Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas
Simpson's Folly

May the Season be Merry
and the New Year bright...

as we reflect on the past...

& enjoy the day with family & loved ones...

with hopes the Fat Man
brought you all that you wanted,...

but let's not forget the
reason for this blessed season!

So to all of you out there -

from our home to yours -

Merry Christmas
Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas at the Folly

Season's Greetings Everyone!

I have been looking forward to this Holiday Season since Summer. It was to be the first time in three years that we could decorate somewhat like we typically do.

The Christmas gremlins are seeing it another way. I'm now ending my 3rd week of being sick. It appears to be getting better, but I still feel like I'm trying to cough up a lung! It has made it difficult for us to get ready for the fat man's visit. You all know the things that need to be done to pull it off - being in bed most of the time fighting the bug makes it hard to do. I'll spend a day out with SWMBO running Christmas errands and end up in bed the next recuperating.

To top it off, since this is the first time in three years we've been able to do the house up big time both sides of the family are meeting here Christmas Eve for supper.

I guess the decorating of the house has turned out to be such a big deal we are having people ask if we would please, PLEASE, let them inside to see. With the way the house has been in the past we are very cautious as to who we let in - typically just family and friends that are close. This year we are allowing a few to come in and have a look. I should be cleaning instead of writing this post!


Anyway, as promised, here are a few pics so you can see how we typically decorate around here.

During this time of year we try to be more like Fezziwig, but the house looks more like Scrooge's.

'A Christmas Carol' is one of my all time favorite Christmas stories and I typically watch all the major movie remakes of the story. My favorite one is the version with Patrick Stewart in it.

There is a section of dialog, from this version, that takes place between the Ghost of Christmas Present and Scrooge that seems appropriate here this year.

``Come in!'' exclaimed the Ghost. ``Come in. and know me better, man!''

``I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,'' said the Spirit. ``Look upon me!''

``You have never seen the like of me before!'' exclaimed the Spirit.

``Not in this house,'' Scrooge made answer to it.

Sorry for the quality of the photos. I'm beginning to think I've worn out the camera. Between the two of us, SWMBO and I had a devil of a time getting halfway decent pictures. They were either bleached out or way too yellowish gold. However, we did play with the settings a little to get the 'perfect' picture - this could have something to do with it. Perhaps the fat man will leave us a better camera under the tree and will get better pics next.

One last thing - we had a winter storm rolling in as we took the outside photos last night. The wind gusts, and 'iffy' tripod, made for some fuzziness.


You can never have too many lights, but we do try to keep it tasteful.

View from the west.

View from the southwest.

From the south.

How many trees can you see inside the house? ;)

SWMBO really like this picture for some reason.

You can see how well the main tree is lit up. We think there is a little over 2K lights on the tree. SWMBO's father is afraid we might burn down the house with all the lights and so little juice coming in.

View from the north east corner of the high school parking lot.

And the view from the east.

Burt and Ernie stand guard at the front door.

Let's venture indoors now.

Some of the pictures show the typical decorations, however, the focus is on the trees. Every year we have decorated the main question we are asked is "How many trees do you have in the house?". Many...

We do have a set of protocols that determine if the tree is in fact a 'tree in and of itself' or if it is part of a decoration. We only count those that can be stand alone trees.

But to answer the basic question...we have 15 trees in the house that can have lights and be decorated. The smallest is about 4" and the tallest about 8'. Boiled down though, each room has a tree with the exception of five rooms.

Okay - I had to come back in and edit this post.

SWMBO insisted that a picture of the 'Animal' tree be included.

This is her tree and is decorated with animal themed ornaments - including a Raven.

If you look to the left of the tree you will see a ladder going to the top filled with Pixies that date back to WWII and up.

This one is special - it belonged to one of our Grandmothers.

Little feather tree.

Large-ish feather tree. This one has a lot of decorations from the 20s to the 40s.

Do you see our 15lb. cat, Sabu, sleeping under there?

The little Angel tree in the foyer.

The view of the animals' tree on the utility porch from the kitchen.

The crystal tree in the foyer.

Don't you just love the walls?!

The gold tree in the dining room.

One of the many wreaths in the house; most of which are made by big brother's wife.

The main kitchen window.

Even Rudolf gets in on the act!

The gold and blue trim between the living room and dining room.

You can just make out SWMBO's stocking to the left as well as our Christmas crèche.

The crystal garland between the foyer and living room.

Ignore the wraping mess in the living room!

It doesn't show too well, but there is a foot tall Victorian double ball silver ornament hanging from the apex of the garland.

The next few pictures of of the main tree. Way back in '91 we moved into our first Victorian house - the 'little house'. In this house we had our first real tree and decided to start using old world type ornaments.

The tree is now to the point that we shutter at the thought of the cats looking at it and at the thought of how many hand-blown glass ornaments they could destroy.

We even have relatives who will not help decorate for fear of breaking one!!

Here is one of the reproduction Victorian ornaments. It is one of SWMBO's favorites and was the first hung on the tree.

Another shot of the same area after more items were added.

If you look hard you can see REAL candles and just about everything from a wood blanked style glass submarine to a fox in top-hat with tails and a cane.

Just another general view.

I thought about taking pictures like this of the whole tree, but it would require it's own post!!

Typically we have friends and family that come over just to look at this tree and see all the weird ornaments. Aside from the typical Santas, angels and snowmen we have animals, insects, a mermaid, a snail and an eyeball just to name a few!! You name it and chances are we have it on this tree!

As mentioned earlier, there are real candles on this tree. Traditionally we light them, for just a few minutes, on Christmas Eve. These candles are to guide the Christ Child's way in the night as well as for those seeking a place of warmth and comfort.

And here you have it...the main tree in all it's glory.

Right now all that's 'under' the tree is an antique toy castle from Germany, a vintage sled and a Christmas box we found in the attic that's filled with Christmas cards that the PO's recieved from the 40s to the 70s.

Normally we display these cards on ribbon throughout the house but we just ran out of time this year.

Well, that's about all for now.

I will leave you with this last picture.

Sabu, sitting in the window by the candle light.

I hope you enjoyed this rather frenzied exposition of how we decorate around here. We have already been making plans for next year and have decided to make a few changes.

However, the best complement I think we have received so far came from family friend via SWMBO's parents. These friends told them to tell us our house looked like a Thomas Kinkade painting. All that was missing was a horse drawn carriage.

Hmmm...perhaps next year....

Till next time - have a safe, warm and happy Christmas!


Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Gift from DeWALT and a Christmas Repair

Hello Everyone!

First off - sorry about not posting Christmas pictures yet. We've been extremely busy around here getting ready for the fat man's visit!! On top of this I'm sick. The Doc isn't sure what it is I've got but it hit unexpectedly, without warning, and had me down for the count within three hours. The first night I had uncontrollable chills as well as a fever. SWMBO said it was like having a vibrating heat blanket!

The Doc had me tested for N1H1 (that wasn't pleasant in itself) and it turned out to be negative. But I do have most of the symptoms for the flu and common cold. As of now I'm still in bed thinking of ALL the stuff still needing to be done before the big day!!

On the bright side we are already having a steady stream of Lookiloos. I promise(!!), I will get pictures of the place decorated up even if I'm on my death bed!!

Okay - let's get to the meat of this post.

You know how you have those in life who never seem to win anything and haven't got a lot of luck? Well, I'm one of those people. In fact, I almost entitled this post "WOOWHOO I Won the Lottery".

However, this isn't the case, there is work involved.

A couple months ago an e-mail arrived in my mail box from a guy named Andrew. Without posting the whole message here the gist of what it said:

"I am contacting you on behalf of DEWALT about its new line of IMPACT READY™ Accessories... I am just wondering if you will be able to help us spread the word about this new line of accessories. You can do this by informing your readers about the tools and writing a blurb or article about the accessories."

My first thought was "Yeah...right".

You see, I get all sorts of e-mails from people/companies wanting me to 'feature' their product or service on this blog and most have nothing to do with house restoration. Some have been down right pornographic!! Why would I want to advertise the 'little blue pill' here?

However, Andrew and I did pass a few e-mails back and forth and he turned out to be legit (yes - I check on things before I associate them with this this site). So I told him I'd be happy to help them out.

Unfortunately, somewhere between e-mails he and I dropped the ball and I eventually forgot all about it. Then, a few weeks ago I was reading a post by Benny over at DC Rowhouse. It appears she had been made a similar offer. From the looks of it she was offered more than the IMPACT READY™ Accessories.

This jiggled the gray mush between my ears and I hunted down the e-mails Andrew had sent me and thought I'd see if they were still wanting me to participate.

Honestly, after seeing Benny's post I figured they had already sent out all the test items they intended to and I'd be SOL. Like I said - I'm not the luckiest person out there.

'Lo and behold' I got a response from Andrew! He apologized for not following up with me which was not necessary - I really think 'I' dropped the ball somehow.

Anyway, here is the important part that came in the e-mail:

"We’re interested in sending you the impact driver along with the impact accessories. We’d like to have you review the accessories as the focus of the article, but you can talk about the driver too. Also, we are running a different campaign focused on the compact battery (that comes with the impact driver) and its comparison to the original (heavier) NiCad battery. We’d like to send you out the extra battery to compare it to the newer Compact battery and review the Compact battery’s performance."

I jumped all over it!!!

I sent him the info he requested and sat back expecting a long wait - at least two weeks anyway - before it arrived.

In appreciation for getting to try out these tools I told Andrew I would be doing several 'reviews' of the products (just like I do with the Fein Multimaster - wish they would send some toys) and would also post this to my Land Rover blog. I also told him I would give just about every detail I could about these items.

Boy was I surprised! Less than 4 days later the toys arrived for me to try out!!!

SWMBO checked the mail Saturday the 5th and the package was at the post office. Yes - I've had these all this time but, honestly, this is the first chance I've had to post about it!!

SWMBO did grumbled about the weight though...

It was like Christmas came early when I opened the box.

You could smell that 'new tool' smell - man I love it (insert simian, manly "grunt" here)!!!

Thankfully everything seemed to arrive safely with no dents or dings.

First thing I wanted to do was go have coffee with my parents and the in-laws - I just HAD to share!! SWMBO said no - they would be by later that day.

So, I went ahead and unpacked all the treasures.

WOW!! What a treasure.

Look at all those new toys!!

Just think of the possibilities!!

Now, as I promised Andrew, here is the first of several reviews of the DeWALT Impact Ready items he sent me. I will be supplying my thoughts throughout but I'm also going to post 'Specs & Features' for each item.

Before we get to the tools themselves, you might also want to go here and check out the info DeWALT has put out about the Impact Ready Accessories - it's worth the time!

First up is the DeWALT DCK265L 18V Compact Li-Ion Drill/Impact Combo Kit.

I really like this kit. It comes in a durable case with metal latches to keep it closed. There is even a place so you can add a lock. Each item that comes in the kit has it's own little cubby hole inside that it fits in.

Beside the aspect of getting an impact driver and drill with this set you also get a charger station and 2 - yes TWO - batteries. Each battery even has a cover for the business end - those are the two little red things in the picture.

The tools feel great in the hand and the batteries charge quickly. A major plus is that the charger allows you to leave the batter in it even after it's been charged without damaging the batter or charger.

There are so many features on both of the tools for me to talk about. The manual that came with them appear to do a good job describing them. As I learn to use them better I will report back on them.

Following is some of the official info on this kit.

DeWALT DCK265L 18V Compact Li-Ion Drill/Impact Combo Kit

  • DCD760 compact 1/2" 18V drill/driver
  • DCF826 18V impact driver
  • DC9310 7.2V-18V NiCd/NiMH/Li-Ion 1 Hour Charger
  • (2) 18V compact li-ion batteries
  • Kit Box
  • DCD760 18V 1/2" compact drill/driver delivers 350 unit watts out of maximum power
  • DCF826 18V Impact Driver delivers 1,330 in-lbs of torque and 0-2,400 rpms offering power and speed to perform a wide range of fastening applications at faster speeds
  • Compact li-ion batteries (DC9181) charge in 30 minutes and are compatible with the existing system of DEWALT 18V power tools produced since 1996

Next we have the DeWALT DC9096 XRP 18-Volt 2.4 Amp Hour NiCad Pod Style Battery

I have yet to use this puppy so haven't even charged it.

I do have a specific project I plan to use this battery with though. Be expecting a post on 'Battery Comparison' within the near future.

Here's the official info for you though.

DeWalt DC9096 XRP 18-Volt 2.4 Amp Hour NiCad Pod Style Battery

High-capacity 2.4 Amp hour battery delivers 40% more run time than XR Pack® batteries. Powers entire line of Dewalt 18 Volt tools and can run multiple tools off the same battery pack.

  • Fits all 18 volts DeWALT tools except univolt
  • High-capacity battery with 40 percent more run-time than standard batteries
  • Rugged plastic casing
  • Dimensions: 7" x 3.5" x 7"; 2.5 lbs
  • Replaces the DW9095 and DW9096 series
  • Full charge in 1 hour or less

I've always been leery of using cordless tools due to the drop in power and consistency in power, so I'm really looking forward to this!

Not many of you out there know this, but I'm pretty 'Old School' when it comes to power tools and cordless has never really been there for me. I do have one cordless drill I've used periodically, but haven't been happy with the battery.

With these DeWALT tools I plan to wreck these puppies and see how the batteries hold up!!!

Let's get to the DeWALT DW2169 38 Pc. Impact Ready Special Accessory Set.

I really like this little set!

There are actually two little containers within this one. One container holds all the little bits and accessories and the other one holds the Drive Deep Sockets with room for more to be added. Both containers also lock so the pieces don't fall out.

They are also small enough to fit well in my tool box.

Another nice touch is the system that holds the bits in. The little tabs are pliable and appear to stand up to the bits being pulled out and placed back it. They also look like they wont snap off after a few weeks of doing this.

Here are the specs:

DeWALT DW2169 38 Pc. Impact Ready Special Accessory Set

The set comes in a plastic case and all the kit’s bits are rated up to 2,000 in/lbs of torque – perfect for use with impact drivers.

Kit Includes:

  • (8) #2 Phillips 1" Insert Bits
  • (8) #2 Phillips Drywall Insert Bits
  • (5) #2 Phillips 2" Power Bits
  • (8) #2 Phillips 1" Double Ended Insert Bits
  • (2) Nutdrivers: 1/4", 5/16", (1)3/8" Socket Adapter
  • (1) Pivot Holder (bends to simplify driving screws in tight spaces)
  • (1) Magnetic Bit Holder. Rated up to 2000 in-lbs of torque
  • (4) 3/8" Drive Deep Sockets: 3/8", 7/16", 1/2", 9/16"
Qualified for Cordless Impact Drivers

The following picture is so you can better see the best part of the above set.

The Pivot Holder!

Cool isn't it?!

This little device will really make getting in small, tight, areas easy (at least I hope it does).

As the spec say 'bends to simplify driving screws in tight spaces', we'll see how well it works.

There is one thing I want to try with this and I have to wonder if DeWALT has tried it. As you all know, there have been several times I've needed to get to tight spaces to removes screws and such, but the same goes with drilling holes. I wonder if the drill bits would fit on this (they look like they would)? If so, I wonder if a person could drill a hole in a tight place using this. It should... I'll test it out sometime and let you all know.

Let's mosey over and have a look at the DeWALT DD5057 7 Piece Impact Ready Drilling Set.

I really like the design of these drill bits. I have even used some of them already and they work great!

The only drawback I've seen, if you can call it a drawback, is the lack of a small case to hold them. Like I said 'if' you call it a drawback; I can see why they wouldn't make one for these since you'll probably add more to it anyway, but, getting the little cases for the others spoiled me!

Here are the specs:

DeWALT DD5057 7 Piece Impact Ready Drilling Set


  • Ground from solid one piece design is up to 5 times more durable than the current 2 piece conventional product.
  • Patented web taper increases the rigidity of the bit to decrease the potential for bit breakage.
  • Patented Pilot Point® tip (3/16” -1/2”) allows users to drill holes faster than the conventional split point product and offers clean burr free holes with reduced bit walking.
Kit Includes:
  • (2) 1/8 Drill Bits
  • (1) 5/32 Drill Bit
  • (1) 3/16 Drill Bit
  • (1) 7/32 Drill Bit
  • (1) ¼ Drill Bit
  • (1) 5/16 Drill Bit
Qualified for Cordless Impact Drivers

I found this picture and thought it gave a good visual for the drill bits with some of the highlights.

Next we have the DeWALT Impact Rated Bi-Metal Hole Saw.

I know these things don't look all that special, but take a closer look - I'll wait....

Did you notice it? It is hard to see, but follow along the drill bit down to the cutter.

Do you see it now?



You might be asking why I would be so excited about a spring. Simple, it makes it a HELL of a lot easier to remove the wood plug from the hole saw!!!

There are so many companies that leave this little luxury off. DeWALT has done a major service, IMHO, by adding these.

These will come in handy for so many projects!!

Well, let me climb down from cloud 9 for a minute and give you the specs. NOTE - they don't mention the SPRINGS!!! Andrew - if you see this you might want to suggest to DeWALT to add this to the spec/features.

DeWALT Impact Rated Bi-Metal Hole Saw have a double tooth design which strengthens each and every tooth. Great for those entrance holes into junction boxes and through drilling for pipe and conduit.

  • Optimized tooth design allows for quick cuts and long tooth life
  • Improved tooth geometry cuts through material faster
  • Hardened backing plate prevents stripping
  • Cuts twice the amount of material in one pass
  • Highest high-speed-steel height in the industry improves durability
  • Designed with Commercial Contractors in mind
  • (1) ¾” (19.1mm) Hole Saw
  • (1) 7/8” (22.2mm) Hole Saw
  • (1) 1” (25.4mm) Hole Saw
  • (1) 1-1/8” (28.6mm) Hole Saw
  • (1) 1-¼” (31.7mm) Hole Saw
  • (1) 1-3/8” (34.9mm) Hole Saw
  • (1) 1-½” (38.1mm) Hole Saw
All with ¼” (6.4mm) shank

This picture is just like the drill bit one; it gives a good look, and over view of the hole saws.

This time the spring is mentioned!!!!



Moving on.

You'll notice in the title I mentioned a 'Christmas repair'. This little project is the first official use of the new DeWALT Impact tools.

Sorry that it's nothing big and fancy, but it did allow me to use more than one item. The big and fancy stuff will come along soon enough.

With a project in mind I plugged in the DC9310 battery charger and charged up one of the DC9181 batteries that came with the main set.

Like I said, this was just a little Christmas repair.

Way back in 2000 we bought a pair of 4'+ tall nutcrackers that I call Burt & Ernie.

Trivia time!!! Who were the original Burt & Ernie characters?

Anyway, Burt plays the trumpet and Ernie the drums. During the Christmas Season they guard the front door (I'll share pics later).

While trying to load Burt into the back of our small car (they were bought on a whim with no "how do we get them home" forethought) the store employee dropped the end he was carrying (the feet) and cracked one of the legs. He felt SO bad about it; the Burt nutcracker was the only one in the Wichita metro area. We did get a discount because of it (SWMBO was paying while we were loading) and said it was okay.

The crack was not all that bad and I told SWMBO that we could fix him.

Well, you know how it goes, you just keep putting things off, and Burt didn't get fixed. So, the last time we were able to decorate the house a really bad wind storm came, blew open the main storm window and gave Burt a bad 'whack'. He fell over and the force popped a chunk of his right leg off, at the ankle, and separated the left leg from the torso. Since there is an inner frame the legs remained attached to either the torso or the base depending on the leg.

I swore I would fix Burt by the next time we decorated.

Guess what...I didn't.

So, with the new DeWALT tools in hand I decided to fix the poor guy.

Here's a 'before' picture.

It isn't the best picture but it works. On the right ankle you can see a large white patch - that is where the chunk broke off exposing the inner frame. Next to this you can see a large white line. This is the crack that goes all the way around the ankle separating it from the rest of the leg.

The little white patches on the left leg are spots where the paint chipped off.

I have no idea what the dirty, moldy, looking stuff is covering the legs but it washed off with vinegar and water before I took him outside.

At this point I have cleaned off the loose bits around the wound and prepped it for surgery.

In the next picture you can see the hole and crack better.

First thing I did was use the DeWALT DCD760 compact drill and one of the DD5057 7 Piece Impact Ready drill bits.

It worked very well with no effort.

Check this out though...there is a built in light on the drill that's focused on the area being worked on!! How cool is that?! The light is so unobtrusive you'd have no idea it was there until you used it!!

After doing this I attached a metal brace to the leg and used a plaster washer setup to secure it.

Okay, at this point my first, and only, real frustration popped up with the DeWALT tools. I grabbed the DeWALT DW2169 38 Pc. Impact Ready Special Accessory Set to get a flat-head bit for a slotted screw - there wasn't one!! Well dang!

Instead I grabbed the Magnetic Bit Holder from the set and used one of my old flat-head bits. The brace attached smoothly and worked great.

Now - in defense of the DeWALT set not having the bit head type I needed there is a good reason for this which I did not know at the time. Slot head bits do not work well with impact drills and drivers and have a tendency to mess up the screw and/or the surface you are working with when the bit pops out of the screw! These being bits for an impact system you wouldn't find a flat-head bit in it. So, it's not DeWALTS fault it's mine.

Moving on....

Here's the setup for securing the brace to the upper leg.

You can't see it in any of the pictures, but the holes through the brace the screws went into are actually slots. The plaster washers are strong enough to hold up to the pressure, but pliable enough to to conform to, and fill, the slot so the brace would not move.

Now this is the messy part.

I filled the cavity of the leg with expandable foam (the kind for windows so it wouldn't crack the leg).

At the same time I replaced the bead of adhesive that came off the left leg (due to the wind storm) where it attached to the torso. For this I used small wooden wedges to make it tight and filled the gap with E6000 Adhesive (this stuff works GREAT for all sorts of fixes - this is my 'go-to' glue).

After letting the expandable foam dry, I cut out what I wanted and liberally applied wood putty.

After this dried I sanded it down to the level of the boot.

Once the boot was painted 'Bob was my uncle' - Burt was ready to man his post by the front door.

You will notice that the boot paint doesn't match exactly and the spots on the green pants did not get painted for three reasons. One, I don't have a color of green that comes close to matching; two, these spots are noways near as noticeable (especially from the road) as the boot was; and three, SWMBO wants us to repaint Burt and Ernie.

So, there you have it; the first review of the DeWALT Impact Ready tools and the first project I used them on.

Unfortunately I deleted the picture of the DeWALT tools I used on Burt by accident. However, this was just the first review, so there will be more pictures to come.

All-n-all two thumbs up for the DeWALT tools!!!

Well, I think I need to go take more drugs and ingest more liquids. There is just too much for me to do to just stay in bed (I've basically been bed ridden since Monday night). Now I need to go but together my LEGO train set to put under the tree.

Till next time...