Archive for June, 2008


Another color of Green

Last week, Angela and I were leaving to run some errands and the garage door stubbornly would not close.  I got out of the car and tried again from inside the garage, but all I could get was some whirring and then flashing flights.  “Great”, I thought, figuring this would be yet another in the long list of annoyingly expensive house repairs.

I pulled the opener apart and saw that the main gear had cracked in half, and other gears were very worn.  I went online to research options and found that new openers are not cheap, nor was getting a guy out to do anything about this.  I dug deeper and learned that there is a service kit available for our unit, which comes with most of the wear items for a number of models.  Price: $25.  Much better!  I ordered it Monday, and we spent the rest of the week rearranging our enter/exit routine to deal with manually working the garage door.

On Friday the kit arrived, and yesterday I attempted to install it.  Success!  It did take about 2 1/2 hours and had me disassemble practically the whole opener, just like the reviews cautioned, but it wasn’t terribly difficult.  Anyone with basic hand tools and the patience to read detailed instructions could make the repairs.  It was definitely a more satisfying ending watching the door go up and down, as opposed to writing out a check!

Afterward I felt good not just for completing a little DIY and saving $275, but mainly because all I had to throw away were a few broken gears and some hardware.  I hate the constant stream of trash that’s generated by all of our non-serviceable wares, and not having to throw out our a otherwise good garage door opener (made in 1996) made my day.


Purple Cone Flowers

Well, it’s mid June and the temperature is now averaging mid 80s (F, around 29C). The flower border at the right corner of the backyard is starting to bloom. The purple cone flowers are native to Illinois and tend to self seed so I have more than I expected this year. They are easy to manage, reliable bloomers and need little care. So here are two pictures to share with all of you.


2008 Steamboat Classic (Part 2)

T-minus 30 minutesThe race actually started the night before, at least for me, because the adrenalin kept me up most of the night. At 5am the alarm went off and we started getting ready, I very reluctantly! It was pretty simple, since we’d prepares the few little things the night before, such as getting are numbers pinned on, getting the RF ID chips used for timing attached to our shoes, and figuring out target split times (written on my hands–no I’m not preparing to flip off the blogosphere). All very simple, yes, but Angela and I are both chronically tardy, and on previous occasions we’ve started this morning with a mad scramble looking for safety pins, a watch, etc. We made it downtown around 6:20, met with out Building Steam group, and headed to the line-up for 7am start.

Steamboat start (courtesy of PJ Star)I’ll spare you the race details, because if you’ve run a race you probably know the details, and the rest will find them a bit dry I’d imagine. In a sentence, it was a great day for a race, but it was extremely challenging for both of us. The results were very good, however. I not only surpassed my goal of beating my 2005 time, but at 35:42 came within 14 seconds of my 2003 time… much better than expected. Angela finished in 37:16, beating her goal as well. Interestingly, a woman from New Zealand won the woman’s 4-mile race. (Another Kiwi holds the course record for the women’s Masters class for 4-miles.)

All in all a great race and great time, and one I hope to write about annually for years to come!


2008 Steamboat Classic (Part 1)

Steamboat Classic TThis Saturday Peoria will again host The Steamboat Classic, which is a 4 mile road race through the streets of downtown Peoria.  This event is a pretty big deal for the city, as it draws about 4000 runners including elite athletes from around the world.  In 1997, Khalid Khannouchi of Morocco set a world record for 4 miles, finishing in 17:42 (that equates to an unbelievable 4:26 pace). And of course with this large of a draw there are lots of activities and ancillary special events which get people downtown and do well for the city’s coffers.

I’ve run the race twice, and Angela ran it once.  We’ll both take part again this year, and the first phase of the event has just finished, as evidenced above-left.  The Illinois Valley Striders began a novel 12-week program many years ago called Building Steam to prepare people of all abilities for Steamboat.  It is nothing more than a well organized running club, but it is hugely popular, useful, and really fun.  Angela and I are not runners, and we hardly run except during the 3 months leading up to the race, so the program is very effective at getting us off our slack winter butts in April and burning a few calories. And you get a T-shirt.

There is really no comparison between running in a group and running alone. On Wednesdays during the group run, I just keep going, chatting a little bit, and don’t think twice about how I feel because I’m simply not going to drop out of the group mid-run.  Then comes Sunday morning…  lazy, feeling guilty about not running since Wednesday, reluctant, but I go out anyway.  Sort of.  1/2 mile in I’m hating it and contemplating walking for a bit (which I make good on too often).  Even if I do stick to the pace and run the distance, I don’t like it.  Hence after Steamboat my running tapers right off to zero, despite the adrenaline high and delusions of running other races during the summer.  But the moral of the story is: if you really want to run, but never can find the motivation, do try some sort of group running because it’s entirely different.

In 2003 I ran 4 miles in 35:28, and in 2005 fell off to 37:42. Though I did run the Buller Gorge while in NZ, overall I’m in much worse shape than 2003, so merely besting 2005 will be a success.

See you post race.


Landscaping our backyard

Well after 2 years of being in New Zealand and being surrounded by homes with beautiful gardens, I knew I was going to redesign our backyard when I got home. Most American homes have open backyards which I was not used to even after living in the US for almost 10 years. So the criteria for the landscape were a fence, a border flower bed, a compost bin, and a vegetable patch. I had a landscape drawing all ready to go prior to leaving NZ.

Within the first month of returning home, I had the contractor selected and they went to work. It took about two weeks after the material was delivered. The men came and put up the posts, then the runners, and then the fence boards and it was done.

Fence Post Finished Fence

This Spring, we started digging the sod out for the flower border. That was backbreaking work. It took months since it was just Jim and I working on it over the weekends.

Below is a picture of my vegetable patch. The landscaping around it is not complete yet but we have harvested many rounds of butter-head lettuce, mesclun and Chinese vegetables.

I have to take some pictures of the flower bed when the flowers start blooming. I bought a couple pots of hydrangeas last week and got couple of hybrid tea roses from my neighbor. I’m also waiting on my mail order of Peruvian Lilies (alstroemeria) to complete the bare flower bed. A couple of weeks ago, I spotted New Zealand Flax. They reminded me of the ones in front of Tessa’s house. When I look closer to the tag, it shows that the plant is an annual and will die off in the Midwest winter. I am still on the lookout for hardy flax. I wanted it to be the plant that reminds me of NZ.


Welcome Back

Almost three years ago I created my first and only blog, NZ Life.  Its purpose was to provide an easy way to update friends and family about our experience in New Zealand, and it succeeded in that and more.  I found it not only much better than email for general broadcasts (e.g. people could come by once in a while and catch up), but it was personally very satisfying.  What formed was a diary that I probably would not have otherwise written, and even in the short time since I’ve been back I’ve referred to it on numerous occasions.

Upon my return in Oct 2007, I had all intentions of jumping right into a Peoria blog.  For lots of lame reasons (laziness chief among them) that is only now happening.  This blog will carry on the tone of the last–random things from our lives–though having now ditched the “NZ” theme the topics should open up a bit.  I can now post all those tech and politics stories that no one cares about (or those who do have already read elsewhere), Angela can post interesting things about food and gardens, and the world can become rapt by the tales of home improvement.

Mostly it will be fun to have a diary again, and I look forward to seeing the occasional comment.

Enjoy, and subscribe now!

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