Ever Tasted Anything Like This Before?

It’s that time of year again here in Minnesota… Time for all the cabin owners to put their docks, boats and lifts back into the recently thawed lakes around the state.  Best Bud Ed’s place is no exception to this ritual.

The original plan was for me to leave from work on Friday – drive the three hours up to the cabin, and since Ed could not get there until much later – I was expecting some much needed “solitude”.  I would get the fire going, catch up on some reading and (having planned a dinner ahead of time) I would have dinner ready when Ed arrived.   

After leaving work, and knowing I had a lot of spare time on my hands, I also took the opportunity to load up the GPS for some “road trip GeoCaching”.  A visit to one of my “regular stops” whenever I head up “up north” would also be possible… 

Milaca Unclaimed Freight

If  you have never visited MUF, and you have a chance – do so.  It’s a unique shop.  I could (and do) spend hours walking up and down those isles.

After stopping at MUF, and having a horrible afternoon of GeoCaching (having found only two out of the six I attempted on the trip up) I stopped at the grocery store and liquor store for the evening’s dinner.  It was not until after I stopped at the store(s) that I called Ed and discovered that his Dad was already up there.  I’d loose out on the “solitude” but gain some great conversation and company while waiting for Ed. 

I arrived, met up with John, got unpacked, and we began visiting.  We talked about Ed, and politics, and old time radio programs, and the cabin… Heck we caught up on a lot!  He (proudly) showed off a couple of new firearm acquisitions he obtained (a couple of VERY nice ones!) before we poured a couple of shots of “Black” (what we call Blackberry Brandy)  and headed outside to fire up some cigars and get the campfire started. 

04-23-10_2044I built a modest little fire and we continued the conversation for a bit longer.  Soon, John headed inside to make himself a snack, and I headed in to prepare dinner. 

Dinner consisted of a ring of Kielbasa, some onion, and green pepper.  I planned on roasting the kielbasa over the fire, and sauté the onion and green pepper in a foil pouch (also over the fire).  I discovered that John said he would partake in the kielbasa, but not so much the pepper and onions.  (O.K.  All the more for Ed and I)

John never came back outside – he finished his snack and hollered that he was going to hit the sack.  Time for a little solitude!  I poured another “double” of “black”, cracked a Michelob Golden Light as a chaser, stoked the fire a little more, and settled in with my book.  The weather was PERFECT.  I sat outside with a short sleeve shirt.  The warmth of the campfire staved off any of the night chill.

Finally, around 10:30 – Ed arrived. 

We unpacked his stuff and he quickly proceeded to the fire pit where he 04-24-10_0122made my comfortable, modest fire into a blazing inferno!  He cracked out more beer and cigars, and we proceeded to eat, drink, and catch up.

I found out that like his dad, Ed was not interested in the green pepper / onion medley that accompanied the kielbasa fest – so that left a whole green pepper and 1/2 an onion all for me!! 

Over four hours, too many beers, a decent buzz, and too many cigars – we started crashing…  By the time we were in our respective beds, and turned the lights out – it was well past 3am.  It felt just like our college days!

Ed later told me he put an episode of (I think it was) Dragnet on his MP3 player to fall asleep to – and told me that he fell asleep before the opening credits and introduction were complete.  I (on the other hand) had put Kate Micucci’s EP “Songs” on, and was asleep before the first track ended.   

I forgot to turn my cel phone’s alarm clock off, so at 5am it rang a couple of times before I got it turned off.

Then, around 6:45 am we both rolled out of bed… Ed was pretty well hung over not feeling well, and I woke with the WORST taste in my mouth I have ever experienced… 

Imagine if you will an (full) ashtray – dumped out over (and rubbed into) a wet dog, then doused in stale beer (that was used to marinade some sautéed green peppers and onions).  Now lick that dog for… uh, I dunno… let’s say four hours or so.  Then, head off to bed.  When you wake in the morning, you will have an idea what my mouth tasted like when I woke up. 

Teeth brushing did nothing.  Wintergreen Life Savers did nothing.  Altoids did nothing (well, none of them did anything but add a hit of their essence to the whole ashtray/wet dog/stale beer taste.

The dock, boat and lift went back into the water without a hitch.  Almost too easily. 

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Sorry – I forgot the “before” and a couple of “during” photos.  Left photo is dock and lift in.  Right photo has the boat and the roof on the lift. 

04-24-10_0921With the dock, boat and lift in, John ran into town for some fresh, home made donuts from the Aitkin Bakery (THE BEST donuts in the world!) while I made scrambled eggs and fried Spam planks.  Ed?  Well, since he was still hung over not feeling well, he laid down until breakfast was ready.

John arrived, and we “topped off” breakfast with the donuts (minus the unknown number he enjoyed on the road between the bakery and the cabin) that John had returned with. 

After breakfast, John headed out for a cigar – offering Ed and I one.  We looked at each other, turned to John and gave him our whole-hearted “no thank you’s”  (Since Ed was still hung over not feeling well, and my taste buds were still dealing with the whole ashtray/wet dog/stale beer (that was used to marinade some sautéed green peppers and onions) phenomenon).

Ed put on some Old Time Radio – and promptly fell asleep.  I listed to the first couple of shows, and laid down by the time the third show started.  I immediately fell asleep and do not know how long I napped.  But it sure felt good.

By this time, the rain had set in.  With the chores done, breakfast eaten, and nothing to do but sit in the cabin – we decided to call it a day. 

We packed up, said our good byes  and headed out.

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Back end of EJH Woodworking’s “Moblie Woodworking Shop”
(i.e. Ed’s Truck)

 

 

 

 

On the way home (against my better judgment) I decided to try and up my GeoCaching percentage – and hit three more (despite the rain).  I did find all three, but on the last one, I slipped in the mud (on a hill) – fell flat on my back, and slid about 20 feet down a muddy hill.  I don’t know if you call that a successful find or not, but since I pass this location every time I head to the cabin. 

I AM certain (because nothin' is funnier that a tall and fat guy slipping on a muddy hill, falling on his arss, sliding down the hill (through the mud) – with an almost "confused" reaction, then cussing to himself once he realized how muddy he got!!) that it has made a lasting GeoCaching memory for me (if nothing else).

This Ain’t Granny's Church Basement Bingo

-- Follow up to The Slumber Party and then Takin' a "Chance" --

My experience with Bingo is...... Limited.

IMG_0097 As young children, my sister and I (frequently) played Bingo when we went to Grandma's house.  It was one of the regular activities that we did when we spent time with her.  She had a little "Milton Bradley" boxed set - with little wooden pieces, and a "shaker" that was used to pick the bingo numbers.  (Man, I thought that "shaker" was the coolest thing as a kid - in reality, it's nothing more than a small box with a hole in it.)  After Grandma moved out of her house and into a nursing home, my Dad and my Uncle cleaned her house.  It was during that cleaning that I came into possession of the old Bingo game.  The sight, and smell (that unmistakable smell of musty cardboard that has been stored in your grandma’s basement (or attic) for MANY years) of that game brings back many fond memories for me! 

(Photo is the actual game we used to play with Grandma!)

My next experience with Bingo came many years later.  My Dad spent several years as a Bingo volunteer for our Parish's weekly Bingo Games.  All I really know of his career as a "Bingo volunteer" is that he would come home complaining of the cigarette smoke, and smelling like an ashtray.

The most recent experiences I have had with Bingo are more examples of "Church Bingo".  My Mother-in-Law has always enjoyed partaking in her parish's Turkey and Ham Bingos around the holiday seasons.  I believe they are a decent fundraising opportunity for the parish, and she has fun with family and friends who attend with her.

Turkey / Ham Bingo is played in the Church Basement - and winners receive... Turkeys or Hams (and, for my upper Midwest and Minnesota readers, when I say "Hams", I mean THIS - not THIS)

While we were dating, and when we were first married, Grandma would frequently take The Mother of Five and #1 of 5 with her on these Bingo excursions.  It was not until the last couple of years that I actually attended a couple of these "Turkey" or "Ham" Bingo games with the family.  They were what I expected.  Bingo, with Turkeys or Hams as prizes.

- Returning to reality from my flashbacks -

We arrived at the Mystic Lake Casino, and sought out the Bingo Hall.  (Apparently, they have their own wing dedicated solely to Bingo!).  Passing the penny, nickel, dime, quarter, and dollar slot machines, Keno machines, Video Poker, and all things blinking, beeping, and clinking - we finally arrived at the Bingo Cashier.

04-17-10_2101We looked over the plethora of Bingo Package options available to us, finally settling on the "Introduction Package" in paper.  I'm too much a cheapskate to spend the extra $$ for "electronic" Bingo... It's BINGO after all.  How hard can it be?? - (Yeah, that's a little foreshadowing)

We arrived late, found "B" & "J", and sat down with them. 

The first thing we had to do was set up.  We laid out our "cards" (a tablet of 12 sheets that each had 6 cards on each page).  The first thing I discovered was that I had no way to mark the cards.  Desperate for a pen, yet unable to find one.  Good thing too!  I later discovered that to qualify for a "win" the cards must be marked with a "Bingo Dauber".

Fine, whatever.  Where do they give these things out, I asked.  "Give them out"... (Snicker)  Yeah.  Right.

I was pointed to a row of vending machines where patrons could purchase a "dauber" for $2.00 each.  I took $2.00 with me and bought a dauber for the Mother of Five and I to share.  I returned to the table, settled in and prepared for the next game.

"Bee eight".  "Enn thirty two".  "Eye twenty".

04-17-10_2100The numbers came fast and furious.  They came as fast as I could scan my card(s)... Sometimes faster!  While the Mother of Five daubed her card, I put fingers on the spaces I needed to daub.  As soon as she was finished, I grabbed the dauber and started daubing the numbers on my card while the Mother of Five kept track of the spaces she needed to daub because the caller was already onto the next number.

By the third or fourth number called, we had surpassed our capacity to keep up.  I tapped out.  The fact is there was NO WAY that two people could keep up using one dauber (and the giggles that came from the "grandmotherly" bingo player across the table from us only served to confirm – I describe her this way because she was as endearing as a grandmother.  She helped out out many many times, and I was grateful for her being there)...  So, while opting out of that game, I quickly ran to the dauber machine, and dropped another two bucks for a second dauber.

(Yes, that is me rolling my eyes… Sarcastically)

By the time I reached my seat, the current game (that I "tapped out" of) was already complete, and they were on their second number of the next game.  I scrambled to catch up.  And struggled throughout the evening to not fall behind again.

What I learned that evening - is that Big Casino Bingo is not the same as the Bingo of my memories.  It's fast action.  It's cutthroat. It's.... EXTREME!

04-17-10_2139And, as if just keeping up with the caller was not enough...  I also discovered that the days of "line across", "line down", "diagonal" and the oh-so-crazy "four corners" and "cover all" Bingos are gone...  I learned there are all types of new "Bingos" - Bingos like "Double Bingo", "The Kite", "Six Pack", "Six Pack and Two Corners", "Postage Stamps", "Inside Frame", "Outside Frame", and "Broken Frame" just to name a few of the many Extreme Bingo options out there!

What was it that I learned through all of this??

I learned that Casino Bingo just Ain’t your Granny's Church Basement Bingo.

Will I go to Mystic Lake Casino's Bingo again?

I'm not sure.  But I've now got $4.00 worth of daubers, and nothing to daub.   Hmmm... Maybe I should talk to my Church Basement Turkey / Ham Bingo playing Mother in Law into taking up a slightly more "extreme" version!

Takin' a "Chance"

-- Follow up to The Slumber Party --
 
You could call me boring.  I walk the "safe" road.  Consistently.  When forced to make big decisions, it is only after an almost nauseating period of what the Mother of Five likes to call my "What if'ing" that I am able to finally make a decision.  (I like to have all possibilities considered.  I also like to have a plan B, C, D, E, etc.  I desire predictable results to the actions I take, and when the results are not predictable or what I expected .)  This all results in a very safe, pre-determined course with very few opportunities for "taking chances".       
 
So it is not (or should not be) surprising to hear that I have never been much of a "gambler" by nature.  It is not that I am morally, ethically, or religiously opposed to gambling.  I'm just the kind of guy that would rather trade my money for something tangible - something I can hold in my hand.  If I put a dollar in a machine - rather than trading it for a "chance" for more money I would prefer to have a cold, carbonated, and caffeinated beverage dispensed.
 
Gambling is generally considered one of the "vice" crimes (a crime that is made illegal because it offends the moral standards of the community banning it), and like many states - gambling is forbidden, against the law, and criminal here in Minnesota - that is, with one exception... 
Gambling is allowed on the (Sovereign) Native American Reservations. 
Over the years some very elaborate casinos have been erected by the various Native American Communities and have become sought after destinations throughout the state.  We have one of the (if not the only) Casino in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul and surrounding suburbs) within our County. 
The Mystic Lake Casino (operated by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux) is (in fact) only a few (15) miles from our home.
I have patronized the Casino a few times since it's inception.  (I think three... maybe four times total.
One time was with my wife's brother "M" and his now ex-wife "L"
 
Twice I went with friends from work.  We got off duty, and headed out.  The two guys I went with were into the blackjack scene, and I tagged along (in all honesty) for the discounted late night buffet.  The first time we went - I watched.  The second time we went, I had ten dollars in my pocket, and joined my friends on the blackjack table (knowing just enough to play, but not understanding enough to keep myself from looking like a noobie).  Not too far into the game I had noticed that my ten dollars had become forty dollars and it was at that point that I made the conscious decision that I was going end my career as a "blackjack playa" in the winning column. I cashed in my chips, and walked out the door with an extra thirty dollars (minus the cost of another late night buffet) in my pocket (and let's not forget a full tummy)! 
 
And finally, I may have gone one other time with my sister "D" and her husband "A" (I am struggling to remember if we actually went, or if I had just heard him TALK about one of the times he has gone).
After we successfully abandoned the kids at Grandma and Grandpa's house for the Slumber Party Bash and The Mother of Five and I ran our errand, we met "B" & "J" at Mystic Lake Casino for the evening!   "B" & "J" had something specific in mind, and what they had planned was about to decimate the way I view an innocent childhood activity and frequently lucrative fund-raiser.
 
My life will never be the same again...  Follow the link to This Ain’t your Granny's Church Basement Bingo.

The Slumber Party (a prelude for more to come)

This week, we have out of town family visitors.  The Mother of Five's brother, his wife, and their two boys were in Minnesota!  They are staying with his parents in the next town over from us, so it makes for getting together pretty easy.
We made a road trip to spend several days at their house a little over a month ago.  I had always planned on posting about that trip, but never got around to it.  So I am not going to let their trip go un-acknowledged!
"Cousin-M" (4 years old) is quite enamored with his older cousins, and really looks forward to spending time with them.  Somewhere along the line, it was planned that during their visit, "the cousins" (our #2-#5 of 5 along with "Cousin-M" and "Cousin-C" (less than a year old)) were all going to have a HUGE slumber party at Grandma's house! 
 
I had worked overtime that day, and was racing home to make it to Church on time.  After I got off duty, I called the Mother of Five and tried to catch up with her on my way to meet the family at Church.  Since I was running late, my mind was whirling from just having gotten off duty, and I was trying to rush, I may have "missed" part of our conversation.
Well, and let's be honest here.  I am male.  I suspect that "Sometimes" we males of our species are not always as focused as we should be while conversing with the females of our species (wether or not we are "rushed"). 
 
I truly suspect it has something to do with (and I blame) Charles Schultz and his"Peanuts" cartoons that we all watched as children.  We witnessed Charlie Brown listen to his teacher drone on and on in that trumpetish "Mah-wah-wah-wahhh-wah" voice - and somehow, in our subconscious minds, has image of his teacher has been projected towards....
 
Am I sinking fast?  Putting my foot in my mouth?  Digging a hole I won't be able to climb out of?  Perhaps it's time I quit "theorizing" and get back to the story at hand, hmmm?
I arrived (late) to Church, and slinked my way into the back pew (not wanting to disrupt the "already in progress" mass).  From my vantage point in the back row (being the freakishly tall fella that I am) I was able to "stalk" my family from afar.  After church (and subsequent reunion with my family) - it was time to depart for the slumber party!
 
We arrived, and were immediately met at the door by "Cousin-M" who was all but bouncing around the room with excitement to see us!  I got to spend some "silly time" with Cousin-M before his attention was quickly drawn away by his much cooler older cousins.  Before long, they all disappeared into the wonderland that is Grandma and Grandpa's basement.
 
It was then that I realized what my distracted mind had missed from the conversation earlier (while only hearing the "Charlie Brown Teacher talk").  The Mother of Five, her brother, and his wife had made plans for an evening out - leaving Grandma and Grandpa on their own to spend some "quality time"  with six (sounding much more like "quantity time" to me) of their seven grandchildren. (Ranging in age from less than a year, up to 14 years old - and I'll let you decide which age group is harder to keep track of....
 
Upon hearing that we have a night out planned (a night out with no children and other adults), I looked around the room nervously (like a man with a secret that was just about to be "caught" doing something wrong) and decided it was time to make haste, and "get outta Dodge" before Grandma and Grandpa came to their senses and changed their minds!  (Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!)
 
After the little cloud of dust (from my Roadrunner like departure - Beep! Beep!) settled, the Mother of Five and left to run a quick errand before meeting "B" & "J" for our evening out.  "B" & "J" (being from out of town) had a specific destination in mind - and frankly (being FROM town) we rarely consider this option when we have an evening out. (Did I just say "when we have an evening out"??  (Yes.  That is a hysterical laugh - bordering on madness that you hear!)
 
Our evening out is deserving of a post of it's own.  Follow the link to… Takin’ a Chance

Front Patio – Step 1

Now that the deck (and twenty part saga of building the deck) has finally been scratched off the “incomplete” list, it’s about time I start undertaking another project that will inspire another twenty part saga about and has the potential to sit unfinished for years to come.

As I stated in the final deck post, while shopping for the last bits of needed lumber for the deck, the Mother of Five and I stumbled upon some new inspiration. 

Our back deck faces directly west.  A back deck that faces directly west means that (depending on the time of year) somewhere between 2pm and sundown, the deck gets so sunny and hot, it’s almost un-usable.  It reminds me of what (I imagine) a hot July or August day in - oh, I dunno, maybe Austin, Texas -  may feel like.   So, many years ago we (even before we built the deck), we adapted another area of our yard to be able to enjoy when the (then future / planned) deck would not be usable. 

We built a front patio.

It was a perfect solution.  Since they are on opposite sides of the house, when one is too sunny and hot or is too cold (and you want to enjoy the sun) – the other will suit our needs!  We cemented (and patterned the cement) a patio into the front of our house.  We also did some landscaping around the patio. 

Over the last few years, the landscaping has lost it’s luster.  The pavers have sank in the ground allowing rocks to spill over on the yard, and dirt/grass to grow over and into the rocks.  We planted several shrubs within the rock, but have discovered over the years that the rock absorbs the heat, and these poor plants were also exposed to their own version of what I imagine a hot July / August summer day in Austin would feel like… (How do PEPOLE survive there without melting???)   As such, we have had very little luck growing much of anything in these spots.

In defense of anyone living in Austin that I may have offended, there is at least one shrub who’s casualty was a direct result of being “Minnesotan”. 

One winter, while buried under a couple of feet of snow, I forgot about one of the shrubs, and ground it up in as I passed over it with my 5hp, 2 stage show blower.  It was akin to the ending of the movie “Fargo”.

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As you can see in these photos, the front patio was looking a little “blah”.  It needed some new life.

Top Left (from our driveway) you can see the bits of the two shrubs that were left.  Way back by the hose reel, and just slightly to the left.

Top Right:  You can see the remnants of the bushes here too, and the big circular corner where we dug up a bush that was dying last fall (why the rocks are pulled away)

Bottom:  A view of the patio from the edge of our yard.

 

 

Another area that needed some “TLC” was under the recently completed deck.  The grass had been worn down, and covered with dirt while constructing the deck, and with the almost constant shade under it – efforts to revive the lawn have been futile, yet weeds (like the dandelions you can see) seem to thrive.  You can also see piles of the scrap lumber left over from the deck under the far right window.

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The “Mother of Five” and I picked up our “inspiration” (you will have to wait on that friends.  That’s called a “Teaser” in the blogging world), did some layout and evaluation work, and came up with a game plan.

Step one.  Move the rock.  We had one area we no longer wanted the rock, and another area we did want the rock.  We also had some help in the form of an able bodied son who could use some extra “dinero”.

#1 of 5 and I spent the day laying new landscape fabric (under the deck), shoveling up rock from around the front patio, loading that rock into a wheelbarrow, hauling the rock around back, dumping the rock under the deck, and spreading out the dumped rock.  This routine was repeated over and over all day yesterday.

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The results up front were good! 

We got up 90% of the rock and old landscape plastic and  I cleaned up the pavers and lawn edge around most of the patio (I still have 1 side to finish). 

There are still a couple of piles of rock left – but they are so filled with dirt that I have no choice but to build a giant strainer out of chicken-wire and screen out the dirt from the rock.

 

 

 

The results under the deck were even better! 

I still have to decide what type of boarder I want around the rock, and we have a second wave of rock to move from one area back here (need to “deepen” the rock in this area) – but after I cleaned up the scrap lumber, #1 of 5 and I laid out the landscape fabric, and we moved the first wave of rock to the back, I am utterly surprised on how much better this looks! 

Believe me when I say that the photos are not doing it justice! 

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That’s Just How I Roll

Speaking of the deck, I wanted to share a little story... A little story about how I roll..

Remember what the TRUE purpose of this blog is...

"I am keeping this blog as a collection of thoughts for my children
(but others are welcome to enjoy too).... "

So, I share this story - not so much to "toot my own horn" - but more for a "future lesson" for my children on the importance of doing what is right.  Doing what is right - not because you have to, but because you SHOULD.

======================

Two years ago we bought a Patio set for the deck.  We found a decent price on a table and six chairs - to keep the set in our budget, we held off buying the umbrella.  While shopping for the remaining supplies to finish the deck last week, the Mother of Five and I stumbled upon what we thought was a pretty good deal on a matching 9' market style umbrella.  

We took a couple of days to ponder the purchase, and made the decision to buy it.  Upon returning to the store - I had difficulty locating the "stock" for the displayed umbrella.  It was both displayed and stocked in a "loft" area of the store, but try as I might, I could not find the stock.  I asked an employee who was passing by on their way to "lunch break".  Stating that she was not from this department and unfamiliar with where things were at, she called someone from that department to assist me.

IMG_0717 That employee (from the ground floor) told me where to find the umbrellas.  Sure enough, right in front of my eyes were two large boxes with that stock number printed on it!  I picked up the large box, and started making my way back downstairs.  On the staircase I met the employee from the department who was on his way up to help me.  He saw me struggling with very large and heavy box and offered his help.  He also advised me of an elevator that was not too far away.  I thanked him, but told him I would not need his assistance.

I carried this big box on my shoulder, and by the time I made it to the registers, I was really feeling the weight of the package.  I wondered why it seemed so heavy, but I told myself that this was a much larger umbrella than I was used to dealing with.

We were rung up, checked out, and I again picked up the box to carry it out to the van.  Upon arriving at the van (and prior to loading it up, the Mother of Five suggested that we open the box and verify that we had received the tan umbrella, and not the green umbrella.

I set the box on the ground, and noticed on the side of the box, the weight rating for the package.  It said 36 lbs.

36 POUNDS?

I know I am not in the best shape of my life.  I also know that the box I was carrying wasWELL over 36 pounds.

I began opening the package, and the first thing that caught my eye was the fabric of the umbrella... Green!  Argh, we did not want the green... Now I was going to have to haul this tremendously heavy "36 pound" package back into the store, grab the tan umbrella, and haul that one back out.

But, then I noticed something else...

I noticed a tan umbrella too!  Not just a tan umbrella, but as I peeled the cardboard back from the end of the box, I noticed THREE tan umbrellas, and THREE green umbrellas...  A grand total of SIX umbrellas in this one box!

Yeah...  36 x 6 = 216 lbs.

No wonder I was struggling so much... I was carrying over TWO HUNDRED POUNDS !

I started checking all over the box - wondering what happened, how I could have missed this...  After all, the cashier scanned the bar code on the box, and it came up as one unit, not six..  Finally, in one spot on this huge box, in very tiny lettering, it said "carton contains six retail units".

It was not just me that missed this... The department employee missed this, and the cashier missed this too!

Now, since I had my tan umbrella in hand along with two more replacements, and three green umbrellas (i.e. potential "Craigslist" postings) I could have loaded the entire box up in the van, and headed out.

Would I / Could I have gotten away with it?  Yes.  Undoubtedly.

IMG_0716 I could have justified it by saying it was an honest mistake.  That the employee did not notice it.  That the cashier did not notice it.  That it was their fault for not doing so, But, that option never really occurred to me.  Folks, that is NOT how this "Father of Five" rolls... I knew what the "right" thing to do was.

So, after the Mother of Five and I had a good laugh about it, we grabbed a cart, and loaded the box into the cart (there was no way I was going to carry those 216 lbs (even though I just did it) back into the store unaided)!  Once back in the store, a quick check in with the front end manager, and several "thank you's" later - we had our ONE (much lighter and easier to carry) tan umbrella, and were on our way.

I went to sleep that night with a clean conscious, and feeling pretty good about how I handled this situation.

Deck Part 20 - Construction Complete

I will admit to one of my (many) personal faults.  I am a procrastinator.  I have great ambitions, and my great ambitions become motivated ideas, and motivated ideas become intense projects, and intense projects morph into fatigue and burn-out...

My "modus operandi" is to continue plugging through the fatigue and burn out until a project becomes "usable", "livable", and "operational".  Then, I "take a break" from the project - usually until the Mother of Five can no longer stand seeing the project unfinished, and "motivates me" to complete the task.

So, it is with great enthusiasm that I can FINALLY say... After 3.916 years - or 47 months - or 204 weeks - or 1,432 days - or 34,344 hours - or 2,060,640 minutes - or 123,638,400 seconds - I am going call one of my "back burner" project "complete"... (Well, at least the "construction" component is complete).

On May 8, 2006 - I "broke ground" on our deck.

From May 08, 2006 - July 03, 2006 I worked almost non stop on the deck.  I kicked off the project with a (nearly) two week vacation.  Most every waking moment (that was not spent at work) was spent on that deck.  Since I was not at work, I kept my co-worker and good friend Billup to date with my progress through my regular posts (detailing what I had accomplished). Then, once back to work - shared my progress in person.

Truthfully, the deck project was also the "kick off" to this blog!  Most entries made that summer were about the deck, so it feels sort of "surreal" to complete this project.  Almost like the blog existed to update people about my deck progress  (No worries though... I have no plans on shutting down FOF!)  

Like I said in my admission... When I last worked on the deck, it was in a "more than usable" condition.  The actual deck surface was complete, the railings and spindles were up, and a gate was in place.  Where the deck was "lacking" was the stairs.  The stair stringers were in place, and all the treads and risers (steps) were in place sans one actual tread (I had run out of that board).  I had placed some scrap "two by" lumber in place so the steps were usable.  One side of the stairs were protected by the deck.  The other side I had put up a makeshift hand-rail (that was not complete), but would provide a minimum level of protection and something to grab in the event of a "slip".  (Thankfully, that never needed to be tested)

Once the deck was in a usable condition, (and being "burned out" on the project) the incomplete stair case sat for the rest of the summer.  Summer became fall and, as fall became winter, the remaining lumber was neatly sorted along the side of the house.

Over the next three years, I struggled with this incomplete deck.  The kids (and the neighbor kids) would rummage through the wood pile and grab "swords" and "rifles" out of the pile (it's amazing what little boys will use to replicate weapons when their parents (that's us) won't buy them toy guns...).  Every time I mowed, I would have to police the yard for my deck lumber.

I also struggled with the design.  I knew what I wanted, I knew what the building code required, and I knew what I did not want.  The inspector has been by at least once each calendar year - reminding me that I need to finish the project and get my building permit signed off on, and completed - which would motivate me a bit, but not enough to actually resume the project.

And, finally (let's be honest here) - I struggled with my own laziness and procrastination.  After all, it was "usable"... Right?

- - - - -

Since I have another significant project I want to undertake in the not too distant future, I want and need to clear my slate of a few "incomplete" projects - the deck being one of the bigger and more embarrassing of the bunch. 

With my regular days off, and a couple of extra added (as a mini-vacation) - I had started gearing up to get SOMETHING productive done... The deck was #1 on my list.

Saturday was spent cleaning the house for Easter.  Sunday was Easter.  Monday was errand Dance class / Scout day.  Tuesday was... well, I don't recall, but it was not "deck" day.  But Tuesday night I realized that my mini-vacation was over the half way mark, and I had not accomplished anything productive.

Wednesday morning I was outside bright and early.  I took inventory of what lumber I had left, assessed the condition of the staircase and what still needed to be done, I made a shopping list, picked up lumber, parts, and tools that I still needed.

I also stumbled upon my next big project - not anything I was expecting to do...

Stay tuned for more on that.

Two FULL days later (that included some de-construction of the existing railings) the stair tread, riser, railing top cap, handrail, and  all spindles are in place and secured.

I can officially state that the "construction portion" of the deck is COMPLETE!

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Last year, I did stain and waterproof main portion of the deck. (That’s why the staircase is not all stained) - I am going to need to re-coat the main flooring and put a first coat on the staircase (that includes all the new work).  Once the deck is stained, Mr. Building-Inspector-Man comes a knocking, (and after I wake him up from passing out after seeing the deck finally complete) - will be able to say that the deck is 100% complete...

It sure does feel good to say that!

The “Barf Egg”

What ‘eggzactly’ is a “Barf Egg”?  (yes, pun intended)

That was the question I posed to my friends on Facebook a few days ago.  I’m going to be honest with you all.  Before Saturday (the day we sat down and dyed our Easter eggs), I too was unfamiliar with the term “Barf Egg”.
I have had many people wondering, and coming back for more by asking when they will find out.  Also, while it was a pretty good guess, Lisa (from Many Things Do Not Fly) guessed that THIS LINK is a “Barf Egg”. 
While I was fully entertained with that notion – for the sake of today’s lesson, that was NOT the “Barf Egg” I was referring too… (Although, that WAS funny enough that I’ll give Lisa 1/2 credit!) 
The term “Barf Egg” was adopted by child #3 of 5, and has  very specific meaning.

A “Barf Egg” is an Easter Egg (although I supposed it does not have to be specific to “Easter” per se – but for the sake of today’s lesson, let’s say it’s an “Easter” egg) anyway, it’s an “Easter Egg” that has been dyed in a VERY SPECIFIC method.

First… Here is a photo of the eggs we died this year…

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Now, without me having to tell you, can you guess which egg is the “Barf Egg”??  Extra bonus “FOF Points” if you can also guess which egg is the “Alien Egg”, the “Watermelon Egg”, “Sheldon” the Easter Egg, and finally – the egg that “your truly” (The Father of Five) colored….   Go on… Take a minute… 
(Cue the Jeopardy music)
When you think you have the correct answer, click anywhere on the photo for the “jump” to the answers….  Then come on back!!  Go on, DO IT!!

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The “Barf Egg” was created (very specifically) by dipping a new egg in each of the 9 “Paas Easter Egg Colors”, THEN combining equal amounts of each of the nine color dyes into a new mug, and placing the “already been dipped in each color individually” egg into the dark abyss that was created by combining each of the dyes.
 
Then (and only then) the the transform from that of an egg with a pristine white shell into the Dark Side of the Force a unexplainable “Barf colored” egg becomes complete…
(Cue the ominous Star Wars music) – If you only KNEW the power of the dark side of the “Barf Egg”
I’m not totally sure, but I think #3 of 5’s  “Barf Egg” actually frightened the Easter Bunny just a wee bit… 
(Oh, and did I mention how much I LOVE my kids’ sense of humor??  Hmm… I wonder where they get it from!)

Do you think they carpool?

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It’s the night before Easter, and it would seem that it’s not only going to be the Easter Bunny that is going to be hippity-hopping around our home tonight.

No, as luck would have it, BOTH the Easter Bunny AND the Tooth Fairy will be visiting our home!

#4 of 5 asked me if I thought they would be here at the same time and would see each other?!?!?!

(Yeah, #5 of 5 looks a little traumatized here.  It’s only the second tooth she has ever lost, and she is still not too sure about the whole “teeth falling out of her head” thing.)

Amateur Hour

Recently, I missed a party I really wanted to attend…  During the whole planning process, the hosts (the birthday boy’s brother and sister) and I became “Facebook Friends”.  Since I did know them both back in the day, it was nice to re-establish that “friendship”. 

While peeking through Joe’s brother’s FB page – I noticed something familiar to me…  Something I have not had much interaction with over the past 10 years, but it’s something that I still maintain an interest in.  I saw several photos of his brother sitting in front of amateur radio equipment!  I mean, I knew he was a “ham”, but I did not know he was a “Ham”!

I left a comment for him that was “Amateur Radio Specific” (thinking he knew I was a “Ham” too).  I woke up this morning with a message from him asking me if I was a Ham, if he knew that, and to fill him in.  I sent him an email about the down and dirty details of my indoctrination into and involvement in the world of Amateur Radio…

About 1/3 of the way through writing that email, it occurred to me that I may have never really talked about my be a Ham here on FOF…  It’s been a while since I have actually USED my license, but is true that I do have an official FCC Amateur Radio Operators License.

He replied back to me, and (to be honest) just chatting a little bit with him about it has sort of “tweaked” my interest again… I have some specific goals I’d like to accomplish before I really dive head first back into the world of Amateur radio – but there is really nothing stopping me from playing around with it again…

For those of you who don’t know it, here is the story... 

Whenever I used a Ham term, slang, or “Q-code” or something jumped out that I assumed most non-Hams would not know what means, I have tried to provide an explanation or a link.  If you find something you don’t understand, or does not make sense…. ASK!

= = = = = = =

I've always had an interest in radio.  It started way back when I was a young lad...  Just after my grandfather (whom I was very close to) passed away, my grandmother went out and purchased a police scanner...

My grandfather forbid having one in the house, as he was a police officer and said he had to listen to that "squawk box" enough during the work day - that he had no interest in hearing it at home.  (After 16 years of being a police dispatcher, I can COMPLETELY understand why he said that).

I became FASCINATED with that scanner! 

If your interested, or you have not already seen the story, click the "Origins of a Police Dispatcher" link for “the rest of the story”. 

The first thing I bought with my very first paycheck from Coast to Coast (Valley West) was my own police scanner...

My next big jump into the world of "radio" - was an “11 meter transceiver”!  (For those of you who don’t get the joke here… 11 meters is the Citizen’s Band – A.K.A. – CB Radio!)

I installed a CB radio in my car - and was a decent user of the radio through High School and into College...  My high school, and college buddies also got CB Radios - and we would stay in communication as we raised hell around town...  We used "Bloomington Police" call signs based on the areas we lived!  (We were all Law Enforcement Students.... )

Yeah, go ahead… Call me a dork.  It’s a badge I wear with HONOR!

The next big step in my indoctrination into the world of radio came with my decision to change my focus from a career as a Police Officer to that of a Police Dispatcher.  If you are interested, and have the time, you can also follow through to this link "Origins of a Police Dispatcher - The Final Chapter" for "the rest of the story".

After getting married, and settling into the notion that I was going to be a Police Dispatcher instead of a Police Officer - I decided it would be beneficial to make the jump from police scanners and CB radios to Amateur radio!

I spent three months with my nose in a couple "Introduction" and “Instruction” books written by Gordon West, and in 1993 I finally took the test and got my Amateur Radio "Technician"  ticket. (I also got SKYWARN certified during this time period too!)

Ticket - slang term for an Amateur Radio Operators License.

Now that I was officially a licensed Amateur Radio "Technician" (and newly married, with family, and making a little over 8 bucks an hour), money was TIGHT!  So I began saving... literary change... (pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters) for a radio. 

This was before the internet was what it is now.  Back then you really had to RESEARCH to find the best deals on radios... Catalogs, QST magazine adds, LOTS of phone calls, trips to Radio City, swap meets, Ham shows, etc...

ft-416 I eventually found what I was looking for - a basic entry level radio that suited my needs and was something I could afford....

The Yaesu FT-416 (in grey).  It's a basic - single band 2m HT. 

2m – Two Meter (an amateur radio band)
HT - “Handy Talkie” (Walkie-Talkie style radio)

They (Yaesu) were dropping the "grey" and sellers were closing them out...  I forgot how much I paid for it, but I got a pretty good deal...

I started playing around, spending time on 2m...  Saturday Morning Swap Shops, etc...  I was working at the Mall of America as a dispatcher by this point - and we had a weather radio and police scanner in the dispatch center hooked to a decent 2m ground plane antenna way up on the roof...  I'd disconnect the coax, and hook up my HT - Shazam!  Got some decent reception there!  I'd spend my break time (working overnights) parked up on the top level of the ramps, getting to know a few of the late night "regulars" on 2m... 

Back in the day, a “Tech” was the only "Code Free" license - and Techs were viewed by many in Amateur world as "Less than an Amateur".  We were (at times) scorned for being allowed to use the bands...  My intent was always to go "Tech Plus" - (Tech, plus the 5 WPM Morse Code requirement) and maybe even further.  I started studying, got some Morse Code practice tapes from the library and bought some Morse Code practice software for my old 286 Windows 3.2 machine!  My lowly "Tech" license sort of kept me from getting in too deep into the Amateur Radio “community”.

My intent was to build a QRP rig - while saving up for something a bit more "Shiny and new"!  (Some of the high end HF rigs can run as much a five to seven thousand dollars!)

QRP – Low Power
HF – High Frequency
(as opposed to VHF -Very High Frequency / UHF – Ultra High Frequency or the Microwave Frequencies)

Degen 1103 At this time we bought a run down fixer-upper house (a "flipper" before house flipping was chic') - and I started my career in dispatching which required LOTS of training, working night shifts, etc, etc, etc... 

Ham radio was put on the back burner.  Although, I did continue listening to the Shortwave bands (and still enjoy a romp through the SW bands on my Degen 1103 - Left).

I never did get the "plus" for my Tech license. 

For many reasons – like the "Ni-Cads" (remember Ni-Cad??) for my HT giving up the ghost, babies starting to arrive (one after the other), work, and maintaining the house, the next thing I knew It had been 10 years since I last TX'ed on an Amateur bands... (TX – Transmitted)

I have kept up my license (by renewal) - always thinking that some day I plan on getting back into the scene... And now, with the code requirements lifted - that just may happen...  Someday.

I work with another Ham.  He is more active than I am... Mostly around Field Day, and he is BIG TIME into SKYWARN... He worked up to General (with code) but has lost or forgotten most of it over the years (He can still remember his call sign, CQ, QSL, QRZ, and 73).  He and another Ham I see in the police department from time to time are part of the Bloomington Communications Group - and try to talk me into getting my Extra or General...  They have the tests frequently enough... the hurdle is  trying to find the time for prep...

CQ – Attention or “Calling all stations”
QSL – I am acknowledging receipt.
QRZ – You are being called by…
73 – Best Regards

So, to answer the question posed to me in that email from my buddy’s brother… Yes, I am a Ham - but not as much as I'd like to be...  I really only sort of "dabbled" in it many years ago - but I have the interest and intent to return someday.

Are you a Ham, and just stumbled upon this page?  Tell me your Ham story, or send me a link!

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