Thursday, January 31, 2013

MeduSirena Revisited

MeduSirena is one of those cultural icons you just need to meet in person. I somehow missed this special treasure in my own backyard until about this time last year. If you want to catch a unique, watery show, the mermaids perform every Friday evening at 6:30. Just head over to the Wreck Bar at the Sheraton Hotel on A1A in Fort Lauderdale. I go early so I can get a seat at the bar near one of the pool side port holes.

My first visit to this show was about a year ago. I've been back several times since, usually with friends in tow. One of the first things I did after meeting the Mermaids was to "friend" MeduSirena Marina on Facebook. Her quirky sense of humor and several posts a day are a large part of my daily entertainment requirement. If you can't make it to a show, then I highly recommend checking out her postings.

One little fun fact that most people don't know - Right after the swim show, the mermaids have a little Meet, Greet, and sometimes Eat session with the fans. I went a couple of weeks ago and for the first time became part of the menu. You can tell by the smile I was having a terrible time.

Click on the links above (bold print) for more information or do what I did the first time - show up and be amazed. Just for fun, try and hold your breath as long as the mermaids swimming by the port holes. Not as easy as they make it look.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Winter Sun - Florida Renaissance Festival

One of my favorite times of the year is coming soon. The Florida Renaissance Festival runs weekends from February 9th to March 17th in Deerfield and March 30th to April 14th in Miami. I've enjoyed this particular festival for many years but something wonderful happened when I started posting about it in my blog the last couple of years. I started getting to know the faire folk - performers, characters, fans and fellow photographers. Many of which I have followed to their away from the faire jobs during the year both online and in person. It has been an amazing journey. 

One of the questions I get a lot is if I make any money writing this blog and posting my photos. The answer is NO - it actually cost me money. I travel to many events during the year which usually include tickets, food, tips, and parking. Many I don't write about. They sort of frown on taking a camera into plays and art galleries for some reason. So why do it? I find it very difficult to try new things. I'm sure many people can relate. Writing this blog drives me to step out of my comfort zone, try new things, meet new people, and most importantly, live life beyond my living room. Then every once in a while someone reaches out and lets me know how much they appreciate my efforts in special ways like including a few of my photos in their  music video. 

I urge everyone to give live entertainment a try this year. If you are not sure where to start - watch the video then come out and meet these amazing people.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

Breathing Easier With The Dus-T

I've been writing this blog a long time -Today - My first product evaluation. As you know I've been consumed by my house renovation and have not done much else for about 15 weeks now. I am a moderately skilled do-it-yourself-er but there is one thing I know. The proper tools make for the best quality job.

I never fall for those As-Seen-On-TV ads or gimmicks. I found the Dus-T(click here) on the History channel show Invention USA. The hosts really put this product through its paces including setting it on fire and dousing it with pepper spray. If you saw my last posting, you may have noticed the mask I've used for years. Not bad for some light painting, sanding, and sawing but I've been renovating a house for months now. The consumer mask I've been using was just not cutting it. I had one huge ceiling left to sand. I had to give the Dus-T a try.

The shirt fit like a glove and with the dust mask tucked in the collar, it looked no different than a regular t-shirt. I wear contacts but for sanding a ceiling, I need to switch to glasses. The first thing I noticed with the Dus-T was my glasses didn't fog up hardly at all. With the regular mask I've used for decades, exhaling goes straight up causing major fogging problems. Making constant adjustments brings dust in from around the edges. No such problems with the Dus-T. A complete ring of protection slides up from the collar and if you want to really lock it in, use the ear loops.

The only time I moved it was to roll it down to get some water. Sanding overhead is exhausting so I decided to rest my arms a bit by chipping some tile off the kitchen floor. I didn't bother to take the mask off which was a good idea since these tiles had years of water damaged and had a pretty strong moldy smell as they popped up. Looking straight up or at the floor made no difference. The Dus-T stays in place.

The fit is snug and you will know you are wearing a mask but in a few moments you won't even know its there. With the old mask, dust would sneak around the edges as I moved or talked and go straight down my lungs. Breathing hard just sucked the mask to my face. With the Dus-T I was going flat out, non stop. By the end I was panting like a dog yet still breathing easy.

Due to my poor skills with the joint compound, I had an excessive amount sanding. Some at pretty close range to where I breath. At the end of a very long day, I had not a drop of dust where I was masked. Not as lucky with the goggles. Dust got in the tiny vent holes on the side and into my eyes.

Dus-T in action
Was this shirt worth the $40.00 price tag? For just this weekend - Absolutely. With the old mask it took me three days of start/stop sanding for the first coat and that was with a sander on a pole and goggles so fogged I could not tell what I was even sanding.

With the Dus-T I was right up on the ceiling with the hand sander and only stopped when my arms were about to fall off. Still only took half a day.

If I did this work for a living, I would have one for every day of the week. I think of all the times in my life I've choked up something from a project I was working on or the years I created my own personal dust storm running my farm tractor mowing or spraying pesticides. The Dus-T is as cool looking as it is effective. The old bandanna tied around the back of the head was never really either.

Now for the best part. This is an American invented, American produced, and an American sold product. I am proud to support anyone who can get a product to market in this country these days. I still have some dusty work in my own house and just told my sister I would hang a ceiling for her for some painting. I know I'll be breathing easy with the Dust-T in my tool box.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

House Renovation - The First 100 Days

100 days have passed on the calendar since I closed on my new house. Actual work has only occurred on the weekends and two full weeks of vacation time.  Except for some painting, I have done most of the interior work by myself.

Sanding ceilings
When I bought the place, I knew this project would be close to overwhelming and fairly expensive. I have a good amount of experience with home repairs but most of it was 20 years ago and nearly all my tools have been in storage for the last 12 years. I was counting on the theory of once you learn to ride a bicycle, you never forget. It does not seem to apply to spreading joint compound but I do sort of remember that I never really learned that particular skill.

So did I run into any surprises? Well the water damage behind the kitchen cabinets made them utterly useless and the drywall behind them had to come out as well. I thought I could work with the kitchen for a while but it reeked of mold and had to be the first thing to go. The AC blew up a couple of weeks after I closed. Not really a surprise. It was not looking to good at the inspection.

Just a little roof leak

I then discovered that the popcorn ceilings were spot patched and painted all throughout the house. I thought about re-spraying the whole ceiling but that could have lead to the popcorn falling. If you ever want to remove the popcorn on your own ceilings, good luck to you. It is an extremely dirty job and on a 12 foot cathedral ceiling, just a bit dangerous. Get the popcorn a tiny bit wet and it literally falls off with a quick pass of the scraper. Run into the patched and painted areas and you will wish you had never started removing it. About 1/4 of the living room was patched in some way. The roof apparently was leaking and repaired for years. The 30 sheets of plywood used during the new roof installation were a pretty good indicator of how long this roof had been neglected. If I had not salvaged this house, it would have likely melted and caved in during the next summers rains.

Goodbye moldy kitchen
I took a huge leap of faith (in my own skill level) and decided to remove the soffits above the upper cabinets in the kitchen so that I could put in taller ones. They were built to last and connected to a lot of structural lumber that needed to remain undisturbed. A delicate balance between swinging an eight pound sledge and gingerly using the pry bar to not bring down the roof or split the ceiling. Came out perfect.

So am I on schedule? Even with all the extra work I am exactly where I wanted to be. This is literally a top down renovation. The roof is done. The fallen ceiling in the master bedroom is hung. The popcorn ceiling in the entire house are scraped, sanded, primed, and painted. The walls patched, and painted. The trim sanded and partially painted. The master bedroom still needs a final sanding and painting. If this was an HGTV episode I would be on day two of a five day build. I suspect they have more of a crew than the one I have.

Dad supervising
Drywall jack - Best tool ever

How are things on the expense account front. I expect to drop about $50K on this renovation. So far I've spent $15,000.00 on the roof. I got a quote to do the bedroom ceiling of $1,500.00 so I did it myself for $100.00 in drywall an $170.00 for a drywall jack. Another $500.00 or so in paint, patch, and parts at Home Depot. The new AC goes in next week. Another $3000.00. There will be a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches between now and the end of this project.

Ceiling and walls painted. Just the trim left to do
Coming up next - Tile floors, a new kitchen, and all the appliances.