Monthly Archives: May 2017

Work and anytime fitness

Lorena at Anytime Fitness in CentraliaWe still don’t have any appliances, but Mark is scheduled to bring them here and install them next week along with the propane tank and gas lines needed to run the stove. In the mean time, Lorena is on a regular schedule at Anytime Fitness again and I am working full time from my (somewhat messy) home office with the view of Rainier. This is ALL a very good thing. Mark will be here to do his work next week while we are gone. It is nice to have someone watch the house. The week after that is painting week and we should be all done.

We will be up in a Hilton Hotel in Vancouver, BC with an Anytime Fitness across the street from us. It does not get much better than that. This is something I think we will be able to do together on a semi-regular basis. My new company has certainly been treating me well so far.

Sunday after church in the Twin Cities

Bonnie puts a flower in Lorena's hairWe went to our friends’, Bob’s and Gena’s house after church today for lunch. The highlight of the lunch was the Camellia flower Bob and Gena’s daughter, Bonnie, put in Lorena’s hair. The Rhododendrons and a bunch of other flowers were in bloom at their house and Bob picked a beautiful bouquet for the table. Other friends came over (Jack, Norm and Linda) were there. It was truly an odd and wonderful sensation when I realized I was the most liberal guy in the group and those who know me know that is a pretty unusual situation.

We sat at the table after dinner (pork loin, asparagus from the garden, an amazing green salad, string beans, and strawberry rhubarb cobbler for dessert–amazing) and talked for an hour, then went into the living room to talk some more. We did not leave for our Sunday afternoon nap until after 4:30 PM. That is how it should be on a Sunday afternoon. We hope we can host some of that kind of thing at our house sometime soon.

El Sabor de Mexico Restaurant, Chehalis, WA

Tacos El Sabor de MexicoLorena and I were a little discouraged with the taco scene in the Twin Cities of Centralia and Chehalis even though we have only been here now for a couple of weeks. That has all been remedied now that we have been to El Sabor de Mexico in Chehalis to have some lunchtime tacos. Without reservation we believe the quality of the tacos was every bit as good as the ones at the one true best taco shop, Tacos Regio Monterrey, in Lewisville, Texas. That being said, we would have to give the edge to Tacos Regio because they have more of that street tacos feel that we really like. Nevertheless, that is a matter of personal taste and we truly love the home style tacos of El Sabor which are almost certainly the healthiest of the two. The tortillas are hand made, soft, corn tortillas.

We got a tip from the guys who installed the granite in our kitchen, two from Mexico, one from Puerto Rico, that this was the go-to, authentic taco house in the Twin Cities. The Mexican guys rolled their eyes when the Puerto Rican gave his advice on which Mexican food was the best even though all three agreed on El Sabor. As for those other places we tried, they, too, were irritated with the pushy, much more famous place that sells mediocre (in our opinion) tacos and makes a big deal out of the fact they do not serve chips before the meal like there is something authentically Mexican about that–there is not. Some restaurants in Mexico serve chips, some do not, and none make a big deal out of it. It surely seems they have been away from Mexico long enough to forget both what is good and what is authentic. The other place we tried in Centralia would have been a very mediocre Tex-Mex style place if it were in Dallas and we are not big Tex-Mex fans even when it is good Tex-Mex, not that there is anything wrong with that.

El Sabor de Mexico is an older building, but it was very, very clean during our first visit. We talked with the owner who is from a beautiful colonial city, not to far from Monterrey name Zacatecas. We also met her son and daughter who work at the restaurant and a couple of loyal patrons of the place from Guadalajara. It is a very friendly place and is now, just like with our granite installation buddies, our go-to taco house. It is good enough we doubt it will be displaced from that perch anytime soon.

Kitchen remodel: The granite is in!

I have a ton of work to get done for my new job, but Lorena sent me the pictures of the granite as it went into the kitchens. I do not have time to say much other than a few notes, but the pictures kind of speak for them selves.

Prepping the cabinets — a steel bar needed to be added as a support for the relatively large over hang.

Granite in the kitchen #1

Granite in the kitchen #2

Granite in the kitchen #3

The small piece of granite for the coffee and tea service area.

Granite in the kitchen #4

Granite in the kitchen #5

Granite in the kitchen #6

Granite in the kitchen #7

The vegetable and main sinks.

Granite in the kitchen #8     Granite in the kitchen #9

Some overall views.

Granite in the kitchen #10     Granite in the kitchen #11

Granite in the kitchen #12

Christian at work in Boston

Christian at MIT Lincoln LabsChristian has been to work for three days and it looks like he is getting his arms around things in the lab. He really likes the area where he lives although he says the culture is a little more direct. Actually, he did not exactly say “direct,” but you get the idea. He hopes to look around a little in Boston this weekend, maybe get in a workout and see the art museum across the street.

On another note, we got a call today from our builder, Mark P. He said the granite guy called him and wants to install the granite in the kitchen tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM. Lorena was very happy with that. The appliances were supposed to go in this week and the granite next week, but it looks like it will be the other way around. We should have some pictures to put up tomorrow.

The only things we have left after the appliances are the backsplash, painting and a few odds and ends. It will be nice to be able to cook on a stove and in an oven instead of on an apartment balcony grill.

Vancouver and the new job

Vancouver Hilton near my new jobI drove up to Vancouver, BC last night to stay at a Hilton close to where the brand new corporate offices of my new company are located. It is a beautiful drive up from Centralia and the border crossing is not too bad. Every time I come up here I think, “I don’t remember it being this beautiful.” It is truly an amazing place with snow-capped mountains, lots of beautiful stretches of water and a huge, cosmopolitan city. I am looking forward to being here now and then and my company says it is fine for me to bring Lorena.

All our stuff in one place

Our stuff arrives from North CarolinaBob and Gena are true champions. They have been kind to us way above and beyond the call of duty. They arrived in Centralia with all our stuff from North Carolina Friday evening. All of us, including their daughter Bonnie, went to the McMenamin’s Olympic club to celebrate–the weather cooperated wonderful as we were able to sit outside and talk and talk.

We made arrangements for two guys to come help us unload the truck. We got unloaded in about three hours. After two years of taking care of parents and living in apartments, we are grateful to have all our stuff in one place and to sleep in our own bed in a house of our own and not an apartment. After everything was out of the truck, Kelly arrived from Seattle while Bob and I ran the truck to the U-Haul center and returned the appliance piano dollies to the local rental store. Bob, Gena, Lorena, Kelly and I sat out on the deck, ate fresh cherries Kelly brought to us and enjoyed the sun.

It was one of those moment to realize it is great to be alive in this time and place.

Christian goes to Boston for the summer

Christian's hotel room in Boston (Lincoln Labs internship)Christian flew from Tempe to Boston yesterday to start an internship at MIT’s Lincoln Labs. He moves moved into a dorm at Northeastern University close to (or in) downtown Boston sometime today yesterday and will be shuttled over to the labs every day during his stay. This is another milestone in his march toward his degree. It seems to be a long, long way from laying on the floor learning arithmetic facts during his homeschool days.

He is a one or two years away from finishing his PhD and starting to think about what he wants to do next. He has made his own way economically and in the running of his household since he left home after his Bachelors degree. My level of participation in his education has stood at absolute zero since then, too. It is not that I wouldn’t like to help, I just do not have the skills or knowledge. I know his work at Arizona State and at Lincoln Labs is very demanding both in the hours he spends on it and the complexity of the work. He will be glad to finish.

Update: Amazingly, this is the view from Christian’s dorm room for the summer. He told me he got into the room last night. My understanding is he can see the Boston Museum of Fine Arts right out his window.

Bob and Gena make it look easy

Bob and Gena see a wreck in KentuckyBob and Gena are on the last stretch home with our load of stuff from North Carolina. We are very grateful for their efforts on our behalf, but also pretty envious. They had some excitement (see the burning car), saw some beautiful places, got together with family and made friends with some of our (and their) old, dear friends from Raleigh. This picture Gena sent along of their drive yesterday through the mountain west did not do anything to make me any less envious.

Gena said, “This is my kind of country -cowboy country!  Ranches, old homesteads, horses, cows, sheep, antelope, sage brush, rolling hills, tall mountains, odd rock outcroppings, small streams, large rivers.” Boy howdy. It is my kind of country, too, even if it is not my home state like it is for Gena. Right After I got the email, I called my cousin, Udo, who lives in Bozeman and told him we were coming out to see him soon.

Big Sky--Bob and Gena driving from Raleigh #1     Big Sky--Bob and Gena driving from Raleigh #2

Big Sky--Bob and Gena driving from Raleigh #3     Big Sky--Bob and Gena driving from Raleigh #4

Kitchen remodel: Cabinet drawers and doors installed

Doors and draws in kitchen #1Mark came up to meet the granite guy who was here to measure the installed cabinets so he can cut the granite. It is a little bit of an odd shape, but he is pretty sure he can get it out of one piece. Mark installed all the cabinet doors, drawers and all three cutting boards. In addition, we were able to get the clothes washer and dryer pushed into place in the laundry room (see below). We left the cardboard in place so we do not mess up the floor as we move stuff in and out. The rest of the pictures are of what the cabinets look like with new stuff added. The appliances should get here next week and the granite should be complete by the end of the week. I am not sure it will all go that fast, but we can surely hope.

Doors and draws in kitchen #2Doors and draws in kitchen #5Doors and draws in kitchen #4Doors and draws in kitchen #3

Olivia

Olivia in the "big guy" daysThis is Olivia. We call her our niece, but we serve the role of (in common parlance) her God parents. She has always been quite a precocious child. This picture was taken on a ski trip we took with her family. Olivia’ dad, Al, told her to go tell the big guy to help her get something out of the car. The name stuck. To this day, I am “the big guy” to Olivia. We saw the beautiful Olivia last week at a church convention in Arizona. She is in high school now, even more precocious and has turned into quite the fashion plate. We hope to see more of her now that we are on the west coast. She and Lorena are negotiating with Olivia’s parents to arrange for to come up from California for a visit with us and with Kelly.

Woo-hoo! We have Internet, it is good, and I am saying that non-ironically

DSL modemThe internet came up today. Based on my previous experience with DSL, I have to admit I was stunned the whole process was so painless and even inexpensive. We plugged it in, filled in a few lines on the screen, set up the wireless router part of the whole deal and were up and running. Not only that, I checked the upload and download speeds and they were as advertised. I was pretty sad because we do not have access to cable internet on our property. We are not so far from town, but in a little pocket where it almost certainly does not pay to run the cable out here. I should have known that since the many years that have passed since we previously had DSL, they have gotten their act together. I know some of the speed and quality issues have to do with how close one is located to a hub and we are pretty close so that might be why everything works so well. On the other hand, we ARE close. That was a dodged bullet.

People I met at Starbucks for a 60 minute conversation — hauling stuff from Raleigh

Bob, waiting in the train stationOur friends, Bob and Gena took a trip we really want to replicate or at least a copy very closely someday. They took the train from Centralia to Seattle and then on down to the airport where they caught a plane to Atlanta to spend a few days with family there. They followed that up with a drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains to Raleigh to pick up all the stuff that has been in storage since we moved out of our house there to help take care of failing and slowing-down parents in Oregon and Texas. We are very grateful to Bob and Gena. The reality is that I just met them face-to-face one time a few months back at Starbucks just because they were kind enough to invite a newcomer from church for a cup of coffee. They are friends of friends and family, retired and kind enough to take a long trip back to the East Coast to pick up all the stuff we did not move out of our house to bring it out to Centralia. It is STILL way too much stuff even though we threw away a lot.

These are the two pictures that have Bob and Gena catching the train to the airport in Seattleme envious–the train pictures. Lorena and I really want to take advantage of the fact that we live in a town with an Amtrak station that goes to Seattle and Portland–both of them places we want to go. The flew to Atlanta–a great town where I lived for less than a year, but even that was enough to give me a great love for that town and the friends I made there.

After the drive to Raleigh, they looked at our storage unit and thought they could do the whole thing with a 20 foot truck. They were glad they stuck with the 26 foot truck because they barely had enough room for their luggage–a sad reminder that we have too much stuff by at least 13 feet. We are going to work on that. The good news though, is that a lot of the stuff they are bringing is books and furniture for the porch and other places that we need sorely after living a low-rent existence in apartments for two plus full years. There is a definite up side to all that (no lawn mowing, appliance fixing or property taxes), but we are ready to have our own house.

And for all this we are thankful to Bob and Gena for their efforts to help new friends above and beyond the call of duty. I hope I get to do that some day.

U-Haul truck driven by Bob and Gena from Raleigh to Centralia

Kitchen remodel: The lazy susan cabinet

Back corner of the kitchenThe cabinet designer Mark uses has an amazingly broad range of cool things to have in a kitchen. There is a lazy susan that allows for the use of the normally difficult area beneath the counter in a corner (see the picture below). It makes that space way more accessible and just about perfect for bigger pots and pans. The “two trash cans in a slide out drawer” is amazingly useful as are the suggestion for ergonomically exceptional placement of pullout cutting boards. The big opening on the left of the image is, of course, for the refrigerator.

Moving the ceiling lights in the kitchenThe problem Mark saw when the cabinets went in is the placement of the lights too close to the cabinets. He opened them up and will move them to a better place sometime this morning–a minor foible.

Lorena and I have a date with our friends, Harvey and Gladys, later this afternoon. The last coat of finish goes down on the floor then, too. We expect to be in the house (probably with one of the builders) late this evening. The smell might be a little strong for a few days, so we might spend one more night in a hotel, but we can hardly wait to get there.

Tomorrow, I will try to put up a few more pictures. We are supposed to pick out the granite, back splash and sinks in Olympia tomorrow, too. Hard choices.

Kitchen remodel: The vitrina

China cabinet and coffee nookWe are completely slammed with the move (drove to Tempe to spend a few days with Christian, went to a church event in Casa Grande for four days, drove from Tempe to Bakersfield yesterday, then from Bakersfield do Central Point, Oregon today), but I thought I should put up a few images of the work Mark and his team has been doing on the house. We particularly like what he is doing with the wall across from the island. It is a narrow cabinet, but has glass doors and a “nook” with a granite shelf for coffee and hot water (for tea) pots. Eventually, the door to the right in the picture will feature a glass window, too.

One thing that happened that was pretty frustrating is that the lights above the cook top, ovens and cabinets on the opposite side of the room from the coffee nook were too close to the cabinets.

Mark said and I quote, “…they looked really, really bad.”

He is such a consummate professional that he is bringing the electrician up tomorrow to reposition the lights. It is a long drive and well above and beyond the call of duty, but we are very grateful for it. A little bit of a setback, but to say we are pleased with the work so far would be a wild understatement. We have a lot more pictures which I will put up as time permits.

Kitchen remodel: The cabinets arrive

Cabinets arrive on Mark's trailerMark brought the cabinets to the house on his trailer this morning. I was worried because weather.com forecasted a 90% chance of rain. Mark told me to chill out though (no pun intended) because there was a zero percent chance of rain until 1:00 PM and, as usual, he was right. We are very excited to see how it looks. They got everything off the truck and into the garage about mid-morning and the path to the kitchen from the garage never goes outside, but through the laundry room so it is all good. The next thing is to figure out how to get the furniture into the house if stuff is drying or we would be in the way during the whole process. We might have to leave at least some of our stuff in the garage for awhile to wait for stuff to get finished. It is all supposed to be either finished or very close to it by the end of the month so this is a very minor inconvenience and we love to watch the work progress anyway.

Cabinets all lined up in the garage

I am not sure how far the installation will get today because there is some work that has to be done on the walls before they can start on that. Still, the cabinets should mostly be in place by the end of the weekend. I hope I am going to have time to put up some pictures, but we will mostly attending things and driving through Monday or Tuesday, after which we will be staying in the house full time (along with some of the builders, floor people, etc.).

Why we homeschooled

The Bayou Renaissance Man has, very obviously, led a profoundly interesting life as a soldier, member of the clergy and, now, due to injuries, an author of fiction–American western and science fiction. I visit his website at least a couple of times per day. Maybe it is because it is like watching an ongoing train wreck, but really I think it is because we have a similar view of humanity, the human condition and he is an outstanding writer.

Today, he wrote about a visit he made to an American government school in Amarillo, Texas. I will let him speak for himself, but note that he speaks for me, too, in terms of the state of government school in North America in 2017. It is why we homeschooled. He was born and raised in South Africa. He had a military career there that informs his thinking about the snowflakes who populate our entitled corner of the world.

Kitchen remodel: Hardwood floor with preliminary finish

Mark just sent me these two images of the current state of the hardwood floor. This is not the last of the finish that will go down, but the first two coats. The first image is from the living room looking into the kitchen and the second image is from the kitchen looking into the living room. It is very early in the morning because Mark hauled the cabinets up there and will be putting them in place after he does some additional work on the walls.

The kitchen floor with the first two coats of finish

The living room floor with the first two coats of finish

Working vacation/move while Christian finishes the semester

Kiwi relaxes while Christian and Dad workKiwi was very nervous on all of the drive from Texas to Tempe except when we were in the hotel room. For some reason, neatly made beds are calming to her. When we got to Christian’s apartment, though, she was in heaven–just happy and excited to be there. Lorena has been doing her usual workout, shop and clean routine while Christian and I have kept our noses to the grindstone, him on homework and exams needed to finish the semester and me on software improvements for the sickle cell disease project which is scheduled for clinical testing in Nigeria and who knows where else over the next several months. The first testing will take place in Nigeria and I have one VERY big set of functionality to add before I go to a big church convention tomorrow. I would rather join Kiwi which maybe is why I don’t make the big bucks.