Friday, August 22, 2014

Gimme Some Office Space...

I'm in the midst of a quite a few projects right now, but I wanted to get the first part of this one up.  Thanks to our laptop burning in our spontaneous minivan fire, we were lacking in any sort of computer set up for blogging for a while... which, despite wanting to backpost a bit, brings me to this post.

I doubt I have any good pictures of the area before, but you can see the gross office space we had going to the side here in a picture taken a bunch of months ago.  We didn't actually have any computer set up yet for the picture, but you can sort of see what we're working with.

Edit:  I did find a picture that I took with a little more detail in the office area after it's been lived in a bit.  

The shelf the right is where we keep the homeschool books, papers, science, fine art (crafts are elsewhere) and math supplies.  The bookshelves are crammed with books and papers and I wish I had a more space, and fewer college books.  

The papers on the floor are the recent 'we need to file or sort' papers.  The boxes are about 70% filled with Eve's artwork we need to sort.  Not kidding.  We've 'laid down the law' and now she needs to ask before she get paper, and date what she wants to keep and after a few days, recycle the rest herself.  It seems to be going okay, except recycling is usually inconsistent.

The blue bin on the floor is electronics.  Behind the chair is a beat up filing cabinet, that I've had since I was 12.  Even then I wanted to hide it's scratched top, so I kept gray foam over it.  On top of the filing cabinet is our 'office storage' and it holds pens, calculators, envelopes, highlighter, protractors, etc.  It's a mess and the drawers stick.

And the computer desk holds everything else, but not well. Note the purple computer on the bottom. It's not actually hooked up.  Being programmers, we'd love to have dual monitors at some point... but this little desk can't handle more than one.

Here's a closeup of the old computer stand, taken a few days ago (hoping to give it away soon). My Mom bought it at Ames when I was about... 10.  That makes it almost 20 years old.  And it's made it through at least 15 moves.  Honestly, it's held up super well for being made of particleboard and something not thicker than contact paper on top of it.  Crazy.  The blue thing on the side is a folded piece of paper to hold our SD cards.  Best idea ever.

Anyway, it's ugly.  And it didn't suit our needs anymore.  We really really really need more desk space and storage.
Which is funny to say we need more space, because the computer we kept there (in this house) is super tiny.  It's an older used Mac Mini that we bought recently for app development. (You can see the little white box next to the monitor in the new pic above.)  We had it here for when we needed it for app stuff, but it hadn't been much competition for our [burned] laptop.  Because of the OS we had to load to develop apps, it runs really slow.   So while it worked okay for facebook and gmail, it was a pain to do much else on it.  (Like blogging)

I digress...  Again. After our car fire, we were able to successfully pull the hard-drive from the laptop, buy using our old desktop.  To step back, about 2 years ago we stopped using the desktop because the monitor barely worked, and the computer shut down randomly with no warning.  After trying a few things we were stumped as to what it was, and we sort of left it sitting there unfixed for a while. Like two years.

But, to get the laptop hard drive hooked up, I disconnected every extra thing in there (mostly hard-drives) to give the computer the best change of staying alive long enough to get our data off.   Not only had it stayed on the whole time getting our data off, we found it wasn't shutting off at all.  Must have been something with the old harddrives.  Mystery solved!  So that leaves us here.  No laptop, not much money to upgrade, and not much room for our existing stuff.  So our computer sat here next to the TV for a bit. It doesn't have a wireless card and was too far from the router where it sat, so we didn't have web access on it either.

So I focused my efforts back on the computer stand, which honestly, most of the plywood has been cut for a long time.  Long long time.  I actually cut most of the pieces while I cut the boys lego shelves and table (to be posted about soon).  The lego storage (and a bunch of other things) jumped the gun though and I finished those first.

Anyway, I finally got the first part kicked out about two weeks ago.  I'm so happy even with this little change.  The tabletop is maple plywood, edged with routered maple.  I'll get better pictures eventually.  I'm so glad I went with a hardwood for the table. I can already tell it will hold up well to the abusive keyboard and office chairs deliver.  The cabinet is birch plywood with poplar trim, painted white. A little cheaper and easier to work with than maple.  Once we have floors, I'm planning making it built-in with molding wrapping the bottom.

But that's not all!  About a week ago, I got the first part of the storage tower done. 

And just tonight, I got more of the storage tower up!  It's really coming to together now! I still have sanding, painting (outside), staining (inside), and a few more trim pieces to buy.... but I can see it now!


Added bonus, you can see one of the other projects I've been working on.  Our friends are taking a year long boat trip, and I've been making cushions for their bunks.  These are the last two, so I'm hoping to get some on-boat photos taken and posted soon.


Monday, August 18, 2014

A Slightly Better Deck?

Hard to call these improvements, because we know that our deck is going to need a complete overhaul one of these years, and this didn't even touch what we'll have do to it.  Still, these are changes that should help with our pool use for now.... although the weather has been unseasonably cold :(  I hope we'll still have some time in it this year.

Here's a refresher to our deck layout, taken just after we moved in.  Take note of the plastic storage box and pool ladder.

First up, we had a rotted hole in our deck.  It used to be under a plastic storage box with our pool chemicals and pet hornets in it.  But since we moved the storage box to the ground to try to free up some space, we were left with a rotted hole for kids to fall through.  Long story short, a little bit of destruction and I got that rotted board out.

Yay, no more hole.  You can barely see but I actually replaced the stair tread that aligned with this board earlier this spring.  At first I couldn't think of a connection, but I realized when the retractable awning is fully extended it would drip right there.  Mystery solved.  We keep it closed most of the time, unless it's sunny out.  No point in risking it taking up kite status in a thunderstorm (it's almost happened once, even while Jon was actively it trying to roll it up... in a storm).

Next up... a really ugly gate. Money's tight, so I'm just glad this ugly thing was made completely out of scraps.  I had the gate hardware already, so all I needed to by was some supporting braces.

As you may remember from some of our other house pictures, we had an unmobile 'gate' the previous owners had put in.  I decided a 4' foot wide opening to a pool with a two year old in the house was a bad idea.   We decided that it would be best to just detach the rusted broken gate hardware, and turn it back into deck railing.  Insurance required some barrier, so it was win-win.  Kind of.

It meant, of course, to get in the pool you need to... climb the railing.  Everyone.  Us. Grandparents.  Guests.  Guest's Parents.  In bathing suits no less. Everyone.  It made us slightly more hesitant to invite anyone over into the pool.

But, time for a change!  With some kid helpers, we cut the old 'gate' in half...

 attached the gate hardware...
 and installed a new post.
I figured this was a short term solution, so the post isn't at all secured in a long lasting way (ie, up to code).  I bought a post support and screwed it down.  That's pretty much it.  I also decided to reinforce the other post with some L braces, since it had gotten a little wobbly from everyone else climbing on it.  Seems to have done the trick for now.

The last 'fix' we made was to the pool ladder.  While planning the gate, we decided the pool side deck would flow better if we moved it.  Plus, the ladder was unnecessarily taking up the widest place on the deck, which was the only place that  gave us enough room to put in a pair of lounge chairs on that side. So moving it seemed ideal!

I kinda stunk at taking pictures, but it was there....

And now it's here!

So that's it for our recent 'deck' improvements.  Now hopefully the weather warms up enough to use them!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Can you feel my energy?

 It's such an awesome song.  I even stream it at work sometimes. 

We were able to do our first few electrical upgrades in our house recently.  Basically, we accidentally got submerged in lighting isle of Lowes, haha.  We installed a programmable thermostat for the upstairs... but I won't bore you with pictures of that. We hadn't bothered buying one last year when we did the downstairs because we weren't using the upstairs yet.. it was sticking at 60.  This year, we'll be living up there.

We also upgraded the basement smoke detector.  We noticed that it would set off the others, but wouldn't make any noise itself.  We're still planning to do the others at some point, as they're clearly over the 10 year replacement range.  Again, boring, no pictures.

I also swapped out the very yellow light switch in the boys room, since it very clearly clashed with the nice white trim we painted in there.  Wasn't too bad, but agian, I won't bore you with that either.

I'll bore you with this!  Light fixtures!  Everyone cheer!

These ugly energy-wasters had bugged me since we moved in.  The previous paint jobs were bad so I did just as bad a job when I painted the bathroom.  I was sooo happy to finally swap these things out.

Okay, pain in the butt #1.  I didn't know what circuit it was on, and killed the power to the whole house.  Meh, better safe then sorry, right?  I'll come back to that.

I had to google how to take this thing down.  Unscrew the bulbs and then just pull those metal things off.   I felt a little dumb with the simplicity of it.

That left us with the light strip.  that was pretty easy, you just unscrew.  So far so good.

And take it off the wall.  Piece of cake.  Real electricians might have spotted the problem by now.

Blissfully unaware, I went downstairs and repeated, leaving me with another lightness void.... still no notice of the problem.

We're losing daylight, so I go right to the new light fixtures instructions, and it says to just simply screw the new fixture to the existing light fixture box.  Piece of cake, done before sundown.  You might have guessed it by now... but I go back to the bathroom and exclaim "Oh crap! There's no light fixture box!"

Yep.  Both of them with no box.  What makes matters worse, it that there is a stud on one side and the water pipes on the other.  No nice round fixture box is going to fit there at all.

So this meant two things.  One, I shut off the power to the whole house originally and now it's dark out.  I don't even know what circuits this is on to allow me to turn on the rest of the house.  So our house is very dark and our kids need to get ready for bed.

Two, I have about 10 minutes of shopping time at the local home depot if I leave right away.

So I bolt out the door, and go and buy every fixture box I could find.  While I was out, Jon guessed as to which circuits he knew the bathroom wasn't on, and was able to get a few rooms working again.  It helps to know how to use a multi-meter I guess :)

With some finagling, I was able to get an outlet type box up there, and get the plate to fit on it. 

It wasn't easy, and I had to drill an extra hole in the box for the adjustment screw, but we got it.

So, once that drama was out of the way, I was able to get the downstairs bathroom light on the wall and working.  We're going to paint.... someday.... so I didn't bother making it look nice.

The upstairs bathroom I actually decided to wait until the next day to install it.  I thought it would be better to paint it before the install.  This is an really awful picture, but trust me, it looks 10x better. 

It puts people in great light too.  See how cut and attractive Eli looks here?  Hahahahahaha....

Really.  I should go take another picture soon.