Thursday, December 21, 2017

'Tis the season

We're in the midst of a frenzy of house cleaning antipcipating the arrival of family for the holidays.  All the same things still need to be attended to, work, grocery shopping, home repairs, but during the holidays, we push ourselves a little more and make room for more in our lives.  Some tasks are put aside to make room for more, more cooking, more shopping for gifts for loved ones, carve out more time to host and attend parties.  

In the end, we won't remember if the house was clean, maybe not even what we ate, or the gifts we received.  We will remember the time we spent with people who make us happy, and the memories we made together.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Lake Ontario

I've taken to strolling the shores of Lake Ontario lately.  I like that it's no longer tourist season so the dog and I can have the beaches to ourselves.

I enjoy the solitude.  I could see me retiring on a rocky northern beach somewhere, away from people.

I'm fortunate that I have this big, aggressive beast, so that I can safely wander without fear.

This particular part of Lake Ontario is adjacent to old Fort Niagara, scene of battles during both the Revolutionary and 1812 wars.

This beach has the most beautiful rocks I've seen on any beach.  Someone told me they were glacier rocks.  I don't know if that's true, because I know nothing about rocks, other than I enjoy their beauty.

In addition to the rocks, there are pieces of old bricks, worn down by the water over the last century or so, sea glass, bits of pottery, and shells.

Here's a bit of the beach with lots of shells and tiny pebbles.

Some of the rocks are quite large and smooth,

and they lie wherever the waves push them in all their blue, lavender, and gray splendor.  I find peace here in this isolated spot just a thirty minute drive from my home.  I am fortunate to have a place like this so close.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Forest Lawn, Buffalo, New York


I love old cemeteries.  I love all the monuments and sentiments previous generations left behind.

I know these monuments to loved ones must have cost a fortune, but still they built them.

To me it says, "I love you.  You brought me joy, filled my heart and life, and I will never forget you."

Previous generations would visit the graves of loved ones regularly, to clean them, bring fresh flowers, and have picnics.  Current generations don't do that.  I find that sad.

I'm a three and a half hour drive from my closest family grave, and when I go home, I visit.

This past week, my sister drove to see me, so we visited this cemetery in Buffalo.  It's beautiful and a tourist attraction.  

The cemetery is full of hills and trees that are changing color for the Fall.

Tour guides dress up in period costume and give tours as famous people who are buried there.

I toured the old parts of the cemetery, then I toured the areas with more current burials.  

Nobody is building monuments to loved ones like they used to.

I don't know if marble carving is now a lost art, of if the costs have simply risen beyond even a wealthy person's ability to erect them.

I find that sad. I wonder what future generations will think of what we left behind.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Gerrymandering case

Our Supreme Court is hearing this case, unfortunately, Trump appointed a whack job to this court and  I worry votes will continue to be manipulated.  I hope I'm wrong.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Project Piece

I've been getting a little burned out and overwhelmed by the home improvement projects so I decided to do a tiny project to get as close to instant gratification as I could.

I found this rickety rattan & wood stand at a yard sale for $10.  I cleaned it and sanded it down.  I tightened all the screws. 
Then I painted and stained it. I wanted to experiment with milk paint and this seemed like a safe enough item to work on. If it was a disaster, well, it didn't cost me much.

It turned out way better than I expected.  
I also made cloth covered inserts for the drawers to make it a little nicer. Now it will have a new home with my son and his girlfriend in their new apartment. 

It only took a few days.  It would have been just a few hours if not for waiting for three coats of stain to dry.  Okay, now back to doing all the stair rails in the house.  :-(

Thursday, September 7, 2017

I did it.

I started writing a novel almost two years ago, not knowing where I was going with the idea, or even if I would have the wherewithall to finish it.  Well, yesterday, 13 days short of the two year anniversary of when I started it, I wrote the final chapter.  I did some edits today, and sent it off to a friend to give it a read through.  I have another friend/English professor standing by to edit it.  As I told my friend, it's a first novel.  It's likely crap, what I need to know is if any of the crap is salvageable.  So I have something to show for two years worth of effort.  Now where this story goes from here is anyone's guess.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

And on and on and on

Still busy!  Surprised?  I think this is just the state of my life.  I'm teaching an on-line course, traveling three weeks in a row (MD, WI, & CA), still trying desperately to put the finishing touches on my novel, and doing yet another home improvement project.  

When we bought this current house, we knew we would have to deal with all the honey oak woodwork in the house because it clashed with the newer cherry floors that the previous owner had installed in a number of rooms.  We've been slowly painting a lot of the trim white, but we hadn't tackled the stair rails yet because we knew we had to wait for good weather so we could keep the windows open for ventilation.  We didn't think we should just pant them all white, so we settled on staining the rails and posts, then painting the spindles white, like is shown on this stock photo on top.

We weren't sure how the oak would look with cherry stain, but plowed ahead anyway.  Thus began the extensive taping job to make sure stain didn't get on everything.  This picture above shows the first coat of cherry stain on the top three treads, while the bottom three are the original oak.

In this picture above, you can see the problem in this house.  We have oak against cherry and it looks bad, unfinished.  Whereas we were able to overlook this in the purchase of this house, we can't guarantee the next buyer will.  We need to get a good price for this house when we sell it, so we need to make sure everything is repaired and updated.

In this picture above, the riser for that step used to be oak, along with the banister.  You can see what I mean in the previous picture.  This is with two coats of stain on it.  Because the cherry floor is a combination of light and dark boards, two coats of stain brings the oak in line with the lighter boards.  I'm going to do a third coat, to darken it just a bit more, before beginning painting all the spindles white.

So here's the semi-finished project.  I did everything up to the first landing.  I still have to tackle the second flight of stairs and the upstairs railings.

I'm pleased with how it looks from a distance, but not up close.  I used a product that has stain and polyurethane all in one, thinking it would be quicker and easier.  It wasn't.  It dripped despite my best efforts.  Any error in the brushing, I had to sand everything off and start over, because touch ups were very obvious.  As it turns out, there's much better quality control with regular stain.  Also, I used painter's tape around the spindles, but when I went to remove the tape, even though I razored the edges, it still pulled up some of the stain, as you can see in the next photo.

I have to keep using the same product since half the rails and stairs are already done in this color and finish, but if I ever have to stain again, I won't use an all-in-one product again.