Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.  And everyone went to his own town to register.  So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  - Luke 2:1-7 (NIV)

Such a short, quick story of the birth of such an important baby.  For as much fanfare and preparation as we give the anniversary of this story today, this version seems almost disappointing.  In the process of taking a census, it was time for Mary to give birth.  So she did.  Wow!  Riveting stuff!!  Clearly there is much more to this, regardless of how the actual birth is depicted in the bible.  There later was a little more fanfare by way of the angels coming to the shepherds and the Wise Men making their way to see this spectacle, but the birth itself as it's stated here seems a little underwhelming.  Perhaps that is because the birth, while a key chapter in the story of Jesus, is a far cry from the climactic ending. 

We need to look at the birth of Jesus with Easter in mind.  Jesus was born destined to die on the cross for our sins.  In doing both (being born and dying), he was and still is Immanuel "God with us".  Jesus came to all so we could be saved and have the opportunity to live for eternity with God.  We just have to accept him with a humble heart.  This Christmas, look toward Easter for the true reason for Jesus' birth and ponder the opportunity God presents to us.  As you open all your other gifts this Christmas, have you accepted and opened the one God has given you?  Perhaps you've just taken the box off...  Perhaps you've torn open a corner to take a peak...  Go ahead and grab it FIRST and rip into it!!  It's just your size and was meant just for you!      

Such a tiny offering,
compared to Calvary...
-Mercy Me

Friday, December 24, 2010

No white Christmas where you are? Come here, we got you "covered"

1" - 3".  That is what the weather dude said we were supposed to get last night.  My butt... 
This isn't 1" - 3".  It's nearly 6"!!

And remember that pink stick that was in the yard?  It's still there, but you can't see it anymore!  It's buried somewhere in here:
Whosever stick it is will have to dig it out.  NOT MY PROBLEM!  Unless it's fire hydrant on my property, I'm not digging it out... 
Like I said, if you don't have a white Christmas where you are at, rest assured we've got enough for everyone! 

UPDATE:  With last night's snowfall, this has been the snowiest December on record for Minneapolis/St. Paul.  The old record was 33.2" in 1969.  So far, we have 33.4".  And the month is not done yet.  Weather models are hinting at a New Year's Eve storm, but that is too far off to definitively predict yet.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Good thing Santa wasn't crawling around up there...

Take one Teflon coated fiberglass roof and put 17 inches of snow on top of it and what do you get?  You get a MetroDish instead of a MetroDome.  And a Vikings game that gets moved to Detroit!
Check out the video:
Metrodome Roof Collapses

Other pictures:
Pictures of the MetroDish

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Blow

This is what I got to do at 7:30 this morning.  What were YOU doing?  You will notice that the height of the drift is taller than the top of the front of the snowblower.  Even with a snow blower, it was tough moving this amount of snow because it had been so packed by the wind.  Still, I'm glad I didn't have to hand shovel it!

The drifts in the pictures looked so much taller when I was blowing through them.  They look wimpy here.  They were not...

Local Snow Totals
Shakopee:  21.5"
Red Wing:  20"
Lakeville:  17.4"
St. Louis Park:  15.2" 
Minneapolis (Airport): 17.1"

St. Louis Park is the closest to where we are, so we'll go with 15" at our place.  Tough to tell with 35mph winds whipping it around.  Now for the cold...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

More snow!

It started snowing yesterday around noon and finished up sometime overnight.  Unlike the last snowfall that was wet and slushy, this snow has very little water in it.  Looks like 5 1/4" based on this ruler.  Now the cold will set in.  Low temps by Tuesday morning are expected to be below zero...
Kelli - do you still just have puddles of snow?  I'm sorry if you do...  The sledding hill is no doubt very busy today.

The Mysterious Pink Stick Update

Well, it appears we are NOT the lone pink stick in our neighborhood.  This morning we left the to go out for breakfast and went a different way out of the neighborhood than the way we go to work.  There are a few more sticks in various yards down the street- mainly on corner lots...  Still not sure what they are for, but we are not the only ones...  The mystery deepens!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Mysterious Pink Stick

We came home from work yesterday to find this pink stick staked in the ground outside the front of our house - about 5 foot in from the curb:
None of our neighbors seem to be lucky enough to have a similar stick in their yard!  So, I called the city today to see if they could help solve the mystery.  I didn't find much in the way of specifics, but I was told that the color pink (as it relates to mysterious sticks appearing in your yard) typically indicates a "temporary site survey".  City Clerk/Sister Diane, can you perhaps confirm???  Like I said, I don't see any other mysterious pink sticks around.  Perhaps someone is going to build us a new house?  Hopefully, they let us know before they demolish the current one...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pictures of us!

Last month we met Jennifer Swanson for a photo shoot.  She was looking for some victims, er...  test subjects to begin building her photography business.  For those of you who don't know, Jennifer is my sister-in-law's sister.  She took a BUNCH of photos and the link below is to the ones that turned out the best.  You will need Adobe Flash Player version 10 in order to view them.  Check them out!  And check out Jennifer's blog for prices for your own photo shoot.  We think she did a GREAT job!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Frito-Lay Trashes Compostable Bags

Praise God the revolt worked.  Anyone who likes Sun Chips as much as we do knows that after Frito-Lay switched their bags to be 100% compostable, one really annoying feature came through loud and clear.  The bags are super-annoyingly, off-the-decibel chart LOUD!!!  If you are headed for a midnight snack, you best bypass the Sun Chips bag because you'll have the whole neighborhood up!  Apparently, enough people complained and stopped buying the product that they are trashing the compostable bag for now.  The picture is of our favorite variety (Garden Salsa) 

Click here to read the article.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Carpet is Here! The Carpet is Here!

The carpet installers came Monday morning at 9am and were done about 4pm.  Everything went smoothly (and with little damage to the walls - just a couple places to touch up).  Below are pictures of the carpet and the space now!

Tuftex Carpet by Shaw.  Color:  Brown Derby

Desk Corner.  The bottom drawers in the desk went back to the cabinet maker to be modified.  They are too low now - they drag on the carpet.

Fireplace & TV corner

Game Table Corner

Walk Up Bar



Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Carpet is Coming, The Carpet is Coming!!

FINALLY!!!  The carpet for our basement gets installed tomorrow morning (Monday) starting at 9am.  They MIGHT finish it tomorrow, but it could run into Tuesday.  Also, our cabinet guy is coming back tomorrow night to finish the install of the upper cabinets over the bar.  I halted that install until I finally got confirmation that we did not have to run any more electrical wires for the cabinet lighting.

This was our task list this weekend:
1.  Secure the guts of the light valance above the fireplace that I made (more on that later, maybe).
2.  Cut the holes in the bottom plate of the light valance to exact placement and size.
3.  Measure cut, scribe and sand the front of the light valance so it can be installed after the lighting is put in.
4.  Measure, cut and install the stainless steel inlay for the bar front (more on that later).
5.  Determine if the bag of grout we had in the store room matched the grout already on the floor of the laundry room (we still have to grout the threshold transition into the laundry room, so we needed it to match).  This involved gluing 3 leftover pieces of tile to a wood board and then mixing up some grout out of the mystery bag, grouting the "sample board" and letting it dry.  Yep - it matches.  But the threshold still isn't done...  A task for another day...
6.  Watch parts of a couple Twins games.
7.  Church.  I am now officially an elder-elect after our congregational meeting today!  Elder training coming soon and I'll begin my 3 year term on session in January.
8.  Watch a little of the Vikings game.  We won, but I realized after I was watching it for a bit that I had better things I could be doing that watching gramps throw a football...
9.  Move all tools, machines, electronics and furniture out of the basement family room.
10. Dust baseboards, corners, walls and ceilings.
11. Vacuum the basement floor.
12. Touch up painting on the fireplace wall.
13. Tell my wife how awesome she is (she really is!!)
14. Relax and wait for the transformation of the basement into a true living space in the coarse of 1 day.

Below is a short video I took of the basement as it exists right now (it's about a minute long).  Sorry, no narration.  The video speaks for itself...  Tomorrow - the same thing, with carpet! 

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Bar, Part II (Bar Front and Tile Install)

The is the granite tile we chose for the bar top.  It is 3/8" Santa Cecilia granite, 12" X 12". It has a mix of neutral tones (browns, tans and a little gray).  Our other option was New Venetian Gold, which typically has a little more gray in it.  We liked this one better.

Santa Cecilia Granite Tile (12" X 12")

The bar front cut and ready for install.  The screws have been pre-drilled and have had the countersinking done so they are flush with or slightly below the surface

The corner mitre with the corner tile dry set for fit

Dry fitting the tile

Setting the 1st tile (for real).  Karen pre-cut all the tile to save time, but I still worked with the thin set about 2 tiles at a time because I knew I had a couple high spots.  The thickness of the thinset varied a bit on the whole bar

The bar after being tiled.  I realized I didn't take any pictures of it during grouting, so this is as finished as you'll see it until the upper cabinets are in.

The stainless steel piece still needs to be cut and set in.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Bar, Part 1 (The Bar Front Saga)

Well, so much for me being a details guy.  With the countertop on the bar cabinets downstairs going to be granite 12" X 12" tiles, we were going to make the front of it (the overhang) granite as well.  That was before I did the math...  Allow me to explain...

The cabinets are 24" deep.  To be able to properly attach granite tile as the overhang meant it needed cement board behind it.  Since the overhang tiles would be up underneath the counter top tiles, the countertop tiles would end up being the entire depth of the counter + the overhang tiles.  24" + 1/2" cement board + thinset + 3/8" tile = the countertop depth is now ~25".  Using two 12" tiles would mean there would need to be a 1 inch strip of granite tile somewhere on the countertop.  Not the look we wanted.  We could lay the tile diagonally, but again, not the look we wanted. 

So, "inventor Dustin" to the rescue...  We decided to can the tile front in favor of a wood front, stained to match the cabinets.  But having it all wood would be boring.  So I came up with an idea for a design but wasn't sure if I could put all the pieces together.  I decided to inlay a strip of brushed stainless steel in the wood.  This ended up to be as much function as fashion.  Off to the internet to see what a bar of 1/8" x 1/2" x 8' stainless steel would cost me.!  Success!  Precision cut to within 1/32" of the requested measurement.  And I can get the 8' piece and a 30" piece for the side for about $40 including shipping.  Hmmm...  It's raw stainless steel.  How can I brush stainless steel to get the look I want?  Off to the internet!  Excellent.  Looks like I'll have some luck with a belt sander.  Sold! 

I spent some time figuring out the design, but ended up I could only do the inlay in one place because I needed to use that inlay space to hide the screws that would hold the front in place.  The countertop was built up with two 1/2" pieces of plywood and 1/2" cement board.  The front, for stability, needed to be attached to the 2nd layer of plywood, so that's where the inlay had to be. Below are some pictures along the way:

End of the bar front after having Karen's brother router the pieces to my specification (Thanks, Mark for the use of your router table!)  This shows the contour of the bar front piece.  The upper left notch is where the tile will go and is meant to accomoate 1/16" grout lines.  The channel on the right is where the screws will go to fasten it to the counter and where the stainless steel inlay will be.

Staining to match the cabinets

The is the raw stainless steel bar I ordered off the internet

"Brushing" the stainless steel with a belt sander.  Karen had to put the camera down and come sit on the piece I was working on because I needed two hands to get more force.  I had to make sure I was keeping the belt as parallel to the stainless steel bar as possible so the brushing effect was straight.  P.S. Freshly brushed stainless steel takes quite a while to cool off.  Don't touch!!!

The after-product:  Brushed Stainless Steel

What the finished product will look like when installed.  Sorry for the bright spot...  After this picture was taken, we actually stripped the the piece down, restained and refinished it.  It was too dark and didn't match the cabinets closely enough.

Actually, after it was all said and done, this looks way better than having a granite tile front. 

Coming soon:  The bar front install, tiling and upper cabinet installation!  And our carpet order is supposed to be in by mid-week.  Installation of THAT should be this week or next!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What do you think this is?

I'm not telling (yet)!!  You'll have to guess for now...

Twins Games

As I watch the Twins on TV tonight take care of the Texas Rangers (hee hee), I realized I haven't blogged about the Twins games we recently enjoyed at Target Field, the Twins new ballpark, in downtown Minneapolis.  The first game we took in was on Sunday, August 1st.  It was a 1:10pm game and we went with about 30 people from our church.  We all got to sit in the same section and enjoyed watching the Twins beat the Seattle Mariners 4-0.  It was hot and humid that day, but the sun stayed under until it was behind the seating area, so it wasn't bad.  Here are some pictures from that game:
One of several gates entering Target Field

This was taken from the plaza level.  Our seats for this game are way in the upper right hand corner of the picture.

A picture from our seats.  This was before the game so not everyone was there yet.

A view of downtown from our seats.

The second game we got to go to was very different.  On Thurs, August 19th, we went to an evening game with the tickets Karen got me for my birthday.  We were in section 121, row 5, just up from 3rd base.  Much better seats!  We were playing the Chicago White Sox, our inter-divisional rival.  The first two games of the series on Tuesday and Wednesday I had watched on TV and they were awesome games!!  We won both of them, coming from behind.  The Tuesday game, we won on a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 9th.  The game on Thursday that we went to was completely the opposite.  It was miserable from the first pitch to the last and we lost (0-11, I think...  I'm trying to put it behind us!).  Either way, they were great seats and we had fun.  It was a nice evening to enjoy outdoor baseball!

The view from our seats for the second game (no zoom on the camera!)

A meeting at the pitchers mound.  Carl Pavano pitched WAY too many innings as far as I was concerned.

Target Field is an awesome facility.  Easy to get into, out of and around.  Metro Transit offers express bus service from the parking garage at I-394 & Hopkins Crossroad, which is pretty close to our place.  It's $4.50 per person round trip and is cheaper (and easier) than trying to park downtown when there is only two of us.  They drop you off at the freeway level below the ballpark and pick you up on the other side.  Sweet deal!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Whiz Bang Days

It was Whiz Bang Days in Robbinsdale a few weekends ago.  We didn't go to any of the festivities except the fireworks show.  They shoot them off just a couple blocks from North Memorial.  AND, since we have access to the parking ramp at North, we were able to enjoy the fireworks from the top of the ramp (7 stories up).  Below are some pictures I shot with the camera I got just before leaving for vacation.  It's a Panasonic FH20.  I wanted something I could shove in my pocket instead of carrying around something that needed to be in a bag that was bigger than a fanny pack, so this is a point and shoot camera.  I think the camera did a pretty good job here.  Maybe a little yellow on the street shots:

A different setting - it didn't take in as much light

Looking Northwest up Bottineau Blvd (County Rd 81) from the top of the ramp

Looking the other way on County Rd 81 
The Minneapolis skyline is in the background

Black Hills Trip - Day 9

Friday, July 2:  Rapid City, SD to Crystal, MN

Well, our Black Hills trip has (sadly) nearly come to an end.  Today is all travel back home.  The Grand Gateway Hotel, unfortunately, didn't offer breakfast, BUT it was attached to a Perkins Restaurant.  We chowed down and then headed on the road.  We stopped twice - once for a bathroom break and the other for bathroom & gas.  Leaving at 9am MDT, we got back just before 7pm CDT, so it was a 9 hour trip.  We each took turns driving (except Nathan!) throughout the trip.  Karen taught Nathan how to do Sodoku puzzles and Dustin and Nathan played some Rock-Paper-Scissors (then we amped it up and played Rock-Paper-Scissors Poker, using fake money we kept track of in our head!)   

As for our license plate game, we all made a guess early in the trip as to how many different states we'd see.  The winner got $1 from each of the losers.  Here were our guesses:

Dustin - 30
Karen - 33
Diane - 38
Nathan - 39

The final number of states observed: 

Forty-seven!!!  Nathan won!  The states we did not see on the trip were:
Rhode Island
New Hampshire
West Virginia

We grilled burgers and brats after we got home and declared the official end to our vacation. :(  Diane and Nathan stayed until Sunday afternoon.  It was an awesome vacation and there is so very little that we would probably do differently.  We saw so much in so little time, but we didn't over do it.

Thanks for all who have been reading these posts - each day took longer to put together than I figured, but it's been fun to do.  I can't believe it's been 4 weeks since we got back!  I have a couple other posts that are waiting to be done, so check back soon! 

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Black Hills Trip - Day 8

Thursday, July 1:  Custer State Park to Rapid City, SD

This was our final day in "the Hills" and it was a busy one!  Strap on a seatbelt (or your helmet so you don't "thump your melon") and let's go!

Nathan REALLY wanted to go horseback riding (it was on his list of top 3 things to do on vacation), but earlier in the week, we didn't think we would have enough time to do it (and he was very disappointed).  Later during the trip, we had shifted some things around and had a couple open spots so we tried to squeeze it in, but didn't tell him.  Blue Bell Lodge had 2 openings for 11:30 this morning that worked perfect.  It was in the opposite direction of where we were headed, but we decided to go for it.  Diane decided not to attempt to get on a horse and Karen had ridden one before, so that left Dustin as the token adult to go along!  OH BOY!  When we pulled into the stable, Nathan was a little more hesitant than surprised, although Dustin drove a little faster than normal around the curves to get there on time - which probably wasn't helping.  We checked in and waited to saddle up.

Since we had been playing the license plate game, we were checking as many license plates as we could.    While we were waiting to ride, I happened to turn around to see a car drive up.  There it was...  The Holy Grail of license plates - HAWAII!!!!  Needless to say, we were all very excited and it promptly got written down on the list.  I'll give you the results of the game on tomorrow's post, so stop back!

Soon it was time to "saddle up".  Our hour long ride didn't go faster than a walk and took us on paths that crossed a stream, went up and down some rather steep hills and through dense woods and open canyons.  It was a really beautiful ride and it was so peaceful - you couldn't hear anything but nature.
Waiting to "Saddle Up"

Nathan ready to ride!

Dustin ready to go.  I waived the helmet recommendation, although they came around to check the saddle and had to sinch mine up "so I didn't see the trail from underneath the horse" 

On the trail

Another picture from the trail.  I would have taken more, but have you ever tried to retrieve your camera from your pocket, take a picture and put it back in your pocket while riding a horse (and make sure to not give the horse an inadvertant signal to, like, take off or turn around and go the other way)?  I would have needed at least 1 more hand.

After getting used to not having to walk bow-legged, we were off to our next stop - Reptile Gardens.  From aligators, crocs, birds, prairie dogs, snakes and tortoise to flowers, this place had everything reptile and more.  There were inside exhibits and outdoor shows.  Check it out:
At the Crocodilian Show.  He was demonstrating how to approach a croc and not get hurt -you know, in case you come across one...

This tortoise was over 120 years old!

A Macaw Parrot at the Bird Show

A Bald Eagle

Albino Burmese Python at the Snake Show


Diane would have to tell you what this flower is!

Time was running short to get our last two things in, so we found the first restaurant we could find in the area - the Gas Light Restaurant in the ghost town of Rockerville.  Great food and quick service!

Our next stop was Putz 'n Glo Mini Golfing!

That's right - mini-golfing under black light!  We don't have any pictures of this event and there doesn't appear to be much on their website.  The walls inside had been airbrushed with images and icons of the 70s, 80s and 90s.  The airbrushing was actually really amazing - it was very well done and there was a lot of it - it would have taken someone a long time to do.  Blacklight mini-golf is a great concept, but the course was a pretty simple and a couple of the challenges on the holes were repeated.  I suppose for liability reasons, you wouldn't want to build too difficult a course when it's quite dark inside- you'd have people falling over stairs & obstacles. Still worth the price of admission, though and we'd recommend it.  It took the four of us about 45 minutes to do 18 holes, but we moved fairly quickly through the course.  Karen and I each got a Hole-in-One.

Our last stop was actually the hotel we were staying at for the night.  We booked this night way in advance since we wanted someplace nice to stay to end the vacation and before a long drive home.  The Grand Gateway Hotel in Rapid City ended up to be, by far, the best value of the hotels we stayed in.  It was only about $10 more expensive than the Super 8 in Wall, SD.  And this one had an indoor pool with a 130 foot waterslide and was very well decorated.  
We had not told Nathan about the waterslide because he probably wouldn't have slept the entire trip!  By the time we got checked in, we only had about 1hour and 15 minutes to use the pool before it closed.  We all had a blast in the pool - Nathan went down the slide 51 times!  Dustin went down quite a few times (but not 51) and Karen went down just a few.  Diane watched from the pool.

Nathan coming down the waterslide.

We all slept well after 8 days of fun.  Tomorrow it's back to Minnesota!