Sunday, January 31, 2010

My New Toy!

For the past 4 yrs, I've been squirreling away all the Christmas bonus tips I receive from my regular customers. I've been drooling over every DSLR camera I've seen. I frequently window-shop online, but the cameras have always been too expensive for our budget. So, I started saving my Christmas tips in the hope that SOMEDAY I'd have enough money to purchase the magical camera of my dreams.

Mid-January I counted up the money I'd saved. I was surprised at the total: $800. I knew that this still wasn't enough to buy a camera. The last time I priced DSLRs, a body was $350, a 55mm lens was $200, and a 200mm lens(my MUST have) was $1000. Keep saving TSHS.

Out of curiosity, I went online to price cameras. They have really come down this year! There were actually 2 cameras that fit my price range. I spent the afternoon weighing the pros and cons of both cameras and finally decided on this. I got the camera and BOTH lenses for $644(no tax) and $4.50 shipping! I still had money left to buy memory cards, rechargeable batteries, card reader, and a case.

When the camera arrived, I ran to town to buy an SDHC card. Then I started reading the 312 page manual. What a piece of equipment!! Once I had the batteries, memory card, and lens installed, I searched the house for photographic subjects. Hairry was my first thought. He's always up for posing for pictures. Not this time! As you can see, Hairry was in the middle of a nap and could care less that I got a new camera.

My next thought was our bird feeder. I watched that damned feeder for 20 minutes and not one bird showed up! So I strolled through the house, experimenting with the flash and exposure settings. By that time I wished that the Christmas decorations were still up.

The most interesting shot of the day was of L reading the camera manual. *yawn*

A couple days later we got freezing rain, followed by 8 inches of wet, heavy snow. That weather was a nightmare to drive through and grueling to clean up, did make some beautiful scenery.

After the roads were cleared, I took a drive around the neighborhood. I stopped at my parents' house to show off my camera, and snap this picture of Shadow begging for peanuts.

For some reason, the apples didn't fall from my Boss's tree this year. The snow really highlights the red of the apples. I only wish the sun had been shining.

Wow, that anti-shake feature actually works! I snapped this picture of the snow on the restaurant roof after I'd been out in -20F temps without gloves. I was shivering and couldn't hold the camera still. I was amazed that the picture turned out.

We had a full moon this weekend! This is the first decent picture I've ever shot of the moon. I also took some shots of just the moon and sky. I want to experiment with layering those shots over other pictures.

The sunset setting on my camera was the perfect exposure to capture the blueness of the full moon at dusk!

The birds are back! I snapped these pics of Mr and Mrs Pine Grosbeak through the kitchen window. Mr G wasn't very cooperative. He wouldn't hold still. On the other hand, Mrs G posed quite well.

If you need to find me this winter, just drive through my neighborhood and look for the crazy lady with the camera around her neck, out in the cold at dusk and dawn, snapping pictures of inane objects

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Haz Floor!!

We put the finishing touches on our new kitchen floor right before Thanksgiving. We've been admiring our handiwork ever since. There were actually a couple of days that I got a stiff neck from looking down every time I was in the kitchen.

We bought the flooring last spring, when it went on sale for $.99/sq ft. This was a wise move as the price has been $1.29 and higher ever since. I also knew that if I didn't buy the flooring our kitchen floor would get put on hold for another year.

This is Tarkett flooring from the Boreal line, with a 25 yr wear warranty. We originally decided that we wanted oak-colored flooring, since we plan to stain our cupboard doors a darker shade. When Z and I went to buy the flooring we looked at the oak color, then we looked at each other and said in unison: "That looks like a gym floor." There just wasn't enough pattern or grain in the oak flooring, so we chose the walnut instead.

The reason we decided on laminate was because it's a "free-floating" floor. This means no glue or nails, and it can be installed over your existing flooring. When your floor wears out, you just dismantle it and install new flooring.

After watching many online videos and home-improvement shows, we thought that one person could lay this floor. After spending a Saturday prepping the room, we decided to start installing the flooring on Sunday. We then planned on individually working on the floor during the week, while the other one was at work. WRONG! This wasn't a tap together flooring. It was a new, "interlocking" flooring. Unfortunately, Tarkett enclosed instructions for the old-style, tap-in flooring.

We quickly discovered that the flooring strips had to be assembled, end-to-end, for the entire width of the room before the whole strip could be snapped into the previous row. We also learned that the ends have to be snapped together perfectly, or the strip wouldn't lay properly. This revelation destroyed our plans for a one person installation. There were places in our kitchen that required all 3 of us to snap a 15 ft strip of flooring into the previous row. Later in the week I went on Tarkett's website. The website has the correct installation instructions.
Note to Tarkett: You wanna try putting the correct instructions in the box of flooring?!

The first two pictures show our progress on that first Sunday. Our kitchen has a LOT of goofy angles to cut around which slowed us down considerably. The rest of the week we carefully walked around the flooring we had laid so we wouldn't chip the "interlocking" edge. The following weekend we put in 10 hr days and finished laying the 170 sq ft of new floor.

Because the floor is "free-floating", we had to leave a 1/4 inch gap around the entire floor to allow for expansion and contraction of the flooring to prevent buckling. I covered this gap with 3/4 inch cove molding. When I went shopping for the molding, I found solid mahogany molding that perfectly matched our flooring...AND it was cheaper than pine molding! This meant that I didn't have to stain the molding. All I had to do was apply 3 coats of floor polyurethane to the molding and I was done. It took me a week to cut the molding into all the goofy angles in our kitchen. Fortunately we have a compound miter saw, which is the BEST $69 investment we've ever made!

Here's a picture of Hairry with the finished product.
As we were laying the floor, we discovered that the flooring matched Hairry perfectly. Now we laughingly tell everybody that we bought the flooring to match the dog....doesn't everybody?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Lather, Rinse, Repeat.....

No, these aren't repeat photos from last year. These are pics of our Christmas blizzard. We were only supposed to get 4-7 inches....we got 14-18 inches. The day after it quit snowing, the temps dipped to -35F for 10 days. So much for the forecasters predictions that we were going to have a dry, warm, winter.

We spent the last week trying to get the snow cleared from our roofs. I wrenched my shoulder clearing the roof vents, so now L and Z are trying to get the job finished. Temps are in the teens today, but it just started to snow again. It would be nice if we could break even for once!

My parents actually expressed their appreciation for us hosting all the Christmas festivities. Wonders never cease! We're hoping that we can continue cooking all the holiday and birthday meals. We really don't want to eat ANY meals over there. Z and I recently discovered that they're starting to store items in the cupboards that should be refrigerated.

I have several customers that are in the same condition as my parents. I'm half scared to drive anymore! One customer wore his winter jacket and gloves all summer. As soon as the weather reached -30F, he started wearing a sweatshirt jacket. This man's daughter has been trying to get him in assisted living, but her hands are tied up in legalities too.

We won't have any more days off until Memorial Day. I guess that's a good thing as we can't afford time off. Last week, business was fair at the restaurant. I don't expect this to continue. We have had many noon-hours where we only serve 4 people. A couple of times, in the past few months, Boss has had to cash in stocks to make payroll. Not good!

Now our electric, garbage, fuel, and water rates are going up. I also expect food prices to rise after all the cold weather down south. I don't know about you, but I could sure use some good news for a change!

We're taking down the Christmas decorations today. Christmas was the only thing I had to look forward to. Now it's over. I guess I'll keep myself busy de-cluttering and sewing for the rest of the winter to keep depression at bay.