How To Build A Stone Block Patio or Sidewalk

The first step to adding in pavers is to thoroughly clear and level out the area they will be placed.

The first step to adding in pavers is to thoroughly clear and level out the area they will be placed.

One of the easiest and quickest ways to make a stone block sidewalk for your home is to lay down the stone and pavers without using any sort of concrete or cement. These dry-laid walkways have a lot of advantages over poured concrete. Putting down stone without mortar won’t work in every environment and yard, but if you want to make a walkway or even a patio in an area that’s relatively flat and well-drained then putting down a dry-block sidewalk could work well for your home.

Using stone allows you to customize the look and feel of your walkway much more than you can with cement, laying block without using any sort of mortar is much faster than spreading your own cement and letting it dry and the overall process is much easier for the average homeowner who doesn’t have a lot of concrete experience. You’ll need to be up for some physical labor but the process is pretty easy once you get going. This same process can be used to build stone patios or other flat areas in your yard.

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Batman The Cheetah Caper – A Big Little Book Review

Batman BigLittle Book

Batman – The Cheetah Caper

My son and I have been reading bedtime stories together since he was a baby, so we were excited when we had a chance to increase our personal library with a pile of “Big Little Books” from my parent’s attic. Big Little Books in the late 60’s and early 70’s were a type of pulp reader for young readers which were characterized by being small (only about 4″ square) but thick (several hundred pages) and they usually had an illustration on every page. The Big Little Books I had in the 1970’s were all based around established television and cartoon characters and weren’t exactly Shakespeare. But they had colorful covers and easy-to-read words and my son was immediately drawn to them.

I remember reading them by the dim glow of a night light at the foot of my bed, trying not to wake my little brother who was sleeping just a few feet away. I read them over and over as a kid, but after 30 years I didn’t remember much about the stories themselves.

So when my son and I started reading through my Big Little Book collection for bedtime it was a fun adventure for both of us. We’re big Disney fans so we read through all the Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse adventures first, and then we moved on to a few Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck stories.

We were near the end of our collection before we decided to read the one superhero book we had, Batman The Cheetah Caper. Batman, more than many other literary characters, is a product of his time. This particular story was written by a science fiction and television script writer named George S. Elrick in 1969. The campy Batman TV show debuted in 1968 which means the resulting Big Little book is a professional treatment of an awful TV show written in a book meant for children.

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The Curse of Home Movies in the Digital Age

As a kid growing up in the 1970’s it was always a special treat when my father brought out the portable movie screen, set up the Bell and Howell film projector and told the family to dim the light… it was movie night! My dad would sometimes rent (or just outright buy) old cartoons and films from the local library and then show them right along side our own home movies from past vacations.

Now that I’m a father myself I want to be able to share our own home movies my my kids just as easily as my father was able to with his kids. Camcorders are cheap and digital, smartphones take better video than cameras and we’re all obsessed with documenting everything around us.  So why aren’t we all watching home movies these days?

Because even though it’s easier than ever to record digital video, it’s still nearly impossible to easily view them on a TV.

Though I’ve gone through several cameras and bounced through different video formats over the years I’m still no closer to being able to easily show my home movies than I was 15 years ago.

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Why Your Daughter is Obsessed with Frozen‘s Queen Elsa

elsa1If you have a daughter between the age of 3 and 10 and you live on the planet earth then there’s a pretty good chance that she’s obsessed with the character of Queen Elsa from the Disney’s blockbuster movie, Frozen.  If your daughter isn’t belting out “Let it Go” then she’s surely running around the house, blasting invisible enemies with her ice power.

My four-year-old daughter lives and breathes Queen Elsa. She demands that we read the Frozen storybook every night, she dresses up like Queen Elsa at least twice a day and she talks about Elsa just about every minute. She regularly commands me to be either Olaf the Snowman or Sven the reindeer, depending upon her mood. When she wants to play with her older brother it’s usually as Queen Elsa, not as herself.

But why?

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2014 Resolutions

Cicada SamuraiWe’re half way through February now so I figured it would be a good time to quickly write out my 2014 Resolutions because – hey, better late than never. They really aren’t “new year” resolutions at this point, but I have been working on these since the beginning of 2014, so that’s got to count for something.

For some people a resolution is something that they want to be mindful of and strive to improve throughout the year. Some people resolve to “be nicer” or to “listen more” which is all well and fine, but those are often subjective judgement calls and at the end of the year it’s difficult to know if you’ve actually accomplished your goal or not.

For me a resolution is a goal. At the end of the year I can look back and point to some visible object or change and say, “Yes! I accomplished my goal,” or “Ooops, I have nothing to show for that resolution.” Resolutions are things that I “resolve” to get finished before the next instance of January 1st (or random day in mid-February) rolls around.

While I feel as though I’m pretty good at handling multiple projects at once, I do recognize the need to keep my list of resolutions a fairly short one so that I can concentrate on each a little more. I originally had three goals, but I think I’m going to bump that up to four goals. Anymore than that and it just becomes a jumbled list of “things I have to do but probably won’t.”

So here they in no particular order:

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5 Tricks for Beating Walmart on Black Friday

I’m not a big fan of Walmart as an institution and I often go out of my way to avoid shopping there. I’m also fairly thrifty (cheap?) so there are times during the year when an advertised item is so darn inexpensive that I simply have to take advantage of the offer.

Here are a few shopping tricks I’ve learned and used to get things at the low, low Walmart price with a minimal amount of shopping at Walmart, especially during Black Friday.

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8 Sneaky Examples of Skeuomorphism in iOS 7

santascanBy now most iPhone and iPad users have updated to the new iOS 7 and have been shocked, dismayed or just mildly surprised to find that the overall visual themes that were so familiar are now, mostly, gone from user-interface. There are brighter colors and more animations, but the most heralded design change is drift away from a “skeuomorphic” design.

The term skeuomorph was most unknown to the general public a few years ago, but now most people understand it to be the a design element which is used to falsely mimic another material or object. The fake wood paneling decals on station wagons is a skeuomorphic design to make it look as though the sides of the car are wood. The buttons depressing and popping up on my various scanning apps are all examples of skeuomorphic design. Though it’s most talked about with computer visual interfaces now, it’s actually been around for quite some time. In the late 1800’s ancient clay pots were found that had fake rivet designs molded into them, imitating the build construction of similar metal pots.

Apple designer Sir Jonathan Ive’s design changes have purposely moved towards a brighter and “flatter” design, tossing aside graphic skeuomorphic elements which imitate real world objects. In the old iOS graphics you’d often find textured buttons that looked like they clicked up and down, green felt and brown leather with intricate stitching in the background and different colors paper to “write” on.

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Make Your Own Gutter Vacuum


A DIY Gutter Vacuum

A DIY Gutter Vacuum

My previous house was a ranch style home that was surrounded by big trees, so every fall I’d have to climb up on a ladder and spend a good portion of the day manually cleaning out the leaves and other debris from the gutters so that they wouldn’t clog. Clogged gutters allow water to collect and if that water freezes into ice your gutters could become so heavy that they can bend, break, and even fall right off the house.

At one point I had a gutter that was so clogged I could see the pile of leaves flowing over the edges. I didn’t really want to get out the ladder and climb up on my roof just to clean out that section of gutter. I’m always a little nervous climbing up and down ladders and I simply detest sticking my hand in the muck and dumping it out onto the ground.

There are a lot of different gutter cleaning gadgets out there, but most of them rely on pushing, squirting or blowing the leaves and muck out of your gutter, only to have all that stuff land on your roof, your yard or (more likely) you. I also didn’t really want to spend the money for something I’d just use once or twice a year. There had to be a better way. Since I was spending the day cleaning up my yard, I had my Troy-Bilt chipper and leaf vacuum out and I was using it to clean up some sections of the yard.  While I was vacuuming the leaves out of the front flower beds I looked up at my gutter and realized I could probably vacuum out the gutters in pretty much the same way.

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Is Your Smoke Detector Chirping with New Batteries?

smokedetector200A constantly beeping smoke detector outside my bedroom recently taught me something smoke detectors that I didn’t realize: In addition to replacing the device’s batteries every six months or so, you should also consider replacing the entire smoke detector every so often.

I learned this a few weeks ago when we had a smoke detector start to emit a loud, but very quick, chirp every minute or so.  At first I thought the 3AM chirp was part of my dream, but after a few more beeps I realized something was wrong.  I groggily stumbled out of bed, located the beeping detector simply popped the battery out.  My home has a mix of hard-wired smoke detectors with battery back-ups and completely battery-powered smoked detectors.  Luckily, this one just used batteries alone. I stumbled back to bed to deal with the issue in the morning.

When I woke up the next day I checked the batteries by trying them in a little flashlight and they all appeared to be good. I grabbed a new set of alkaline batteries and put those into the smoke detector that had the intermittent beeps. The smoke detector beeped once (as it always does initially) and that was it. I put it back up on the ceiling and it seemed to be okay. But as I was walking away the smoke detector chirped again.

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How To Name A Baby

How To Name A BabyOne of the five million important decisions new parents must face, picking a name for your bundle of joy is one of the easiest tasks to screw up. It’s generally a good idea to make this decision early because as time goes on you’ll begin to second guess yourself and before you know it you’ll be standing in the bakery ordering a cake for your child’s 18th birthday with the inscription, “Happy Birthday Baby Smith!”

Modern psychology has shown time and time again that choosing your baby’s name is one of the most significant and proven ways you can assure that your child will blame you for everything from the ages of 3 to 63. You want your child to be successful and confident in the world. You want your child to take charge of life and be able to face others. You want your child’s introduction to make a good first impressions.

And that’s why very few children are named “Otis” anymore.

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