DIY: Pallet Bench

Regular readers know that Em and I enjoy our projects. Last year about this time, I left for work in the morning and came home to a nearly completed pallet table thanks to my wife’s creativity and love of projects.  When we moved to our new house almost exactly a year later, we came across another pallet just begging to be repurposed and turned into something useful.

Em was inspired by something she found online – a pallet bench. With just that bit of inspiration, we were off to build a bench. Actually, I was off…the pallet coffee table was mostly Em’s project, but this bench project ended up mostly mine. It was really a fairly simple project; here’s what we did:

We started off by cutting the middle out of the pallet. If you look below, the piece to the left is the piece we cut out. We were pretty fortunate we found a pallet that had four length-wise planks across the width; some pallets are only three length-wise planks wide. This nice stroke of luck basically gave us the top of the bench nearly completed.

pallet bench

We did add in some extra slats to fill in the gaps on the top of our bench. We used extra pieces of slats from the edges that we were not using. If you wanted the bench to have some gaps in it, then you could get away with not doing this step; however, we wanted the top of our bench to be filled in. Then we started sanding. And sanding. And sanding some more. The pallet was old and pretty rough – and pallets aren’t well sanded or meant to be pretty in the first place. For this project, I don’t think you can sand too much.

pallet bench

Next we added on the legs. We attached them to the inside of the table base using screws. We did not harvest the legs from the actual pallet. We happened to have some 2 x 1 inch pieces of wood that we decided were a great size for the legs. We decided on a height of about 18 inches which we thought was in good proportion to the width of the top which was about 11 inches. To be honest, we had a little trouble getting the screws to go into the sides of the bench, probably because the pallet wood was old and knotted. When we finally did get them in, we were not totally satisfied with the stability of the bench. That was when we decided to put a 4 x 1 plank (also not from the pallet) along the length of the bench just a few inches up from the ground. We then put a small plank on the inside of the legs along the width. We hadn’t originally planned on adding either of these, but they really improved the overall look of the bench and added a lot of stability, which was necessary.

pallet bench

pallet bench

Once again, we did a lot of sanding. A lot of sanding. We also did a bit of testing and wiggling around to see if we were happy with the extra support that we were able to add on. In the end, we were. Then it was time to stain and finish the entire bench. We originally used a stain called “golden oak” but that was really yellow-ish and not very attractive, so we decided to go over that stain with a darker stain, “special walnut” which really turned out much better. We then used two generous coats of a spray on polycrylic to finish off the bench.

IMG_20150319_203503221 (1)

Throughout the entire project, the puppy kept an eye on me through the cat door that looks into the garage.

Here is the finished product. We decided to put it right by the front entry underneath our coat-hook mirror. It goes pretty well and also ties in with some of the other wood furniture we have, as well as the overall beachy feel that we like throughout our house. In this location we probably won’t actually sit on it too much, but it a nice looking piece (if I do say so myself!) that we also use for some functional storage space and a place to set things. It’s also there if we ever do need to pull it out to accommodate extra guests.

Overall we are very happy with the way the bench turned out. It looks like a nice bench and does add some function. The project really wasn’t too difficult or expensive, although, truth and transparency, it was a project that stretched over several weekends. This was largely due to us taking on other projects in the same time frame that we gave priority over the bench. But we did get it done, and we do like it. Another successful pallet project!


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lyrically challenged

My wife, intelligent and beautiful though she may be, is not always the best when it comes to knowing her song lyrics. Just the other day, she let me in on one that I thought was kind of funny because it potentially changes the meaning of the entire song. The song “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran is pretty popular right now, and the song in question for this lyrical mix-up.

The correct lyric:

 “And darling I will be loving you, ’til we’re seventy”

The mix-up:

“And darling I will be loving you, ’til we’re seventeen.”



In my honey’s version, it’s a song sung by a 16 year old boy who knows that it’s not going to last… Or maybe, much creepier, it’s a song sung by someone who is only into younger girls and once the girls, hit seventeen the singer is moving on. “That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.” (Matthew Mcconaughey from Dazed and Confused)  Either way, I thought the change in the meaning was kind of funny.


SevenTY, not sevenTEEN…who would’ve thought it would have made such a difference. Maybe if Ed Sheeran would have enunciated more like in the nine nineTY nine commercial below, we wouldn’t have had this mix-up!

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Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Media/Movies/TV, Uncategorized


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location location location

One of the more interesting things about my job is that I get to look at appraisals of homes from all over the country. For those who do not know, an appraisal is an official report giving a valuation of a home. Appraisers usually go to home in question and take measurements and pictures, sketch out the layout of the house, look for any updates or deficiencies, and look at the overall condition. [Note: They are NOT inspectors, and are not looking at things like electric work or structural issues unless clearly visible.] They then do some research on the home and the local housing market.  They look for comparables, or “comps,” of other homes that have sold in the same area in the recent past (they usually try to find homes that have sold within a mile of the property within the past 6 months).

Comps will be similar in size and features – number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, lot size, porches, garages, etc.  Of course, comps will not always be perfect, but it is the appraiser’s job to use his/her best judgment to make slight adjustments for differences in size and features, and then use the sale price of those comps to triangulate a value for the home in question.

The old adage in real estate is that it’s all about “location, location, location!” This is certainly true, as the comps being used to triangulate a value are indeed located in the same local market. And local markets can vary vastly; some homes that may have similar features, square footage, and bed/bath counts could have vastly different values based on which area of the country you are located in.  Below are a few homes homes illustrating this; these homes are based on true appraisals. [Note: I have changed cities and excluded anything identifying, but I tried to substitute similar cities/areas. The point stands, showing the difference between some West Coast homes and Midwest homes, and a bonus South Florida home thrown in there for me!]

Screenshot 2015-05-17 at 11.18.44 PM


The differences are stark. Go out to California, and in many cities, you may not get much bang for your buck in terms of home value. Stay around the Midwest or rural areas, and you will probably get a lot more house for your money. Go to Texas and you can get a very nice home for a very reasonable price. And I will add that you don’t have to go across the country to see differences either. My parents’ home in small town east central Indiana would be worth substantially more money if it were moved 30 miles to a suburb of Indianapolis. Sometimes even a few blocks can be a difference in thousands of dollars for home values. For example, if we moved a couple of blocks east, our same house would be worth much more (potentially 50-100 thousand dollars more!). Certain markets and cities have always been – and will continue to be – more expensive than others in terms of home values and overall cost of living. That’s not new and it won’t change. However, every now and then it kind of hits me how vast some of these differences are…whether it’s because we ourselves are new homeowners, or I get to check out appraisals from all over the country…it’s interesting to see!

Screenshot 2015-05-17 at 11.14.08 PM




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garden project, and mangoes

I mentioned just a couple weeks ago that we were beginning a garden project.  Em loves the idea of growing some of our own delicious veggies, and I can’t say that I disagree with that!  When it comes to food, we are both enthusiasts…so why not try growing some of our own!?!  Our little garden project was really not too difficult…it probably only took about 2-3 days worth of work, though we did it over the course of two different weekends. And it also wasn’t too expensive! Here’s what we did….

First, we had to clear out the weed patch that at some point may have been a garden of some type.  This was the work that we – basically Em while I mowed – achieved on day one. It only took a few hours of work to get done…just enough time to work up a good sweat!

garden before pic

our garden: “before”

our garden: 2-3 hours after

our garden: 2-3 hours after

The following weekend, we got back down to business and finished up in just an afternoon of work.  We took a trip to our local Home Depot to get some wood, soil, and a couple of tomato plants to make the raised garden bed.  It really wasn’t too bad…we decided to make a 5 x 4 foot garden, and we used 2 x 8 inch boards for the perimeter. In opposite corners we put a 4 x 4 inch post about 6-8 inches deep to act as an anchor. Then we put in a weed netting along the bottom of the bed and stapled it into the sides of the boards to hold it in place.

home depot - plants and lumber

home depot – plants and lumber



Next, we filled it with dirt. We used a combination of Miracle Gro soil and also a manure compost/fertilizer. To fill the bed with what seemed to be about the right amount of dirt, we used 5 bags of .75 cubic foot Miracle Gro, and about 6 bags of 1 cubic foot compost/fertilizer.

stapling in the weed netting

stapling in the weed netting

dirt dumpin'

dirt dumpin’

We also bought 4 tomato plants at Home Depot. These are allegedly “heat tolerant” tomato plants…so the goal is that they will do well in the Florida sun. In addition, Em had some seeds for zucchini, cucumber, and bean pods. We are both pretty darn impressed that the seeds have already sprouted quite a bit!  It seems that it’s only a matter of time before we will be feasting on some of these delicious veggies.

plenty of watering...

plenty of watering…


and poof – some healthy looking sprouts!

Our trip to Home Depot, which included the wood, the soil, and 4 tomato plants only set us back about $50 bucks!  Not too shabby for a nice little garden that is off to a promising start!

In addition to the garden that we built, we were lucky enough to inherit a very fruitful mango tree. It’s quite large, and has produced quite a bit of fruit. One thing that we noticed is that when we waited for the fruit to fall on its own, it was often half-eaten by squirrels and whatever else can get to them. We were probably missing out on about two-thirds of the fruit that we could have had. Thankfully, Em’s manager recently told us that she had a picker that she did not need, so we were able to harvest quite a bit of fruit this weekend…before the critters got to them!

picking mangoes

mango pickin’

mango picking

so many mangoes!

so many mangoes!

Between our veggies and our mangoes, we may just be able to live off the land – right in our very own backyard!

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Posted by on May 17, 2015 in Budget/$$, Food, Projects/Activities


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mango salsa and a crafty wife

Cheers to another delicious meal that we recently made: tilapia with mango salsa and a potato – zucchini – tomato hash on the side. We have a mango tree in the backyard, and will probably be looking for many different mango recipes to test out.

tilapia with mango salsa

trying to step up my picture game by using VSCO app that em introduced me to recently (she’s always on top of neat stuff like that) see below


The salsa was really the key to this dish, as it added a great pop of flavor, that was just the perfect combination of sweet and spicy.   The salsa consisted of diced mango, diced cucumber, diced red onion, a bit of diced jalapeno, cilantro, and lime juice. [Truth and transparency, I’ve always said that I don’t particularly care for mango salsas, but this was was truly delicious! Kudos to Em for making it on her own, regardless of what I thought I liked!] It was really delightfully fresh and light to go along with the potato hash, which is a little bit more substantial.


mango salsa


Now I’m going to go on a brief tangent about my wife. My wife is pretty awesome (one of the reasons that I am lucky to be married to her!), and she does lots of awesome things. One instance is the above-mentioned mango salsa, where she knew that I wouldn’t be the one to try making it, so she forged ahead on her own and made a great little salsa that I really ended up enjoying.  Of course that’s a very small example, but it’s indicative of the broader picture.

I often tell my wife that she is an idealist, and she is sometimes not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. [I always try to assure her it’s the former.] One of the things that I mean by idealist is that she is always thinking up new projects and ideas that we can do, regardless of the scope of the project. Occasionally, I am the “pragmatic one” and have to talk her out of some projects or at least scale them back. But so many of the projects that we have done and enjoyed have turned out really well, and have really been the result of my lovely wife’s gung-ho “we got this” (idealistic) attitude.

Things like making mango salsa (above), and making mango jam (coming soon) from scratch are just two small examples. Like when I went away to work one day and came home to a practically finished DIY pallet table, or she convinced us to make a dining room table (an example where I helped scale back ever so slightly and it ended up really well), to refinishing the cushions to our couch (Trokspot’s biggest viewership draw), to turning the library into a larger-than-life garden for the kids, her baking projects, to our current backyard garden project. I love all of our projects, but it’s often her big ideas that get the ball rolling.

And it’s not just big projects that make her crafty. She’s usually on top of things with technology, and helps keep me updated as well. We have made a couple of fun videos that she has edited and put together, she designed our wedding invitations, she knows about and uses resources like, neat websites for easy art projects, and even a new photo editor app VSCO she introduced me to that really enhances pictures (I’d highly recommend it). She’s always on the lookout for neat crafts, projects, and technology (perfect fit as a children’s librarian!), and that’s just one of the reasons I love her.


she even drew this pretty neat cartoonized version of our little fam

she even drew this pretty neat cartoonized version of our little fam






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Sports talk is abuzz, as #deflategate has resurfaced in the media. In fact, the media buzz has not been limited to sports talk, as the mainstream media outlets have also covered the story extensively. The controversy has resurfaced because the “Wells Report” (named for lead investigator, Ted Wells) was recently completed and released. This is the official investigative report as commissioned by the NFL.  All of this renewed coverage – and many of the opinions expressed – have been disappointing to hear, and are largely the inspiration for this post.

Deflategate, for those who don’t remember, is the New England Patriots’ involvement in deflating their footballs to below the league allowable PSI during this past season’s NFL playoffs, and possibly even longer. There were a lot of questions surrounding deflategate when it first happened, and even now the answers provided in the official report are not absolute. Was the deflation of the footballs accidental? Who was involved? How high up the chain of command was in the know? Is there a competitive advantage to having under-inflated footballs?

The report itself equivocates a bit, using phrases like “more probable than not” and “likely.” There are no absolutes, and there is no “smoking gun” or irrefutable evidence. That said, it does seem to be fairly damning to the Patriots, in particular Tom Brady. The report concludes that the balls almost certainly had to have been tampered with (deflated), that this deflation was likely an attempt to consciously break the rules, and that Tom Brady likely knew about this. But more so than the details within the report, I have been interested to hear much of the debate going on. There are so many facets to this story that it’s hard to focus on only one.

Screenshot 2015-05-08 at 12.05.38 AM

You cannot retro-actively justify cheating or bending the rules because, “Oh, well they probably would have won anyway.”

This one is probably the most nauseating and disturbing excuse that I continue to hear.  You cannot say that because the Patriots beat the Colts so convincingly that the we can ignore any cheating that likely occurred. The cheating occurred before the Patriots knew that they were going to beat the Colts. The intent was to gain an advantage; knowing after the fact that they may not have needed the advantage doesn’t make it okay. It’s like giving yourself a head start in a race and then winning the race by much more than the head start and looking back and saying that it was a fair race because you won by more than the head start. Or like taking a test and cheating on several of the answers only to find out later on that you would have passed the test regardless of the several questions you cheated on. Does this mean that it’s okay to cheat as long as we can somehow justify the final result as, “Ehhh, they probably would have won the race / passed the test anyway…”  And let’s not forget that the week before the Pats versus Colts, was a much closer game against the Ravens – a game in which the Ravens felt there might have been something wrong with the Patriots balls then as well. Regardless of how close the game is, is this the way that we want to try to govern sport, and is this the example that we are wanting sport to teach kids and people in general??


“It’s just a deflated football.  We’re talking about footballs months after the fact!”

Of course we’re talking about footballs!  The football is the most essential piece of equipment on the field; to tamper with the ball itself seems to be one of the most egregious ways to tamper with the game. And just because a few months have passed does not mean that we should just ignore that some form of cheating or rule bending very likely occurred. So just exactly how much of a competitive advantage would it be to have footballs under-inflated? Well it’s hard to say exactly, but many seem to agree that it would certainly help with grip on the ball. And some reports have shown what a low fumble rate the Patriots have had over the past several years – perhaps not a direct benefit to Brady, but an overall benefit nonetheless. And for those saying that you wouldn’t notice a difference in 1 or 2 PSI in a ball, you’re right – I wouldn’t. But Tom Brady, Manning, any of those individuals who are at such a level of expertise would very likely be able to notice even the slightest difference. It might also be worth considering this situation like a slugger corking his bat. It doesn’t turn a bad hitter into a home run hitter, but it can turn a great hitter into an elite hitter. Deflating footballs did not make Brady a great quarterback, but it may have given him just the slightest edge here or there.

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” There’s no smoking gun; it’s all circumstantial evidence.”

This is interesting to me in that we now live in an age where we expect to have indisputable evidence of any and everything. We need/want to see video of Ray Rice actually hitting his girlfriend before we get outraged. We want to hear Donald Sterling say racist remarks on a recorded device before condemning him (despite decades of documented racist discriminatory practices). We let Johnny Football off the hook because there were some cell phone pictures as evidence, but not quite enough and no video evidence.  In the case of deflategate, we have text messages specifically referencing Brady, and a preponderance of evidence putting him in the know and actively wanting the balls a specific way – a way that is outside the legal limitations. But no actual texts from him, no video, no pictures – no “smoking gun.” I find it very interesting that we have come to expect that kind of hard evidence all the time.


“All athletes and organizations try to push the envelope.”

I don’t disagree that athletes are always trying to push the envelope, so to speak.  I don’t have a huge problem with the idea of “pushing the envelope,” but if you enter into rule-breaking territory then it’s no longer simply pushing the envelope. At that point it’s going outside of the allowed parameters. It’s cheating. And if you get caught, then you should have to suffer the consequences. Because other athletes or organizations are doing it (or other questionable practices) does not mean it’s okay.  I’m no moral absolutist by any stretch, but I also don’t think you can allow rule-breaking behavior to continue without any sort of consequences. See corked bat example above – those who get caught get punished harshly.


People are just mad because it’s the Patriots and Tom Brady.

People are upset because it’s Tom Brady and the Patriots, yes. And that is because Tom Brady and the Patriots have enjoyed immense success, and now we have found strong evidence showing that they did so outside of the stated rules. Sure, there’s a lot of resentment, but I have also seen a lot of people standing up and defending the Patriots and Tom Brady. I’d like to think that I would be upset at any team who appears to be cheating and ends up having success either as a direct or indirect result of that unfair play.


You cannot hold #spygate against them.

Related to above. It’s the Patriots. We have not only the current controversy involving rule breaking activity, but also a history of the same organization with the same cast of characters partaking in rule breaking activity. Depending on how you count, a minimum of 2 and possibly all 4 of the Patriots Super Bowl victories now have documented cases of rule breaking. Yet somehow, they have managed to be viewed as a “class act” and as a well-run, successful organization. Many analysts and others even talk about “the Patriot Way” as a way to describe the way an organization should be run. Yet, I repeat at least 2 and possibly all 4 of their Super Bowl victories have documented incidents of rule-breaking. So in order to properly situate the current deflategate controversy, I would argue that you have to take this patterned history of behavior into account.


Am I a bitter Colts fan made at the Patriots for years of them owning us in the playoffs and regular season? Truth and transparency, there might be a little of that in me, but I have tried to approach this particular story with as little bias as possible. I’d like to think that the above points hold true regardless of any fanhood or hatred of a particular franchise. It seems nearly indisputable that the Patriots intentionally deflated footballs. And I don’t like to be so dismissive as “they won by so much it didn’t matter” or “everyone’s looking for an edge” or “you’re just jealous of Brady and the Patriots.” When you alter the most essential piece of equipment in the game beyond what the rules allow for, it deserves a punishment and it deserves to stick to Brady and the Patriots. Four Super Bowl wins, two-four documented instances of rule-breaking.

For a few good pieces, check here here and here.


Posted by on May 8, 2015 in Media/Movies/TV, Sports, Uncategorized


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backyard breakfasts

When summer arrives In South Florida, there is no escaping the heat and humidity. By the time the sun comes up in the morning it’s already hot and steamy, and it remains hot and steamy long after the sun sets in the evening. A couple of weeks ago, I thought that we had possibly arrived at this point already (so soon!?) as the temps soared into the mid-90s and beyond, and we felt the ever-oppressive steaminess.

However, this past week it has cooled back down into the mid-80s during the day time, and we’ve had some sweet relief – dare I say chilly – temps in the morning and evening.  We are more than happy to have a few extra weeks (or longer!) where it’s still lovely to sit outside in the mornings and evenings and enjoy the South Florida weather. This past weekend, we were happy to be able to sit comfortably outside for breakfasts and enjoy the morning sun…  It is, after all, one of the reasons why we really liked the house to begin with – such a great back patio sitting area.


outdoor breakfast area

great back patio breakfast spot. and, of course, the puppy loves to wander about


So this was our Saturday morning breakfast fun.  Coffee and a tasty breakfast.  We like to do a little potato hash with cubed potatoes, onions, garlic, and tomato on the stove top. Then we put an over-easy egg on top and let the yolk help act as a sauce when it breaks over the potatoes beneath. I also like to add a dollop of salsa, while Em prefers a couple shakes of hot sauce.


potato hash with fried egg and salsa on top



On Sunday morning we were happy to enjoy another of our breakfast favorites – avocado, tomato, and fried egg, and also another lovely morning.  Sunny and warm, without all of the SoFlo summer steaminess.


outdoor breakfast


em enjoying the patio in the evening while i grilled some chicken

em enjoying the patio in the evening while i grilled some chicken


We are going to continue enjoying our outdoor patio as much as possible before the permanent summer stickiness arrives!  We’re also trying to take advantage and get some yard stuff done as well….Em has been wanting to start a little garden area as well. She went to town on the garden weed patch that was here when we bought the place while I did some mowing and tree trimming. It’s looking pretty good at this point.  Almost ready for us to plant some veggies and see if they grow…

The Before:

Processed with VSCOcam

The After:

Processed with VSCOcam


Pretty impressive work!  Gotta love a wife who is not afraid to get sweaty and get a little lot dirty working out in the yard!




Posted by on May 3, 2015 in Food, Projects/Activities


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