Sunday, August 29, 2010

One Fair Day

Yesterday was one of those days where the stuff we did in the morning seemed like a week ago by the time we finally made it to bed.  Just listing everything that happened would take quite a while, but there's a couple highlights I wanted to write about instead.  To start with, we spent the morning going around town to more than a dozen garage sales looking for nothing in particular except a good deal or two.  The thing with garage sale hunting is that you can't really plan ahead to look for specific items--it's really more like looking for coins on a beach.  Most of the time you'll find nothing but scrap or garbage, but every now and then you'll come across a quarter or even a half dollar, and so it is for garage sales.  For three hours we scoured the city, taking a pre-planned route we devised the night before in order to maximise efficiency yet deviating often when we saw additional signs for sales along the way, and even though we only made one purchase we had a good time nonetheless.  Our find?  A nice desk chair for my wife that we got at an estate sale.  It looks like it has hardly been used at all, and is so far making a very nice replacement for the IKEA chair we've had for a couple years.  But much in the same way that hunting for coins on a beach is enjoyable for the sights of the ocean, the feel of the sand, and the wind in your hair, going garage sale hunting is fun (for us, anyway) even if we don't land any huge deals.  Kind of a thrill-of-the-hunt sort of thing, I guess.  :)

These women were serious about the pie judging.
And even more serious about baking with
butter instead of margarine.
After we got back home a friend of ours called and invited us to the county fair, and even though neither my wife or I have been to a fair in years, we thought it would be fun to check out.  And boy, was it ever.  I recall going to the Minnesota State Fair in the summer of 2004 and not being particularly impressed because it was so crowded and sprawling.  But the county fair yesterday was just our style.  We wandered among the indoor booths and exhibits, and I had a great time talking to a guy with a sprawling N/HO/O scale model railroad and another who was manning a HAM radio booth.  The best part by far, though, was the pie contest judging.  It was an intense affair, with pies of all shapes and sizes being inspected, tested, tasted, and ingested.  The two judges were as serious as prison wardens, and left no flake of crust overlooked in their criticisms of the baked concoctions.  A first place ribbon in this contest was a hard-won and well-deserved honor, let me tell you.  After that, we went to see some of the animals and wandered among the chickens, rabbits, horses, and cows, but the goats and hogs were nowhere to be found.  Even though I grew up in Nebraska I have spent very little time around farm animals, and I still think it's cool to hear a rooster call out his famous cock-a-doodle-do cry, or a horse let out a giant neigh.  But the crème de la crème was the horse competition.  Not necessarily for what the riders were able to do with their horses, like maneuver in specific patterns or race around barrels, but the age of the riders.

Who knew a girl so small could ride a horse so big.
I was amazed at how young the people were and what they were able to do on the horses.  The barrel riding competition had an entire category for children ages eight and younger, and even though they weren't exactly equestrian masters, these kids were incredibly competent at horse riding.  I have ridden a horse maybe three times in my life, and the amount of skill it takes (for someone like me, anyway) to even get the big animal to go forward or turn from left to right is fairly high.  But these kids could command the horses to turn on a dime, sail around a barrel, and break into a sprint for the home stretch.  There were other age categories too, but it was these little kids who impressed me the most.  After that we strolled to the tractor museum and finally made our way back home.  Later on we looked at some paint samples for a couple rooms in our house, which we hope to get working on soon, and I finally replaced the faulty fluorescent light fixture above my workbench in the garage.

As for today, we're heading to church in an hour and then back to church this evening for a welcome-back event for the college students.  Should be fun.  :)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Boxing Up

One thing I've learned since we bought our first home last autumn is to never underestimate the complexity of what seems to be a simple household project.  For Exhibit A, allow me to submit our mailbox.  The one we had outside since moving in has been in a slow and steady state of decay for the past several months (probably years).  The box has been loose on its pole for quite some time, it has leaked as long as we've lived here, and a few weeks ago the door started falling off.  So we finally bit the bullet, went to Lowe's, and bought ourselves a shiny new mailbox.

End of story, eh?  Well, not so much.  The First Law of Home Improvement clearly states "The perceived simplicity of a project is inversely proportional to the number of trips to the hardware store required to complete it."  When we went to set up the new post receptacle we found out that the mailbox itself was too big to fit on the post.  So we made our way back to Lowe's and returned the post, only to leave empty-handed with more questions than answers.  Do we get a wooden post instead of a metal one?  What about polymer?  Do we mount the box with brackets or on a piece of wood?  Do we return our new mailbox and get a smaller one?  And what about those weird plastic mailboxes that look like they're made by Fisher-Price?  It was all getting rather out of control, and still our rusted old mailbox continued to waste away by the roadside, doing everything in its power to hold our alumni association solicitations and JASNA subscriptions without collapsing under its own sorry self.

So a few days later back to Lowe's we went, looking for a stout mailbox post the way our grandaddies used to make them:  from good old-fashioned wood.  Soon enough we settled on a nice cedar post that would look appropriately regal and surely be the envy of the neighbors (we're suburbanites, after all.  Isn't that the goal of every home improvement project?).  But then came a new set of problems:  removing the old mailbox pole, digging a new hole, mounting the box, securing the post in the ground, and all kinds of new complications that continued to turn what I thought would initially be a half-hour Saturday project into a weeks-long ordeal with government-style budget overruns.

But finally, after much digging, cementing, drilling, hammering, and sweating, we have a brand new mailbox sitting proudly by the curb performing its duties as admirably as one could hope for.  But, come to think of it, the cross-beam does seem a tad loose.  I bet I could find something to secure it just a little.  Oh, and it could a nice staining job too.  And perhaps a coat of sealer.  And maybe a little flowerbed....

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Falling Up

Without a doubt this is the longest hiatus I have ever taken on the ol' blog, and while I can't promise it will never happen again, I do have to admit it feels good to be typing here again. :) I'm generally not a fan of people giving the excuse of being too busy, and that rings true here also. It's not that I have been too busy, because I have consistently found that we will make time for the things in our lives that we deem as priorities. If I was too busy to write in my blog I would have not found time to beat a couple video games, watch so many movies, and waste so much time on Facebook. But nevertheless, the fact remains that I haven't updated The Brighter Side in a while, so I'm going to try to rectify that situation. Will it work? Well, like my dad says, "We'll have to see once."

This summer has been exceptional, but then, summer pretty much always is. It was my first summer since 2005 that I had to work a consistent 8-5 shift at my job. Every year I was teaching I just sort of got summers off, and even though I worked as a maintenance dude on campus from June through August, it was so much fun it could hardly be called work. But clocking in and out at the usual working man's time these past few months has been pretty nice. It's kind of good to maintain a schedule throughout the summer, and I really like my job at the university, so working there has been pretty cool. We even found the means to take a few trips, as is pretty usual for us. We drove to New York for a wedding and back in the span of six days, and along the way got to see a whole lot of family and friends. We only stayed in a hotel one night thanks to my wife's exceptional trip planning abilities and the prominence of family and friends in cities along our route. Our new car Charlie handled the drive very well, and is currently taking a well-deserved break in our garage too. :) We also got to make it to my family's annual reunion this year up in northern Minnesota, which was awesome as usual. And since it was our first trip up north since moving to Oklahoma we made sure to see some friends in the Twin Cities as well.

I'm telling ya, all in all, it was a great summer. And not just because of the trips and the warm weather. It was just a good time in general, and even though the leaves are starting to show the first signs of their fall colors I can look back on the last several months with satisfaction and no regrets. Which is generally the best way to live life anyway. :)