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Sunday, September 11, 2016

One Foolproof Recipe for No-Cry Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are one of those vegetables that people either love or hate. Some people see them as delicious, sweet leafy greens chock full of vitamins. Others see them as earwax flavored mini cabbages that are best for compost. Whether you're a lover or a hater, you probably have a vegetable like this in your family.

I am a lover, and my wife was a hater. When we first got married, I suggested that we have Brussels sprouts for dinner. My wife gave me a face that showed me that I may have crossed a line that a newlywed should not cross. I pressed on, and told her that maybe she didn't have them prepared the right way. She gave me my one chance. I steamed some Brussels sprouts, added a lot of butter and salt, and held my breath. She took one bite, and I knew that I had won her over.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Side Table for a Stand Up Desk

About two years ago I shared my inexpensive stand up desk plan. I have used this stand up desk for almost three years, and I still love it just as much as the first day I put it together. I feel much better after a long day in front of my work computer than I did when tasks like that required me to sit in an office chair.

However, I recently expanded to a second monitor, and the stand up desk wasn't cutting it alone. I needed a companion surface for my desk. If I had merely doubled my stand up desk, I would have been without any work surface, so a second table/shelf combination would not have worked. I could have looked for a pre-made alternative, but that wouldn't have necessarily fit in my work space. So it was time to bust out with the table saw, some plywood, and an afternoon with my son (the girls were at dance class; otherwise they would have been part of it as well).

Sunday, August 21, 2016

7 Cheap Homeowner Hacks to Keep You Safe, Clean, Efficient, and Happy

As almost any homeowner knows, finding shortcuts, cheats, hacks, or any other way to complete projects more efficiently is always welcome. Many times I hear about something that is so simple that I’m shocked I never thought of it. As I have been working on projects here and there, I have pulled together some of the hacks that I use. So here are seven home hacks to keep you safe, clean, efficient, and happy.
  1. Use long screws for safety and stability. Door hinges and

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Broken Irrigation, Tears of Disappointment, and a Chance to Fix Them Both

The other day I brought home some plumbing parts and left them on the counter. After dinner, my four-year-old son decided to put the two pieces of PVC together and pound them on the ground, wedging the much needed parts together. I scolded him, snatched the pieces, and went into the garage to try to pull them apart, leaving my son weeping. I was so irritated, but my frustration was more at the plumbing situation and not so much at my son.

You see, this plumbing issue has been ongoing. Before we got the house, some knucklehead installed a sprinkler system that includes seven sprinkler valves all stacked up on top of each other in an eight inch strip of dirt, with the house on one side and the driveway on the other. One line has broken numerous times, and each attempt at a fix is filled with frustration, scraped knuckles, and usually

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Great Camp Food and Other Family Camping Hacks

For those of you who do not live in Arizona, it is hot right now. Really hot. Like second-degree-burns-from-trying-to-touch-the-steering-wheel-to-drive hot. This makes it an ideal time to escape to the mountains for a respite from the heat. In just a short two hour drive, we can go from, “I feel like my brain has melted into my feet,” to, “I forgot what it was like to wear long pants and be comfortable.” Aside from the 40-degree temperature drop, camping has so many other benefits – clean pine-scented air, activities that do not involve electricity, time for kids to explore, and cooking everything over an open fire. I love camping, and especially camp food! 

Over the years, and through the dozens of camping trips that we have taken as a family, we have developed some great cheats, or things that make camping a lot easier. Some of these I have seen floating around the internet, but unfortunately do not have the original source. Some of these might be common knowledge, but they seemed like revelations to me. And some of these may be things that we have made up, so all royalties can be sent directly to us. Regardless of where they came from, use what works for you and get outdoors! 
    1.  Foil dinners. My wife and I have made foil dinners for almost 20 years of camping. The premise is simple – take a piece of foil and spray it with oil. Add ground beef, onions, carrots, and celery, along with some onion soup mix. Wrap it all up and seal the foil. Put it directly in hot coals and cook about 20-30 minutes, turning it halfway through. The problem – all of the good stuff on the outside usually gets burned. The solution – cabbage leaves. Add a layer of cabbage leaves on the top and bottom. They help the foil dinner retain its moisture, and they burn instead of your dinner. But that’s fine, since it’s cabbage, and I wasn’t going to eat it anyway.  
    2.  Doggie zip line. So I’m pretty proud of this one. We love taking our dog camping with us, but if we are in a campsite or need to keep the dog from running off, we need something other than a leash. We have tried a coil of rope, but the dog inevitably wraps the rope around the camp chairs or runs the