March 2004

What does it mean when you wake up in the morning and your neck hurts? Really bad, that is. For no reason.

Am I supposed to go to a doctor now or something? My doctor is of the “Yeah, that happens – take Ibuprofin” school and so is not of much help generally.


This little entry goes with the handsome portrait I sent out yesterday.

This weekend was originally scheduled to be spent at Grandma's in Fort
Smith but Evan came home with so much homework that we decided to stay
at home so he could concentrate. As a result, we had an opportunity
to enter the Girl Scout Dad/Daughter cake baking contest.

I had no input into this decision by the way. By the time I got home
Friday, Erin had devoted a great deal of her considerable brain power
into design work and so on Saturday morning we created this:

The Beach Bears Cake

For those of you that are into things like this, those are Teddy
Grahams decorated with some icing that comes in tiny tubes for
decorating tiny things (and mostly writing), Pop Rocks for the sea
floor rocks, goldfish crackers (duh), shell macaroni for the sea
shells (duh again), fruit roll-ups for the beach towels, pretzel
sticks for the lifeguard stand, and crunched-up graham crackers for
the beach sand. If nothing else, it certainly tastes interesting.
Cake, goldfish crachers, and poprocks in the same bite is not
something you soon forget.

Sometimes the Dad's input is not really wanted. I had many ideas for
crunching up the graham crackers in order to make sand but they were
all rudely shot down. I thought that backing my truck over the bag
would have done a fine job of pulverizing them but I was

There were many good cakes there and many more that were not so
impressive but which get an “E” for effort. There's no such thing as
a bad cake after all. We took home the “Most Creative” golden spoon
trophy as well as best use of color (no spoon for that – they ran out
of prize spoons). You might think that they would say “OK, we have
this many categories so we should buy this many spoons” but apparently

It was pretty fun. It was a rainy weekend and so this provided some
welcomed indoor diversions. I must admit that we have a champion cake
builder in our house in Melissa and even though Erin and I did it
ourselves, we had a consultant available for advice.

Evan just spent the week in Kentucky with the Methodist youth group working on houses in Kentucky. He says it was kind of cold and wet, that he had to swing a hammer for eight hours a day, that he had to dig post holes (and was pretty good at it), and that he had a good time. It didn't sound like much fun to me but I wasn't there.

At this point, he now says that he can hammer a nail into some wood without missing the nail and can generally do it in four strokes of the hammer. That's what comes from swinging a hammer all day for four days. He took my hammer for that which means I had to make do without it for awhile. It's surprising how often one needs a hammer. New homeowners take note.

The first day, they had to rip off an old back porch and when they did, they apparently startled a flock of chickens that had taken up residence under it. There were eggs too. The homeowner (or trailer-owner in this case) hurredly gathered them up for later use. They rebuilt that porch, put a roof on it, and then went and built another one for somebody else. He says he was the best post hole digger (all together now: Ph.D. – Post Hole Digger – runs in the family! Har! Har!). If anybody at all were to step up and try the post hole digger in my group, I'd immediately elect him “the best” and leave it at that because that's hard work so I'm not sure how objective that assessment was.

They all were assigned “secret pals” and were to give a small gift to this person daily to add a little excitement to the day. Before the trip, when asked to fill out a list of things he liked, Evan wrote in “socks” as a joke. He assures me he wrote “Just kidding” as well. Well, just to be funny apparently, he got a pair of socks. He thought it was pretty funny and wore them on the bus home.

Speaking of the bus, it seems that somewhere between Nashville and here, one of the wheels on the bus fell off! Then a few seconds later another one. They recovered one and somebody took a photo – the things just came right off the axle. Everybody's laughing but I'm thinking the church should get a lawyer or something. Kinda scary.

But he made it home with good things to say and so all is well.

Here's a satisfying little completed project: a fireplace mantle. This may show up poorly on your browser depending on how big your monitor is – I wasn't quite sure what to do about it.

Check out this fluted column that I made myself!

This project design has been in and out of our collective project list for several years. When we moved into the house, the existing mantle was essentially a railroad tie mounted to the wall. It was probably stylish back in 1977 when the house was built but we took it down in one quick hurry. We were going to build something elegant and I had even bought some of the wood when we ran across a quickie simple mantle on clearance for $25. We bought that and put it up and there is has been for about four years. Finally, Mel decided that the time had come to invest in what she really wanted.

A Corner Detail

The Fancy Fireplace Store had some beauties and they were running about $600 for the larger red oak versions. The reasonably priced ones were actually just a shelf that attached to the wall over the fireplace box. Part of our problem is that, for some reason, we have a larger than average fireplace. It is larger than anything that The Fancy Fireplace Store sells; therefore, would have required some custom work. $Cha-ching$!

I took a look and decided that I could make one for half that including the purchase of a tool or two. And so it has turned out. Actually, I didn't have to buy any tools and I managed to do the job for less than a third of the retail cost which is actually unusual for a woodworking project. Typically, you don't save any money at all, you only gain in quality. But I finally found a decent hardwood supplier with reasonable prices. I pay for that in inconvenience since he's way on the opposite side of town but that's kind of a universal trade-off.

The Final Product (click the photo for a larger version)

So, these photos tell the story. I'm kinda proud of it. I have decided to not focus on the tiny flaws like I usually do.

For those budding woodworkers out there, I borrowed a biscuit joiner to do this project and I when I first saw one of these, I thought it was the most useless thing I had ever heard tell of but now that I've used one on a real project, I think they're one of the coolest things ever designed. Ryobi has a very reasonably priced one if you're interested.

I guess it has to happen to the best of us once a year or so.

But I've got stuff to do. This is most inconvenient. But it sure feels good to nap.

Time for:

“Daddy Sings the Blues”

My boy done gone away
gone away to Kentucky.

Gone to swing a hammer
swingin' a hammer for the Methodist Mission

Helping po' people
Helpin' 'em rebuild they houses

But the boy done gone away
and I don' know what to do.

…or something like that.

If you have a dog, you should read this. It'll make you smile.

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