Wednesday, December 19, 2012

2012 Holiday Greetings!

We're looking back at a very pleasant, low-key 2012!

In January...
  • Jim went to San Francisco to work at the MacWorld conference.  All his tech-gadget itches were scratched.
  • Nicole opened a new learning center for Engineering students at OSU.  It continues to be a big focus of her work.
In February...
  • Mom & Fred came to visit.  Since our birthdays are three weeks apart, we shared a party.
Celebrating a combined 98 years! 
In March...
  • Jim and OSU Glee hosted their first "Sing Off" concert.  They collaborated with OSU's a ccappella groups to rock our socks.
OSU Glee

In April...
In May...
  • Nicole got to go to Anchorage on a work trip and snuck in a quick visit with the Taylors.
  • We were "drafted" to the Methodist Marmots softball team. Nobody can tell us where the team name came from, but we won a few games and had a lot of fun!

We did some landscaping...and discovered a convenient way to transport trees.
In June...

Uncle Jim & Eloise snuck in a little beach time
Mom & I met up with Brenda in Seattle

In July...

  • Jim chaperoned the youth group mission trip to Juneau.  They built a community garden and celebrated the 4th of July Alaska-style.

In August...

We spent a week in Montana.  Sunsets at Mom & Fred's are the best!
Nicole's grad school pals had a super fun Corvallis reunion.
In September...
  • Our sister-in-law Treena visited for Labor Day weekend.  We shopped till we dropped!
We got the dog dirty. 
In October...

Nicole traveled to Nashville for a conference and saw the Grand Ole Opry
In November...

Jim & Nicole reunited with old friends for a Willamette Choir Reunion

Jim served as Music Director and Band Leader for a production of RENT.
(See the back of his head under the platform?)
In December...
  • We spent a few days in Phoenix enjoying 80-degree weather with Erin & Aiden.
  • Jim hung enough Christmas lights to ensure that our house can be seen from space.
As always, we are reminded of the many blessings of this life, and are so grateful for the family and friends we share it with!  We wish you the happiest of holidays and a joy-filled new year!

Jim, Nicole & Sugar

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Wave

I can remember vividly the interior of my uncles tow truck.  The dingy saddle blanket seat cover embedded with dirt and cigaret smoke.  The quarter inch of dust and smoke layered on the dash, CB and miscellaneous paperwork that wouldn't get touched for months.  I can still remember getting woken up at 5am by my uncles low cool voice and slow demeanor.  A mixing bowl of Frosted Flakes in my lap as I tried desperately to keep up with him at breakfast.

The cab of the truck afforded a great view of the north-east tip of the Olympic Peninsula.  Most of it was viewed with my head out the window gasping for air as my uncle filled the cab with cigarette smoke regularly.

"You smoke yet?" he'd ask every summer when I came to visit.  It was almost ritual.
"Nope," I'd reply.
"Good, don't start, it's a nasty habit." Of course his way with words is hard to recreate in type.  The low voice and almost kung-fu like pace of speaking somehow put extra weight on things.  The irony of him telling me not to smoke as he habitually tapped the pack of cigarettes on the steering wheel and lit another wasn't lost on me, even in my teens.  He should have died of emphysema, not 25 bullets.

Conversations with my uncle were usually short, sweet and to the point.  Much of them fundamental in driving or a great life lesson.  It's amazing how much you learn from a person who doesn't say much.  The company he kept always intrigued me with its wide variety of characters from all walks of life.  He was a man's man but the way he looked out for those around him showed deep compassion.  He seemed to always have an eye out for the future, how his actions now might best affect the world around him later.

My head's out the window, it's mid-afternoon and we're passing Jefferson County International Airport.  As a 15 year old kid I'm watching everything, soaking it all in.  I notice my uncles hand raise up off the steering wheel in an almost obligatory wave.  The truck going the other direction returns the sign.

"He must know that guy," I thought to myself.  A few more cars pass and another pickup truck passes, the hand goes up but this response.

Odd, he's only waving at specific people but not all of them return the wave.  I keep silent and start to monitor this pattern, wondering if I can build the courage to ask about it.  I start to figure it out.  He waves when it's a truck but not at cars or vans.  But then, just as I think I've got it, a couple Harley Davidsons pass and he waves.  Amazingly enough, they return the sign.

Now I've gotta know.  What's with this wave thing.  I finally muster up the courage to ask late in the afternoon.

"Why do you wave at oncoming trucks?"
"I want them to notice the tow truck so I wave," he replies.
"But you only wave at certain vehicles?"
"Most of our customers are local and drive pick-up trucks, plus now that we can tow motorcycles, I wave at bikes too."

How often do you see people waving from the drivers seat?  The friendly gesture intrigued me but disappeared from my memory as life barreled forward.  It was a genius way to drum up a report with the locals and caught potential customers off guard when they received a friendly gesture.

Half a lifetime later I found myself waving just like my uncle used to, but for different reasons.  Now I own a Jeep Rubicon and a Scooter.  Both vehicles build a population of drivers who wave at one another when you pass. It's not about building a customer base but encouraging a community.  The obligatory wave is a recognition of another human in a similar situation.  You might not know them, you might never actually see them again but the wave does something to the soul.  It's hard to be emotional distressed when your riding around with the top off and another Jeeper waves at you.  It's a gentle reminder how good life is and that there are people out there always willing to wave back.

I don't think I got into riding motorcycles or jeeps just to wave at other people but the ever constant reminder of my uncle every time I gesture at a passing rig is a welcomed God-wink.  I'd like to believe that action is paying it forward just a little bit.  Heaven forbid we reach-out to others, even when it's just a simple wave.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

DIY Tablecloth

A nice dining room set is currently on our wish list.  In the meantime, we get along just fine by covering up our sad old table with a nice tablecloth.  I went out and bought a formal white tablecloth and a festive tablecloth for the holidays, but was wanting something more casual for everyday.  Not seeing anything that fit my criteria (1. must love it, 2.  must be able to afford it) I was biding my time.  

And then I stumbled onto this Tablecloth Tutorial on Pinterest: 

Photo & Tutorial from Hamburger Panda
Duh!  I own a sewing machine.  I can sew straight lines with it.  Therefore, I can make my own tablecloth.

About a week later we were helping Jim's family with an estate sale at his Aunt Judy's home.  Judy was an avid seamstress and had an enviable stash of fabric.  Low and behold...there it was...perfect tablecloth fabric for $1 a yard!  

I like it when Pinterest teams up with the Universe to send me important messages. Make your own tablecloth, Nicole.  Seriously!

When my mom came to visit in February I felt confident that I had the back-up necessary to fire up the ole Singer.  In one afternoon (which was more measuring and ironing than actual sewing) I was able to whomp up our new tablecloth.  

Ta da!  Of course, my initial attraction to the fabric might have been motivated by the perfect match with our Peacock and Scarlet Fiestaware.

I like to call them Ms. Peacock and Miss Scarlet.  We have Mrs. White, too.  Looks like any future Fiestaware purchases will need to be Plum, Mustard, or Green...

Nicole did it.  With the Singer.  In the Dining Room.  

PS - The Hamburger Panda tutorial was great - very easy to follow and lots of good photos.  

PPS - Whomp up is Montanan for make.  As in, "bein as I'm hungry I oughta whomp up some dinner."  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

My Secret to Happiness

When my mom came to visit in February we found a very cute shop on NW 23rd, and I bought the first cute thing for our mantle:

It's true.  Love and a dog have made my life very happy.  

All you need is love...and a dog.  

And a mop. 
You need love, a dog, and a mop.  

Do you see that face?  She's so guilty she won't even look at me.  Good thing I'm so happy ;)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Window Washing Made Easy - Really!

I sure love Pinterest.  Recently, I pinned instructions for Streak-Free Window Cleaner.
Photo: One Good Thing by Jillibee
Seemed like it might be too good to be true, but I figured I'd give it a shot when the sun came out this afternoon.

Ya know what?  IT WORKS!  Really well.  Zero elbow grease and/or squeegee-ing required.  Too good not to share.

I had no idea how grimy our windows had gotten over the winter.  It's like the outside world came into sharper focus!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

HTPC Experience

Hello Blog-readers and Tech Nerds.  It's been a while since I've contributed so on Pie day (which so many of my friends have pointed out is only observed by real nerds), I thought I'd write a techy post on my Home Theater PC experience...hence the title.

The market is being flooded by new digital means of watching TV on your big screen.  From the Apple TV to Google TV, the Boxee Box to integrated Apps built into your favorite flatscreen, companies are finally trying to tap into what many of us have been doing for years.  Watching TV on a computer.

I built my first HTPC in 2006 out of the best components I could afford off at the time.  It was a great box that looked like an old school audio receiver with volume knob and buttons on the front.  Even had an LCD you could have display almost anything.  I ran that system all the way till 2010 (almost 24 hours a day) till the motherboard fried.

For the last 2 years I've been running a much smaller machine and I have to say, I'm quite impressed with the quality.  Asrock put together some bare bones systems built mostly on laptop parts that really handles the graphic requirements a new HTPC needs (that's for the suggestion Brain).  Costing me less than $500 for the hardware, I have a high definition system connected to my Flat Screen that when coupled with Windows running Media Center and a Tuner Card will record and play TV almost out of the box.

What You Need:

  1. Asrock Barebones Computer
  2. A version of Windows (suggest Windows 7 64bit with Home Premium or above for Media Center)
  3. A USB TV Tuner (This one looks pretty good and does digital)
  4. A HDMI cable to connect your TV (assuming you have a HDTV with HDMI input)
  5. You probably want an external hard drive cause you're gonna fill up the built in one with recorded TV
  6. If you buy the Asrock that doesn't include a remote, pickup a MCE remote with infrared receiver
  7. If you like to have the keyboard an mouse handy, a wireless set makes it easy to hide
The Setup:
  1. Boot up the Asrock and install Windows (use a password you can easily input with the remote).  Connect to the internet and run windows update.  I'd throw the following software on there too:
    1. Chrome for Browsing
    2. FlashPlayer
    3. VLC (for watching odd codex)
    4. ffdshow (Free open-source codex to process video and audio)
    5. Make sure the Graphic Card drivers are the most current and up-to-date
    6. Logmein or another remote desktop client
    7. Virus Protection (use something free with good ratings, Norton will just slow the whole thing down)
    8. I'd setup Netflix while you have the mouse and keyboard connected to make it easy
    9. Install your external hard drive, format and name it if you so desire
    10. Install your Tuner Card
  2. Now, connect the computer to your flat screen (if you are using the built in infrared, make sure the box is in direct sight of your remote, otherwise locate your IR receiver in a good location)
  3. Make sure the tuner card is connected to your cable or cable box
  4. Boot the system and run Media Center.  You will now walk through all the steps to properly display MCE on your TV and setup the Tuner Card to work with your service provider. (Note: if you are using a cable box things get much more interesting with IR blasters and trying to get windows to control your cable box.  I just gave up and use the basic cable and avoid the mess of cable boxes)
  5. Setup MCE to record your favorite TV shows.
There are of course many issues that can arrise and having your own HTPC isn't for the faint a heart.  But lets be honest here, having something you don't have to pay for, that records TV and will display whatever online content you want on your big screen is pretty awesome.  It's really just a huge computer so go ahead an throw on The Daily Show through Chrome and full screen it...looks better than Netflix most of the time.  YouTube and Vimeo, with HD streaming you won't know why you ever just flipped channels for hours looking for something to watch.  

Saturday, March 3, 2012

DIY Boot Straightener

Droopy boots get me down. They flop over in the closet, looking messy and creating extra creases and slouchiness in the boots I'm trying to get a lot of life from.

Solution? A pool noodle. I grabbed this noodle at Target for $2 (too bad they haven't shown up at our Dollar Store just yet). I cut it into four sections and straightened up my black and brown boots in nothin flat! Regular scissors work fine - this was a two minute project.

Happy Saturday!
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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lasagna Soup: Delish!

Thanks to Pinterest I'm finding all sorts of tasty new recipes.  Tonight we tried this one and it gets thumbs up all around.

Photo from Deen Bros.

This is "Tastes Like Lasagna Soup" by the Deen Bros.  I think these are Paula Deen's sons with healthier takes on their mom's recipes.  We skipped the breadsticks and extra cheese on top and it was still super tasty!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

House Tour

We moved into our first house back in October and Jimbo posted a few pictures from our initial visit.  It seems like it's high time to take you on the tour!

I consider the house "furnished" but not "decorated."  You'll notice lots of bare walls.  As much that blankness is bothering me, I'm taking the decorating projects slowly.  Thank goodness for mountains of inspiration on Pinterest!  I thought it might be fun to give you the "before" tour and then unveil decorating projects as they are completed.

The Front Room - complete with Jim's beloved Steinway and a big front window for Sugar to monitor the cul-de-sac.

Looking from the Front Room into the Dining Room (and the Kitchen beyond that).

Entry & Hallway - we love the cut-outs opening to the Dining Room on the right. 

Kitchen - glass block windows on either side of the stove allow more natural light.

Kitchen "view" (complete with a dirty soup pot) into the Living Room.

Living Room, Patio, and Backyard

Living Room

Pantry!!  One of my only finished spaces...I couldn't resist painting it a wild color.
This is "Jack-O-Lantern" from Miller Paint.

Laundry Room - VERY exciting for us =)

Guest bath 

Guest Room!  Come and visit!

Office (Nicole's side)

Office (Jimbo's side)


Master (and some legos...)
We (and by "we" I mean our dear friends Karen, Jen, Jonathan, and Spencer) did a lot of painting prior to moving day so we're happy with our wall colors.  Now that you've taken the tour, feel free to schedule your visit and start sending in your ideas for decor!