Monday, September 1, 2014

A little lesson on the benefits of hard work

After a summer of hard work, finding clients and mowing lots and lots of yards, Nathan found a truck that fit his budget. At age sixteen, he was able to purchase a 2003 Chevy Silverado pickup. It is a nice truck, which has a lot of miles, but it looks like it has been well cared for.

Saving up over $3000 in a summer is an impressive feat for a teenager and we are very proud of him. 

Now it's time to learn how to maintain it.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Shadow boxes

When we moved in to our current house, the previous owner left two pictures on the brick wall next to the fire place. Turns out that the frames hid two square holes in the wall. Today, after ignoring the holes for a few years, I decided to build shadow boxes to fill the holes and make the wall purtier.

To compliment the aspen trees painted on the dining room wall, I am going to cut smaller trees out and make a 3D diorama for the two boxes. We will also store the Pacific and Atlantic water in the boxes.

Before painting. I used old plywood that looked pretty rough. Always hate painting wood, but unless I wanted to shell out for nicer grain, this had to be painted. The photo makes the wood look better than the real thing.

Up and I painted (above) and the final, painted and ready to go is below.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The patio is finished

The patio is finished. Who hoo! We swept the first coat of sand in on Memorial day and re-purposed the Christmas lights into romantic ambiance lights and phase one of the backyard is complete. Only twenty more phases to go.

The calm befor the storm

This weekend, we had quite a hails storm. It was late at night, but earlier in the evening, I snapped the following photos. Below those photos is a sample of the two inch hail. Boy howdy it was loud.

Adding a personal touch to our house

Before going inside the house, the gas line sticks up a foot in the flower bed out back. I decided to add this postcard sized plaque able the line. Yes, it's unnecessary, but its a neat way to personalize the house.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Back patio progress

The hole is dug (too deep, I had to buy more mortar and concrete sand than expected.

First border bricks laid in. I am using used bricks but wanted the larger (more stable?) bricks around the edge. Had to buy those.

The outside is 2/3 complete. I am leaving the last side open until I have all the sand screeded.

This first design looks very nice. but with the cutting of so many bricks it would take too long to made 28 of them. Will make one in each outer corner and call it macaroni.

Another shot of the square.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Great Trans-continental Christensen Family Summer Vacation

Last summer we loaded up the van and transversely the continental United States from home to Virginia and the D.C. Area, back home and then the the left coast, Disneyland and the annual SigGraph annual conference. We collected water from both oceans, but it has sat in two plastic water bottles until recently. Below is a photo of the water now, transferred into labelled glass jars where it will sit in a shadowbox in the living room. (As soon as I build the boxes)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Stuart Mouse moves back in

A few years back... quite a few years, almost a decade, in the evenings, after the children were tucked in bed, I would sit in the hall between their rooms and read a chapter or two from one of our favorite children's books. We read through: the Wind in the Willows, various Winnie the Pooh books, The Trumpet of the Swan, Dr. Suess, Aesops Fables, Tolstoy's War and Peace (maybe not), Flo the Lying Fly, the Cricket in Times Square, Charlottes Web, Tucker's Countryside, various Shel Silverstein books, and Stuart Little. After reading the later, we painted a little mouse, sitting next to his hole in the living room and another in the hall, down at the baseboard, carrying an alarm clock and dragging his blanket. Eventually, we also painted him in light blue pajamas with lime green polka dots, leaning against a human sized tooth brush at the bathroom the sink. The kids took to saying "hello" and "goodnight" to Stuart as they walked past. I regret not having taken pictures.

After we moved, we heard that the new owners kept the mice and that the young kids who moved in would talk to Stuart.

We have been in the new place for three years this fall, and just this morning Stuart showed up outside his new hole in the front hall. We were surprised that it took three years to make it across town, but then, his legs are rather shorter than ours. To show his excitement to be home, this afternoon, after having just arrived, he donned his chefs hat and apron and showed up in the kitchen ready to help with the Easter dinner preparations! Unfortunately, Stuarts tastes lean towards dairy products and we are having spaghetti. But, it's the thought that counts. For now we are just glad to have him back. You'll have to stop by sometime and give a good ol' New Mexico welcome to Stuart Mouse.

After church this morning, Stuart got busy settling in. His socks tend to get lost in the dryer, so he set up a small clothes line next to the washer. That light blue tee shirt looks like one of mine from Disneyland! It must have really shrunk.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Like father, like daughter

Roo decided to join in the fun and this morning, we pulled out another few 2x4s and constructed the first of two benches for the back yard. I assisted in the plans, but she did all of the measuring and worked the Miter saw, making all of the cuts. She even learned to use the square, measuring tape and drill. The drill is still a bit heavy, but she stuck to it and so far, we have almost completed two whole benches. Still more wood to be gone through. Maybe a 2x4 adirondack is in the pipeline... That actually sounds kind of redneck doesn't it? An adirondack from reused pallet wood? A palletrondack?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Spring Fever

As the weather begins to warm, it becomes more and more difficult to stay indoors. Mornings seem calmer outside. Evenings seem longer outside, sounds seem softer outside. I have even gone so far as to download a sound loop of tweeting birds.

A few years ago I aquired a huge stack of used 2x4s. My goal this spring is to use them all or toss them out. And so, this weekend, I pulled out the handy dandy miter saw and created two benches around the pecans out back. 

There are still about 20 boards to go through. Any ideas for what to build with the remainder?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Good, the Good, the Good, the Good, the Good, and the Bad

In a recent conference, a speaker shared that in marriage, or in relationships in general, that it takes five good interactions to counteract the effects of one bad interaction.

My thoughts on the matter amount to the following. In marriage, for most of us, that translates to one of two things: either we alter our behavior to reduce the number of bad interactions or we drastically increase the number of good interactions. For me, I am an introvert with a tendency to stick my foot in my mouth even when I intend to convey a compliment. So the chances that every one of the five potentially good interactions ending well is not high.

For me, the best bet is to reduce the number of intentionally bad interactions. The funny thing that I have noticed is that my annoyance with my family has more to do with the behaviors of my students and coworkers than it does with what the members of the family actually do... or don't do.

For example, I find myself getting really annoyed at my kids for playing video games when I have had to listen to excuses from students about the reasons they missed class and the midnight release of "Call of Halo's Duty 4". The same goes for my wife, who had no control over a verbose coworker who extended a Friday afternoon meeting beyond the allotted time.

I guess my point is that there are really four people in the world who are the closest to me emotionally and physically (and another 20 or so family and friends). They rarely actually do things that annoy me, but because I am not free to show my annoyance towards the other 7.5 billion people in the world, I often let fly on them, because they will forgive me. They have to... they are family.

And so, I would like to apologize to them. They so often feel the brunt of my frustration and I am grateful for their willingness to forgive. But I know that it does take a toll and I resolve to reduce the times that I allow them to feel my frustration towards others.

Friday, March 7, 2014

A poem about Arguments

Should an argument
  arise between
  sound logic,
  and the inane?
Side with inanity,
  should you have the opportunity.
Logic and reason
  stand no chance,
  when arguing against
  One who chooses,
  incoherence as
  a battle strategy.


It may not be cummings or Hemmingway
But this just about sums up my week.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Patio Begins

The 24'x6' patio project began this Sunday. About half way done with the digging... Unless we find more bricks... which could make it a 24'x9' patio. Then we take the truck to pickup sand from the desert, level it with a slope and we will lay the bricks. Pretty excited, but lots of medical stuff on the horizon, so it may be slow going. Fun work though.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Gutters and the beginning of a waterfall

This row of rocks is the beginning of a three tier waterfall, on the far wall and a fireplace on the left wall. If we can find more bricks, the area in front will be a patio with chairs and small tables. Park benches will sit on either side of the little pond at the bottom of the falls. We are in stage one and this is phase four, five and six of the backyard plan. We are looking at a few years here, but it will be fun getting there.

The bricks we gathered from our neighbor will become the back patio, but in order to make sure that those 5,600 lbs of  bricks stay where they are put, we splurged and today, I installed gutters over the front and back doors of the house. I still need to finish the down spouts, but it should divert water as it stands.

Now we just need a good downpour to test if it works. I am not holding my breath.

Free bricks will become a new patio.

Passing a neighbors house, I noticed a large stack of bricks. My neighbor was more than happy to have them removed from his property, and we are going to save a ton of money on the 24' by 7' patio we were planning on building out back. The little Ranger can only hold a quarter ton or about 120 bricks at a time, so it took quite a few trips, but we now have around 1,400 bricks in two stacks in the back yard.

Now the back breaking work begins. I am very glad that I don't have to hunch over laying bricks for a living.

The first load. Too many bricks, the truck did not like it. At 4.5 lbs each, a quarter ton is not a lot of bricks.

This is a few rows less than half of them.

Sulley and Mike in the kids bathroom hallway.

For Christmas my wife wanted to personalize the house. We started by painting aspen trees in the dining room. Then more trees in our room. Finally the kids hallway was outfitted with characters from Monsters University. The next step is to paint Randell the disappearing monster in glow in the dark outlines in the bathroom. Personally, I think the kids will be too scared to use their bathroom and will invade ours. We are still in negotiations regarding Randell.

Mike and Sulley waiting their turn for the bathroom

Sulley, before I fixed his chin.

The dining room. Two of eight trees

The full dining room wall

Our room. I made the fireplace last year.

One of six red cardinals that perch on the trees. No cardinals baseball fans here, we just like the red bird for the color and memories of summers in Illinois.