Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Still Around!

Yes, well aware I haven't made an entry since January.  So what's been happening in the last three months?

First, work's been super busy.  I can't count how many times in the past three months I've passed through my front door and my level of physical and mental fatigue prevented me from summoning sufficient energy to write something meaningful here.  Add to that the stress from other fronts and my creative juices seemed very dry.  Even now I acknowledge I'm not 100% rested or full of mental energy yet I didn't want my corner of the WWW to be lacking much longer.

Perhaps I'm gaining drive from the simple change of seasons.  It's greening up nicely here in NW Kansas and before we know it summer will be here.  I cut the grass for the first time this season just this past Saturday and this evening I watered the front lawn, hoping for some lush greenery as a result.  The perennials are returning and I've already enjoyed fresh peppermint from the back yard.

And on the subject of seasons, I admit this winter just ended wasn't as severe as some of the others I've endured over the last nine years.  No polar vortices, no blizzards, heck even the snowfall was pretty manageable and the remnants didn't stick around too long.  I've already dewinterized the camper and am hoping to make good use of it before freezing temps make a comeback come October or November.  (Not having to make a trip to Minnesota in January sure didn't hurt!!)

I've also been immersed in a home improvement project.  Redoing the tub/shower in the main floor bathroom.  When the house was built (over 50 years ago), this bathroom had a tub but no shower.  Subsequent owners (as far as I know although it may have been the original occupant) added a tub spout with an attachment for a hand-held shower head.  A few years ago I nailed in a bracket that held said shower head at a shower-friendly height.  There was no tiling or true shower walls in the stall, rather it was just bath board that was showing its age and also displaying rot in a few areas.  Improving this part of the house was in my brain for some time but I never could decide whether to re-do the shower with tiling or just take a sledge hammer to the cast-iron tub and replace the whole danged thing with a tub/shower combo purchased at a big-box home improvement retailer.  A dripping tub faucet finally convinced me to take action.  The final choice?  Keep the tub, with the idea to have it re-glazed, but tear out the bath board and the drywall behind it and make the thing a true shower stall with Onyx walls.  New faucet, one designed for a tub/shower and have the plumbers add a permanent shower head.  I'm nearly done with adding the new drywall, actually using cement board where the Onyx walls will be glued, with the remainder being greenboard. I've engaged Groan's help with this project and she's learning that home improvement is a fair amount of trial and error, and is much more difficult than the shows on DIY or HGTV portray.

Yet I'm certain the completed shower setup will be well worth the work.

Last month Geoana and I went south of the border for the second year in a row.  Yes, building another house with Casas Por Cristo.  However this year's venture wasn't as emotionally rewarding as 2016.  Why?  A few reasons.

Last year we left our burg on a Saturday morning and drove until we reached Hamlin, Texas.  There we unpacked for a night at a local church, but not before the young folks (and me) went to the high school's baseball field to let off a little steam and use the muscles that were in a seated position for the whole day.  I enjoyed it and the evening was leisurely as a result.

This year?  Leave extremely early Sunday morning.  And to add insult to injury the time also changed as Daylight Savings Time went into effect.  Yes, we departed about 5 a.m. but to us it was 4:00.  Even this morning person struggled.  Glad I wasn't the first one to drive the van that day.

Last year we left Hamlin on Sunday morning and arrived in San Angelo just in time to join their Church of Christ for Sunday School.  The young folks were quickly invited to the high school class.  The church service also was rewarding and our shopping spree at Wal-Mart in Del Rio was its own brand of fun.  (You can read plenty about this in my entries from last March.)

This year?  Arrive in Del Rio after dark after spending 14 hours on the road.  BBQ at Rudy's was satisfying, but there was no pot luck or karaoke at the church afterward (the same church we stayed last year).  Then it's another early morning on Monday as we need to cross the border and get to the work sites.

Less interaction with the families and other neighborhood folks this year.  And we didn't get fed except at the house dedication and despite the good intentions of our family the comida was a far cry from last years offerings.

Plus we didn't even get the chance to stop by last year's house and say hello.

I think Geogal noticed the disappointment from me and the child.  She commented:  "Last year you two were really jazzed and excited.  This year, not hardly at all."

She was right.

However I shouldn't overlook the fact that a family now has a house that didn't have one as recently as several weeks ago.  Or that our labors will never be in vain.  Or that our rewards aren't always easily discernible.  Was I blessed?  Did I receive a few emotional rewards?

Yes.

So even though this blog has been quiet, I've been active.

More to come...

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

And...The Day After

Turns out our ice storm wasn't very problematic and the snow never really materialized.  The intermittent power outage was due to a tree limb falling on a nearby substation but the city folks got power going again within an hour.  

Have to admit, there's a part of me that was disappointed I couldn't use more of my camping gear.  I think it's something genetic in us guys to want to jump into action and show how helpful we can be in a crisis situation.  

On the other hand I'll take handling slush any day over needing to clear away 3 to 5 inches of snow just to get to work today.  

I will leave you with a couple of memes relating to the winter storm (courtesy of Geogal):



Monday, January 16, 2017

Are We Ready?

Yesterday the ice storm cometh.  Today has the promise of snow.  

While we don't want to take these lightly we need not engage in behaviors reminiscint of late 1999 when plenty of folks presumed the tech nerds didn't have the Y2K situation well in hand.  

I didn't buy a generator then, nor did I keep weeks of bottled water and nonperishable food hidden away from the masses.  (In the interest of full disclosure I admit I did buy a Brita water pitcher so we could use our swimming pool water for drinking if necessary--hey, I kept it chlorinated properly!)  

But prudence has its place and winter on the Great Plains should involve some forethought.  

I've been keeping the camper plugged into house power to keep the battery charged.  That done, the recreational rig should give us the necessary backup should the worst happen (power lines snap and render us without electricity).  I'm reasonably sure I have enough propane to keep us warm for a couple of days.  The tongue has two 20-pound bottles and our camping this past year hasn't involved excessive use of the furnace.  If we have heat most of the battle is won.  Propane also allows us to use the range and I reminded Geogal just today that the refrigerator can run off of Hank Hill's favorite fuel if there's no electricity to be had.  

Yes, I know the absorption-type refrigerator and freezer in the camper takes several hours to get cold but with outside temperatures going below the freezing mark do you think that will really be a problem?  

We're even covered for entertainment.  Some months ago I bought a 24-inch Insignia LCD TV from Best Buy's web site (got a screaming deal) and having done my homework, learned even though it comes with the typical AC power cord the input jack is actually DC (the brick does the conversion).  In a pinch I can use a DC cord left over from a previous device that died and went to gadgets heaven. The camper's built-in radio/CD player also plays DVDs so no problem there.  

The only thing I'm lacking is a generator.  I've written before about doing my research and identifying the inverter generator I want, however since I want one with enough wattage to power the camper's air conditioner the price tag is a little high.  I'm putting the pennies aside and hope to get one in the spring.  

Worst case scenario I use the 300w inverter I bought for the Yellowstone camping journey back in 2010.  Take it to either my Ram or Suburban, start the engine, plug inverter into cigarette lighter socket and juice up laptop and other needed devices.  

May have to.  As I've been putting the finishing touches on this entry the power went out.  Came back on about 30 minutes later then went off again in less than 10 minutes.  Who knows how long we will play the flicker-flicker-on-again-off-again game?  Router is off now but I just enabled the hotspot on my iPhone so as long as the LTE stays active we can all be connected.  

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Old Sol

Last week we were greeted with about an inch and a half from Old Man Winter.  Granted, that's not enough to disrupt things (the schools didn't even do a late start, much less be closed for the day) but the accompanying Arctic temps prevented the stuff from disappearing quickly.  The wind chill for either Wednesday or Thursday morning--it's all a blur to me--was about 14 below.  

Speaking of blur, the snow falling on Thursday morning would have been nice for Christmas eve or day but when one has to work it just adds gloom.  I looked out of the window all day, waiting in vain for sunbeams that never showed.  

Friday?  No more snow but still a heckuva lot of gray.  

Finally yesterday we were rewarded with clear skies.  I enjoyed seeing the sunrise as I spent my weekend morning driving Geoana to Stockton (she was catching a ride to a 4H leadership event, a harbinger of things to come).  The truck's thermometer fluctuated between minus two and zero.  Even after a gorgeous sunrise over the prairie.  

Despite the chill there's no underestimating the therapeutic effect of bright sunlight.  

I sure felt better come sundown yesterday.  And with the promise of unseasonably warm temps forecast for the next three days maybe the white slop will turn into liquid and flow into the creek.  

How many more weeks of winter? 

Monday, January 02, 2017

The Day After (New Year's)

You could also refer to it as "get the Christmas decorations taken down and packed and return the house to normal appearance" day.  Or the "enjoy the last of the college bowl games" day.  Maybe "last day before both of us return to work" day.  You notice the labels just get more down and negative in connotation.  

I'll be returning to the salt mines after a week and a day of freedom.  Used the time well as Geogal and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary.  We went to Estes Park and relaxed at the higher elevation.  No, no skiing or showshoeing or winter sports of any kind.  

Just relaxing.  

We did take some pics just outside the Stanley Hotel.  And no, we did not see Jack Nicholson.


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As I alluded in my previous post I enjoyed watching Geogal opening her gifts.  I got her new dishes, square ones.  Now even when we eat the most rural, cheap meal it seems fancy on a square plate or in a square bowl.  

Her other big gift from me was an iPad Air 2 (128 gig).  Her old iPad was a second-generation model from 2011 that was on its last legs.  

Both gifts went over well.  

The actual day of Christmas was, for me, exhausting.  Geoana and I did a Meals on Wheels delivery around 11:30.  Normally it's no big problem except this Christmas day the clouds decided to open up a deluge of rare December rain.  Fortunately the cloudburst moved on out before our actual delivery time so it could have been worse.  

Then, after returning home, it was time to prepare the prime rob.  The digital thermometer helped greatly.  Instead of the medium-well to well-done roasts I've served on previous Xmases we enjoyed nice pink medium-rare slices of bovine.  And it made great leftover sandwiches, too.

However the stress of cooking seemed to take a toll on me.  By the time we did a FaceTime call to my family (in the evening) I was spent.  My tasks during the day combined with less-than-usual sleep the night before finally caught up to me.  

However I slept real well on Christmas night.  

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Since Geogal and I were in Colorado we took advantage of our location and came home with posole corn, red chile puree and pork tamales.  Yesterday I did another of our cooking traditions and prepared posole made with pork chunks from our half-hog we bought last month.  I also heated up both mild and hot red chile sauce to please each individual palate.  

Happy 2017!!


Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas--2016 Edition!!

I'm writing this shortly after 7 a.m. on Xmas morn.  I'm still the only one up in our household.  

Lest you think the gals are lazy let me give you the rest of the story.  

Last night we attended Christmas eve service as is our custom.  However since we switched churches a few months ago what used to be a gathering that took place around 7:30 or so in the evening is now a candlelight service that begins at 11.  

My family of origin members are all laughing at this point, as they know my memories of trying to stay awake up to Midnight Mass are banging around in my brain.  I'm not a night person.  

However the service beginning one hour before the stoke of middle-of-the-night wasn't all that bad.  Even with Geogal chatting after service we still got home about 12:15 and I hit the hay not long after.  

Regardless of the time I still enjoy the Christmas Eve service.  The shopping and prep are all done and it is now time for reverent reflection.  

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I've looked forward to this date for several weeks now.  Not that I'm anticipating anything special but rather for what I am giving.  When you're my age it can truly be more about the joy of giving.  

Plus, this year I was well ahead of the game.  I figured out a couple of great gifts for Geogal and procured them early.  One on Black Friday, the other one even earlier.  I've gone several weeks to give these, what's two or three more hours to wait?  I'm savoring this Navidad as my wife is a hard person to buy for.  

We won't have a white Christmas here but I'm OK with that.  Forecast today is actually calling for thunderstorms and some high wind.  Temps will be mild.  

Sure beats last Saturday, where we awoke to wind-chill temps in the minus teens combined with some snow accumulation.  Not a pleasant day to take care of the shopping tasks.  

I'm keeping with our (newer) Christmas tradition of cooking prime rib for the main meal.  The past 2 or 3 years I've wound up with a more well-done rib roast so yesterday I finally acquiesced and bought a digital thermometer with a probe.  Our meat will be nicely pink!  Maybe.  

Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas!  

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Birthday Month Isn't Over...Yet

I was born in October.  I won't bother with the details of my age, besides my family already know anyway.  

Earlier this month my birthday came, and went.  I got cards and well-wishes from a few folks (thanks, mom and dad) but from my own household, nothing.  

Loving wife and child totally forgot about it.  Even after the fact I didn't get a cake or any gifts.  

But no matter.  I'm at the age where the b-days don't mean much anymore.  Besides if I had designs on anything particular I open to just purchasing it rather than drop hints or write it on a list.  

So, October is drawing to a close when I find myself in a bright light and realizing I figured out my perfect (for the present) birthday gift.  

I knew my tried-and-true Char-Broil propane grill had reached the end of its useful life and I disassembled it not long ago, getting it ready for the semi-annual household junk pickup our city conducts.  Since then I've been using only charcoal for any outdoor cookery.  

I realized just a few days ago that I was overlooking a great solution.  Weber makes a grill that runs off of the small disposable bottles, the same ones I use for my Coleman camp stove.  

I did some research and after learning these grills got excellent reviews I decided today to head over the P-burg and check out the selection at Ace Hardware.  

I wasn't disappointed.  They had the model I was looking for and to top it off, it was marked down about $25.  

It's the Weber Q1200.  I brought it home, did the small amount of assembly required (the easiest I've ever done with a grill) and soon had the thing heated up nicely.  I threw on some cheap steaks (Geogal wanted them cooked up so she can dice them and add the meat to her salads during the week--beats eating processed food) and within seconds of closing the lid I smelled the aroma only generated by the cooking of steak.  I even had Geogal come outside just to sniff for herself.  

In short, the grill did an awesome job.  A short while later I grilled three smoked pork chops for the evening meal.  Yummers.  


When in use it will occupy a space just outside the back door.  Otherwise it will be stored away from the elements.  

And if you're thinking, hey Geoguy did you realize this grill and cart both fold down and can fit in your camper's pass-through storage?  Will you use it for RVing?  You're darn tootin'.  

A nice way to enjoy a belated birthday gift to myself...