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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Manure and Memories: 8 Easy Steps for a Great Winter Lawn

I really like family traditions. Getting out great grandma's roasting pan at Thanksgiving. Pulling out the LGB train at Christmas. Cuddling up to watch a great Christmas movie with the family while a fire is roaring in the fireplace. Yes, I love family traditions.

And nothing says "I'm ready for winter" like getting the kids outside to spread poop in the yard. This is the time of year that I get the winter lawn ready (something that we do in Arizona and that seems really bizarre to my friends in the frigid Midwest). Every year, I almost skip doing it. I almost skipped doing it this year. I wasn't sure if I wanted to spend the money. I wasn't sure if I wanted to mow the lawn throughout the winter. I felt mildly guilty about the water use to keep the lawn going. So many things that pointed me to skipping the lawn for the season.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Stop!: How My Thumb Injury Continually Saves Me

This is a picture of my thumb. Actually, it's a little more than half of my thumb. The rest of my thumb is long since gone.

In 2007, I retiled my entire house, and then replaced all of the baseboards and door moldings with solid wood trim. I was about 90% done with the job and was exhausted. These two things never go well together. I was attempting to fashion two pieces of trim together using my biscuit joiner, and instead of using a clamp, I held one of the pieces on the ground with my hand. As the high speed blade contacted the wood, it knocked the wood out of my hand and pulled my thumb into the blade. Ouch!

After a several-hour surgery, including a skin graft and a pin to help repair the shaved down, split bone, I was on a several month trip to PT and rehab. The result is a thumb that leaves my kids staring, asking questions, and saying, "Poor daddy."

And I wouldn't trade this thumb for a whole one.

Every time I use my table saw, my miter saw, or any other saw or power tool, I hold the material with my left hand. My mangled thumb stares at me as if to say, "Are you being safe with what you're about to do? Shouldn't you be using a push stick, or a clamp, or something else to keep your hand out of the way?" Some of the time, I continue on with what I'm doing because I am being safe, utilizing clamps and safe clearances. But some of the time I realize that I'm pushing the boundaries of safety and need to step up my safety again. Thank you, thumb, for the reminder.

Recently, my thumb helped me realize another dumb thing that I have been doing. I was driving home from work and was at a red light. I pulled out my phone to check my email, and when the light turned green I started driving, keeping my phone out. And there, holding the steering wheel, was my mangled thumb, my Jiminy Cricket, saying, "Is this really the best choice that you could make right now, or are you doing something that would be another momentary lapse of judgement with lifelong consequences?" Well played, mangled thumb. Well played.

So of my fingers, my half thumb still reminds me to be safe. It is there staring me in the face when I am about to do something stupid, and hopefully it will continue to keep me from cutting off anything else.

So please, use the clamps, put your phone down, be safe, and keep your digits!

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