Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘friends

Enchanted Evenings

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There is something extra special about simply spending time among friends for no other reason than the treasure of being together.

My good friend, Himalayan trekking partner, and fellow annual Tour of Minnesota bicycler, Gary Larson biannually hosts gatherings for dinner and music with long-time friends at his home. This past Saturday was our most recent celebration of food and tunes, with more than a few story-jokes that elicit as many groans as chuckles.

It is a priceless event to be a part of.

The food was divine. I’ve never met a stew served by Gary that I didn’t absolutely love. This time I was reduced to demanding a recipe. Not because I would be able to make any use of it, but Gary knew that and presented a printed copy for me to give Cyndie.

I thought it was the dijon mustard that provided the irresistible flavor I savored but Gary quickly corrected me that a second mustard ingredient is what I was tasting.

After dinner, a few of us bring out our guitars, banjos, and an occasional mandolin and delve into the depths of our memories to resurrect a variety of occasionally sing-along-able songs from years gone by. It truly does make for some precious enchanted evenings.

 🎵  look what Gary has created

he’s done it again

gathered all of us together

to feast among friends

then we revel with some music

and lush sing-alongs

well maybe not so lush

we can’t remember the songs  🎵

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Hail, hail, our friend Gary!

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Written by johnwhays

November 18, 2019 at 7:00 am

Sun Rises

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Today marks the return of Standard Time for most people in the U.S. but the sun paid no attention. The earth and sun did nothing unusual to change our circadian rhythms today.

Cyndie captured this image a few minutes before the sun appeared. It didn’t matter to the universe what time our clocks were set to read.

We will reconcile the adjustment to an apparent hour-earlier darkness because we must. Society has yet to reconcile our differing opinions about changing clocks twice a year, but science appears to be leaning toward the conclusion that better health and well-being is possible by eliminating the bi-annual clock adjustment and maintaining Standard Time year-round.
 (Ref: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0748730419854197)

I have a good friend who never hesitates to remind me how much he likes that we adjust the clocks twice a year to alter the daylight for our routine activities. He is not alone, which explains why the repeated debates arise twice every year in the spring and fall yet nothing seems to come of it.

It’s not the kind of thing that we can each just choose for ourselves. It’s a lot like our national leadership. Independents don’t hold much sway in our two-party system and we can’t each choose to follow our own preferred President. We need to function in a system whether we agree with it or not.

The sun and the earth don’t care either way. For some reason, I find solace in that. Knowing the universe pays no heed to our trifling clock settings helps me cope with a system to which I disagree.

It hasn’t helped as well with tolerating national leadership that shows no interest in helping shift us away from abusing the planet to everyone’s detriment. I suspect the universe will have the last laugh in that contest.

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Written by johnwhays

November 3, 2019 at 11:05 am

Next Steps

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Blessed with another glorious day of blue sky and sunshine on a Friday, Cyndie and I returned to the deck refurbishing project yesterday. The temperature was a little harsh at the start but soon warmed to perfection. Even after I had removed all the screws from the set of steps we started on, I couldn’t get the boards loose until I figured out they were frozen in place. A little persuasion from a hammer was all it took to break the ice.

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I was grateful to have Mike’s power tools to create cut-outs on boards and lucky to have an old length of 4 x 4 in the shop to replace a rotted post on the railing of the second set of steps.

My perfectionistic desires are being seriously taxed by the difficulties of coping with inconsistencies in both the new wood and the old. I repeatedly measured twice before cutting and usually double-checked positioning before drilling in screws, but the results far too often failed to match my intentions.

Fortunately, my standards are loosening as the duration of this project drags on. I’m starting to view the imperfections as features. The misalignments are becoming quaint reminders of how much money we saved by doing this ourselves.

One example: I cut a new face board to go along with the replaced railing post and centered it on the middle frame board. After starting at the top and screwing in boards on each step, I discovered at the bottom that the middle frame board wasn’t actually centered between the ends.

I centered on something that wasn’t centered. Wonderful.

When one of my last boards with cut-outs was found to be off by a quarter-inch, I decided to simply cut an equal amount off the other end and have a symmetrical difference. Somehow, it still ended up lopsided once it was screwed down.

I swear, things move even after there are screws in place.

In the end, none of the small details I fret over will be noticeable to the casual observer. I’m practicing the art of being okay with the imperfections.

Maybe, just maybe, the end is within reach today. We are going to aim for that goal, especially since the weather is once again, perfectly accommodating.

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Say Hi

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Good morning. Say hello to our chickens and Pequenita.

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One of the Golden Laced Wyandottes appears to be molting. Poor thing looks a mess.

Pequenita was doing her best queen bee daytime recline on Cyndie’s pillows. Of course, Cyndie is the one who is more allergic to cats between the two of us. Figures.

Delilah hasn’t been feeling her best and missed out on the photo sessions. She seems to be suffering a skin disturbance that has left her belly raw. The vet reports a large number of dogs have been experiencing similar afflictions. We are hoping the hard freeze will eliminate some possible allergens that could be causing the trouble.

This week, Cyndie paid a visit to a horse rescue place near Hastings to donate some left-over tack and supplies that didn’t sell in her boutique last spring. We are investigating the possibility of making our pastures available to them for summer grazing.

Could be a way for us to have horses around again, but without much of the expense.

It would be nice to be able to say “Hi” to horses again. Would only be a summertime visit, so we won’t know until next year if the possibility will work out or not.

I don’t mind waiting. Winter horse care can be stressful.

I would like to say “Hi” to days with reduced stress. Maybe I’ll be able to do that from our deck soon. Today we are going to take a crack at replacing the steps and railing tops.

I’m looking forward to saying “Goodbye” to the power tools Mike loaned us. That will be the exclamation mark on our completion of the DIY project. Then I will say “Hello” to all the money we saved.

Say goodbye, John.

Goodbye.

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Written by johnwhays

October 25, 2019 at 6:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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Nine Left

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With the sun and relative warmth of a gorgeous fall day, we were able to make satisfying progress on the deck project yesterday. Wouldn’t you know it, there are some rain showers passing by early this morning. I have nine rows left to complete if it dries up later. That is compared to the 43 rows of boards already trimmed and screwed into place.


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We are getting close.

I’m noticing my perception of the deck has changed dramatically. I wasn’t aware of it before, but I felt very little draw to spend any time out on those old rotting boards unless the weather outside was simply irresistible.

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Now I find myself pulled to be out there for any reason I can dream up. Luckily, I have a very obvious reason to be out on those new boards while I’m still in construction mode.

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I have a notorious ability to not finish things I start, so pressure is mounting as time drags on and I slowly creep closer to completion.

On the surface, a project like this seems simple. We aren’t drastically changing anything. We are keeping the frame of joists and simply pulling off old boards to replace them with new. The concept is not complicated.

However, there are complications. Several are related to trying to fit things into pre-existing nooks and crannies without completely tearing out the framing around doors or the railing posts. We also spent a fair amount of time tailoring the fit of board thickness around the stone chimney.

Every step we take to improve the look and quality of the end result adds time. I have no problem spending more time to make it better.

The number one reason we have achieved the quality and progress accomplished thus far is due to the generous contributions of time, tools, and muscle by our treasured friends Mike and Barb Wilkus. Mike has offered two of his Fridays and most of his tools to support us in spending less money overall.

His contributions are worth so much more than money. It is hard to put a value on true friends.

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Written by johnwhays

October 19, 2019 at 9:26 am

Fine Dining

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We went out to dinner last night with Mike and Barb who spent the night so they could give us a hand finishing the board replacement project on our deck today. Dinner was at our local favorite destination restaurant, Shady Grove. It’s about two minutes away from our house in a structure that looks like it used to be a house, though serving food as good as the fanciest downtown restaurants in Minneapolis.

The difference is in the extraordinary flavors. That is what sets each bite apart from what we typically experience eating out at most other comparable restaurants. A simple dinner salad comes alive with any one of their custom-made dressings providing a notable accent. I chose honey-mustard and was greatly rewarded.

Maybe the secret is in the sauce because our fun appetizer guilty pleasure of deep-fried Ellsworth cheese curds came with a surprise cup of sweet/hot chipotle sauce for dipping and that definitely took things to another level of goodness.

Even the fresh-baked rolls seemed to be graced with an extra flavor beyond just bread.

Maybe I was just that hungry.

The second I got home from work, I went out on the deck to make sure the last few old boards were pried up and nails removed in order to be as ready as possible to maximize progress today. I built an appetite before Mike and Barb arrived.

For my entrée, I chose the fish fry with a side of wild rice blend with dried cranberries. I like my fish mild, so the filets I enjoyed were more for the texture than flavor, and it was perfect in that regard. The rice blend, however, was irresistibly flavorful and that had me gobbling it up like I hadn’t eaten in weeks.

Regretfully, I was so taken by the nirvana of my eating experience that I forgot to take a picture of the meal. It would have complimented this post nicely. I was so busy living in the moment that I didn’t think to capture a shot in order to revisit it later.

I don’t think it would be smart to eat such good food every night, for fear it would become mundane and my senses dulled to the splendor.

Fine dining is fine because it is not just everyday food. If we ate this well too often, the experience would become ho-hum.

Last night was truly fine.

Here’s hoping today’s deck progress will be comparably fine. Looks like we are going to have weather that qualifies for that descriptor: fine. That is, as in, highest quality.

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Written by johnwhays

October 18, 2019 at 6:00 am

Good Start

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Blessed with a day between drenching rains, yesterday we made great headway on the deck resurfacing project. Mike arrived about the same time daylight did and Cyndie primed our energies with a grand breakfast feast in preparation for the long day of labor ahead. Setting the first board required immediate customization, which is a part of the project I would have struggled to accomplish without Mike’s wisdom and experience.

After solving that challenge, the work settled into a board-placing routine that wasn’t particularly complicated but tended to eat up bigger chunks of time just doing than it seems it should.

Along the way, there were pauses to re-measure spacing and then tweaking the board gaps. Even simple board selection adds minutes, pondering how to minimize waste while selecting around imperfections in the lumber.

Eventually, we would reach a railing post and be faced with doing some customized cuts to enclose the obstruction. For the post below, Mike engineered two pieces that required multiple cuts which resulted in a pretty slick looking continued flow.

The thinking involved to plot where seams fall gets a little mind-boggling for me, but Mike helped to achieve a repeating pattern that I really like.

By lunch we had covered the bottom level, which was honestly my main goal, knowing in advance that progress most likely would be hampered by something. Nothing I have ever worked on goes so smoothly that I get more done than expected.

Most important for me was proving the process. I thought I would be able to do this in place of hiring professionals, but I was a little wary about the unknowns like detailing around the railing, mastering the seams and spacing, and even where to start, and how to finish the last board.

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We’ve got boards cut to length and positioned, but not all of them screwed down yet. By the end of the day, we probably were just under halfway finished with the resurfacing. There is a lot of lumber yet to replace, but the number of complicated decisions left to be addressed should be less.

If we ever get another dry weather day, maybe I can work more on the project.

Actually, today’s rain has me wondering if we shouldn’t have skipped the deck project and focused on building a boat that could hold us and our pets instead. I’m worried our house might just float away if it keeps up like this, and we live on top of a hill!

Apparently, the atmosphere holds more moisture when the planet warms and is able to dump more precipitation as a result.

I wonder if we have any circumstantial evidence to back that up.

I wish I could remember where we put our PFDs.

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Written by johnwhays

October 5, 2019 at 9:56 am