Sunday, August 28, 2011


We are TOTALLY stoked about this new hobby we just discovered!!

I was chatting with my pastor the other day and he told me that his family does this thing called Letterboxing. He told me to Google it to learn more. (since his wife, who is really the one who knows all about it, wasn't there to teach me!) I went and looked it up and found two sites for it:

Letterboxing North America (which covers all of the North American Continent, not just the USA)


Atlas Quest (which covers the whole world!)

So what is Letterboxing you ask? Well, I'm glad you're interested! Let me enlighten you on this totally awesome family hobby! (It's totally free too!!)

A letterbox is any kind of waterproof container that contains a rubber stamp and a logbook. Here are a couple examples of the ones we have found:

This one was in a heavy ziploc type bag.

This was just in a Tupperware container.
The stamp is the most important part of the letterbox. Most of them are hand carved and have some significance to the location or follow some sort of theme. The detail in some of them is absolutely amazing, there are some really talented artists out there! Check this one out:

When you find a Letterbox, you put the stamp in your logbook. We just used a three ring binder and blank paper for ours. Tammy had some page protectors for scrap-booking so we put the completed pages in those:

You also use your own stamp to stamp the logbook in the Letterbox and put whatever information you like in there. We put our names, the date, and where we are from.

Making a stamp was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I just carved it out of a big pink eraser with an X-acto knife and glued it to a small block of wood. There is a nice tutorial on how to do it on the Letterboxing North America website. Ours is pretty simple:

That's our trail name, the Schafer Snoopers!

I might try to make a nicer one sometime but for now we like this one! :)

Now, you're probably wondering how one goes about finding these Letterboxes. Never fear, I have been saving the best for last!

These things are hidden by people all over the world! People who have discovered Letterboxing make their own and hide them. They then post clues on the websites so people can go find them. Once you find it and do your stamping, you put it back where you found it for the next person to find. There are literally hundreds of thousands of them hidden around the world! They can be hidden in any publicly accessible location. In our first day of searching we visited a public library and found one hiding inside:

We went to several cemeteries to find them hidden in various locations. Some of them were placed in honor of a loved one even.

We also spent several hours hiking through the woods in a huge park to find some:

One of them was really hard to find but we managed to locate it tucked behind some loose bark on an ancient tree:

That's it peaking out right in the center of the picture!

Anyway, we spent an incredible day as a family, discovering new places and having tons of fun! It didn't cost us a dime (except for gas money and our lunch) but we loved it! We did it to celebrate Tammy's birthday and she said it was a wonderful way to celebrate!

This is an absolutely awesome hobby that anyone could enjoy, especially as a family! We intend to keep it up for a long time to come. We'll be hunting letterboxes when we go on vacation and any time we have an afternoon to spend together! You just can't beat it! At least that's my opinion! :)

So have any of you heard of this?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Roof - Phase Two

So, now it's time to get rid of the unsightly flat roof over my garage!

I don't like flat roofs because they are the most likely type of roof to leak and they just don't look right on a house! So, when I decided to re-roof the house I figured I might as well frame in the garage roof so it matched the rest of the house.

I started out by building trusses to match the existing roof. I could have bought pre-made trusses but it would have cost about three times as much and been really hard to get a perfect match so I decided to build them myself.

Then it was just a matter of putting the plywood on and closing up the end and presto! a new look for my garage!

This was the most fun of the whole roofing process and was also the least exhausting! I have always enjoyed framing but I hate roofing with a passion! :)

Now, you guessed it, I have a time lapse video of this process. Unfortunately, the batteries in my camera went dead and I managed to miss a couple of pretty good chunks but it is still fun to watch! :)

So now all that's left is getting the rest of the shingles done!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Roof - Surprise

Well, I know I'm way behind on posting the progress on my roof but I'm getting there!

If you read my Phase One post you saw that I was presented with a little surprise when I was working on the back section of that end of the house!

This was supposed to be the easiest section of roof. The plan was that Tammy and I would work together pulling the shingles off and then she would work on pulling the nails out and getting it cleaned up and ready for the new shingles.

In the mean time, I was going to tear off this little ugly awning that had become quite an eyesore as well as a trap for cobwebs and stray leaves.

Everything was going great until I got the awning torn off. I discovered that the original flashings were installed wrong and had been allowing water to work its way down under the shingles and behind the siding.and into the wall over top of this sliding door! I literally could poke my finger through the plywood on the outside of the wall it was so rotted! I had to tear the entire top of the wall apart so I could rebuild it! Fortunately it was only rotted above the door so I didn't have to go down the sides at all which would have been really hard to do!

That wood you see behind that plastic sheeting is the back of the paneling inside the house! For once I was thankful to not have drywall in there or it would have been a much bigger mess to repair. I was able to rebuild the wall and nail the paneling back in place and be done! I still need to do a little more repair work on the outside and get the siding back up but the wood is solid now so I'm pretty happy!

Thankfully, this was the last surprise I was faced with while doing this roofing project! I'd love to get a hold of the roofers who re-roofed this house about 12 years ago and strangle them for not fixing the flashing the way it should have been instead of leaving it there even though it was wrong! Of course, based on the quality of the workmanship I saw everywhere else, I'm not surprised that they didn't care!

So the next step is framing in the garage roof to eliminate the flat roof and make it peaked to match the rest of the house!!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Roof - Phase One

Well, I figured it was time to explain why I haven't been around the blog-sphere very much lately. I have been spending most of my free time getting a tan on my roof! :)

Seriously, I have a darker tan than I've had in years!! :)

Well anyway, If you have read these two posts you know that I had to rebuild my porch because of water damage. That damage was due to the roof leaking so the real project was to re-roof the house to stop that from happening again to my pretty new porch!

So, this was how I spent my holiday on July 4th! I woke up and got an early start, intending to make short work of this front section of roof: (Short was the desire but not the reality!)

First, the shingles came off and I pulled the thousand or so nails that remained sticking out of the roof:

Then the bottom row of plywood had to be removed because that was where the leaking had been and it was rotted out:

Then I had to repair the rotted rafters:

Then after getting some new plywood in place I was finally able to start putting down the new shingles:

And finally, the finished product:

Now I say "finished" but this is just the first section.

If you notice, we changed the color of the roof from red to this nice gray-blue. It just makes sense since the trim, the posts, and the doors are blue, right? Well, the truth is, we changed that stuff from red to blue a few years ago so it is nice to get the roof to match once again!

Now for the fun part! I set up my timelapse video camera to catch the whole process! I wanted a good vantage point, so despite Tammy's fears of me getting myself killed, I mounted it way up on a telephone pole!

The second half of this video is a bit boring because it is of a different day when we were doing a small section on the back and you can't really see it very much. Not to mention that while I was working on that section I found another place where there had been a leak and I ended up spending most of the day tearing out and rebuilding a rotted out section of wall! But that's a story for my next post.

You'll notice that Tammy came up and started helping me when I was about half-way done with the shingles on the front. She did this because I was so exhausted by the time I got that far that she faced her fear of heights and helped me finish! She has continued to be a huge help as this project continues and I am very thankful for her!

Enjoy the video:

So there you have it! Isn't it crazy the lengths to which people will go to get a tan?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Elantris - Brandon Sanderson

By: Brandon Sanderson
Published: 2005
Audiobook Read by: Graphic Audio

I was reading a post by my friend Jamie over at Mithril Wisdom and he mentioned a few authors including Brandon Sanderson. When I was checking him out I ended up getting this book. I have to say a hearty thank you to Jamie for this one! It was GREAT!!

Prince Raoden is nothing like his father. His desire is to see his country prosper and grow strong. Since the fall of the great city of Elantris, Arelon has fallen into disarray. The king, being a greedy merchant before being crowned, is not helping. The people were so accustomed to getting everything they needed from the magical Elantrians that now they don't know how to take care of themselves.

To make matters worse, there is a serious threat from the religious order of the Derethi, who's power is vast and who's forces are ruthless. Between the king's stupidity, the people's confusion, and the impending religious jihad, there doesn't seem to be much hope, but Raoden has a plan. Little does he know that the Shaod will be visiting him, dooming him to the cursed city of Elantris and pulling the rug out from under all his plans to save Arelon!

What nobody was prepared for was the tall, red-headed princess from Teod! Sarene, arrived in Arelon ready to marry a man who is now dead. Most women would have been hysterical about it but Sarene takes control of her situation and picks up where her betrothed husband left off. Sarene is a woman to be reckoned with, and like it or not, Arelon has to deal with her now! Can Sarene's determination and Raoden's studies of Elantrian magic be enough to save them? It certainly doesn't look very hopeful!

I loved the depth of this book! Brandon has developed a very complex society here complete with religious controversies, cultural complexities, and magic that is powerful yet vulnerable to the laws of nature. The characters are well developed and their struggle to understand the world around them is very easy to relate to. The religious conflict was equally interesting. There were two distinct religions that were at work in the story, each having their own deity but each also having some similarities as well. The protagonist of the invading religion is a man of values and is surprisingly respectable despite being bent on domination.

When I looked for this book in audio format I found a traditional audiobook read by a single narrator as well as Graphic Audio's production done by an entire cast of actors. I contacted the company to see how much abridgement the story underwent during production and was informed that nothing was cut out except what was made unnecessary by the way it was produced. I decided to give it a try and was very impressed. I followed along in the book for a few pages to see how accurate it was and as far as dialog went, it was pretty much verbatim. There were a few omissions that were along the lines of descriptions and such but overall I enjoyed it very much.

If you are a science fiction/fantasy buff you'll love this one! It is very complex and keeps you interested from beginning to end!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tying Up Loose Ends

Well if you read my post on Leaving Things Hanging, you saw that my front porch was in need of some help, like this:

Well, I had to rebuild the beam to give the poles something to do so Tammy helped me get it put back together:

The poles were really happy to be holding something up again. But the ceiling was needing some attention as well:

I had to add 2x4s crosswise to support more 2x4s running lengthwise to support the vinyl soffit. Finally I got aluminum bent to cover the beam, put the gutter back up and installed the soffit back in place. It looks a lot better now:

It's a happy porch now!

And now just one more picture of Tammy helping me so very much!

She really is a LOT of help, even if she sometimes just stands there looking beautiful! :)

Now for the roof itself.......

Friday, July 1, 2011

Artemis Fowl - Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl
By: Eoin Colfer
Published: 2001
Audiobook Read by: Nathaniel Parker
My rating: Wonderful

When I listened to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, I liked it so much I decided to get the rest of the books in the series. I discovered that the last of the six books is actually written by Eoin Colfer so I did a little research on him and discovered that he wrote this Artemis Fowl series of children's books. Now, confession time, I got this to listen to with the kids but since I didn't know what it was like I decided to listen to a little bit of it and make sure I approved. Well, after listening to a little bit I couldn't stop and listened to the whole thing!

Artemis is a genius. Artemis is a criminal mastermind. Artemis is fabulously wealthy. Artemis is twelve years old.

Yes, Artemis is only twelve but his genius makes him a far more formidable adversary than age could have done. He knows that his family's fortunes are starting to dwindle since his father's disappearance, so he devises a plot to bolster them. Who can have enough wealth to give Artemis a chance to get what he needs in one shot? The fairies do! But they're just the stuff of myth and legend aren't they? Artemis knows better, and to make him even more dangerous, he knows the secrets behind their magic. All he needs to do is use their own magic and rules against them. The boys in LEPrecon, trained soldiers of the highest degree that they are, don't stand a chance. Artemis is one step ahead of them at every turn. What they see is a foe that is calm, efficient, brutal, and has nerves of steel and ice water in his veins. But is he really that hard? Artemis has his weaknesses but they'll never be able to use them against him.

This book was a masterpiece of imagination! I love the image of fairies, leprechauns, dwarfs and trolls that flies in the face of all the fairy tails. The personalities Eoin gives them are so much fun and so very different from anything we read about in our bedtime stories! I also love the human characters. Artemis, while being a criminal, is still someone you can have sympathy for and his henchmen are also likeable. The plot of the story keeps you guessing and in the end ties up nicely. I was fully engrossed in it from the very beginning!

I listened to the audio book read by Nathaniel Parker. He did a spectacular job with all the voices and his accent was wonderful!

Overall, this is a great book and I wouldn't hesitate to share it with my kids! In fact, I will be listening to it again, with them, and I'm sure I'll enjoy it just as much the second time around!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Leaving Things Hanging

It's never a good idea to leave things hanging is it?

Well, I've really left things hanging here!

I am getting ready to re-roof the house but before I could start I had to repair some water damage that had happened over the porch. It should have been quick and easy but as with everything, it blossomed into a much bigger job than I anticipated!

I'm going tomorrow to get the lumber to build a new beam but until then, I guess I'm letting it all hang out there! :)

Hopefully by the end of the weekend this section will be all done and re-roofed! But then I'll have the rest of the roof to do!

To Be Continued.....

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Vicious Vet - M. C. Beaton

The Vicious Vet
By: M. C. Beaton
Published: 1993
Audiobook Read by: Donada Peters
My rating: Great

After listening to The Quiche Of Death, the first of the Agatha Raisin mysteries, I just couldn't resist getting more! Agatha is just too much fun!

Well, it all came about because Agatha was so desperate to get friendly with that handsome neighbor of her's, James Lacey! She would have never gone so far with her inquiries if she hadn't found it to be such a good excuse to spend a fun afternoon with James, running down suspects, searching for clues, and getting into loads of trouble! But how was she to know it really would turn out to be murder? Furthermore, how could she have guessed that the killer wouldn't stop with just one? Oh well, it was all worth it just to hear James pretending that they were married! How could a girl resist a heartthrob like James anyway, Agatha would gladly walk through fire just to be near him!

Agatha is such a fun and quirky detective! I have so much fun following her derailed trains of thought. She chases after the craziest ideas but ends up landing the right fish in spite of herself! The addition of James Lacey to her investigations was great! James is a bit more level headed but still tends to follow some wild ideas. Poor Bill Wong has his hands full trying to keep the two of them out of trouble!

I listened to the audiobook read by Donada Peters and just as before, her performance was absolutely wonderful!

Overall, this is pretty light reading but is a lot of fun and will keep you chuckling as you follow Agatha's antics! :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Beekeeper's Apprentice - Laurie R. King

The Beekeeper's Apprentice
By: Laurie R. King
Published: 1994
Audiobook Read by: Jenny Sterlin
My rating: Great

I have always been a huge Sherlock Holmes fan but when I listened to the Italian Secretary by Caleb Carr, I was a little disappointed. However, my friend Nancy suggested this series and I am so glad she did!

When young Mary Russell bumps into an old man sitting on the ground watching bees, she never guessed that she would end up being the apprentice of the world famous Sherlock Holmes!

When Sherlock Holmes, sitting quietly watching some bees at their work, is nearly trampled by a young girl, (a part American girl at that) he would have never guessed that he had found a mind very nearly equal to his own!

The unlikely pair forms a bond of friendship that runs deeper than either of them expected. As Holmes begins to refine Mary's already keen intellect, he finds that she has as sharp an eye and as brilliant a mind as he has ever seen. They spend many happy hours playing mind games with each other, honing their skills together in unwitting preparation for the case that will quite probably cost one of them their lives!

I really enjoyed this book! Laurie has successfully captured the feel of a real Sherlock Holmes mystery. She gives all the clues up front and allows the reader to decipher them to see if they can match up with what Holmes deduces. Beyond that she has introduced a very likeable character, in Mary Russell, that can match wits with the great detective and keep him on his toes. The mysteries themselves are well plotted and kept me guessing for quite some time. I loved the way the primary case stretched out over time instead of being presented as a neat little affair that was tied up in a couple of days. Mary Russell is very much a good match for Holmes and I'm glad there are more books in the series!

I listed to the audiobook read by Jenny Sterlin and loved every minute of it! Jenny did a wonderful job and really brought Mary to life.

Overall, if you like Sherlock Holmes mysteries, you should really check this one out! I don't think you'll be disappointed!