Stacking Functions Garden


A home improvement project

Our kitchen has a cute little breakfast nook that unfortunately featured somewhat dysfunctional fluorescent lights with cheesy 80s-style plastic diffusers.  They have bugged Adam since we moved in.  We’ve had an old “booth” style table in the nook since we moved in, that Adam’s parents gave us (later we added two Ikea chairs):

It worked pretty well, but the whole thing was getting very rickety and it was never really the style we intended for our house.  So, a couple weeks ago the table went to a grateful family from the craigslist free site, and the diffusers went out to the curb.

Adam framed up the hole in the ceiling and installed a couple of light fixtures.  Then our neighbor helped him lift a large piece of sheetrock into place:

A couple smaller pieces and it was ready for what seemed like two full weeks of constant mudding and sanding.

In the meantime, we also found a table and 4 chairs for $80 on craigslist that was the perfect size and style for our spot.  The only problem was that the chairs were in pretty bad shape — the one shown in the picture was one of the better ones:

So Adam decided to further complicate the project by trying his hand at upholstery.  A 50% off coupon and $40-some later he had some sparkly red vinyl from Jo-Ann Fabrics, and away he went.  They turned out great!

As soon as all the taping/mudding/painting was done and dry, Adam installed two new light fixtures (they’re Martha Stewart schoolhouse-style ones).  And project =  complete!  Well almost.  The fourth chair is still in limbo because it needed to be glued together and Adam has not yet found a glue that works well for this.  We might end up having to buy a replacement for the fourth chair.  But other than that, we are done.  And pretty cheaply too, I might add.

This seems like a relatively small project compared with what we used to do before we had kids, but at this point, after having done almost no home improvement for nearly 3 years, it feels great just to get something done: the first of many projects that we can finally check off the list.

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Our lives are changing rapidly right now, so I decided we needed a new header as well.  The images are (left to right): hoar frost on my mother-in-law’s crabapple tree, our kitchen, my snow-covered raspberry canes, Anneke peeking at some pumpkin muffins, and the best bread I’ve ever baked.

This won’t be a surprise to friends and family, but for the rest of you kind readers: after eleven years I have decided to leave the Star Tribune and pursue an opportunity with the Minnesota Orchestra.  I’ll still be doing web design, but I am going to dip my toe into the non-profit world and see how much I like it.  I’m very excited!  I’m sad to say goodbye to my friends at the Strib, but the time felt very right to make this move.  The new job starts March 15.

The same week I got my job offer, Adam also found out that he will very likely be able to go full-time at his school next year.  So thus ends our 3 year experiment in having at least one parent be home part-time.  I’m nervous about the change, but I’m also grateful that we had as much time as we did.  Our financial situation won’t dramatically improve with Adam working full-time, but it definitely will ease up a bit.

My hope is that all the richness we’ve built up in our home over the last 2.5 years can continue, even when our lives become a little bit more hectic with both of us working full-time.  We have until September to find out, so for now I will focus on my new job, the start of biking & gardening season, and continuing with the Hennepin County Master Gardener program.  2010 is going to go down in history as my craziest year ever…


Charging by the weight for garbage

I forgot to post this until today, from Sunday’s Star Tribune:  a new waste disposal company that uses smaller trucks (which get better gas mileage) and charges for garbage by the pound!  I love this concept.  Hoping Minneapolis thinks about this in the future.  Here’s the story by reporter Laurie Blake.

For you out-of-staters: in St. Paul and some of the Twin Cities suburbs, garbage is handled by independent contractors, and residents must choose which company they want to use to haul away their garbage.  This is supposed to reduce government intrustion in peoples’ lives, save money, etc. ad nauseum.  Here in Minneapolis, the city contracts with one waste disposal company, and residents don’t have a choice.  Which way is better?  That’s a good question.

Neither the independent contractors nor the cities are charging by weight, though, and I’d love to see that change.  Saving money is a great incentive.


New Fall-ish header

I’ve redesigned the header again now that we’re half-way through a new season.  Left to right:

Anneke at the State Fair — not posed.  She picked up a piece of straw and put it in her mouth and started walking around like an old farmer.  It was hilarious.

Raspberry bushes with a brand new blanket of about 10 inches of maple leaves, generously dumped on our back yard over the last week or so.

Apple sauce!

Dried beans!  We’ve already eaten almost all of them.

Rowan eating homemade sushi.

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Confession time

Sometimes, even on CSA night when you have a ton of fresh veggies to use, you end up feeding your kids this:


Macaroni & cheese.  Hot dogs.  Ketchup.  Two little pieces of lettuce (they actually do like lettuce).  Everything is organic, but still.  I guess that’s what happens when Daddy’s got a work event during suppertime.  Kids really do love junk food: they completely gobbled it up.  I’ve never seen them eat so much.  They each ate an entire hot dog and between them split almost a whole box of mac & cheese.  Dang.

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The recession: over?

So said Ben Bernanke today.  I’m not so sure.  I’ve been following Umair Haque’s Edge Economy blog for some time now, and it always challenges me to look at things from another angle.  Today (emphasis his):

“Here’s a short economic history of the USA, 1988-2008: Americans were fat, lazy, greedy consumers who lived beyond their means. Right? Wrong. That narrative can be read in many places, but it’s as false as a liar loan. The economics reveal a very different truth. Most Americans took on significant amounts of debt not just because they wanted to, but because they had to. The math is as cold, brutal, and simple. Wages have been stagnant for thirty years.”

Well, I think we collectively were also fat, lazy, greedy consumers in many ways, but still the man has a point.  Back in the 70s, a middle-class family could live on one person’s income.  Now?  Well, they still can I guess, but it’s very, very challenging.

I sometimes get down on myself about my spending habits pre-kids/recession (both hit us at the exact same time).  But then I look around our house and think: really, we weren’t that bad.  My computer screen came out of a dumpster.  I’ve never bought a TV or a gaming system.  We’ve never had cable, or more than one car.  We did manage one overseas trip, but most of our other traveling involved camping in the good ole MN.

So as of today I’ve decided to stop wasting time wishing I had saved more and spent less before 2007.  Onward!

Check out the rest of his post, which lays out his call for an “M-Shaped Recovery” — I believe M stands for meaningful.  The comments are really good on this one, too — many of his readers disagree strongly with him and it makes a great debate.  There are MANY different ways to look at this.