Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pipe Dreams

Sharkbite connectors are cool.

You push the pipe in until it clicks/grabs, and you're good to go.  I made sure to immobilize the pipe on either side of it, just to reduce any forces on the joint that are off-axis, but I've heard good things, and the install was easy.  Now to test longevity...

And I need to practice more with my Wirsbo/Uponor PEX tool, my score marks weren't like the picture, so I bailed on that connection for now.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Demolition Progress

The house is now well underway in the demolition process and completely unlivable. 

The front doors, notice the flooring is gone (but not the mastic... Yet).
The living room.
That used to be a wall, now it's on its way to becoming a bookshelf.

Other side; view into the dining area.

Ohhh that chandelier is still up. It will come down. Soon. The door you see goes to the master bedroom.

Kitchen. Isn't she stunning?

Second bathroom, demolition underway.
Who needs sinks?

It's hard to take a decent picture of a bedroom.

Have I mentioned that we have a pantry!? Woohoo!

Standing in the hall to the two bedrooms. I can see all the way to the front door. I love long views! 

Now across the the master...

Those same doors to the back porch, now in daylight with the blinds open.

Master closet, with a little bit of the bathroom at the extreme left. What you can't tell from that little reflection of me is that I am 28 weeks pregnant. Ha.

Master bath, shower and toilet are still relatively intact.

But the sinks are all gone!

I think that's the full tour. The garage is full of debris, not worth taking pictures of. 
Next I think we need to prep the floors for finishing and stain and seal the concrete (that will make EVERYTHING look better).
I guess there is a little more demo to do in the master bath, too.

I am looking forward to when we can make constructive progress!

Friday, July 26, 2013


Floors are up, much of the tile is in the dumpster, kitchen is out, bathrooms are on their way out, concrete cleaner and stain products are in-hand (UPS made the acid leak a bit...for shame), and I've got a gas plumber coming out this afternoon to take a look at the kitchen and see about plumbing to the stove.  I bought a craigslist tablesaw (a good Grizzly with a dust collector) so I'm stoked about cabinets.  Onward.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Meta-Materials, or, A Plea

Dear America,

Please stop putting floors on top of other floors.  Have you ever cursed the builder/former owner/occupant/property manager for doing shoddy, cheap, work that you now get to clean up?  If you're a homeowner, I'll bet the answer is Yes. 

America, let's break the cycle.  Do good work right the first time.  Do good work right when you repair.  Do good work right when you're helping your buddy.  Do it well, do it once.

Jesus tells us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.  This should hold in home repair, as in all other things.

My brother-in-law (a civil engineering undergrad) blithely referred to the floor you see above as a "tile-linoleum composite".  We engineers understand that composite materials synthesize desirable properties and mitigate drawbacks of individual components, making a whole that is greater than the parts.  The meta-material you see above is highly chisel-resistant, and ensures thorough pulverization of the tile superstructure in any attempt to remove it.  It is a tenacious material, suitable for use in institutions, or to institutionalize people working to remove it.

People of America, we are better than this.  First, don't put down linoleum.  Second, don't put anything on top of linoleum.  Third, return to the first point.

The floors are all out now, though currently in piles of tiles while we wait for the roofers' dumpster to be gone so I can order my own.

Behold, the shambles!
The countertop in the foreground is gone, now, too.  And my ever-amenable brother-in-law helped pick up a Grizzly 5048 tablesaw last night, so I now have the cornerstone of my soon-to-be cabinet shop to rebuild the kitchen.  Just need to get the carpet and pad rolls out of the garage to set it up...

Floor coloring should arrive today, and I hope to be cleaning the floor this Saturday and getting prepped to stain late next week.  I want to do the re-plumbing before I stain, though, and the order arrives Monday.  Yeesh, there are a lot of plates spinning right now.

But never forget to stop and smell the flowers.  My son has much to teach me.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fear of Failure


So I'm reasonably handy, right?  I've got no compunctions working on electrical, basic plumbing, making simple furniture, and pretty much slapping lumber around when I want to.  But most all of that work is, er, "construction grade".  Today, I ordered countertops.  Beautiful countertops, made of mixed sapwood and heartwood walnut.  They will adorn our kitchen for years to come.  And I need to cut a hole in them.  A BIG hole.  In the BIGGEST piece.  In doomspeak, I will intentionally nearly sever a $1000 piece of wood, rendering it extremely susceptible to cracking during later handling, and all to install something as prosaic as a sink.

This would be "finish grade" work.  I will need to up my game.

Measure twice?  Nah.  Measure ten times?  Sure. 

Double check?  Oh no.  Quadruple check?  Probably enough.

In case you can't tell, I spent some money ($2300, including shipping) on countertops today.  I do not want to screw them up.  I realized I was putting off making the order (which has a 4-week lead time) just because I was scared to think about working with them.

So why do this?  Why not call the pros?


First, the pros are downright expensive.  Fact of the matter is, pros are people too.  They are people with tools and experience, which is saying a lot, but they charge for the mental labor required to make something beautiful, correctly.

Second, that's the wrong question.  Why not be a pro?  Have butcher block installed, make a kitchen once.  Learn to install butcher block, be able to make kitchens for fun and profit for a lifetime.  Unless you can firmly give a negative response to the "why not be a pro?" question, do it yourself.  Unless the tools are WAY too expensive (marbleworking, perhaps?  CNC machining?  bridgebuilding?) or it is not a job you ever foresee wanting or needing to do (pumping septic tanks?), my philosophy leans toward being a pro.  You will do most home-related tasks more than once in a lifetime. You probably have friends and neighbors.  You should have a church family.  Everybody lives somewhere, and it will break sometimes.  Wouldn't it be nice (or even financially rewarding sometimes) to help them?

Plus, then when you're old you can be that cool guy at church who can take the time to make stuff with and for people.  This is a breed that you find at many Southern Baptist churches, and I always liked that guy.  Maybe someday I'll be that guy.  He was cool.  And he wasn't afraid of doing things.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Down With Solar

Quite literally, actually.  And not in the large-scale policy or economic way, either.  Just very locally.

The house came with a 3-trough single-axis-tracking water-heater-booster system.  That was not connected.  And looked like it was installed by Jimmy Carter himself. The supports were rusting through (and it looked like they were laid OVER the latest shingles?!?), the drive mechanism was seized and stuck, and it just represented a roof liability.

So this morning I tore it off, to prep for the roofers (who did not want to deal with it - surprise!). 

It was loud.  You try throwing a 2.5m aluminum parabolic trough onto rocks sometime.  And then throwing a steel frame onto that.  And so on.  Sorry, neighbors! (it was early)

Now to the scrapyard with the Al and the Cu.

Other notes - ordered concrete stain/sealer/wax from, out of Shawnee, OK.  I like Oklahomans. They seem like good folk.  And when I was in Tulsa on business once upon a time, I saw a DeLorean made up like the BTTF car, complete with a Mr. Fusion on the back.  It was rad.  But I digress.

All carpet except the living room is yanked, along with tack strips.  I aim to nail the living room tomorrow, and start pulling tile up in the main area.  Home Despot has a diamond-blade wheel for their floor buffer, which will allow a nice surface prep prior to staining.  There will definitely be before/after pictures of the floors - I'm excited about them.

Later today I will go to the plumbing supply to see if they can beat for the piping and fittings.  I got outbid on a Wirsbo tool on ebay, rats.  Then back to campus to meet my TA and interview a grader.  Did I mention I start teaching in exactly one month?  Then home, then maybe some building-related errands with the family. We've gotta get cracking.

On that note, I need to call the butcher block people, but they closed 15min ago. Tomorrow...

Also this week's lunch expenditure was $13.50, including cheese, 4 avocados, 5 apples, 4 peaches, 6 bananas, green leaf lettuce, 4 bell peppers, 3 cucumbers, and 5 tomatoes.  And my lunch was delicious.


So I am not going to pretend that moving into this new house of ours is going to save money, but I am pretty excited about how the profile of our money spending will change.

One of the big things? Laundry.
I estimate that I spend $700 a year on laundry at the coin-op machines in our building at the condo. That doesn't even count the cost of soap (which I make myself, so the cost may be negligible). That is just quarters in the machine. We won't be saving that money, but I would rather be spending it on a house that I like than dumping it down a washing machine. 
If we were to stay in the condo, the laundry numbers would only be going up; we are expecting a baby soon, and are in the long process of adoption for another. I don't expect that my current seven loads a week is anywhere near the maximum that I will reach.
Other benefits of house laundry include the ability to use a clothesline. We aren't allowed to use one in the condo (because our HOA has a false assumption of classiness? Because they hate the environment and the age-old glories of solar clothes drying? You choose.) and that forces a dryer load per washer load. I am hoping to get up a clothesline ASAP at the new place, use less electricity, and get more vitamin D and exercise while drying my clothes. I expect we will still have a dryer (it does rain sometimes here, and we are no strangers to the midnight emergency load), but I hope to use it a lot less.
Another perk of no coin-op is that it makes cloth diapers both easier to do (I can't control the cycles on our washing machine at the condo) and much more economical. We own enough cloth diapers (fuzzibunz) to diaper one, maybe two kids very comfortably, but at what it cost to wash them effectively, it was actually cheaper to use Costco diapers. With my own washing machine, I won't have to run three separate cycles for my cold/hot/cold wash, so I can get them done more efficiently, and with a clothesline I shouldn't have to run them through the dryer hardly ever.
I expect we will still use disposable diapers on occasion, but I am looking forward to cloth diapers being the economical choice. Especially since in a very short time we will have two kids in diapers.

Saving on laundry definitely doesn't balance the cost of the new house, but I would much rather be spending the money on the house that we like than continually dumping it down the laundry drain. It's a lifestyle choice that I am excited to make.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Some Before Pictures

I told Mr. if we took all of our before pictures at night, and our after pictures in the morning, then it would REALLY look like we made progress!

Here are some random before pictures...

I didn't get any of the second bath, or the second and third bedroom; by then Jr. was starting to have a meltdown.

Front doors, from the inside.

Notice the sunken room? That will be filled one way or another. Incidentally, it tried to kill me last night.

The sunken living room.

Love the big window! This house has a good design. And does that carpet look student-rentery or what!? Gross.

More front room.

On the very left you can see the wall separating the front room from the rest of the living area. You can also see a giant hole punched in it. Mr. did that... We are going to open up the wall and rebuild it as book shelves.

The view straight back from the front door.

The entrance to the Master bedroom is to the left, just out of the photo. Notice the sweet chandelier held up by zip ties? 

A similar view of the same spot; you can see where the kitchen lies with respect to the rest of the place. Jr. had fun exploring the back porch... For a while...

On to the kitchen.

If you walk up to the bar counter that you see in the previous picture, this is what you see. Fab, huh? That microwave will go. We would like a proper vent hood much better.

A little to the right of the previous shot.

Nice fridge spot, with fridge surrounding cabinets. The cool thing is that we get to pick our fridge (off of Craigslist, haha) and build our cabinets to fit around it.

To the right of the shot are the 2 other bedrooms and the second bath, as well as a linen closet and pantry. I didn't get pics of any of these.

More kitchen, new view.

You can catch a glimpse of the dishwasher next to the sink; again, I would rather have the space! I hate dishwashers. Jr. would probably go on strike if I used a dishwasher; washing dishes is one of his favorite activities. We actually think we will move the sink to where the DW is, so that it is centered on that lovely 8' window. We have glorious plans for the sink equipment; stay tuned.

Stand in the same spot, turn back toward zip-tied chandelier...

Nice long room!!! Big enough to host Thanksgiving... Even when we have a bunch of kids :-)
The door you see goes to the Master bedroom.

Looking toward the back porch from the Master bedroom door. Notice how I strategically left the blinds closed so that the room looks even worse than it is? It worked! I love the big doors and back porch access, though.

Master closet, directly across from the porch doors.

I had never seen folding doors on a walk-in closet before... But Jr. liked it. Directly to the left is the hall leading to the master bath.

Toilet and shower... We will replace both.


That's a pretty exciting double sink, isn't it? We will be replacing these, too.

Some pictures taken from the Master bedroom door to the porch.

The window that you see is the one over the kitchen sink.

So that's all for now, folks. Maybe I will get pictures of the other half of the house up some time... And the garage... Yeah, I missed a lot. But at least you get a flavor for the monumental project that we have undertaken!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

It's Go Time

Today, I wired a ridiculous amount of money out of my bank account, which is still wheezing and spluttering. 

It won't recover.

Here's the thing with savings accounts - they stink.  They provide drawbacks (limited number of withdrawals) for peanuts on the upside ("Check out our great 0.901% interest rate!  It's 0.001% higher than our competitor's!").  In the future, we will invest.  We will put money into places where it will get used.  By people, companies, and other entities that produce the goods and services we all like.  We will have a checking account (maybe two, if we still want to do a local branch bank), and that will fund the day-to-day stuff with a small (read maybe $4-8k) cushion.  It doesn't take that long to sell investments.

So where did the money go?  Well, it went into escrow for the house that we sign for tomorrow to close on Friday.  $33,543.16 sailed away, for a $20 wire fee (blast), to the netherworld, where presumably the escrow daemons will receive it and grudgingly grant us a house.

When we started this housebuy process, we knew it would take fixing-up, and we knew I had not been working FTE for very long, so we said 10% down (I know, I know, lay off and keep reading).  Last week I said "Hey, let's go to 20%".  I did the math, and the additional $18,000 of money up front will save us $210/month in payments.  Annualized, that's $2520 back on an $18,000 outlay, or 14% ROI.  This was money well spent. 


So we sign, close, then on Monday I meet the roofer there to get cracking on a new roof.  I thought about DIY-roofing, but I don't have 1) the skilz 2) a mentor 3) the time.  Also, it's Phoenix in July, so I'm OK with my choice.  The new roof is $8k for underlayment, 3-tab dimensional shingles, drip edge, and small deck repair.  I'm muy pleased with the bid.  It further reinforces my stereotype that most Mexicans are hardworking, square-dealing, family-oriented folks. I know, I know, I shouldn't judge by appearances or roofing bids, so we'll wait and see how he and his crew do on the project.

But starting this Friday, the beast is ours to tackle.  1600sqft of goodness.

Here's a very rough sketch - Blue is pool, brown indicates porches, red is an interior wall we aim to open up.

Here's my rough-draft task list.  Identical numbers mean the tasks can go in parallel.

1. Strip the floors - chip up tile/mastic, rip out carpet
1. Tear out palm tree threatening pool equipment
1. Open up & shore up interior wall (red one) adding top plate as necessary, adding columns as necessary, and cutting out the studs and floor plates central wall to investigate framing (the red one), it's structural, so we can't tear it our, but we will shore up certain columns and convert it into a bookcase (that's a finish-stage project, though)
1. Remove several bushes, trees, from landscaping (it was a rental house - it's ugly - we'll post "before" pictures in a few days)
1. PEX re-plumb from a master panel in garage - this is a want-to, but I really do want to convert away from old copper pipes.  The big main line into the house comes through the attic and into the garage, and is probably OK.  Imagine having a valve panel for your water destinations like you have a circuit panel for your electric.  That's my dream.  Maybe do an Instahot, if the old water heater looks tired.
1. Scrape the popcorn texture off the ceiling - this was just a bad idea, 70's people.
1. Rip up baseboards & take down interior doors
1. Sell stove - silly FHA requirements...
1. Get gas plumbed to stove bay & dryer area (outsource)
1. Cut open kitchen drop ceiling to see if it can be raised to the main-house height (I'm tall - this would be great)
1. Reroute any minor circuits that may be necessary for rheostats/switches/outlets/lighting (we won't add any circuits, as I'm not an electrician, but I am an engineer, and I am careful with a multi-meter)

2. Tear out bathrooms, leaving one toilet, y'know
2. Install laundry sink in garage - gotta have water somewhere
2. Tear out kitchen cabinets

2. Grind the floors to prep for stain/seal on concrete
2.  Fix any drywall that got opened up for plumbing or the ceiling
2. Install can lighting anywhere we want it (kitchen, front/music room, main room)
2. Make any repairs to exterior woodwork

 3. Stain/seal concrete floors - this is a bottleneck, and it will take a few days with basically nothing else in the house.  Thankfully, matching the house to the garage is not a biggie, so I can move tools back & forth as I progress.  Maybe I won't do the garage, but I figure why not?  Maybe I should do it first, to try my hand.

4. Paint interior - kind of a bottleneck.  Could be done before stain/seal, but needs to be done after the grinding (for dust reasons), certainly after any plumbing is done in the walls

4. Install new interior doors - I like 2-panel ones.  Old doors will be too short (they were over carpet)
4. Install new windows
4. Install new exterior doors

5. Install new baseboard
5. Install new tubs & tile (just the stalls, the floors will all be concrete)
5. Install new toilets
5. Build kitchen & bath cabinets - this is a short sentence describing a long task.  But it's my goal to build carcasses & doors for the cabinets.  I expect we'll top them with either quartz, Corian-type stuff, or maybe butcher block (makes sinks tricky, but I like the look).  Also, I plan to bleach the wood with the lye & peroxide method, since I really like that look and it levels out variation in the color (carcasses will be plywood, faces and doors will be solid).
5. Fill the sunken living room (the room just below the red wall) - I think I will make this a wood floor, lay some sleepers on the bottom, plywood deck cut to shape (there's a curve on one end of the sunken area), and then lay either nicely-finished plywood or hardwood strips on edge to make our music room floor.  It will be acoustically & I think aesthetically more pleasant than concrete.
5. Fix/fill any exterior holes/cracks in block walls

6. Install countertops/sinks in kitchen & bath
6. Install hardware
6. Paint exterior
6. Landscape exterior - again, small words for a big job, and can actually parallel much of the above, if I have the extra hands to do it.  Hurrah for family and church friends!
6. Repair/replace garage door & opener
6. Install radiant barrier & extra insulation in attic - this house will be COOL, dangit.

7. Build bookshelf wall - match butcher block (if any) and living room floor, use veneer to cover top plates and columns, make T-shaped shelves to prevent push-through.  This is central in the house, and it should be beautiful.  I'm thinking walnut, a cool brown.  Some of this depends on the color of the concrete and the color of the bleached wood.

8. Install appliances (stove, washer, dryer, fridge)

9. Move in?

Now, when I say "new" in the above list, I mean "new to us".  We fully intend to use as many recycled building materials as we can get ahold of.  Hardware, doors, even bathroom countertops and cabinets would be fair game.  Sinks (though perhaps not faucets) are on the hit list, and of course we will troll Craigslist for tools and appliances.  I will keep you up to date with our costs, both as a way for me to track them and a window to what a reasonably-handy DIY guy (who is NOT a pro) can do when he puts his mind to it.  Maybe we'll swim like a duck, maybe we'll fly like a lead balloon, but I guarantee it will be hectic and fun!

If you have any thoughts or comments on the above list, post 'em!

Tools to Buy:
Cold chisel(s)
Tile saw
Tablesaw (Sawstop?!)
Pump sprayer (concrete sealer)
Compressor (maybe borrow? otherwise, buy used, sell used, should be cheaper than renting)
Finish nailer (baseboard is a breeze with this)
Kreg Jig
Another drill

Concrete grinders (both main & edge type)

So stay tuned, MMP readers.  We are about to have an ADVENTURE

Friday, July 12, 2013


"...the Joker is fouling up closing on that short sale!"

"Robin, you wait here and try not to whine or get caught; I'll handle this."








"Robin, I told you to wait there.  Now you went and punched with a lame sound effect and broke your knuckles.  Go to the Batmobile.  Get in the Batbackseat.  I'm not talking to you anymore." turns up some Bat-tunes and drives to the hospital - kicks Robin out at the ER curb - blasts back to the Batcave

So yes, it looks like we will close on the house next week?  Whoo-who?

I have mixed feelings.  It's lifestyle inflation.  In another mindset, it would be obvious that we needed to buy a bigger house for our stuff and precious things not to mention our childrens - so yes, there is one good reason to buy this house, I guess.  Also, when the seller and their bank have done everything that you told them to do (including repairing a leak in the roof, maintaining the pool, and knocking $7k off the price - and what bank does that?), it would seem perhaps ungrateful of us not to buy it.  What more do we want?

Not sure, I guess.  We're happy in Phoenix, I have a job that seems reasonably steady and pays well, and we have family and friends nearby.  It's just that dumping all our money into a heap of block and timber is a little appalling to me these days.  It used to seem like such a good idea, until I finally disabused myself of the notion that a house was an investment, and concluded that it was a chunk of stuff.  A very useful chunk from which you can derive much pleasure and benefit, but still a chunk of stuff.  After the fix-up, paying off the mortgage will be our next priority.

However, I gumptioned up and said we'd do 20% down.  We had been planning on 10% due to the expected costs of renovation, but as we've been in limbo for a while, we have been saving up money and selling off stuff, so I felt comfortable jumping into no-PMI land.  15-year note, 20% down, seems to me like that's the only way to responsibly finance a house.  If you look at how much interest you pay over the life of a 30-year note it is MIND-BOGGLING.  Cutting the term by 50% cuts the total interest paid by about 70%, assuming a 1.5% rate spread between the loans (about what I saw at Chase today, YMMV).  We'll end up paying ~$40k in interest if we carry to term (we won't - remember our 5-year goal), but a 30-year would cost ~$130k in interest carried to term!  If that's not nuts, call me a squirrel.

In other news, I rebalanced our IRAs yesterday, and MAN OH MAN I used to be so lazy about that stuff.  Several of the funds we help (which come from a limited menu offered by our bank) had expenses north of 1%.  THAT IS CRAZY.  Now, we're down to about 0.3% with a broad-based S&P500 index.  I wish our bank offered Vanguard on their menu, but they don't.  Another time I might think about moving the money to a place that did, but we're already plenty busy, closing on a house, writing journal papers, making lessons for church and school, and having an awesome time with an 18-month old who has ears like superglue and a mind like a steel trap.  I said "Oh, shoot!" about something, and for the next five minutes, he was gleefully saying "pafpa se OHChute!"

It's a wonderful thing.  Have a great day.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


A mob of students in China protesting a group of academic monitors:

"We want fairness. There is no fairness if you do not let us cheat"

These guys would fit right in at my university.  I have dealt with a few discipline cases in my brief teaching experience, and the general attitude of the students I have encountered is: We didn't bother to think it was wrong.  Who are you to stop us from using anything in our bag o' tricks to take the grade we want?

Guys, it's not about the grade.  It's about learning.  Confusing the metric with the goal is common, and sad.  If you do not know the goal behind a metric, you had better figure it out or stop using the metric.

Good examples - seeking a goal:
"We want our church to grow to 220 members" - We want to spin off a church plant.
"We want to reduce cost in the production department by 10%" - We can reduce waste and increase genuine productivity.
"I want to get an A in Thermo 2 with Miner" - Want to be a competent MechE.

Bad Examples - seeking the result
"We want our church to grow to 220 members" - Preach a little less Christ and a little more fun.
"We want to reduce cost in the production department by 10%" - Let's defer maintenance.
"I want to get an A in Thermo 2 with Miner" - I'll cheat!

Same metrics.  Different focus. 

Different focus, different methods.

Different methods, different results.

How do you change your focus?  Be diligent in examining yourself to know why you are doing something.  If it's purely to hit a metric, you're off-track.  If a metric is a useful yardstick towards a real, good, goal, go for it.

Friday, July 5, 2013


So I said this was a DIY blog, but then I spent a lot of time rambling about philosophy, etc.  Here's a DIY:

If you have the facilities at your work, bring ingredients and make your own lunch.  Lots of people "bring lunch", where they bring leftovers (cool - but I leave those for the Mrs. and Jr.), or Lean Cuisine (seriously?  they cost like $3/ea and don't fill you up, and I usually see these folks drinking diet soda, too), or the quintessential Cup Noodles (I get an MSG headache thinking about it, and they do NOT fill you up).

So there's bringing lunch and then there's bringing lunch.  I bring lunch, by which I mean that every Monday I stop by the store on my bike ride in and I buy:

Avocados (because they're cheap at Food City)
Cheese (bought maybe every two weeks, less if I remember to bring the Costco cheese from home)

Then at lunchtime I go to the kitchen with a heaping bowlful of fruits and veggies, get out my cutting board and knife, and proceed to whip up an AWESOME salad.  I have cheese and fruit on the side, and I usually smear peanut butter (from Costco) onto the apples for extra protein.  I dress the salad with raisins, olive oil, and red wine vinegar, and it kicks butt.  It definitely provides all the energy I need to bike home, and I'm sure it makes my colon happy, too (FWIW).

Average weekly lunch-spend is about $11.  For a filling, kickawesome lunch, every day.

It's also funny to get comments in the lunchroom.  I'm afraid that my very basic-but-healthy salads inspire other people with guilt.  I'm also afraid that when one lady mentioned this, my response (trying, of course, to not hurt her feelings by critiquing her gross microwaved-cardboard lunch) was :"Well, we all make choices."

Um.  If you're reading this, lady, I'm sorry.

What I MEANT to convey was: healthy eating can be inexpensive and simple!  All it takes is a little thinking ahead and the willingness to choose some extra health over some convenience!  Simple, happy choices!  That we all make.

I'm bad at talking, sometimes.

But you, too, can figure out a way to eat healthy wherever you are and whatever you do!  It may take some ingenuity, and it will take some extra time, and it might even call for tact (whoops), but it can be done as long as you are not a complainypants.

Ecce, food!
Eat it up, folks.

So there you have it, now go and do it yourself.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Who is wise? He that learns from everyone. Who is powerful? He that governs his passions. Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody. — Benjamin Franklin

Thanks to Shilpan for the quote!

Monday, July 1, 2013

California Dreamin'

Back from a weekend trip with the church youth group, doing outreach for a new mission work in Capistrano Beach, CA (Trinity OPC, if you're in the Capo/Dana Point area, you should check it out at Palisades Elementary School, 9:30am on Sunday).  It was an excellent trip, but being away from the Mrs. and Jr. for two nights was rather lonesome.

California is interesting.  It has some of the most varied scenery and climate of any state, vast inhabited areas, and vaster (more vast?) uninhabited deserts.  It is subject to a certain level of tyranny from Sacramento, and in many ways warmly embraces a certain level of tyranny from Uncle Sam (there was a US Ad council billboard about brushing your teeth - for serious).

And yet there are people there, just like people anywhere, who need the gospel, who live their lives, who congest the freeways, and generally behave much like people elsewhere in the US. 

It seems like a wonderful place to live, and a terrible place to work.  You can garden, surf, hike, minimize your heating and cooling bills, make beer and wine with local ingredients, and get fresh fruits and veggies for fairly cheap from local sources (meat and dairy are pricey, though).  Thus, for a Mustachian individual who is willing and able to take advantage of the many benefits offered in CA while minimizing the drawbacks (related mostly to traffic, expensive housing, and taxes - all of which are much less burdensome to a Mustachian), California could be a pleasant place to live.

The Phoenix area has its own advantages, of course, but they again relate more to the aspects of life that a Mustachian tries to play down (cheap big houses, lower gas prices, and lower taxes).  Phoenix does have two growing seasons, though SoCal is a growing season unto itself.  I did not see many edible gardens, though, possibly because people are too busy navigating freakish freeways in expensive cars going to distant jobs so they can afford bigger houses.

And the wife likes SoCal very much.  Perhaps in God's timing we may end up there, but for now we are happy to be in Phoenix, working hard, growing our 'stache, and looking out at faded blue cloudless dusty skies. 

- wait - maybe there's a thunderhead out east.  The monsoons always remind me of a big reason I like Arizona.

Follow up to the last post - I WILL get paid to teach, and not terribly poorly, either.  It would be enough for Jacob of ERE to live on about twice over.  Thus, the pay cut works out to only about 15%, which is pretty fantastic.