Monday, January 25, 2016


If you are seeing this, Hope will be here soon.  The information below will help you find us in the hospital.
We are trying to limit visitors to a reasonable number, so please don't head to the hospital unannounced.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

40 Week Appointment Update

As promised, I attended my appointment today. It is confirmed, Hope would like to avoid the whole birthing process and live comfortably (for her!) inside forever.

Just kidding.

Induction date? Set. January 28th is the big day, well, to get things started at least. Kaiser allows 3 days for an induction to progress as naturally as possible. This is fantastic in my opinion because I was terrified of having an induction and being rushed through it, which can lead to stress on the baby, mom, and if your doctor is very impatient, can lead to a c-section. I'd like to avoid major abdominal surgery thank-you-very-much. Also, I am set up with a midwife instead of a Doctor, another cool option to allow labor to progress more naturally (Doctors really get a bad wrap about rushing deliveries; I don't have any facts. It has just permeated my brain). If your body is slow to respond to the medications they stop them and give you a break to eat, sleep, shower, and relax. Then they try again the next day. If I have to go this route, I'm happy I won't be on a tight time table.

Going over a due date isn't unusual but they do have increased concerns, of course. The biggest is the placenta providing enough for the baby (it starts to deteriorate toward the end of pregnancy), so I am set up for twice weekly non-stress tests. I'm not clear on the specifics, but I know it involves me being hooked up to a machine and relaxing while they monitor the baby's heart beat and activity levels. I have no doubt Hope will pass with flying colors; she is still very active and loves to stretch and kick, but it is certainly better to be safe.

This is how serene and lovely it is to be doing an NST after passing your due date! Joy!

As for measurements, my doctor said Hope had a little bit of a growth spurt. She is much bigger than she was two weeks ago. Nothing too crazy. She is obviously still long but now my doctor estimates that her size will be in the 7lb range. She does this by physically feeling the baby and guessing based on her years of experience (admitting it is only a guess). I'm glad Hope is thriving (good job body!).

Just none of this please!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Classy Kitchen Command Center

What I wanted, in concept form.
I've been kicking around the idea for a "digital wall calendar" for quite a while.  Basically, a screen that will hang on the wall and display my Google calendar in a large format.  Somewhat surprisingly, there isn't really anything on the market like I want.
My first thought was to use a tablet, like an iPad, but I thought it would be too small, and look awkward on the wall.  It would also be difficult to display the combination of information I wanted.  Most damning, it would be too expensive.
My next idea was to use an old monitor and hook it up to a tiny "stick PC."  That was promising, especially since we have a couple old monitors, until I thought about interacting with it, which would be a pain.  This made me consider a touchscreen monitor, but then we run into the cost problem again.
The solution I finally settled on was spurred by Black Friday.  I was commenting on how $35 was insanely cheap for an Amazon Fire 7" tablet, when I realized I could get multiple cheap tablets and mount them together.  This would allow me to have more screen real-estate, and also easily have multiple items shown.  I ordered three tablets (Chrissy stole one when they arrived, so I only ended up using two) and decided I would build a frame to hold them all.  When designing that frame in my head, I realized I could expand on the concept and create a "command center."
Overachiever Command Center

The command center above is a little ridiculous, in my opinion, but it is impressive.  I decided the best bet was to just mount the tablets and a magnetic whiteboard.  Any additional accessories could be added via magnet at a later date.  The concept I designed is shown below.  To start, we just have a three-pocket bin and a note pad (for tear-off grocery lists).

Chrissy green-lighted the design, so construction could begin.  The frame was to be built from salvaged timbers my brother had.  A week or so before construction began, I treated the lumber with pesticide to ensure I wasn't bringing bugs into the house.

When it was time to build, my brother came to help out.
Notice how the beer can obstructs the tape measure?  That is an unintentional metaphor for our construction techniques.

Making perfect 45s is tricky.

Eventually we got it close enough and glued, nailed and strapped the frame together.

The cardboard backing on the whiteboard needed a slight trim to fit.

The next step was adding the smaller frame pieces.  After some precision cutting, we screwed and glued them in.

Then I had to route/chisel out the areas for the tablets' power cables.

I also made notches to access the power buttons.

I then added a lip around the back that would create clearance for the USB hub, which would distribute power to the tablets.  I also hot-glued the white board in place.

 Here's the back side of the finished product, minus one USB cable which is still on its way.
Notice that tasty right-angle micro USB cable.
And here's the front.  The top tablet displays the current day's schedule and the bottom one shows the month.  They can obviously also be used for any other tablet type functions, like displaying recipes or watching cat videos.

For now, it's sitting on a stool.  We will hard mount it once we get out of the beta testing phase.
Pretty darn close to the concept.

If you're curious here's the cost breakdown:
Wood:  Free
Tablets:  $70 (Black Friday price)
Whiteboard:  $12
Bin:  $10
USB Hub:  $17
USB Cable:  $4
Total:  $113
Seems pretty reasonable, considering it has two fully functioning computers in it.  For comparison, the crazy command center shown above cost more than twice as much to make, and it can't even surf the web.

If you're even more curious/nerdy, I'll share the apps I'm using to make this work.  The calendar app is aCalendar+, and I'm using a handy app called Keep Screen On Free to keep the screens on. For free.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

39 Weeks

I am in the final week! I spent so much time saying "if I could just get pregnant," and then most of the pregnancy saying "I just need to stay pregnant," it feels surreal to be in the home stretch with my apps saying things like "Birth is imminent" and "Have you had your baby yet?" (low blow, app!). I am so grateful to be in this final week. I still feel really good; yes it is hard to roll over and my hips feel like bowls of soup most of the time (Andy doesn't know what I'm talking about either) but other than that, I feel like myself just um...noticeably pregnant. The grocery store folks insist on pushing my cart and unloading my groceries. This makes me very uncomfortable for some reason. I just look at them with sideways eye as I repeatedly say "I can definitely do all of this myself." They brush me off like I'm lying and it is their duty to lug my groceries into my car. Again, I feel great, and capable.
I'm running out of fabric on this shirt!

Speaking of feeling great, putting the stress of the holidays and my very hectic work schedule behind me for maternity leave had a serious impact on me. I LOVE Maternity Leave; naps are freaking better than I ever remembered (ah, just like the good ol' days of college) and I get so much done at home. This relaxation and stress free living completely stopped my contractions. I'm serious. After 37 weeks all signs of labor just vanished into thin air and Hope decided she quite likes where she is. I may be pregnant forever guys, but at least I won't be complaining about it!

My doctor appointments have all been textbook. Fluid levels (like I'm a car) are good, baby is in the correct position still, measurements are all spot on, and she is still very active (a sign of a healthy environment). So, it seems like my doctor is OK with me being pregnant forever as well. My only complaint is I am really looking forward to meeting Hope. She needs to come out for that to happen. Don't bother telling me about walking and sex and spicy this and whatever other old wives tales you have. Why? Because I've done them all, and they have been done through the whole pregnancy (none of them are very odd behavior). So, in short, old wives tales are stupid and this baby will be born when she is ready. No complaining people, just be patient. Also, I might throw in that making it to one's due date is never a bad thing.

Tuesday is my next appointment; they will schedule an induction date then so there is actually an end in sight.

I'll have that update for you soon along with some craft projects that have filled my (not so) lazy afternoons.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Terrible Toaster

Our old toaster oven was a giant piece of junk.  It was supposed to be a quality unit, but it sucked.  The biggest problem was it literally took 10 minutes to make toast.  It also made a metallic "clang" every time it warmed up.  It had a rotisserie function, but wasn't big enough to cook a normal chicken, despite being a huge on the outside.  The last straw was when it stopped "dinging" and would stay on, in an attempt to burn our house down.  I had to kill this thing before it killed me.
We replaced this with the cheapest toaster oven we could find on Amazon, and we are much happier.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Tweaked Tongs

The lonely rivet holding our go-to tongs together took a dump on us, so it was time to bust out my collection of stainless steel hardware.
Now they're better than new, although we should occasionally check to make sure the nut isn't backing off.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Andy's New Car Buying Guide - January 2016

Editor's Note:  The opinions expressed in this post are strictly my own and are just that, opinions.

I drive a lot of cars.  My job is to literally evaluate every single part of those cars.  Through work and my extracurricular activities, I have developed a pretty broad knowledge of the vehicles currently on the market, and this is my attempt to share that knowledge in a brief format.

These are the features I believe you should avoid as well as ones to get.  These guidelines apply regardless of brand.

Avoid at All Costs

  • Dual Clutch Transmissions – poor low-speed driveability, expensive maintenance (for VW, $400 every 40,000 miles), questionable reliability
  • Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVT) – annoying performance, questionable reliability
  • Turbocharged Gasoline Engines – questionable reliability, poor real-world fuel economy
  • ZF 9-Speed Transmission – worst modern automatic transmission
  • German and British Luxury Cars – the best way to stress yourself out and go bankrupt

Avoid if Possible

  • All-Wheel Drive – unnecessary, increased maintenance, decreased fuel economy, good tires are usually more helpful
  • Gasoline Direct Injection (without port injectors) – questionable reliability (carbon deposits on valves)
  • Poorly Designed/Implemented Infotainment (MyFord Touch, Chevy MyLink, Honda touchscreens, etc.) – unnecessary frustration from something you use often
  • “Safety Features” that are more annoying than helpful (blind spot monitors, lane departure warning, etc) – expensive, distracting, encourage drivers to not pay attention
  • Navigation – expensive, annoying to use, smartphone is better
  • Leather/Pleather Seats – expensive, cold in the winter, sweaty in the summer; worst of both worlds

Worth Paying For

  • Radar Cruise Control (preferably full-speed-range) - feels like the future, makes driving in traffic bearable
  • Keyless Everything – so convenient, once you use it, there’s no going back
  • Bluetooth Audio – should be standard, makes life easier
  • Android Auto/Apple CarPlay – not perfect yet, but shockingly good and rapidly improving
  • Ventilated Seats (if leather) – best defense against swamp-ass
  • Fuel Economy (to a point) - do something for the planet, cheap gas never lasts


I will now give a brief overview of each brand and call out any particularly good or bad models.  All statements apply to current offerings unless otherwise stated.  These are obviously generalizations and there will be exceptions. 

Color Code:  Buy  Consider  Avoid

Mostly overpriced Hondas.  Infotainment systems are laughably difficult to use.

Very handsome, if not dated looks, but suffers from the Luxury Tax.*  Tend to incorporate many of the features I try to avoid.

Don’t drive like they used to.  iDrive is better, but still annoying.  Luxury Tax.
  • Recently drove an X5 which had one of the worst steering systems I've ever used.

Overpriced Chevys.  Dated.

The cars drive shockingly well.  CUE is horrible and could be a deal-breaker.

Cars are much better than they used to be, but still feel half a step behind the competition.  Trucks are fine, but feature mediocre styling.  MyLink is a disaster.
  • Corvette is scary fast, but not as involving as it could be.
  • Equinox is terrible.  Desperately needs an update.
  • Volt is impressive.  If it had radar cruise control, I would own one.
  • Bolt could be a game changer.  EV with 200 mile range for $30,000 is impressive.  Too bad it’s so ugly.

Generally dated and uncompetitive. Uconnect is pretty good.
  • 300 is good if you want a big, powerful, rear-wheel drive sedan and you like the looks.

Just like Chrysler, generally dated and uncompetitive, unless you want a giant, hemi-powered car.  The Hellcat is outrageous. Uconnect is pretty good.

Not a single car worth buying; however the electric 500e is their best car and is worth leasing for under $100/month.

Cars are much better than they used to be.  Handle well.  Quiet interiors, unfortunately, they tend to feel cramped.  Trucks are good.  Turbocharged engines are powerful but fuel economy is bad.  MyFord Touch was terrible, Sync3 is snappier, but still not great.

Overpriced, slightly differently styled Chevy trucks.  Pointless.

Disappointing cars recently, although they appear to be turning things around.  Touchscreen infotainment system is terrible--bad enough for me to not buy an otherwise good car.
  • Fit is one of the best all-around cars ever, especially older ones.  The current generation got hit by the ugly stick and got a CVT.  Two strikes.
  • HRV is based on the Fit, yet is worse in every way.

Shockingly good cars, and getting better every year.  Can’t beat the 10yr/100,000 mile powertrain warranty.

Meh.  If you want a Japanese luxury car, get a Lexus.

Great looking cars, but they all look like the XF, which came out years ago.  Luxury Tax.

Mostly outdated and overpriced.  Uconnect is pretty good.
  • Cherokee is decent, but the 9-speed transmission makes it terrible.
  • Renegade is let down by a stiff ride and 9-speed.
  • Wrangler is absurd.  Basically unfit for the road, but great off of it.

Same as Hyundai, but often better looking and more refined.

Land Rover
Most overpriced and unreliable vehicles imaginable.  The definition of Luxury Tax.

While still overpriced (especially the models based on Toyotas), this is probably the only luxury brand worth buying.

Outdated, overpriced Fords.

Some of the best handling, best looking mainstream cars out there.  Transmission tuned for economy can be frustrating.  Nice interiors.

Impressive engines, annoying shifters.  Infotainment systems very unintuitive. Luxury Tax.

Used to be fun small cars.  I (and they) don’t know what they’re doing now.

Generally terrible cars, even before you realize they have a CVT.  However, they will finance anyone.
  • Pathfinder is terrible, but has the cushiest armrests out there.

Incredibly fast and nimble sports cars.  Terrifyingly fast SUVs and sedan.  Horrifying price and reliability.  Luxury Tax.

Most innovative trucks on the market.  Uconnect is pretty good.

Lineup is improving, but still not clear why it exists.

Silly cars for normal people. Unnecessary AWD, questionable reliability (head gaskets), and boring/poor styling.  Their sporty cars are impressive.

Incredible cars with some silly problems (retracting door handles—WTF?).
  • Model X is a great idea (SUV), but the execution is questionable.  Falcon-wing doors?  Non-folding second row seats?  I also think its side profile is ridiculous.
  • Model 3 could be a game changer, if the major OEMs don’t beat them to the punch (see Chevy Bolt).

Generally outdated, boring, yet indestructible cars.  Perfect for most people.

Understated styling, but starting to feel boring.  Refined handling.  Diesel USED TO be the main attraction.  Partial Luxury Tax.

Mostly outdated and unreliable.
  • New XC90 is nice, with a great interior, but there is definitely a Luxury Tax.

Dealing with Dealerships

First, consider buying a used car.  You will save lots of money.  Certified used cars are a little more expensive, but they come with some peace of mind and will still save money.

If you have to have a new car, the most important thing is to know exactly what you want and how much you are willing to pay (total, not per month; I recommend TrueCar to help you determine a fair price) before going to the dealer.  Build your car online then search the local inventory on the manufacturer's website.  If multiple dealers have the car you want, email them all and ask them to quote you a price.  You probably shouldn't use your primary email account for this, because they will SPAM you mercilessly.

Arrange potential financing outside the dealership.  Go to the dealer that offers you the best price and seal the deal.  If they can give you 0% financing, go for it, unless you can get a bigger discount by skipping it.  Don't let them tack on any BS stuff.  No expensive floor-mats, no undercoatings, no VIN etching.

Enjoy your new car.

*Luxury Tax = overpriced, over-complicated, lacking in reliability, and expensive to maintain.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Dapper Dresser

Hope's dresser/changing table had plenty to hold after the baby shower, but it wasn't very well organized, so when we got containers for the office, we also got some for Hope's room.  Above, you can see a drawer beforehand, with items strewn about.
Below, you can see the meticulously organized drawers.
We even grabbed some containers for the cabinet area.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Master Bath; Major Burst (A Master Class in Drywall Repair)

Editor's Note:  This incident actually happened about a year ago, but I've been waiting until we redo the entire bathroom to post it, but that could be a while, so it's going up now.
While I was on a business trip, I had just gone to bed when I got a frantic phone call from Chrissy.  She said she heard rushing water coming from the wall of our master bathroom.  She quickly deduced a pipe had sprung a leak, which is something that happens for no particular reason in our house.  With a little verbal help from me she was able to turn off the water to the house.  She called a plumber the next day who fixed the leak and left us with the hole you can see above.  In my opinion, he overcharged Chrissy, but I try not to think about that.

I just had to fix the big hole in the wall.  The first step was letting everything dry sufficiently then installing new insulation.  We replaced everything below the leak and used a broom handle to cram it all the way to the bottom of the wall.  I also needed to expose half of the stud on each side so I could screw new drywall in.  You can see where I marked the left side.

Here's the hole after enlargement.

I cut the new drywall to a precise "press fit."

With a few screws, everything was secure.

Next, I shaved down the existing drywall around the hole so when I taped the seams it wouldn't be above the level of the wall.

After applying tape and mud, it was looking good.

Next came the texture.  This application was infinitely more successful than my miserable texture fail in our closet.  I just used the canned spray texture from Home Depot.

After a coat of primer, it is hard to spot where the hole was.

Judge for yourself:

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Full Term Baby!

Well holy cow, people! We made it to full term. I'm not going to lie, there were tears of joy when I realized we have made it this far and a very real happy dance. This pregnancy has had its share of hiccups but between Hope being a determined little trooper and Andy encouraging me to be positive and relaxed, we have made it to the home stretch. I feel great and most importantly, I have managed to enjoy being pregnant. I feel like we have been relaxed and mellow as much as possible so far, and that is exactly the attitude we are taking in these final weeks (or days!). I feel incredibly blessed and I am looking forward to holding our little one very soon. With 20 days or less in the queue we are pumped!
Full Term on NYE! This was taken at 1am. I was exhausted.

I had a Dr appointment on Monday (they are weekly now) and Hope is locked and loaded. I had a strong feeling that she was in the correct position weeks ago and I was right! She lined herself up like she has done this before; I am super excited she seems as prepared for this delivery as I am. She seems like she is going to be a champ through this process which is great because I have had tons of labor signs coming on. I have Braxton Hicks contractions very frequently now (practice, non-painful contractions) and I have had more than a handful of real and uncomfortable contractions. My body is definitely telling me something is changing. This type of stuff can go on for weeks so I'm not saying she is coming tomorrow, I'm just saying my body is doing what it needs to and we should have a baby in our arms in 3 weeks or less. ;) In fact, on the 30th I had so many frequent and uncomfortable contractions that grew stronger and closer together (no matter what I did) that I thought for sure I was going to have her that night! Nope. She changed her mind. See? Babies do what they want. Luckily, that meant we got to ring in the new year with our friends! We had a great time at Dave's super classy soiree. I called it a night just after midnight but I was glad we went out, it was great to see so many of our friends. I have a feeling that may not be so easy in the very near future...

Hope is measuring perfectly normal on all fronts; the Dr said she is a small baby (long but not a chunkster). She is estimated to be between 5 and 6 lbs right now with a normal head size. Andy and I are pleased as this should make delivery slightly easier than if she were a chunky baby. All in all we seem to be set for delivery any day, we have washed all of her things, set up her nursery and finished all of our classes. Honestly, being the planner I am, I am very happy to have that all finished because I feel like a ticking time bomb! I wish there was a way to know when/how it is all going to go down. Seriously, it feels so weird making plans I may have to cancel! Luckily it would be a very good excuse and my friends are almost as excited as I am to meet this little one.

Here is her first load of laundry. Oh the cuteness, I can't even. Whenever you are ready Hope. :)