it up for the lessor's return on Friday.

So mostly everything is here in our house and I'm trying to figure out what can be unpacked, which is tough because things were packed mostly by room, and the room breakdowns aren't the same here of course. Not having the kitchen, dining room, living room, or guest room to unpack into yet means we'll be in boxes for some time still. Our bedroom is looking pretty good though! We have a new king bed that matches quite well with the planked ceiling and we have plans to paint the walls blue. I can't get used to the size of the bed and keep walking into the foot board (day and night!), so I have a ring of bruises about two inches above my knees. I'm such a klutz!!

Hopefully we'll have up some new pics of the kitchen progress after this weekend.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

kitchen: part 3

This weekend is our first "big push" weekend. All the upper cabinets are out, the oven, cooktop, and range hood are out. The scrapyard buys metal for 95 cents a pound, so we could get maybe 7 dollars for the oven, but that's only if no one takes it for free on Craigslist.

Now it's time to get some cabinets assembled - we want to have as many put together and ready to be installed as possible so we can minimize the "no cabinets" phase of things.

On Thursday we're getting an estimate on a "garden" window (a stick-out box window) for over the sink, and I'm finishing up the seal-painting in the basement so we have a place to move all of the old cabinets.

poison ivy!

I think we've mentioned before that we have quite a bit of poison ivy around the wooded areas, but we also have some in the flower beds. Apparently, when the in-laws moved in, they just didn't tend to the gardens- at all really.

So a couple of weeks ago, the mama in me just couldn't take the poison ivy creeping up the edges of the deck anymore. Dean was getting awfully close to it. it was a hot day and I was wearing a t-shirt and some pretty short shorts. I got gloves and clippers and started yanking it all out. I was only going to get the parts that were creeping up over the deck, but when I could trace them back to the ground behind the lattice, I had to pull all that out too. I thought I kept the pulling under 20 minutes and then I immediately went and showered, washing three times with a special poison ivy soap.

On Monday I had a funny spot on my leg that I though might be a spider bite because it was black in the middle and irregularly shaped. Then I started to break out on my neck. An hour later I had a couple of spots on my arm. It was weird like this, it was like every half-hour to an hour I would notice a new spot that had started itching. The breaking out continued into Tuesday, and by Tuesday night I was blistered and begging Eric to bring something home. The next few days I experienced a feeling that probably best be described as my skin being on fire as it started to blister up really bad. We discussed the merits of popping blisters, which became moot because I ended up in so much pain that i just put band-aids over them and popped them by pushing on them, just to relieve some of the pressure from the blisters. I knew it was supposed to take 10-14 days to clear up, so I was going to give it until this Tuesday-Friday to see some improvement. I was trying everything for relief, special poison ivy scrubs, homeopathic gels and sprays, baking soda paste, cold packs, vinegar, Benadryl spray, vitamin C, vitamin C gel directly on the name it, I was using it. I think the vitamin C gel worked best.

So then last Saturday we went out to Cincinnati to pick up our kitchen cabinets. Mark fell while he was goofing, gave us a scare and we took him to the hospital to get checked out. Long story short, that kid has a noggin made of steel. My leg blisters popped while I was taking care of Mark at the hospital.

Monday morning I woke up with a new part of my leg itching, by the afternoon it was completely broken out in spots. This prompted concern from Eric, because we really couldn't identify any possible source of new exposure. He wanted me to go to the doctor, but I thought I saw some improvement. By Tuesday my arm was definitely better, looked less like a chemical burn and move like I was a stabbing victim- or had gotten into a very serious altercation with a feral cat, my neck wasn't bothering me at all.

My legs were a different story. I had now begun cleaning them with rubbing alcohol and putting neosporin and band-aids on them because they had new blisters. They were really really red. The big spot (see pic below) kept blistering wherever it wasn't covered. I started worrying about staph a little bit now. I still thought it *might* be improving though. On Wednesday or Thursday I realized the new outbreak on the one leg was impetigo- but I was doing to right thing with cleaning and treating it with neosporin. I was holding out hope to see some improvement on that giant spot, which by now was bright red, not getting small, and felt like an orange peel. With the impetigo not improving, and my big scary red spot, I realized I had to go to the doctor. Fortunately our doctor runs a walk-in 7 days a week, so we headed out first thing Friday. The diagnosis - I was doing everything right and it was good to wait and see, but yes, I had a secondary infection for sure. I had cellulitis on the one leg and impetigo on the other. She cultured the blisters and after researching to see what was safe for a nursing mom, I received a two phase steroid shot and four prescriptions. A steroid, an antibiotic, an antibiotic ointment, and Diflucan for the antibiotic. Within hours, I could see some improvement, and today my skin is starting to feel like skin again.

So here are a couple of pics, the spots are much smaller and no longer red. The splotch of cellulitis is about the same size, but no longer bright red and leathery. The posion ivy up and down my legs is basically gone, I have a stubborn spot of something on my foot, but it's improving. My arms and neck are not bothering me at all, just a bit scarred and red still.

So I think I'll be much much more wary of poison ivy in the future! I also really really want to eradicate it. That probably leaves me glaring at it from a distance :)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

the carport: part 1

Now here's a project beyond any scope I've ever attempted. My confidence that I can accomplish this is based on the fact that back at the townhouse I replaced the roof on our front porch and built a little 8x8 deck platform in the back yard... those jobs were relatively easy, so how hard can this be?? Right??

I drew this using Google SketchUp, a totally wicked CAD-like program you can download for free.

Anyway, the carport will have two huge windows (the old patio doors from the bedroom turned on their sides). It'll have a long overhanging sloped roof, hopefully giving the whole thing a funky contemporary look that will compliment the house's lines. The siding will match the vertical siding that's on the one section of the house, too.

Obviously, this is as far as I've gotten on this project. I wanted to have some decent plans in hand (the boards I drew on the plan are actually the true dimensions and measurements I'll use to build) to take to the County to get a building permit. While I'm happy to have a plan in hand, I don't think I'll get much further until several other higher priority projects happen first: the kitchen, flooring in the dining and extra rooms, and the fence.

My whole reason for wanting one (and why my goal is to have it built by winter) is so I don't have to scrape my windshield. :)

the kitchen: part 2

A little kitchen update. Got sheet vinyl from Menard's the other day. 21' of it. It's a very similar look to what we had in the townhouse, but lighter, I think. Maybe a little "pinker" too, but very similar. We'll be glad to get rid of this black and white floor as much as we're ready to get the new cabinets and appliances in here.

Tris ordered a new table and chairs (that's her and Mark assembling them). The table is round-ish and folds up on the sides so it can tuck away better (looking at the previous kitchen post, you can see the fold up tables in the Ikea design, but they didn't have them at the store so we ordered this other one). It looks really nice and should fit the room well.

Last night we started taking down a cabinet - the little one over the fridge - just to check out the situation and see what we were up against for removing all of them. Well, it's going to be quite a job - there's lots of layers of paint (lead test kit is in the mail, BTW) that are holding things together and making the screws hard to find. The soffit above is crappy, too, so that's going to be removed. And, to add another layer of complexity and work to the job, we're going to take off the paneling walls and put up drywall.

So that's the plan! Time to get started....

living in a ranch

Well, the verdict is in. I love living in a ranch house! No more going up and down stairs, worrying about gates and kids falling- no more vacuuming stairs either :) Doing the laundry is so much easier, I'm right around the corner from the boys in the lving room, so no one has to stop anything they are doing. I can easily keep an eye and an ear on the boys while I start, switch, fold, or deliver to rooms.

Having a kitchen that walks out to the deck was a big thing we wanted too, and it's surely made a difference. We eat outside and grill out all the time, and we would probably do so even more often if it weren't so hot outside right now.

Our electric bill is lower, even though we've added over 800 square feet of living space. The thermostat is in the hall with the bedrooms, so we can keep them nice and cool and the living room and kitchen stay a little warmer, which is not only fine- it's preferable. Amazingly, I even love my side-by-side fridge. The freezer side is big enough to hold a cookie sheet, for freezing portion-sized meats, and all of the shelves on the fridge side make for much better organization.

We've started the kitchen remodel and it's interesting...I think I'll let Eric talk about that though :)

Monday, July 28, 2008

hippies and hillbillies

We attended two local events this weekend - the Bloomington Block Party and the County Fair.

First was the block party downtown. It was designed for kids and was in front of the Arts Center. There were crafts, music, lots of fun, friendly (and free!) stuff. It was the typical suburban farmer's market kind of crowd: vegan moms with tattoos and baby slings, dads with khaki shorts and iPhones. Think downtown Arlington, a Wegman's shopping experience, or the fancy parts of Reston. That's typical of much of the population of Bloomington proper: progressive, artsy, liberal.

Then came the county fair. Two fairs, actually: our own Monroe County Fair and the nearby Jackson County Fair. Both had dirt-track racing, vast 4-H animal and craft competitions, rides, food, etc. The attendance at these events was definitely more representative of the greater region and we really got the chance to meet, en masse, what we had previously only been able to see in small doses as we made our weekend excursions around the area. These were the real, live, con-tray folk...

Well, what's the point? The point is that this weekend really embodied the interesting dichotomy of our new home: hippies and hillbillies. Within minutes of each other is a run-down poor little rural town and the hip liberal fancies of a snooty coffee bar, vegan tofu restaurant, and high-end bike shop.

Reflecting on this, it's been something of a anthropological (sociological?) experience for me to see that all of these people seem happy to co-exist. I keep wondering why that seems so different. Maybe it's because the population is somewhat spread out and not compacted so much and therefore folks mix more; trailer park people cross paths with McMansion people all the time - they have to, because there's only one Mall. Or maybe it's because the super-rich ($200k+ households) virtually don't exist. Or maybe my own comparative upward financial movement has changed my perception of class relations...

Whatever the reason, many people here don't see it. Those transplanted from New York or San Francisco do, but most natives don't. So, that brings up a question. Having brought my family to a place where people are mostly easy-going and amicable, one might wonder if I'm condemning our kids to ignorance or merely sheltering their innocence?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

the kitchen: part 1

Didn't we just do this less then a year ago? Indeed, we are going to do a whole-kitchen remodel. The kitchen in the new house is original (from the 50s), so the cabinets are creaky, some of the drawers (metal!) are really tough to open and close, and the oven is simply awful - a 24" wall oven. Too small, too old, too whatever. The dishwasher, too. And plenty of other things that warrant us ripping the whole thing out and rebuilding it from the slab up.

The purchasing has begun: new overhead lighting, dishwasher, stove, and microwave / rangehood are standing by. We made the 2 1/2 hour drive to the nearest IKEA (Cincinnati) to order new cabinets. A fold-up table is being delivered. Tris is investigating windowboxes (a "bump-out" style window) for above the sink and we're thinking about flooring and paint options.

Aquisition stage well underway, some real work is ready to begin today: first up is organizing the basement - for two reasons. First , most of our tools are in boxes or in piles, so they need to get out and ready to go to work. Second, things need to get picked up down there enough to move the old kitchen cabinets down there (they'll fit nicely and work great to get the space looking good and usable).

Monday, July 21, 2008

my new favorite store

You have probably not heard of Meijer. Apparently, they invented the whole one-stop-shopping thing and they are really big here in the midwest. It's like Super Target, but different, in that they carry different brands and have different house brands. We went up there the other night (we don't actually have one in Bloomington) and didn't get to finish going through the whole store because it had gotten too late! We did walk out with a couple of awesome sale items. I got a couple of brightly colored (Tris- really!??!) shirts for 3.99 each, Eric got a new pair of sandals for 40% off and we got an undercabinet mount 11" LCD TV for 50% off! Apparently we were lucky to hit the beginning of an awesome 2 day sale. We didn't end up with a deck box to store cushions/toys in, so we're still on the lookout for those, but I have a bright orange tank top! woo-hoo!!!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

the midwest difference

So we had our new doors installed today! We decided to try out Lowe's, despite our previous experiences with Lowe's and Home Depot back in Virginia. We laughed at ourselves as we had sworn we would never use them for basically anything other than cart and carry items ever again.

What a completely different experience this was! From the beginning, with the door purchase, the folks at the store were not only knowledgeable, but also very proactive in assisting us in getting exactly what we were looking for. The installer was polite and courteous, and he came here himself with his 20 year old son to do the job- no day laborers on this job at all. The same man who came to measure is the same one who came to complete the job. When he left he gave me his card and told me to call if we had any trouble with the doors or anything. The carpet experience (for the master bedroom) has been equally good. The installer came to measure and was freshly showered and also very polite and courteous, I received extra discounts for having to wait to place my formal order last night, and I was given a detailed contact list for the installation department at Lowe's. What an amazingly different experience.

So these are our new french doors off our bedroom and our new front door!

Monday, July 14, 2008

room with a view 2

Ta-da! The job is done! While the floor is still a little slanty by the closet, overall the floor is totally fixed! So we hit Lowes to order our new carpeting, which should be installed in about a week. A new bed is on the way, too. Nothing like a little light demolition and reconstruction to make you feel a sense of ownership! Huzzah!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

another lawn mower?

I decided I needed to tackle that little hill on the one side of the front of our yard today - you know, that annoying steep slope in the front of some yards where it goes down to meet the road? The boys were napping, so I needed to take a break from the sawing and hammering of the floor project andyway. Well, I went to the little shed out back to get our manual push mower that we brought from VA, and I noticed something in the back of the dark, spider-filled, stinky metal shed: an old gas push mower! I know I noticed it when we first moved in, but I guess I forgot about it. I put some gas in, primed it up, and it started up after five pulls or so. Cool! Free lawn mower!

It's small and lightweight - not self-propelled, no bag, and it worked out well on the small hill - hooray!

After that, though, I got a little mow-happy. I started mowing up the brush all along the fenceline, keeping an eye out for the many large patchs of poison ivy. I mostly missed it, but I did accidentally chop up(and therefore spew forth out the side of the mower) many of the three-leaved itch-makers. But I really wanted to clear some of the brush back there, since it's choking out some good plants and such, so I pressed on, making my way around, mowing as deep into the brush as I could.

Hopefully I didn't chew up too much poison ivy. I did a super-scrub-down shower right away and so far so good, but we'll see what happens tomorrow.

After being mowed and now having some of the most encroaching brush mowed down, the yard is actually starting to take some form - I'm feeling much more confident that we can rescue it from the four years of neglect it's been trapped under.

Friday, July 11, 2008

room with a view

The other title for this post that I wanted to use was "Holy slanty subfloor, Batman!"

Our house has a couple weird things happening - we think the original house was built in the 50s. Then, at some point the garage was finished and made into the foyer, dining room, and "extra" room. And sometime in the 80s (so we estimate), the master bedroom and the basement below it were added on.

And it's that last addition that really got messed up... Back in the 50s, it wasn't uncommon for homes to be built with 10" joists - which is the framing that's under the 50s part of the house. Well, modern code requires 12" joists, so when the addition was added in the 80s, that's what they used. And they continued the same foundation across, so when they put the 12" joists on, the result was a 2" difference in height. Oops!

What to do? Yeah, that's right, they actually just built a slant. So the first three feet of the master bedroom (all along the entire 15' length of wall that includes the door to the hallway, the door to the closet, and the door to the bathroom) is slanted. I literally have gotten out of the bed in the middle of the night and stumbled downhill into the bathroom... When we first walked through the house, I made a joke with our realtor about how slanty it was - you know, the "look, I'm falling down a hill" joke?

So, this is a priority 1 project. I've sliced up the carpent, chopped up the sub-floor, and with the combined brainpower of myself and Tris, we've come up with a plan of attack... Step one being the gaping hole that you see before ye. Expect a fresh update tomorrow as to our progress. Hopefully it won't be a post abouta family member falling through or our needing to rescue Otis (our cat) from the depths of the crawlspace....

TV choices (or lack thereof)

I wired up the $25 antenna we used back in Burke (and successfully picked up all the DC stations with) and we got excatly what I expected: WTIU, the PBS station in Bloomington where I work. And that's it. The other channels (all the networks) are either out of Indy (50 miles away), Terra Haute (60 miles away), or Louisville (90 miles away). So, unless we want to be happy with the standard three digital PBS streams of PBS, PBS Kids and PBS world, I think we're going to have to do something else. An antenna that's moveable (rotates via a remote) is like $200+, not including a tall mast to put it on (which could be upwards of $300).

Dish Network's cheapest package - the "family" option, is local channels plus super basic stuff like CSPAN, Boomerang and Nick at Night - no MTV or E! or Discovery or anything like that... It's $25 a month. And that's better then cable or DirecTV, so it looks like that will be what we go with. But for now, we're happy to jsut be getting our Word Girl and Ruff Ruffman.