Oct 31, 2011

Planning Quasi-Giving

Robyn and I are planning a feast for us and a few friends.  We're calling it Peterson Thanksgiving, and there will be lots of food.

Mostly because three of the attendees are pregnant and should be feeling fine...and hungry :)


I'm going to use this entry to begin the planning stages of what we will have to eat at this Party.

Total number of Guests: Currently 8 confirmed (6 adults, 2 kids).



  • Soup - Minestrone?

  • Fresh Rolls

  • Salad?

  • Corn-Kale Fritters!

Main Course

  • Turkey(s?)

  • Homemade Cranberry Sauce

  • Homemade Mashed potatoes

  • Cauliflower dish (Robyn's Oma's Recipe)


  • Fresh homemade bread

  • Stuffing

  • Stuffed Acorn Squash?


  • Pumpkin Pie

  • Apple Pie?


  • Mulled Cider

  • Milk

  • Soda

  • Wine?

  • Sparkling Grape juice?

There's a lot of prep that will be involved.  I"m also missing a few things, like Green leafy things.  I added Salad, but not completely set on it.

Well, this will evolve with time...but I have a little over a week to prepare..Yikes!

Oct 29, 2011

Tiring, but fantastic Day!

Today, really tired me out.

Robyn and I threw a pumpkin carving party at our house.  To prepare for the event, we prepared a mighty feast: Apple cake, Banana Bread, Garlic Toast, and Homemade Meatball Sauce. Robyn and I took turns prepping and watching Anya.  I was going to bake a traditional loaf for the garlic, but Robyn knew there wouldn't be time, so she picked up a couple of crusty loaves at Wegmans yesterday.


We had 5 people (Brendan, Jack, Stacey, Brett, and Andy)show up, which was great and helped make our house feel small :)  Brendan brought two delicous pies; Sweet potato Pecan, and Traditional pumpkin to add to our feast.  There was so much good food!  I tried to convince Andy he needed to eat more than one slice of pie, but it didn't work...plus, combined with the 78 degree house (thank you stove for working!) I'm pretty sure it would have put him in a coma, or at least a really nice nap. :)

It was an amazing time, just sitting, talking, eating, and enjoying time with friends.  The kids were quite entertaining.  At one point, all the adults were in the computer room carving, and the two little ones took off for the kitchen.  I went in to see what mischief they were getting into.  I walk in, and Jack was on the table, with half a loaf of banana bread in his hand, while Anya, more than likely, was directing him where to go.  I simply said "HELLO!  I see you would like some more bread."

Jack's face was priceless.  Just a quick glance around, as if he was saying "what?  me?  Oh sure."  Anya looked concerned like she was about to get scolded, but then realized that it was ok, and threw on her telltale grin.

Here are a few quick pictures from the carving:


From Oct 2011

Side note: both my Droid X and our Camera take HORRIBLE low light pictures.  I'm not sure if any Mobile phone camera can take a good low light photo, but I think might be time to retire the Konica Minolta DeImage A200.

After everyone left, Robyn made the point that if we do this again next year with just the same set of people, there will be three more kids.  I then realized that Robyn, Stacey, and Rabia are all due within a couple months of each other.


Oct 28, 2011

Why I write

I've started to write here more frequently.  I've also changed my approach and style a little bit which I think makes it easier to write.

When I first started blogging, I did it because I thought I needed to.  Being a technical guy, part of the allure was getting my site off the ground.  Could I take a domain name, MY name, and build a site that reflected who I am...virtually?

As with most of my ideas, the technical part was easy, it was the creative requirements that sunk me.

I started out with a simple plan of writing three entries a week.  I didn't want to lock myself in specific topics: I wanted it to reflect myself and the events of the day/week rather than beholden to a thematic overlord.  At first, it didn't seem to bad.  I'd write up a quick entry about the "going ons" in my personal life, and move on.


It didn't last more than about two entries before I began to succumb to one of my main character flaws: sensitive over thinking.  Let's take a peek inside my brain preparing for an entry about Work:
"OK.  Time to write up a quick post.  What should I write about?  Oh!  How about my rising frustration with my boss <insert topic here>?  Yeah, I could write to help collect my thoughts, and be better prepared to go back and go another round about this."

"Hmm...When I applied for my job, I used my domain email...so he must know I have a domain...what if he reads this?  He hasn't said anything about it before....maybe he's just silently checking up on it..."

"Gah, getting off topic...maybe I'll just write about it...but not make it specific enough so he would know it was me...Who would read that?  It wouldn't have any substance!"

"F*$% this...Maybe I'll write about <insert Personal Topic here>.  I've been meaning to try to parse out my thoughts on it anyway.."

"What if My Mom/Dad/Family member/close friend/acquaintance reads this?  Could this somehow negatively impact my relationship with them?"

"No, not going to write about that either...Maybe I'll write a fiction piece..."


"...I don't have any ideas...Screw this, I'll just browse around MySpace/Facebook/G+/Social network of the day."

As you can see, I think A LOT about what others may think of my entries.  I definitely don't want to jeopardize my career over a quick, terse entry about something that I usually get over within a matter of hours, but if I don't write/talk about it, the post has a tendency to simmer and stew, and start to boil over into other thoughts and eventually could become all consuming until I finally talk it out or just go to sleep.

With respect to Friends and family, I am in a similar boat.  If there's a situation that arises that stirs up strong emotions, I need to talk/write to collate my emotions, to better understand where they are coming from.  Am I upset/worried because deep down I don't agree with their  choice/thoughts relating to the emotional situation?  Am I jealous/envious of them about something else that is tainting my perception of the situation that could lead me down a path of unpleasantness?

In the past few years of running my own site (and a blogger site before that) I have spent more time trying to predict reactions about a still-to-be-written post, than actually writing.

The times when I do write, I try to edit on the fly.  I don't ever get the thought all the way down before I try to shape it into a flowing narrative.  I tried to do stream of consciousness, but it didn't work out for me.  In my own critical eye, it sounded less than brillant.

I get so caught up in other people's perceptions, that I cut off an avenue to express myself and to help me learn to articulate my thoughts and feelings in a more concise matter.

Instead, I let it build up, and try to talk with Robyn about it.  Don't get me wrong, I love talking to my wife and getting her insight/opinion, but She can't be the only one.  I can't expect her to have all the answer: I need to reach out to more people.

I've got a few co-workers now that I feel comfortable enough to talk about work related issues, and a few personal things, but I still have a bit of a reserved attitude.  I could understand if I had been burned by a peer in the past, but I can't think of an instance of that happening.  I have no good reason hold back (at least professionally) with the people at work I feel I can talk with, but yet I do.  I think that my over thinking sensitiveness is showing through still.

So, what does this all have to do with my resurgence of writing?  Not much, at least directly.

I've decided to write more, mostly because I've decided it's time.  I've reach a point in my life that I'm comfortable enough to use my blog for its intended purpose: reflect who I am online, and give me an outlet to hone my thoughts.  Does this mean I'm going to start writing about every little thing that happens in my life?  Probably not.  I'll more than likely not bring work into the mix...this is MY blog about MY life.  I have enough to parse through outside of work, I'll leave my work concerns there.

What you can expect to see, is more posts like the ones about the stove.  Posts that I use to discuss my feelings of inexperience, inadequacies, frustration, excitement, and satisfaction.  I need to work on identifying my feelings and their origins, and if they are less than helpful emotions, figure out how to work through them to be able to move on without always having a tiny spot in the back of my mind that keeps making its way to the surface.

The stove entries were very cathartic for me, and afterwards, I slept much better...even if I was a bit chilly :)

So here's to a new blog, and a new me.  More of the old...but hopefully not as much as before.


Two Hours in...

And the stove is holding steady!

The new board (along with some more sealant around the draft pipe) and The stove is humming away.


We'll see how it goes this weekend, but I'm be cautiously optimistic :).

Oct 27, 2011

Stove Newb...

In our last adventure, we walked down memory lane on how I came to be the proud owner of a Pellet stove.

In this installment, we learn how said stove has put me outside my element and challenging me in ways I'm not used to, and don't particularly like.


I've been thinking about this stove non-stop when I'm at home..mostly because I have reminders all around me:  The stove sitting there unplugged, the shiny stove pipe on the side of my house, Bags of Pellets sitting in my basement, and the sound of the boiler running while the stove is out of commission.

The Stove is my first real big expensive purchase since the house.  IT is meant to help curb us of our Fuel Oil ways, and save us money.


It's sitting there...broken.

I'm currently waiting for a new Controller board to arrive to fix it, but my confidence with the stove is extremely low.  Before I could call Support ( they are only open 8-5 m-f) I tried to use my Troubleshooting skills to determine the root cause of the issue.  I ran the diagnostics of the stove, and it appears that air was leaking out of the stove.  I checked the gaskets, and quickly decided that the Door gasket needed to be replaced.  I bought a replacement 5/8" rope gasket and installed it.


I'm pretty sure that made it worse.  With my confidence shaken, I started down the path of trying to correct the newly installed gasket.  I got some hi-temp silicone sealant and used that to push the gasket out more to create an airtight door seal.  I couldn't help myself and kept trying to "fix" it even more.


What I'm left with now is a gasket that is probably complete and udder shit.  It is airtight, but that is not the intended use of the sealant. It may melt onto the stove.


I can admit that.


It is ok.  This is my first stove, and I'm learning.  I need to take my work ethos and step back when I'm getting stressed/overwhelmed and re-evaluate the situation.


Worst case:  I need a new $8 gasket and $7 of sealant.


Deep breaths, Deep breaths.

How I arrived at owning a Pellet Stove.

I'm beginning to realize that having a stove is more work than what I anticipated.  I'm writing this as retrospective as to how I got here...soon to be followed by where I am :)

When Robyn and I were thinking about alternative heat sources to replace our Fuel Oil supplied Base board heaters, we discussed several options.

We first discussed just replacing the fuel source: Put in a gas burning boiler and get rid of Fuel Oil entirely.

This would be the easiest from a "Living Room Modification" standpoint, as we could use the existing heat pipes, pumps and thermostats.  In the basement, we would have to remove the old boiler and the fuel oil tank...two daunting tasks.

Unfortunately, this task was outweighed by an even more dissuading one: The fact we have no natural gas lines into the house.  I spent a good deal of time during the summer researching what it would take to get Gas lines run to the house.  Our local provider, RG&E would run a line (100' max) to our house for free.  From there, we call in a contractor to then run the lines inside the house.  The only requirement They had is the Gas appliance has to be purchased prior to them running the line.  I get that, they don't want to run a line for a promise, but a guarantee.

Having Gas in the house would also be nice in case we wanted to ever switch our our Electric range or dryer for a gas equivalent.

We ultimately decided that we WILL run a gas line someday, but probably not for a year or two.

Next, we briefly talked about a furnace.  This talk broke down real quick as it would require extensive duct work, and something to heat the air.  They make Electric Furnaces, but they are expensive.

Wood burning stoves was the next avenue we went down.  Robyn's Parents have a wood stove in their house, and have for over 30 years.  The heat that the stove is capable of is great, and the range seems to be significant.  Starting the fire is simple, and if you get a big enough stove, it can be packed at night and last until the morning.

The thought of having to buy, and potentially split enough wood to heat our home started to give us reservations.  It isn't that we are unable to do it, it is more a question of do I want to do it.  I enjoy splitting wood on camping trips or during the occasional fire in our backyard.  Getting up and going out to the cold garage everyday to split?  Not the most exciting idea.  The other show stopper for the wood stove was the lack of a good chimney that could be utilized for the exhaust.

By the time we arrived at the Pellet Stove idea, it seemed like we reached the Zenith of our talks.  It provided us with the output similar to a wood stove, yet more convenient.  Loading bags of sawdust pellets every day is pretty simple, and if need be, Robyn could do it.  The Exhaust requirements are straight forward, and easy to do (as long as you have the correct tools, and Patient friends and family).

We committed   ourselves to the Pellet Stove idea, and began down that path.  Which leads us to....


Oct 26, 2011

Truck passed!

Well, I managed to get my truck into the mechanic today to:

  1. Get the stuff fixed to pass inspection ( two tires and a windshield wiper...didn't realize that was a inspection thing!)

  2. Take a look at the heat issue

  3. Take a look a the funny throttle yesterday (if I attempted to put more than a feather's weight of pressure, truck would pulse)

Under $500 later, I have a Truck that passed inspection, a SPARE TIRE, and an experience with a mechanic where I didn't feel like an a$$hole for asking them to fix something.

The Throttle was apparently a clog in the fuel line.  The heat is a slightly longer tale.

Apparently there are two tiny leaks in my truck: one in the radiator and one in the intake(I think?). These leaks are really tiny, and could not cause a significant loss in fluid for months, or years.  The Mechanic said if I planned on keeping the truck for "a long time" I should replace them...at ~$1000.00.

Considering my truck is 10 years old and has over 100,000 miles, I don't know how long term I'll still have the truck.

I mean, I love my truck, but with the impending arrival of kid #2, having a vehicle that can only seat 2 adults, or one adult and one car seat doesn't seem practical.  I'd like to keep it for another year, just to gain a little more ground before having to buy another car.

..or more likely the MINIVAN Robyn wants :)

Oct 25, 2011

Stove Part Delivery

Called the stove company to get an estimate of when the part would arrive, as it had not shown up today.


...Apparently it will be 5-7 Business days....




Oct 24, 2011

I must have pissed them off or something...

I took a sick day today to try to avoid getting massively sick.  I ended up taking a nap, and around 1:30 I felt pretty good.  I wanted to get out and accomplish something, and since my truck's inspection is due at the end of the month, I thought I would head to a local repair shop to do this.

I pulled in, briskly walk in to avoid the rain, and I'm greeted by three mechanics standing in the main office.  Right off the bat, I had a feeling like they were pissed at me.

Me: "Hey!  How's it going?"

Guy 1: "...good."

Me: "Cool.  Can I get my truck inspected?"

Guy 2 and three walk away, not really making eye contact.

Guy 1: "Well, I'll need your registration."

Me: "Sure. <Places Registration on the table>"

Guy 1 grabs a form and places it on the table.

Guy 1: "<circles the top CUSTOMER INFORMATION Area> Here.  Fill out the top ONLY."  <-- Not sure why he placed such emphasis.

Me: "Ok."

Guy 1: "Anything else?"

Me: "I don't think so.  I've got a little more time before I need to rotate my tires and change the oil."

I fill out the form, and the takes my keys.  A few seconds later, the truck is in and up on the lift.

20 minutes later, the truck is pulled up in front of the waiting area.  Guy 1 gets out, with the truck still running.  He walks into the garage, and comes back in about a minute later.

Guy 1: "All set.  That'll be $21"

Me: "Great!"

I take a look at the form, and it appears that there are notes on the form

Guy 1: "Sign here. <hands me the credit receipt, I sign it, and he takes it back>"

Me: "...So, anything I need to worry about?  Am I all set?"

Guy 1: "Nope.  It failed."

Me: "...um, ok.  What do I need to have done?"

Guy 1: "Driver's side rear tire, and a driver's side windshield wiper.  Here's your receipt, and the printout.  It will be $10 to re-test.  You'll need this when you come back....IF you come back.  Goodbye."

At this point, the guy just walks away.  Stunned, I walk out to my running truck.


As I get in the truck, I realize something is amiss....The window was down!  Now, the actual time the window was open, was about 2-3 minutes...


Why did you put the window down IN THE RAIN?


I left, and my patience was definitely thin at this point.


The thing that really got to me is they didn't even try to sell me tires, which they have in stock, or wipers, which are right next to the counter.


The entire experience just left a bitter taste in my mouth.  I honestly want to like them since they are not too far away from my house, but this is the second time in a row I felt like I did something that offended them...by showing up to give them money.


Maybe I'm overreacting, maybe I'm making it bigger than it needs to be, but it just felt odd.


Stove saga continues!



Looks like stove is still "a work in progress."

Spent the morning on the phone with Tech Support at US Stove.  After trying several different things, they believe the controller board may be faulty on my stove.  They are sending one (overnight I think) to swap ou the bad one.


Quick note:  If you want to adjust the threshold for the Draft Fan on a 5500M, just hold down the draft fan up and the aux up simultaneously..this will change the higher threshold.  Press on when you have it set to what you want. Repeat for the lower threshold by holding down Draft Fan down and Aux down.


We'll see!

Oct 22, 2011

First Early Morning fun with the stove!

Well, we had an exciting morning today!


Around 1:30, I woke up and smelled smoke in the house.  It took me about 30 seconds to realize this is "not a good thing" and got downstairs to take a look.  The Glass of the stove was covered on the inside with black soot.  The fire was still burning ok, but there was a haze in the house.  I shut down the stove, opened the windows and let the house air a bit.  Around 6:30, I cleaned out the stove and tried to piece together what happened.

Here's my current hypothesis:

  1. When I cleaned out the ash pot yesterday, I didn't push the latch all the way down, allowing the ash to flow into the burn chamber more than it should have

  2. There was quite a bit of wind last night.  This, combined with the excess ash, caused a backdraft scenario that allowed some smoke to come back into the house.

I checked the exhaust piping for any leaks taht might have caused the smoke, but could not find any.  There is a spot around the door gasket that looks a bit singed, but it is still an airtight seal.  The flame does not appear to be lazy, and three hours into today's burn, and the window is still almost as clear as the cleaning this morning.

I'm definitely going to keep an eye on it, but I think we are ok.  Hickory smoked, but ok :).

Oct 20, 2011

Home repairs #2: The Dryer

Another project I tackled between the stove installation/inspection was the faulty dryer.

About two weeks ago, the dryer just stopped heating at all.  I started to do some research into the probable causes.  Several fixit sites pointed to either a faulty heating element, fuse, or temperature sensor.  Considering replacing all three of these would be under $100, I figured it was worth a shot.

I started by pulling my dryer apart, the correct way: I found the owner's manual online that showed me how to replace said parts.  After I opened it up, I discovered another problem: the bottom was covered in a 1/2" thick layer of lint.  The lint trap harness was not properly sealed to the dryer and was letting lint through.  This apparently is another common problem with old dryers.  I proceeded to clean it up the best I could, and removed the Heating element.  Thankfully, all the parts that were potentially going to be replaced, were attached to the back of the heating element.  I grabbed by trusty Multi-Meter and tested almost each part ( more on that in a minute).

When I tested the full circuit, it gave me a reading of infinite resistance, which means the circuit was open somewhere.  The main heating element itself passed, so I moved onto the thermometer...which fell apart as I attempted to take it off.

"No problem!" I thought.  "Super simple fix!  I'm done!"  I went to my old friend, Internet, and ordered the $5 part and paid $7 shipping....because I was impatient.  Two days later, the part arrived, and I installed the new thermometer and believed I was on my way...

...Home repair fact #34: If there is the possibility of more than one broken part, and you don't test all of them, you'll have more than one broken part.

Sure enough, replacing only the thermometer didn't fix my dryer.  I did what I should have done in the first place, and tested all the parts.  I discovered the Safety fuse was blown.  Apparently, this is very common in old dryers, as the lint buildup causes the temperature to rise above the safety limit.   The fuse did what it was supposed to and blew to open the circuit to stop the drying from catching fire.

I went back to the internet, and ordered another $5 part and spent $7 on shipping....because again, I was impatient.  I'm sure I could have found the parts locally, or found a better deal once I knew which parts to replace, but I needed to get my dryer back up and running quickly...and not many places are open at 9pm on a Wednesday.

The second part arrived on Saturday, and I installed the fuse.  I fired up the dryer, and it started drying clothes!

In retrospect, I think the dryer had been slowly dying since we bought the house.  Originally, we thought it was because of the OVER 70 FOOT LONG exhaust with EIGHT 90 degree turns.  Turns out (ha!) that it was more than that.  My test load of a Comforter and a few sweatshirts dried in ONE cycle, instead of the normal 2.5...

I win!

Day one of Stove use

So far, the stove is working wonderfully.  The vent system is doing what it should: Venting the smoke out of the house!

The Stove is current set on HR-1, or Low heat.  Current temperature outside: 51 degrees.  Current temp inside: 82 downstairs, 78 upstairs.  At these temperatures in the spring/fall last year, we were struggling to keep the downstairs at 67 and the upstairs at 68.  Even then, the Boiler was running pretty much non-stop.

I plan to keep a log of when I add a bag to the stove, and the temperature range for the day, and Stove heat setting to help track of usage to plan for next year and see how we do.

We spent Just under $975 on Pellets.  The stove, heat board and pipe work was about $1375, and another $55 for caulk and drywall.  We just purchased a gate for $43.  That puts the total cost of the Stove installation at around $2448.

According to NYSERDA, the current cost of Fuel oil is $3.65 per gallon, up from $2.79 last year.  That puts us at around $730 to fill our tank.  Last year, we went through around 800 gallons. ( I'll have to check that number...).

If the prices stay at $3.65, that would mean a cost of $2920 to to heat our house at the 67/68 degree mark through winter. That means, this year we'll spend about $472 LESS than we would have just using Fuel Oil, and have a house that will be warmer.  I'll keep an eye on the price of Fuel Oil, and at the end of the month, I'll take the average price and compare to our usage last year.  We went through almost a tank a month during December, January, February, and March.  November and April were partial, so we'll say another tank.  that's a Total of around 4 Fills.  I'm not expecting this installation to pay for itself in one year, but it just might.

Here's a link to the picture gallery:

Pellet Stove



Oct 19, 2011

It passed

Fire Marshal stopped by today and said our stove passed! We could get the certificate in a couple of weeks, but we are all set to begin using our pellet stove!

Oct 10, 2011

Hopefully Soon...

This post will be replaced by a post entitled: "Stove Update: It Passed!"

I hope the Fire Marshal shows up tomorrow, as I haven't heard back from the messages left on Friday, but initially, we had setup tomorrow as the inspection day.


I've met all the requirements to the best of my knowledge...but I guess I'll find out if that's enough :)




Oct 5, 2011

Stove woes


We were close.

Fire Marshal stopped by today and said the stove was too low, by about .5"

Need a slightly thicker pad, and to rework the hole.

Looks like my weekend will busy!

Rented a reciprocating saw to make sure this goes super fast.