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Category Archives: miscellaneous

A Very Merry

Holiday Season. Beginning and ending, and all those days between. By now, many friends and relatives have done the eating, drinking, giving, and receiving as they celebrate this weekend.

Here, I suppose I can say we are celebrating. All I wanted for Christmas was the decision, and planning, to tackle our biggest painting and updating project. Namely, my kitchen. The heart of our home. The place we spend the most time, and the room that made me want to buy this house a dozen years ago.

cookie central before

cookie central before


cookie central Friday

cookie central Friday

When I said that’s what I wanted for Christmas and my birthday, I didn’t mean it literally, but surprise, that’s how it is turning out. It seems that in order to have my favorite painter and carpenter doing our job, it was best to fit it between some major work that our general contractor has in 2017. And, of course, December and January are slow times in the construction and renovation business.

farewell, pot rack

farewell, pot rack

So, last Thursday it began. Stripping wallpaper borders. Tomorrow, and most of this week, dry wall repair, priming, and the earliest tasks. While waiting for the electrician to give me new (please non-humming) overhead lighting. Sometime later next week, ceiling painting, then final painting of all the walls.

the usual spot for the tree

the usual spot for the tree

This means that I am seriously not thinking straight. To tackle this during the holidays. That’s what I get, I suppose, for saying I don’t want presents anymore. I just want to finish all the laundry list of projects that still need to be done.

Crossing my fingers that the 30 year old stove continues to work, until I get myself ready to tackle that really large item on that list.

Everyone. Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year, etc. I may not have decorated much this year, but I did get the poinsettias.

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Life Skills

AKA Home Ec. Shop. Personal Finance. You know. The stuff we really should add to the high school curricula. Are we really preparing children for life, or just to get into the top colleges?

Julia wrote about VoTech in her post today. It triggered a response internally from me. Based on watching and reading and just wondering about how well we really are preparing children to survive when they go out on their own. Can they make a simple meal? Can they fix anything? Can they pay attention to their bank balances and adjust their spending?

We had life skill classes when I taught high school in the 70s. They seem to have disappeared.

We also have a shortage of skilled tradespeople where we live. We seem to push everyone into the college prep option and forget about those skills necessary to support our county. Those trades pay well. Better maybe than going to college and majoring in an area that won’t guarantee a high paying job. We need to allow children around here to choose their passion, and to follow it.

Artisans built our deck. For much more per hour than some of the degreed folks around here are making.

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Food for thought, so to speak.

High Maintenance …

… or what I did on my summer vacation.

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Storm water management, and failing infrastructure. As in 29 year old patio and deck. We decided to bite the bullet and conquer our aging outdoor areas while dealing with longstanding water issues surrounding our house. Not sexy. Not fun. Not cheap. But, they had to be done.

Our house will be 30 years old next year. Columbia, right down the road, will be 50 years old next June. As in any aging area, there are always places that need attention. That old movie, The Money Pit, comes to mind. No matter how you look at it, you need to fix what is broken, and deal with design/build problems.

Our patio bit the dust last winter. Big time.

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Before.

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After. Well, almost after. We still have to do landscaping, and they did do sod up to the deck.

The deck contractors, who also do our maintenance cedar staining start tomorrow. Hopefully, in two or three weeks we will have a new composite deck and freshly stained siding, garage doors, porch furniture, front door, and trim. Someone please remind me we bought a brick house. Where did we go wrong? All this trim to keep up.

As for the storm water management, we decided to bury all the downspouts and tie them together, create a slit drain to carry water off our driveway, and dump all the water out into our field. So far, so good. With all the evening showers after the install, we have seen massive improvement in drainage. Finally. After many attempts to deal with keeping water out of the garage, and away from the foundation. It has been a long learning process, and we think we may have finally solved our water problems. I will know for sure this winter, when snow melt from the roof and down the drive test the limits of the new system.

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Eight inch sewer pipe being laid. The system starts with four inch pipe from a slit drain. Goes to six inch around the house. Where the downspouts and sump pump hose meet, it bumps up to eight inch. It all comes out about 300 feet beyond the house, into a rock lined swale.

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The slit drain.

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Thankfully, our pretty much rotted deck was slated for demolition this summer. Even the pressure treated footers are reaching the end of their lives. Hello Azek, goodbye cedar.

This was not my favorite summer. We didn’t go anywhere. I just wrote checks. Many checks. Rhine did a great job with the drainage, sidewalk, patio and will finish the landscaping after our deck is done.

I hope to get the grill up and running, before it gets too cold to enjoy the patio and deck.

Memorial Day

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I can’t find my flag.

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The one that we flew over the tower on 9/11 last fall. I know I folded it up and put it away in a plastic bag. So, this year no flag out there for the commemoration of Memorial Day.

I used to not get Memorial Day. How was it different from Veterans Day? Then, it hit close to home, when colleagues at the Pentagon were killed by the crashing plane. Now, it is so significant to me.

I don’t do Memorial Day Sales. Memorial Day picnics. I just reflect on what it means to have friends and relatives risk their lives, and sometimes lose them, in order for us to be free.

I think I need to find a smaller flag to hang out front. And, if I find that lost bag, to hang the large flag on the tower again.

To remind us that we are lucky to be free, because of the sacrifice of the brave.

Aging In Place

In an aging place.

Had quite a bit of thought about the whole aging process. Aging of us. Aging of our home. I don’t consider 30 to be old, but around here, it’s almost ancient. Not quite as bad as being 50, which is what many of the original homes in Columbia MD are soon to celebrate.

I worked in the UK, where 600 years old wasn’t out of the question. We are spoiled. Living in a relatively newly developed area. Still, I watched people turn up their noses at our townhouses (gasp) without garages. Ours, built in the early 80s were too old and dated for the crowd who wanted those brand new places in River Hill.

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Columbia is pretty much built out now. The county is expanding, or tearing down and rebuilding. I loved our old townhouse, right in the center of town. Too bad for us, we really wanted to follow our dreams of a big garden, and a couple of radio towers. Bucket list items. Not allowable under covenants.

That house is now 35 years old. Still looks great. Why? Because we took care of it. I see so many places now that are pretty much devastated due to lack of basic maintenance.

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What is this? A pile of the cedar we were replacing in this house. Our “new” house. Built in 1987. At 24 years, we replaced almost 50% of the wood. Not fun. Not cheap. Not sexy.

But, it was the bones of the house. The basics of maintenance. I can’t figure out why collectively we don’t take care of the biggest investments most of us will make in our lives.

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We took care of our infrastructure the first 10 years. New roof. New doors. New heat pumps and appliances. Making our home a warmer, safer, more energy efficient place to live.

Now, we are working on those aesthetic things. Painting, carpeting. Keeping our house new looking, while not shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy something else.

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I think I can deal with six weeks of mess to get painted walls, new bathrooms and carpet in all but those high dollar areas. We still will have to tackle the master suite and the kitchen.

At the end of this road, a house that accommodates an aging couple. But won’t look old.

Four More Years?

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It’s hard to believe four years have passed since I first started this blog. I was reminded of it this morning when Facebook showed me my memories. The last three “blogaversary” posts. Looking back at them, I noticed somewhat of an evolution.

The first year in.

I was talking about cooking and gardening and amateur radio, and life out here. Hasn’t changed much, has it? We had just weathered a near miss from Hurricane Sandy, who inconvenienced us while barreling up the coast. One of my goals back then was to become a year round locavore. I think I accomplished that one.

Moving on to that second anniversary.

Talk of blogging parties, and pick your own fruit and vegetables. Still engaged in the local scene. Still loving retirement out here.

Last year, the third one done.

Crediting those inspirational bloggers. Like howchow and Kitchen Scribble. Promoting the events where I still volunteer.

I miss the frequent posts from HOWCHOW. His toddler is keeping him busy. Almost too busy to go places as much as he used to do. We haven’t found anyone as prolific as he was when I started blogging. He helped me grow my following.

Where will my blog be going? Nowhere far away, yet. I still like to write, although not as often as I did in the beginning. I like the current frequency. Almost a balance. No burning need to post daily. I still haven’t accepted advertising, and never will. Those businesses that I talk about here on the blog, don’t give me anything and that’s how I like it.

So, what is ahead for me? Still gardening, cooking, traveling around the area. Reading and writing. Visiting friends. I have started messing around in ancestry.com, while cleaning out all the old papers from our families. Something new and interesting to keep us from getting boring in our old age.

Here’s to many more brilliant sunrises and sunsets. And at least four more years of blogging.

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The Luxury of Time

Ned Tillman commented on yesterday’s post about taking time. “My wish for everyone is that they make the time to spend more of their life out in the woods, on the rivers or in a meadow.”

It is a great resolution, to spend more time outdoors, just enjoying nature. Not even “doing” things. Just walking or sitting.

For so many years, between commuting and traveling for work, we didn’t always take time to sit and do nothing. Or, to leisurely do things without feeling stressed. Like making cookies.

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I spent three days making this year’s cookies. Taking the time to do them right. Slowly. No rush. But I made them simpler, too. Using one basic recipe and making three cookies from it. Thanks to my trusty old Gourmet magazines. These are from 2003.

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I made basic butter cookies. Recipe is on Epicurious web site. I also made the almond spice cookies. And, one more. Basic cookie baked like a shortbread and then covered and baked again with a brownie topping.

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The ones above were the sugar cookies, made with the basic dough. They almost taste like my mom’s, but since hers used margarine and these use butter, the taste is a bit different, as is the texture.

I did other things in stages, as well. Like wrapping presents. And putting the lights outside. I just finished that task this morning. So what if we are last in the area at putting them up. I did get there eventually.

I know I am lucky to be retired. I know I can hit the stores tomorrow morning for those last two items I wanted to get. After everyone else goes to work. Not competing for parking or standing in lines with those who have the limited time on weekends and at night to get it all done.

Still, I realize that I used to get caught up in the frantic rush to get everything done. Wanting to be finished, and then being totally wiped out by the time the holiday came around. No more, I say. I intend to keep this resolution. To do less than I did before, and to make what I do meaningful. To spend more time with friends and relatives. To spend more time outdoors.

And less time trying to overachieve. A less ambitious garden. Easier meals. Less TV. I’ll see how I do when spring comes.