Finally mounted

For two and a half years, we’ve been using our “it’s only temporary” setup with a TV sitting on a piece of plywood which in turn sits atop two big Yamaha speakers. It works, but it looks ghetto and the TV is way off-center for everyone on the couch except the one Sweet Spot. I finally decided to do something about it.

First, I imagined what it might look like if the TV was mounted on the wall with in-wall speakers for left, right, and center channels.

It’s tricky with the fireplace, of course, because you shouldn’t mount a TV– or any nice, expensive, meltable thing– right above a fireplace. After some discussion, though, we agreed we never really use the fireplace anyway, so it’ll be fine. I called a drywall guy to see if he could patch up the holes I’ll inevitably make, and then re-texture the wall to match the rest of it. To my astonishment, he said he could do the work three days later. I’m used to having contractors tell me their schedule is booked months in advance. This meant I had to really get cracking.

After a deep breath, I took a drill and a compass saw and went to work dissecting the drywall. I had no idea what to expect back there; with the fireplace and some closets on the back side of the wall, it was anyone’s guess. Sure enough, the studs were kind of a hodgepodge.

I minimized the drywall I removed, because this was mainly a voyage of exploration. As it turned out, the placement of the studs dictated where the speakers could go. On the left, there’s only one space wide enough. On the right, there’s a big horizontal support just above my cut, pushing both speakers down a bit. And sadly there’s not a space for a center channel, because there are three studs alongside the fireplace and they shouldn’t be cut.

My favorite part was removing the three-way switches that control our ceiling fan, and being reminded of the Switch That Does Nothing. Thom and I discovered it a few years ago when meddling with the electrical stuff. You can see how it has a single line wire coming in, but nothing coming out. (The brass is the ground, of course.) I have no idea why you’d wire something like this. It does, however, explain the roughly half-dozen other switches scattered through the house that I can’t figure out… they probably also go nowhere.

With the switches rewired and my rough speaker holes cut out, it was time for the drywall guy to get to work. He did a great job patching the hole and re-texturing everything to match.

This morning I added a coat of paint, cut the final speaker holes, and installed them. Oh, and I found a cool little tube that can route cables through a wall between rooms. That’s important because the stereo equipment actually sits in the closet on the other side of the wall.

After some shenanigans with the TV mounting hardware, we had it securely attached to the wall and it was time to give it a whirl.

Mission accomplished! Another house project checked off my list, only two and a half years after I conceived of it…

Return of the Yellow Menace

Apparently today is the day the dandelions bloom. Yesterday I didn’t see any of them in our yard, and today as we were driving past the orchard for lunch, I saw this horror:

They seemed to come from nowhere! Pepper thinks the flowers spread out in the sunlight, and then when the sun fades, they sort of quiet down and hide. It’s probably true, because the courtyard looked like it had two dozen dandies but when I went out to pick them a few hours later, there were only four or five. And once the flowers have closed, it’s hard to spot them.

So, I guess I have some work ahead of me. Ugh.

Pan pizzas

For the past year, Pepper and I have continued our decades-long tradition of making homemade pizza weekly, but with a twist: we’ve been making a half-dozen mini pizzas at a time, baking two for ourselves that night, and freezing the rest. Then, when a hankering for pizza strikes us, we pull these uncooked masterpieces out of the freezer, pop them into the oven, and in 15 minutes we have a delicious fresh hot pizza. Nice!

The other night we somehow got on the topic of our pizza tradition, and I mused about making pan-style pizzas. Since we turn a batch of dough into crusts for six pizzas, they’re each pretty thin and end up basically being baked tortillas when they’re done. Why not use a little more dough per pizza, and have a more substantial crust? I found some seven-inch pizza pans online, ordered them, and today I went to work.

I made the dough, prepared the toppings, and jammed everything into these four little pans. Bonus: double layers of toppings on all of them!

Now they’re sitting in the freezer, awaiting the real test. When I next have a hankering, I’ll put one of these puppies in the oven and see if this new style works out. And if not, it’s back to tortillas, which are still awesome.

Graven images

This week in seminary we’ve been discussing the Ten Commandments. That includes the story of Moses coming down off the mountain with the stone tablets, only to find the Israelites partying and worshipping a golden calf. As a class, we talked about what our “golden calves” are today: what gods do we make for ourselves and then worship? Celebrities? Money? Our smartphones?

The Israelites had recently left Egypt, where their taskmasters worshipped a vast pantheon of gods. Like many ancient religions, the Egyptians had a multitude of gods who were each responsible for certain things: the sun, moon, river, harvest, good fortune, and so on. We thought it would be fun to have the kids sculpt their own gods and tell us the “power” their god had.

So, before class we went to work making some dough. It’s pretty simple: flour, salt, water, and a bit of tartar sauce.

I don’t know why we need tartar sauce, but whatever. Then we added some color by kneading food coloring into the blobs of dough. We made enough for everyone in class to get a blob, and bagged them.

The kids had a blast sculpting gods for a while during class. Their creations ranged from Worm (pronounced “wuhm”, Lexi told us) who was– shockingly– the god of worms, to Gerald, the god of naps and laziness. There was an elephant god, a strong man (the god of workouts), and a rather intricate creation which turned out to be the god of dreadlocks. My creation was Nasob, the god of unhealthy foods:

In case it’s not obvious, his staff is a gigantic Cheeto.

Honestly I’m pretty sure the kids enjoyed the activity mostly because it meant they weren’t sitting at tables talking about the Bible, which can be tough at 6:30 in the morning. But regardless of their reasons, they had a good time and we were able to chat about the “graven images” in today’s world. I’ve always thought if I can get just a single high schooler to really think about the stuff we’re discussing each morning, it’s a win. Maybe in a small way, we’re helping these good youth become just a little bit better.

Clouds upon clouds

This morning it’s been pretty foggy as we continue a week of rain, snow, and general moisture. As the fog clouds retreated, it was cool to watch them descend the valley. Our house is a little more than 500 feet above the level of Flathead Lake, so we often get slightly different weather up on the mountainside compared with what’s down on the water. I snapped a shot from our front porch, showing the cloud sitting on the lake.

All of Flathead Lake is sitting beneath this huge plain of what looks like white cotton candy…

Antlers

The other day, we were hiking down to the lake and found a set of antlers that a deer had shed. Pretty cool! I picked them up and we took them back to the house, where we promptly realized we didn’t really have a place to put them. On a whim, I set them on the headboard of our bed.

Side note: we have a little sailboat there because a couple years ago, we decided to decorate the party house suite with some “lake” themed items. I saw this cool sailboat at Hobby Lobby and bought it. Unbeknownst to me, Pepper had also seen a cool sailboat at Hobby Lobby (on a different day) and bought it. When I went to put my sailboat in the suite, I found its twin already there. Oh well, it’s still cool, and we just plopped it on our headboard. This is pretty much how we approach interior decorating.

Anyway, back to the antlers: we have these cool antlers sitting on our headboard, for lack of a better place. The other day a contractor was going through the house and commented on how he liked them. “They’re quite impressive,” he said, and then launched into a story about how he’s a hunter and literally has a storage unit full of antlers. I guess it’s kind of rare to find a pair a nice as ours just laying on the ground. Yay for us.

And as I thought about it, I wondered if we’re slowly turning more “Montanan”. You know, where our house will eventually look like this:

Everything is done in shades of brown: wood everywhere, antlers and stuffed animal heads, stonework, and a lot of “rustic” furnishings. It feels like many of the homes we’ve visited here– as well as many of the real-estate listings– look like this. With two antlers on our headboard, we’ve stepped a little closer to that. Hmm.

Too soon

Yesterday I was doing some cleanup in the yard, and noticed our first flowers of the season!

Unfortunately these little pretties are a bit too soon. It snowed later in the day. Then today it snowed again. And tomorrow the forecast calls for snow. And actually throughout the week, we’re expecting snow every day. I’m not sure if they’ll make it through a week-long snap of cold and snow. It sure would be nice if spring came and stuck, though…

Beat Saber

A few weeks ago, some friends came over for dinner. Their son had an Oculus Quest VR headset, and I asked if I could give it a whirl. He showed me a few demos and games, and I tried my hand (well, hands) at Beat Saber. It’s akin to the old-school Dance Dance Revolution music game, but instead of moving your feet on a pad you’re slashing flying cubes with lightsabers.

After two minutes of that, I was hooked. I ordered a Quest that very night, and a few days later I was in my little VR world, flailing my arms as I sabered with the beat.

I brought the Quest to the Villa for our family get-together, and we all had a good time… everyone gave it a go, even Mom and Dad!

Zack used a technique where he mostly just flexed his wrists, making him look a lot like a symphony conductor.

I’ve figured out how to hack the Quest and install custom songs (if you ask me, that should be a built-in feature of the software), and even make my own songs to play. It’s a blast, and one of these days I should probably see what else virtual reality has to offer. But for now, it’s all Beat Saber.