Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Playing Handyman

I spend a lot of my time these days doing things I don't actually know how to do. Like drain plumbing, though so far all I've done is wrap the kitchen drain pipe in Magic Wrap repair tape to contain the leak until I can replace the drain pipes, and hanging doors, which I have just finished doing for the first time in what will soon become the play room in the new house.

It amazes me I can do this stuff at all, because it's so unlike anything I've trained myself for. What amazes me more is how hard it can be to find good advice. Well, the plumbing wasn't too hard because the guy in the Lowes plumbing department knew exactly what I was talking about and had all the parts for me in a few minutes.

But when it comes to hanging a door, I found three different sets of instructions, of which only one made any sense. The other two came from Lowes. What was worse was the list of materials needed from the actual door, which listed 8d and 16d finish nails, when every set of instructions I could find recommended 8d and 4d. Can't anybody write directions anymore?

Incidentally, the directions I found that I could understand and that worked were from ThisOldHouse.com. Now that figures.

We are expecting another snow storm starting tomorrow morning, so I'll be out shoveling snow, something I wish I didn't know how to do. Unfortunately, I have a lot of recent experience.

Before I post this, I need to relate a funny story about Danny and food. Danny's my picky eater, the one who claims he doesn't like meat. It's not exactly true; he eats chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and meatballs. Karen recently made a meatloaf for the first time in a very long time, and got Danny to eat it by describing it as a really big meatball. Not only did Danny eat it, but yesterday he asked when we were going to have another big meatball for dinner.

Sometimes it isn't what you serve that counts. It's what you call it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Just Chilling Out

We're finally emerging from a bitter cold spell that sent temperatures well below zero last week. I never thought I would consider daytime highs in the teens to be a relief from the cold, but there you have it. Today it reached nearly freezing. Break out the Hawaiian shirts!

Of course, with the wave of warmer weather came a wave of snow. So coping with cold and snow has taken up a good deal of our time in the last couple of weeks. Hardly a day has gone by this week that I haven't been out shoveling.

But we still manage to do other things. Karen has some vacation time and she's spending a day of it doing a fun craft project with some fo the children at the Children's Center. I'm appearing in another play, and preparing to direct one this summer.

And while I can't honestly say I'm looking forward to it, I am expecting to be back at NPC within a month, and that will relieve a lot of the financial pressure we've been under and give us a boost toward finishing our house.

Meanwhile I've started a sideline business, which hasn't made any money but has gotten some positive response. I call myself "The Web Handyman," and I'm planning to apply my experience with Web programming and interactive design to earn a little money while helping some of our local business owners make the most of their Web sites. And I will be able to do that while I work at NPC, and perhaps have it established as an income source when the next layoffs come, probably at the end of the summer.

Thomas got his first taste of the joys of driving on icy roads on Sunday when he was trying to get home from work. A racoon ran across the road, he hit the brakes, and found himself backwards in a snow bank. He wasn't hurt, and the car came out all right, but I had to come help him dig it out (with the assistance of some passersby) and give the car a good push so he could get it out.

Of course it was something that could have happened to anyone—I've found myself sideways on the road a few times—and I'm very glad that it all turned out okay.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

CHilly New Year

2009 started off this year by reminding us that this is supposed to be an unusually cold winter; when we woke up this morning the temperature outside was zero degrees Fahrenheit, and I never saw the thermometer climb above 20 today.

The house is very hard to heat in this kind of bitter weather; it was originally designed as a summer camp, and the bottom story has never been properly insulated. The top floor stays reasonable comfortable, but there are parts of the house that just won't warm up when the temperature drops into the single-digits.

And then there is the plumbing. I had to crawl under the house and set up an electric heater to keep the pipes from freezing. This time I was smart and put the heater on a pair of extension cords. I sent the meeting of the two cords up one of the unused floor registers in the kitchen and stuffed insulation under it. If I need to unplug the heater (to save money!) I just lift up the register to access the cord. Particularly handy when, as will happen some time this winter, the access door to the crawlspace is covered in a couple of feet of snow. It only took me seven years to figure this trick out.

It's going to be an interesting year. We'll be moving in the cold, and probably the snow. We'll be finishing the house while we're living in it (but we've done that before). We'll be struggling with the economy (but so is everyone else). On the other hand, we'll be spending time with our children, watching Thomas finding his way as an adult, getting involved in community theater, and trying to spend more time being artists, something we've let slide since moving to New Hampshire.

It will be a story worth following. And unless we do something newsworthy (which isn't always a good thing), the only place to follow the story is right here on TheBrooksBunch.com.