Master Bedroom Overhaul, Part 1: Closeted

Almost from the very first time we toured Kirkwood Manor in December ’09, one of the “somewhere down the road” wishlist projects was to convert the unused home office space (a.k.a. reading nook) in the master bedroom into some valuable closet space. As a part of another big change to that room, we’ve finally brought that little vision to life.

The reading nook had a built-in desk and bookcase that may well have been original to the house. So out those went…

And to make the most of the space, we opted to bump the ceiling in that area back up to the same height as the rest of the room…

A wall was built to box in the closet, complete with a pocket door that slides back into the wall so it doesn’t eat up any space within the closet nor does it swing out into the room.

(We used a Johnson Pocket Door kit that’s available via hardware stores or online retailers like Amazon.com or doitbest.com and a stock interior 6-panel door from Home Depot.)

Of course, with the new wall and texturing to blend in with the existing walls—and given the thoroughly-unmatchable custom faux finish that the previous owners had applied—I had to repaint the entire room.

But luckily, my ever-eager assistant was there to help with the painting…

Liam Painting

So here’s the end result, complete with trim and the new paint color (Azul Tequila) for the room:

You may be noticing a trend here—all of our paint colors at Kirkwood Manor have names that “speak” to Dede. (Just wait ’til you see the Dining Room re-done in “Dolphin Fin!”)

Keen observers will also catch that we dressed the room up with crown molding but you’ll see more on that in the next part of the Master Bedroom Overhaul!

Big thanks go to Donna P. for the contractor referral!

Be sure to read part 2 of the Master Bedroom overhaul to see details of the new patio door install!

Kinder Class of 2012

kindeergarten graduation photoLiam has officially graduated from Kindergarten!

It’s been a long year of learning for all of us. We had no idea how difficult the transition from daycare Pre-K to public elementary school Kindergarten was going to be.

Apparently life in Pre-K, even though it seemed well-structured, was still mostly about playing and doing things on your own schedule. So going to a class setting where all activities are highly-structured took a bit of a toll on our guy. We thought all hope was lost for the first few months, but after the Christmas break things worked out and he adjusted to the routine and even won a citizenship award by the end of the year. We’re so proud of our little guy and still totally amazed that he can now read books on his own.

I’m glad Summer is finally here and we can all relax and enjoy the next few months before first grade starts!

Liam’s 6th Birthday

Our baby boy turned 6 years old Saturday. I can’t believe how fast he’s growing up!

The theme of this year’s party was Finn McMissile / Secret Agent. It was a pretty easy theme to work with: Cars 2 and spy stuff. We took a risk and booked a pavilion at Liam’s favorite park for the party. Thankfully, the weather cooperated and the plans went as scheduled.

The main activity we lined out was for each of the kids to build their own marshmallow blaster (a.k.a. the RoboBlaster® — thanks Dave!). Per Bob Schmidt’s instructional video, Rob cut the ½" PVC pipe into the various lengths needed and Liam helped sand the burrs off of the cut edges, then we made Ziplock bag kits that included a homemade assembly diagram. The kids & parents assembled them at the party, then we passed out bags of ammo (mini-marshmallows) to all the kids and turned them loose. The kids had a blast (rimshot!) playing with them and it made a nice party favor for each of them to take home.

Below is a video slideshow of some of the party highlights and I think you’ll agree from the kid’s faces that the party was a big success. I know we had one happy, exhausted boy when we got home!

Vote Smarter

Snoopy voteTuesday, November 6th, 2012 is really just around the corner. My biggest complaint during past elections has been that there wasn’t an easy way to get enough info to feel like I was making an informed decision at the poll. But that may be about to change…

Project Vote Smart, founded by former Arizona Senator Richard Kimball, aims to help. This free non-profit, non-partisan research organization collects and distributes comprehensive information on U.S. political candidates and elected officials. In particular, the VoteEasy tool can help you zero in on a candidate based on his/her official stance on a range of key issues or criteria. It even includes historical voting records so you can trend how candidates have performed in years past.

Especially interesting is the Political Courage Test that measures each candidate’s willingness to provide citizens with their positions on key issues. (Note that all of the 2012 Presidential contenders fail this test!)

I do my part and cast my votes but honestly, I’m still fairly skeptical about the real net value of individual votes in our electoral system (although I’m feeling slightly less iffy about this after some further reading). What are your thoughts on this? Do you feel your efforts at the polls are meaningful?

The Green, Green Grass of Home

lawn chairs in the desert

(Giving credit where it’s rightly due, this started as a response I was drafting to Eric’s “Water Musings” post
earlier this weekend but I didn’t want to hijack his blog with such a lengthy comment.)

 
Starting today, the City of Odessa has enacted even more stringent—some would say extreme—exterior watering restrictions for homeowners. That is, we’re allowed to water, via bubblers or by hand only, a scant 2 hours per week within a given 4 hour window. As you can imagine, area residents are doing a lot of hand-wringing over how they’ll even keep their trees & plants alive, much less their lawns.

Ah, the lawns. That’s the thing that’s really bothering me. Simply put, we have conditioned ourselves to an idyllic 50s-TV-inspired notion of what a home should look like. And it’s an unrealistic image that’s especially ultimately unsustainable when you live in the West Texas desert. We’ve convinced ourselves that a suburban home without a lush, green carpet of weedless turf is somehow much less cared about than those in the neighborhood that do have such. We’ve bought fully into the notion that the guy on the block with the best yard wins. And I’ll admit I’ve been as much a part of this problem as the next guy, having spent lots of money, time, and effort in years past to foster and maintain just such a showpiece front lawn.

Now of course, some locals are opting to have water wells drilled on their property so they can continue right on with the same watering practices, but that seems short-sighted at best and downright irresponsible at worst. Plus, there’s a reported 4 month average wait time now that so many are turning to this alternative source of water. And then there’s the considerable expense with little or no guarantee that a long-term personal supply of water actually does lie directly beneath your feet.

Perhaps it was inevitable that we’d run low enough on water that concessions would have to be made, but I think our civic leaders have done us a disservice in enacting severe water restrictions without first giving us homeowners some guidance on low-water (or no-water) alternatives. And likewise, the city officials should be offering some kind of incentives to those who opt for no-water solutions, as is common in many other areas of the country.

I certainly don’t want to concrete in the front yard and I’m less than crazy about crushed rock, and sadly, I’m not quite creative enough to visualize other, more attractive options. But certainly, I’m especially interested in alternatives that don’t negatively affect my property and/or resale value—and that’s something that a brown yard will almost surely do.

The artificial turf that’s available now looks and feels authentic, complete with little strands of dead thatch to complete the illusion. And it’s a long-term, nearly maintenance-free option. However, that plush, realistic synthetic lawn material must’ve been developed in a NASA lab, because they come with suborbital price tags! (Ya gotta wonder why the vendors offering this aren’t pricing their product more competitively to capitalize on the desperation of area homeowners.) And again, even if artificial turf were anywhere near affordable, that only goes to perpetuate the “lush lawn” stereotype that’s gotten into the jam we’re in.

So, if you’re in this area (or another with similar drought-stricken conditions), how do you plan to deal with the exterior water restrictions? And how does this shape your long-term home plans?

The Big Two Oh

Hard to believe, but today marks my twentieth anniversary at .

Yup, the big two oh. 2 0.

Twenty years.

Hardly seems possible.

Early into my working life, I remember worrying that “job-hopping” could make you seem risky to potential employers so I made a point of trying to establish lengthier stays at jobs. For a brief period, even having multiple jobs at the same time. In fact, when I started at MCH, I was only halfway through my 4 year stint at America Online and was still doing occasional weekend shifts for Washington Inventory Service auditing grocery stores’ inventory in the wee hours of the night—a mind-numbing job if ever there was one, but it taught me 10-key proficiency and the value of Mountain Dew: it had almost twice the caffeine of other soft drinks! Somehow I thought that all of this would make me look more attractive on paper to prospective employers.

But somewhere during the past 2 decades, there’s been a big shift in the value of job longevity. It used to be a much-admired trait. We used to marvel at hearing about friends’ Dads who retired from their companies after many, many years of service. Building tenure at a single company was considered a sign of dependability and fortitude. Accordingly, I’ve always been—and continue to be—proud of having been able to remain a productive, ever-growing employee for the long haul.

But these days, when I tell someone I’ve held a job—tho a number of distinct postiions—at the same company for so long, I’m sometimes greeted with a mixture of sympathy and thinly-veiled disgust. This is especially the reaction of “Gen Y” people, for whom self-loyalty is most often the focus. They seem to think of long-term employees as stagnant or non-ambitious. For this group, dependability does not equal consistency. For the newer entrants to the job market, job-hopping is practically required for professional development.

And maybe some of this is due to the job market quakes we’ve seen in the past decade. The ripples from downsizing and corporate disintegration may have forever changed the old rules. Where employers once promoted job security, corporate loyalty to employees seems almost dead. Employee loyalty still seems to be kicking, but it’s detached from the idea of long-term security and aimed more at skill-building and growth opportunities.

What do you think? Are your views on job longevity different than that of your parents? Or do you have a different outlook on job security now than you did when you were just starting your working life? And how much do your employment benefits (paid leave, insurance, etc.) play into this? Have benefits and/or security ever kept you at a job in spite of wanting a change?

The Peanut is Back!

The peanut a.k.a. TiVo remote

March is National Peanut Month and tho we’re big fans of the lowly legume (not to mention Snoopy’s gang!), we’re celebrating an entirely different kind of peanut just now…

Nicknamed “peanut” by its adoring fans, the iconic peanut-shaped TiVo remote control is once again gracing our home. And we couldn’t be happier!

We’ve always insisted that TiVo was light years beyond all other cable company DVRs. No other cable box I’ve seen has a channel guide that’s as comprehensive and up-to-date. The WishList and Season Pass features are revolutionary! And of course, you can remotely schedule recordings online. And we had all of that with our original TiVo nearly 7 years ago!

So when our cable / internet / phone service provider Grande Communications began offering the TiVo Premiere DVR to Midland/Odessa customers a few weeks ago, we immediately jumped on board. I’m happy to say that this new TiVo goes to 11 with super sharp HD, multi-room viewing, even smarter predictive recordings, and boatloads more on-demand content than we could access on our old Motorola DVR. You can even remotely schedule and control your box(es) via smartphone app!

Gotcha Day – 4 Year Anniversary

We celebrated Liam’s 4th Gotcha Day by going out to Rosa’s for dinner. I’m guessing he picked Rosa’s because he LOVES their chocolate cake. On the way home, we stopped by Donna’s house to take our annual stairway comparison photo (see below) that shows Liam in 2008 on his way out of the baby home compared to today. It’s a reminder to me every year of how much he has changed and how fast he is growing up.

We got off to a rough start this year with Kindergarten but since the Christmas break things have been going great at school and his after school child care. They informed me today that he has been picked to be the Star of the Month at the child care because he did so well in January and his Kindergarten teacher gave him a reward for his good behavior. I’m so happy that he is finally adjusting to all the changes he had this year.

Most of all, I think he has learned the most important thing in life…that chocolate will always put a smile on your face!

2011 Recap

Here we are on the last day of 2011. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and is having a safe New Year’s Eve.

It’s been another eventful year for us here at 2Dolphins. Our blogging might have slowed down but we certainly have not. Below are some of the highlights of the year:

March – trip to Washington DC and Liam got to climb the steps and see Abraham Lincoln (something he had been asking to do for months)

June – my Mom passed away. This was bittersweet as you’re never ready to lose a loved one but you also never want to see them them suffer with a horrible disease like Alzheimer’s.

July – Corpus, time to heal at the beach.

August – another year older and wiser. Rob & I celebrated our 15 year anniversary.

September – San Diego, it had been too long. Also, Liam started Kindergarten and it just about broke my heart. It has definitely changed him and not all for the better. He went from being my sweet innocent baby to all boy picking up some bad attitude from the other kids at school.

November – after 15 years, we finally had to buy a new washer & dryer and got the front loaders that we had been eye-balling for years. Luckily they stopped working on Thanksgiving Day so we could cash in on some Black Friday deals.

December – we had a white Christmas for the first time since 1997 and the ghost of Steve Jobs visited and converted me to an iMac user. I’m looking forward to learning the new photo capabilities it has to offer.

So as we say goodbye to 2011 and hello to 2012, we want to say how thankful we are for our friends and family and all the blessings we have received this year!